NZ, we’re an elusive piece of turf fitting of our enchanted mystical tag of Middle Earth. So often, overlooked by the map makers of the world as if we were some kind of Greco Roman lost fabled civilisation. Tiny a nation that we may be but one with a notably healthy appetite. Perhaps that declaration should be boldly re-evaluated for gourmands we may be but civilised in the manner that we do so we are not. For we are growing uncomfortably into our new skin and the unenviably unflattering roll of being a nation of chronic fatsos.
There’s no way to sugar-coat the veracity of the affair, we’d probably just wolf that back with a can of V, Tab, Red Bull, Mother or one of the many other sucrose or high fructose corn syrup concoctions cooked up by Coca Cola and Co. Urging us on to throw back one energy beverage after another in an endeavour to give us some added umph for our daily chores.
As if in some kind of perverse Solylent Green plot, we are unwittingly binging our existence on two crops which have been modified so much they are inextricable part of our supposed existence. Some geneticists would argue that maize has even become disturbingly too human in its new cosmetic composition. Convenience being the name of the game, from soups to sodas, these sugar soaked carbonated bubbly drinks have reproduced like randy romping rabbits. Heck, even sweetened water sales, inconceivable years ago in the NZ aquatic oasis, is off the charts. Sports performance water fizz like Gatorade and Powerade maybe alright to drink if you want to be an elite athlete but then one must be prepared to train like one. Still, misconceptions and misconstrued facts lead half the nation to digest this potable product as some kind of magical tonic that will abracadabra them into All Blacks, Cindy Crawford or Magic Mike. How terribly misleading.
Yet, this is ultimately unsurprising in a nation where the parting tides of socio economic status (SES) is leading the haves to take the have nots for impressionably gullible soft sell monkeys. The contrast between the shorelines of the privileged and the pauper are startling. In a land exalting itself as a social laboratory for goodwill it seems as if impartial and objective science has been derailed. For our lesser subjects are being penned in wastelands that might just as well have sprung out from an Ozploitation plot. All that’s left to ask is what brought this dystopia into being? Why is it that when one saunters from the nice, squeaky clean tree lined middle class West into the Eastern cesspit that they are sucker punched with such a sick blow?
These squalid patches devoid of salubrious health inducing communal assets such as green grocers, health centres and morally upright Ma and Pa stores. Instead, we find these forgotten zones filled to the brim with tasteless tobacconists, drug stores that are far removed from the definition of what could ever be constituted as a self-respecting pharmacy, liquor outlets, gambling arcades, bars and dairies (small convenient stores) selling for the most part very unhealthy food.
In conjunction with these ill ventures bandits the objective to secure these impoverished regions as bastions of non-wellbeing is further compounded by the depleted nature of the environment itself. Against a backdrop where the absence of recreational facilities, gyms, affordable swimming pools and other public goods like access to courts, playgrounds and workout stations around shoddily maintained paddocks, these are pressing concerns for our municipal figureheads.
They are a dilemma for they highlight the truth which no NZder wants to confess. That, NZ is self-electing to cover its eyes in a concerted effort to continue playing make believe like Virginia clinging on to Santa. That like some silver screen shot that only the beautiful side of the national face is presented while the other is kept under lock and key. Just may be the land, idealistic maybe the people irrational is the verdict. It’s time to accept the sentence.
We are not as egalitarian a paradise which we claim to be. While one brood of socially and economically soaring Kiwis enjoy the fruits of the Free Market the other runt hatchlings are forced to suffer from the New Rights dark alter ego. In the microcosmic case that is Christchurch, while the West takes the cream the East settles for the dream.
And here we welcome neoliberalism and its modus operandi. Consumption, choice and the movement of goods, subjects and ideas that it may be but incredibly ineffective as a super glue of collective social binding. A game which is highly flawed and rigged to reward those of power and with capital in a ceremonially unmeritorious manner. For whom holds the golden goose has the Midas touch to la vie belle. As cashed up skinny hipsters live it up in swanky suburbs the lesser fellow settles for the after school special slops option. Where the bling is to be made professional privateers follow the free market Pied Piper like good little capitalistic rodents to where the cheese is sweeter and abundant. Leaving the peasants to ponder, get depressed and eventually become fat.
