Be careful, people. There are killers on the loose. And I don’t mean the deployed cadres who enforce the ANC’s cadre deployment policy, butchering the hopes and dreams of so many. I’m talking about the corporate monsters who produce tobacco, alcohol, fossil fuels and ultra-processed foods. The Big Four kills 19 million people globally every year. That’s right. One in three dies from eating cigarettes, smoking donuts or drinking diesel.
I know this because The Lancet has just published a study about the “commercial determinants of health”. People, apparently, are idiots. “Duh,” I hear you say. Is that because you think I’m stating the obvious or are you simply proving my point? I would have thought that, by now, people who lead suicidally unhealthy lives might have a rough idea of why they feel like shit most of the time. Then again, they keep voting for a party that deliberately distracts us from making the correlation between cause and effect.
The director-general of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Ghebreyesus, who is either a saint or the antichrist, depending on who shouts loudest at the braai, said “we need to move away from crude measurements, such as gross domestic product, and towards measuring what matters, such as through approaches for a wellbeing economy.”
Tedros, my bru, our GDP is predicted to grow by, like, 0.2% this year. Come over here and tell my people to forget about economic growth. We’ll kick your ass. We want money, drugs and guns. Later for wellbeing.
We’ll give you our alcohol and our ultra-processed food when you take it from our cold, dead hands. We like our booze chilled and cheap and our food brightly coloured, sweet, salty and still edible after lying on the kitchen counter for a month.
It’s 10pm and I’ve just made myself a peanut butter sandwich because I forgot to have lunch and was feeling oddly woozy after only nine beers. The combination of margarine, white bread and peanut butter is like having a serial killer choking me from the inside. I’m only eating it so the beer has something to chew on before heading on over to the liver. But then I had to drink more beer because my mouth was all glommed up. This is how they get you.
I took a photo of the ingredients on the bottle of peanut poison and enlarged it for my worn-out eyes. There was stuff I’d never heard of. What the hell are cacahuetes? My enlarged heart began pounding. Then I realised I was reading the ingredients in French. I don’t know why we bother informing the tourists what’s in our peanut butter. They don’t do the same for us, that’s for sure. Go to Paris and they’ll sell you all manner of toxic filth without a written warning in Zulu.
My jar contained more fats than a late-night show for overweight drag queens in downtown Vegas. They were all there – poly, mono, trans, saturated – jostling among themselves to be the first to clog my arteries.
Ask the average South African in the street if he knows the difference between processed food and ultra-processed food and he’ll tell you to hang on while he makes a quick call. As you’re explaining the benefits of clean living, three of his mates will arrive in a BMW with tinted windows. They won’t know the answer either, but they will take you on a scenic tour of the area’s ATMs.
Right. The peanut butter’s kicking in nicely. Back to the study. Scientists from 15 countries across six continents accuse certain multinationals of driving global epidemics of avoidable diseases. The companies, protected by an impenetrable wall of lawyers, red in tooth and claw, are, like, “Yeah? So what you clevas gonna do about it?”
The scientists, backed up by Tedros who couldn’t be at the fight because he had to pick up his kids from the School of Economic Wellbeing, said, “We’ll get people to eat more fruit and nuts and stop drinking and smoking and using fossil fuels.”
So, that’s it, then. We have to give up the vodka, chocolates, ciggies, pies, pizzas, chips, ready meals, hot dogs, Coke and nitrous oxide. We will feel terrible as the withdrawal kicks in. But then we will feel better after going to the doctor. Yay for opioids, benzodiazepines and 28 days in a dodgy rehab!
I don’t know, man. If we’re going to be talking about pathological systems and calling out the world’s largest industries for making huge profits at the expense of human and planetary health, then maybe we should include the likes of Lockheed Martin, Thales and BAE Systems. With no tanks, guns and missiles, we can go back to throwing rocks at each other. Who doesn’t love a good workout in the fresh air? Later, we can celebrate our wholesome new world with a handful of chickpeas and a round of tofu smoothies.
Then again, I might just keep smoking donuts and drinking diesel.