Opinion: There Lies A Significant Capitalist Influence In The Way That We Regulate Our Health.

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Our health is influenced by what is best for business — there’s no doubt about it. We know, for instance, that an excessive consumption of sugar is bad for our health, but yet processed foods are continuously being advertised and shoved into our faces.

We can’t run away from that.

Because it’s lucrative for the sellers. They have entire marketing teams to design products and make those products look as desirable as possible for the consumers to part with their money on.

But at the same time, I will posit that the marketing and sales of these products are actually targeted more at those who are less well off financially.

Unfortunately many of us are employed in contracts that require us to use our time to work for an organisation, and in return the organisation is contractually obligated to compensate us in the form of wages/time off/other benefits stated in the contract.

What is not contractually obligated is an upwards revision of one’s wages to account for inflation. As a result of the inflation occurring at the moment in 2021–2022, there will be situations where the inflation rate outstrips the earning rate, and one’s take home pay would actually be reduced after adjusting for inflation rates.

We can look at rising fuel prices and wonder why our wages don’t increase at the same rate — and hence even as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are subsiding, many are reluctant to commute back to their physical workplaces, instead preferring to find a remote/work from home position that allows them to stay at home.

And this inflation will tend to hit the less well off harder too.

As a graduate student on a tight budget, I do recall making full use of free-flow fountain drinks to maximise my budget when I was at a fast food restaurant.

Question being: How much sugar am I bombing myself with these fountain drinks?

Because it’s easy to say that obesity is related to the issue of feeding oneself with too many empty calories. We do, however, have to see why people end up overfeeding on these calories — and a scientific article does tie that overfeeding to an issue of poverty. Some people are only able to afford those foods at their current wage levels, and as a result gain all that excess weight that leads to further health problems along the way.

Unfortunately, the hardest working jobs are usually paid the least.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic itself, when there were lockdowns all around the world, there were many people who still had to brave the lockdowns to get to work, as their services were classified as “essential”. People such as delivery couriers, manufacturing workers and frontline healthcare workers are extremely essential for providing the necessary services to keep a community running.

They got pats on their backs for braving potential exposures to the virus, while most of the upper management stayed out of harm’s way by working from home.

We don’t need to guess who got paid more, of course.

The blue collar workers on the ground are the ones who bear the brunt of the hard work and get paid the least. Healthcare workers are the ones who are experiencing burnout these days after having to deal with an exponentially increased workload — not the white collar hospital administration!

But if the healthcare workers end up resigning their positions, there will be a shortage of healthcare workers — and of course, the problem is being faced worldwide.

So of course, the current simplistic sentiment in American society is that “nobody wants to work anymore”. It’s more like nobody wants to work without adequate compensation. Especially when certain jobs and roles do entail having to deal with more stress factors (shift work/manual labour/frontline workers who have to deal with other entitled humans).

A tipped employee (the wait staff at a restaurant, for instance) has a minimum wage of US$2.13 per hour before taxes. And some people don’t tip well (sometimes, they don’t tip at all) — such as the Sunday lunch crowd comprising people who have just gone to church.

What can $2.13 buy these days? Even a McDonald’s meal can’t be had for that cheap. Slogging for 1 hour to get $2.13 can’t really get me anything of real value.

Having groups of rude entitled people to deal with for $2.13 per hour and no tip? That’s way worse.

If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want to be working the Sunday shift at all.

Unfortunately some people do not have the choice and need the job to pay their bills.

All this additional stress can take a toll on their physical and mental well-being:

How Overdoing Stress In Life Can Bring About Dementia More Easily.

Unfortunately, chronic stress isn’t the only factor that we have to take into consideration.

medium.com

Even in Singapore, our early years of growth was supported by the backbreaking work of coolie labourers (苦力). Their work was so physically tiring that many of them turned to opium as a form of relief:

Although opium was consumed by all strata of society — the rich and poor, men and women, Chinese and other races — its heavy use, and often abuse, was mostly associated with the poorer classes of Chinese migrant workers engaged in back-breaking occupations such as coolies, rickshaw pullers, agricultural workers, dock labourers, boatmen and lightermen.

So while opium is a banned substance in Singapore, sugar isn’t.

When people are stressed these days, many of them will turn to cheap comfort foods such as potato chips and ice cream as a coping mechanism, no?

It plays right into the hands of the marketing teams employed within the processed food industries.

So what’s the idea behind this entire thought process?

The health of an individual is in the hands of the economic system that they’re placed in. We’ve got multiple factors involved in this process:

  1. Substandard wages.
  2. High stress levels.
  3. A sense of desperation to pay the bills.

Because when we get entrapped within this system, we’ll end up realising how much our health is actually a financial issue rather than a physical issue.

We do have to extricate ourselves from the blue collar working class mentality of working hard, but instead think of how we can work smart and improve our own skills to provide more value to negotiate higher levels of compensation elsewhere.

Because we can see how easy it is to get stuck in that rut. The cycle of poverty doesn’t end. I may need to get a cheap car to get from one workplace to another, with predatory insurance policies and little to no compensation if I were to get caught in an accident.

Even Terry Pratchett found it more expensive to be poor:

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of ok for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

Exploit the poor, give them insufficient resources to survive, and get rich on their hard labour.

Sounds like a great way to become a billionaire, isn’t it?

This article was originally published in Medium.

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