Cruel I may sound but not out of any sinister motive per se. For how can one expect to challenge a Ferrari when all one can afford is a Lada. While the western part of our Garden City fetes on diverse social galas and bountiful banquets the life of the East Ender is hardly a picnic as they can only sit and peer over the picket fence at how joyously cantankerous a fiesta their nouveau riche voisins are living it up. These Richie Riches more so not only have the disposable revenue to live and enjoy charmed lives, they also perhaps more importantly have the added coin to lead healthier lives.
These folk are often the executors of our laws and regulations at the same note. The moral bourgeois playing moral crusader by taxing the proletariat through the nose for their two greatest escapist pleasures boozing and fuming. Saintly perhaps but more likely clandestinely to conceal the real intention to rid the public of disturbance and nuisances. Now is not the epoch to be a loveable drunkard or a chimney that’s always puffing away. But if the neolib Neanderthals sincerely stand by with their mantra that two out of 3 ain’t bad they should probably think again. For the lard pandemic is just as much a weight on the state shoulders as it is for the poor soul carrying the overload.
The health detriments of cardiovascular, respiratory and psychological woes clearly escaping the pea headed brains of our pompous politicians. Reassuringly they encourage us to keep calm and ignore the very obvious “imaginary” elephant of a problem in the chambre. When they do open their eyes, the response is one of shoulder shrugging. It’s there free will they say as liberated consumers. Spinning the glass is half full idea to paint the rosy half pint picture they wish to project. The Crown refutes professing that the underlings must be alright because at least they are able to replenish themselves.
However, there is a solid difference between being well fed and being fed well. A tweak of the vernacular I know but a notably grand twist of words at that. For being gregariously well fed does not always mean eating well towards a salubriously healthy state. Given that jargon sorting, it still astounds me that the government lacks the chutzpah or the bravado to nip this dilemma in the bud. They did so with a smoke tax and even with a tiddles tax so why not a fat tax?
In a patriarchal parochial land, it may collide with the idea that to be big is to be strong. Real men masticate on meat, plough through pastries and annihilate ice creams. How dare they force us to eat bunny tucker? The nerve of those bureaucratic middle class gold noses.
On the other hand, it could be tied to our economy. After all, the world can only take so much of our dairy goods. I mean it would be like trying to entice an Eskimo to buy more ice or the Easter bunny to sell chocolate eggs to the Chinese. All that luscious glorious lardy goodness has to go somewhere. So why not in our arteries?
But perhaps the hidden reason is the least obvious one. For what would the serf have if his lack delight was deprived of them? Yes, I have heard of the traditional adage that food is love but in this line of argument I’d say it’s an inverse case of our state trying to kill us with kindness. For what food really is now is a safety jacket allowing us to feel just enough security to not realise the other deprivations being inflicted upon us.
Then again, the state would reiterate that I’m one of those paranoid conspiracy theorists. An X Fileist with his own Blue Book filled with clippings and chaotic conceptions. And yet, the Prime Minister, the cabinet and the blindfolded Health Minister keep the clavicle and scapulas dancing in an up and down motion to their sickening beat. Polly Parrot regurgitated answers to everything that is seemingly not their fault. Delivering the same old tired lines “it’s not our place to get involved” , “it’s about free choice”, “market forces” , “competition” , “purchaser power” and we really just don’t want to tread our toes on the affair. Oh but we still want your taxes.
While the true nomenclature has a far more PC social scientific ring to it, I see the present fat crisis as a type of Berlin Wall Syndrome. When that wall comes down, it’s a given that there’s going to be one way traffic, and you surely can hazard a guess where. Likewise, in the New World Order of the New Right people go where the bucks are going. Fine if you had the smarts or coin to begin but what has unfolded is a perilously devastating brain drain. Where doctors flee the countryside to go to the big centres, where farmers and labourers and men (significantly so) suffer from the setbacks of the devolution of social welfare state and the moribund ex “Nanny State”.
