I write this as I sit beside the pool in Porec, Croatia. So, what does a late summer holiday have to with mankind’s destiny you say? Well, nothing particularily, but what I have seen while here is the state of health of the western world. Europe along with America sees itself as the leaders of the modern world, but for a moment, consider the attitudes we have to health, welfare, diet and even defence.
Health : I recently watched a documentary covering the subject of liver disease. Most of the patients there were suffering from liver failure due to alcohol abuse. Others suffered from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (something I was recently diagnosed with) which is equally life threatening, causing liver and other organ failure as it progresses. Both can be easily avoided and the latter cured. NAFLD can be cured by losing weight and by cutting out or avoiding alcohol. Sanctimoniously, I can announce I have done both and am clear (for now) of any problem. I just have to be careful with weight and probably avoid booze for the rest of my life.
The people in the documentary were mostly awaiting liver transplants, 900 of which are available in the UK every year at a cost of £100,000 each. 7,000 people are on the waiting list for a liver however, so I suppose 6,100 are sentenced to death as a result of not enough organs or money being available.
The attitude of some of the people who had NAFLD was shocking however. “I’ll carry on drinking, I don’t worry about my diet” an overweight twenty-something declared – “when I need one, the NHS will give me a transplant, after all that’s what my taxes pay for”. This attitude sickened me to the core of my healing liver. What if I had needed, or should need a liver, but become one of the 6,100 fated souls at the expense of this binge drinking porker? I would feel unfairly treated. After all, like famous footballers before, she would probably go on to pickle the donated one in any case. The incidence of NAFLD has increased 400% in the last ten years, and may well become a bigger killer than heart disease in the next twenty.
My real point? We treat the NHS as a crutch for our unhealthy lifestyle. Taxes on cigarettes and booze pay for healthcare as if it’s a justified vice and the tax is some form of life insurance policy.
Welfare : We have gone far too soft on those who choose not to work and subsequently not contribute to our country and state. You can now leave school, even leave it early, have children and get housing, even without getting a job or earning a penny. Young, single parent families seem to have priority over council housing, making cheap housing inaccessible for those who choose to work and pursue a career. Ironically, buying a house is now even more out of reach than it has ever been in modern times for our hard working young people. So, those who are low-achievers will often take the easy way out, relying on the state for housing and handouts.
Diet : This has to be the biggest contributor to the decline of the modern Western World. As our lives become busier, our demand for fast food becomes more. We buy ready meals, eat take away food or dine on burgers and pizzas. Foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugars, direct contributors to weight gain – either very visible, or as in my case mostly fat on the liver. The human body is simply not designed to deal with the vast volumes of sugars and refined foods we attempt to pass through it nowadays, meat and vegetables are what we are intended to eat, but we supplement our Kentucky Fried Chicken with chocolates, cakes and sweets between meals. Gastric bands, once treated like cosmetic surgery, is often now available via the NHS as reducing weight itself will cause less of a burden on the service in the future as weight gain causes not just liver disease, but is better known for causing heart attacks and other coronary killers.
This is where I return to what I have realised on holiday. Watching hordes of fat Germans, Italians and English queue for the hotel buffet, loading up and overloading plates with pizza, chips and pasta, it’s not going to get any better. A large number are little older than me, but already walking with sticks and looking, well frankly, fit for nothing. OK, I managed to lose weight, so I’m a reformed fatty, probably worse than a reformed smoker, but I now enjoy salads and high protein foods like chicken and fish and while I don’t abstain totally, I avoid high carbohydrate foods like potato and pasta.
Defence : This is where this story unfolds. With current constraints on public spending, the UK government is considering suspending or scrapping the building of two new aircraft carriers, reducing the size of the armed forces – even the Territorial Army is set to be reduced by 60%, and even scrapping our nuclear deterrent is a possibility. At a time when our already reduced armed forces are horribly stretched in foreign wars, we have to ask if our defence is adequate given new risks we may face. Possibly not Russia any more, the real cold war is largely over, but there are new risks out there, very different from the last World Wars.
The Middle East is where everyone focusses, obviously because of the region’s significance in oil, but there are massive continents with millions of healthy, young people who could fight for their cause wether a common or a dictated one.
Many don’t have a welfare system like ours, but in their own way encourage child birth and population growth exactly because they don’t. Take Pakistan and many African countries as examples. These countries have growing populations, and populations that are getting younger as a result, not older like ours. The reason? Probably mainly because a family’s legacy is the home and farm associated with it. There are no employees, just the family to tend the fields, so to have more workers on the farm and produce more, it’s simple. Have more children. There’s also no infrastructure with towns having the odd McDonald’s or Pizza Hut, the food eaten is by necessity as high protein as possible, but in any case, very low in fat and sugars. Cynically, I wonder if this is why Africa produces so many World class athletes?
North Korea has a highly controlled population, fiercely loyal (maybe through fear) and again, none of our western afflictions. China is similar, although they have had a one family/one child rule for nearly twenty five years now and now have a declining and ageing population, which will give them a new set of problems in years to come. However, at the moment, they are a significant force to be reckoned with, if only for sheer numbers. Japan, although it has bee infected with our culture, largely does not have the health problems of the West.
Just a few countries who arguably are in better condition than ours. While financially, maybe not, but in terms of health and certainly attitude and loyalty. What would happen if they just got organised and mobilised against us? How many of our fat, dole taking, NHS draining layabouts would willingly join up and fight to support the way of life that they are accustomed to?
God forbid that the African & Eastern nations should join forces, we may think that our technology and nuclear arms are all we need to be safe, but modern terrorism has shown that it’s people on the ground that are what really counts. Make that huge numbers of fit, fanatical people against apathetic, artery clogged populations and I think there’s no match.