However, this void does have a subversive substitute for the deep physical and emotional abyss within us can now be filled with that ultimate American despair filler: the opportunist fast food shop. And while market theorists would say what about all the possibilities McDees, KFry, Wendy’s, Pizza HutBurger King along with the traditional Ol English fish ‘n’ chippie, I would say baaa humbug. For what are these joints other than a common thread of fat vending. Ahh but what about healthy choice, you say? Well yes I’d say but then again if we really don’t wish to ridicule ourselves who would go to a pie shack only to throw away the casing or a gelato stand just to eat the cone?
No it is that we have institutionalised ourselves to be lazy in our search for easily obtainable fats and sugars. The problem now is that it’s just a little bit all too easy to satiate these biological urges. We now occupy the era of Conveyor Belt Comestibles, poor choices and irrational excuse making. Why should we need to know anything about food anymore? Who cares about gardening? Why would anyone ever want to learn about cooking anymore? Who has time to prepare a meal anyway? I save time and money by having takeout’s anyway.
Kiwi Kids know about as much about food today as they do about how to check the oil level in their car. Diddly squat nada! And why should they in the era of server pays. That dependability on unquestionably trusting the trash served out to us by the pristinely presented polyester clad McDonald’s girl. Cardboard burgers with all those excessive carbs high sugar and sodium levels which we willingly chose to deny.
Existing in a state of rationalising our excuse to blindly be led by the blind shepherd like gullibly obedient sheep. That said, perhaps we are closer in metaphorical kin to that other more obstinate ruminant the hard to pin down goat. For try as hard as one might the stubborn little billy always determinedly runs back to his peak. Because like our hard headed horned little friend we really do not like being told what to do and being forced back down to a levelled pegging.
One such vindication of our now concrete sentiment of entitlement being the coffee craze which has roasted the Western world. It seems as some of us can’t survive without our several doses of caffeine, cream, marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles each day. Thunder thighs, I kid you not a potable concoction that if taken daily assuredly leaves you with one foot in the grave. I’m dead serious.
And it seems as if everyone is cashing in on the beige craze of brown gold. From service stations to book stores to supermarkets well to even churches trying to raise funds for the parish. Holy cappuccino! But, what would your drinking experience be like if you didn’t have something to dip, dunk or scrape the pottle with? For no one beans me up Scotty simply on good old kidney flush alone. No there is the longing for biscuits, cakes, muffins, pastries and tasties of all sorts. Pop up cafes springing up in malls, food trucks and everywhere conceivable like that cute but inevitably irksome gopher from the classic Caddy shack film just in case one faints from not having their daily dosages of coffee and muffin.
What was once a treat we now justify as a necessity? Our demands incessant. What we once embraced as seasonal we now demand all year round and the diversity has exploded. Once where a simple shark n tatoe store stood in a suburban block of shops is now joined by an abundance of alternatives. Thai, Indian, Chinese, Souvlaki, Japanese and fusion foods all now provide the pickiest Kiwi billy goat from ever entering the kitchen. After all, one has to try the latest and greatest. Is it any wonder why our savings are utterly pathetic not to mention our heaving bellies?
Nor should our compadres in the supermarket industry be let off the hook so easily. After all, they too with their products and store layout are selling us the sit back and chillax foodie’s convenience lifestyle de faire rien. From bakeries and delis filled with premade delectables to all our favourite get plump brands. In fact, over 80% of foods being of the processed kind. Of course we don’t have to buy them. Then again we’d be a fool not to.
If all else fails to perturb the nation and its bulking mass then the images of waste and poverty in NZ should horrify us. With large volumes of bread, fruits, vegetables, fish and meat dumped, this is more than wasteful it is a disgrace to the life that we extracted from nature and the lives these lives could be saving by nourishing the bellies of our neediest Kiwis.
Yet, we continue to line our kid’s guts with la creme de la creme of lunch box garbage. How can we ever seriously challenge the supermarket and its junk food shelf lining mega corp of bandit badasses? They only exist because we allow them to exist whilst we pamper our little princes and princesses. After all if getting beefy is alright for the adults then it’s good as gold with the tots and tykes. Still, mollycoddling reigns supreme dare not our darlings exert themselves on anything that may potentially challenge, mentally engage or physically push them to be ‘pro-active’. No we feel much more at ease when we see our little treasures cooped up in golden gilded cages digesting hours of mind dumbing TV (not the Discovery channel I suspect), playing violent video games and sitting in front of computers, tablets, laptops and the ultimate toy of destruction the cell phone. Choosing to place the virtual over reality.
This is about as senseless as giving a child a Tamagotchi pet rather than a kitten. Why do we cotton wool our infants from the joyful activities which we once did so freely? Denying kids the choice to walk, bike or bus to school? Because of bullying or stranger danger? Surely the price of our well-meaning sheltering is more detrimental than it is beneficial. Coupled with our own unnecessary fretting and obsessive compulsiveness when it comes to excessive parenting are the real fears which we should be freaking out about.
Along with the Home Front it’s the Political Front which also needs to face up to the real perils of a very large fatness preoccupation. For while expenditure on footpaths, cycle lanes, school lunch programmes and afterschool extracurricular activities has plummeted political salaries continue to lap up healthy margins. Pools are being torn out of school premises while school dentists are becoming a remnant of a distant past. And the school physician is as dead as a dodo? But one guy has survived all this cost cutting culling and bathes in glory in the necessity of her school role. That person being the school quack who has to contend with the mental consequences when the health of the mind suffers due to the neglect of a sound body. Such as hikikomori.
A social disorder that is as alive outside of Japan as it is back in Nipppn. Have our leaders forgotten that schools are more than just vocational avenues and STEM curricula deliverers? What about their role to develop able societies? And why the onslaught on such an important instrument such as sport? To save a few bucks on grass seed and balls? Again, Mr State shuns all responsibility by stating that it’s the parent’s duty to educate their children.
Well, why not disregard melanoma if that’s the case? Road fatalities? Fire safety campaign?
Why do we fear offending with the fat taboo yet not to pharmaceutical ads openly telling us of the value of lifelong love making and the tools we need to um keep it up, if you will? That great evil of an educator, television, and its monumental role since the 50s at giving people a shameful excuse to avoid any other form of social diversion while poor town planning has been the other great culprit.
In a recent project documenting the shambolic state of Eastern ChCh, an overwhelming number of people said they “would” be more active more often if their side of town gave them that choice. What kind of options they meant whether bowling alleys indoor sports clubs pools amusement parks was unclear. But all that really should matter is that the people of the East do care and want to see more than just another fatty food selling fast food outlet opening its doors up to further fatten up us East Enders.
Fortunately, it seems as if help is on the way. In spite of our social withdrawal and anthropic leapfrogging, from one service station, mall, dairy then cafe etc actions are being extended to make the Easterners leaner, meaner and keener when it comes to their wellbeing.
Recent gym upgrades now have classes where one can group watch their favourite show. Not only do they watch but they run, row, bike or ski their way to better health all while having a kindred spirit to chat along with. In other rec centres, the projection monitor allows one to cycle on stages of the Tour de France, Giro de Italia or simply explore Les Pays Bas. Other forms of TechRec include the hosting of Nintendo Wii matches and yoga boarding and even fun dance offs.
However, getting involved need not only rely upon the use of tech nor a console. Community gardens are an obvious way to make use of land where homes once proudly stood. Or for those a little more daring one could drum up the courage to try No Lights No Lycra a dance sensation to get you fit originally conspired up in Melbourne.
Of course there is the colossal push to rejuvenate the parks. From Deans Bush (a small part of the forest that once covered Christchurch), Hallswell quarry park (the minerals and matter used to make our city), to the Settler’s pioneering tracks across the majestic Port Hills to the relaying of the new Bottle Lake Forest cycle path our city is getting a major spruce up.
Most gratifying for us Eastern residents is the desire to give the beachside a facelift with a more socially inviting ambience. We can see this positivity in the rise of beach sports and the crowds they draw and interests in everything from Frisbee, tai chi to dragon boating. There are also some magnificent boot camps though be warned they are not for the faint hearted. Then there is a wee faithful group endeavour to start up the State of Grass (grace) green appreciation organisations/club. Lest one forget the Chch to Little River cycle rail trail and the delights of funky cultural and arty jewels like Tai Tapu and Little River, bien sur.
Then understandably there’s the growing sense of excitement at the cleaning up of the Avon River in a bid to win back the hearts of rowers, kayakers, white baiters and bird spotters. Speaking of birds, the Wetlands Project in Marshlands and Burwood is well under way to protecting our waders, their food source and their habitat for our aesthetic pleasure and ecological safekeeping.
Even the golf courses which litter our landscape are being used to preserve our endemic flora and fauna. For our golf tourists undertaking the pilgrimage from Japan and Korea, they not only get to play on world class fairways but get something environmentally unique out of the experience. The idea is to sell the idea of “18 holes, 18 wonders”, a great boost to eco-awareness.
Indeed, the mission to sell an appreciation for our wildlife is on the ascent. Butterfly gardens in the Botanic Gardens, more organic and wild food village farmers markets and Green Belt Getaways are all projects not only for our rebounding rocked city but to our dearest satellite companions on the fringes of The Garden City. From picturesque surfy and swanky Sumner Bay, to the refined, quaint village of Tai Tapu. Supporting small peripheral communities is critical to our vision of a healthy holistic Canterbury community where we show care for one another’s bonne sante. From the charms of artisan and craft centres such as Ohoka, Oxford and Lincoln to the creation of recycle chic book towns like Chertsey, to country living wine and dine self-indulgence havens including Darfield Sheffield and Springfield which also doubly function as healthy food sanatorium paradises, along with the not to be missed adrenalin and pampering pleasure hubs of Methven and Hanmer, the new Canterburian credo has been seconded into motion.
It is clearly the mission statement of the Council to market the biopsychosocial health inducing wonders of our Eden Down Under. Rebuilding local resilience and tightening it’s solidarity via communal projects that focus on the equilibrium of interacting forces around our region and the key notion of collective homeostasis has played a laudable roll in stirring up sentiments of strong will.
In a balanced system, all actors benefit in the loop and there is accord between all parties. We can see this in efforts to protect our indigenous eels which in the past were an important source of “kaimoana” (food/nourishment) for the Kai Tahu Maori tribe from Canterbury. While efforts to clear up habitats such as the Groynes sanctuary and the badly eutrophic Lake Ellesmere have been implemented our municipal power by way of relations with Parliament in Wellington have sought to engage in dialogue with Pacific peoples such as the Kingdom of Tonga to protect areas in the Pacific where spawning is known to occur. In recent times, the Kermadec Reserve is one example of how national actions benefit us locals.
Naturally, it is the things done closest to home and through our own initiatives that bring us an enormous sense of accomplishment as we surge forth in creating a land peopled by Eco smart consumers, participants and health nuts who care deeply about both themselves, nature and the matrimony between the two.
The target to smash the fat and sugar outlaws overriding our Southern outpost are reflected in objectives such as the Spice It Up drive where herbs instead of sugar and artificial flavourings are promoted. There is even a push to have berm, roundabout and island barrier Herb Helpouts where people can well… get some chicory, rocket or cilantro for their salad, gratis. Or the massive target to End the Vend, for vending machines in the East are a major facilitator to odious consumptive practices.
The Battle of the ‘Bulge’ has heard its’ first fired rounds. The onslaught on obesity and inactivity is only set to intensify with the massive Regional councils’ investment and commitment to Canterbury health. Money that will be spent on such vitals such as more public toilets with showers, drinking fountains, basketball (and other types of) courts, climbing walls, obstacle courses, subsidies for elite sports affiliations including prestigious codes such as tennis and golf, community education, orientation courses and more small reserve ‘jungle gyms’ for the littles.
With all these energetic actions unravelling, Christchurch is taking big strides towards a wholesome state of hearty well-conditioned robustness. And with any luck, I too will be able to finally fit into that pair of skinny Levi jeans I have long struggled to pull over my porky plump posterior.
While audaces fortuna juvat (fortune favours the bold) I also believe that fortune favours the healthy. So in light of this, I’ll raise my glass and make my toast. Salute, Christchurch e buona fortuna.