Monday, March 31, 2008

Hungry yet?

Imagine a country where, under certain circumstances, stealing food has become effectively legal.

This country, of sane, well-intentioned people, has decided that anorexia is a sufficiently serious problem that all efforts should be made to help those who suffer it. Various government programs have been put in place to succor the poor victims of this terrible fate; there is counseling available for free on request, dieticians are on 24 hour standby, nutritionists make fortunes from writing "gain weight quick" books. Various pressure groups have field days wrecking fashion houses in expensive shopping districts and organizing protests outside women's magazine headquarters, all standing proud against the ravages of propaganda designed to make women want to be as skinny as they can be.

Panic has set in, the dreaded scourge of self starvation becomes a social anathema. The merest suggestion that one should perhaps restrain oneself at the dining table becomes positively offensive. Every self respecting citizen will pick up the club and shout down the poor fool who thinks maybe we're all getting a bit too overweight. Diet drinks become dusty relics in the corners of museums, a vaguely revolting reminder of a horrendous past.

And for those poor few who remain skinny, no matter how hard they try, society positively bends over backwards to help them, to fatten them up, to save them from themselves and the danger of wasting away into wraith-like nothingness.

Then one day, a young shoplifter finds herself in front of the beak. She was caught red handed with that crimson appendage jammed in the cookie jar while trying to half inch a box of fancy chocolates from, oh, I don't know, the local equivalent of Fortnum and Mason's (does Macy's compare?). It’s her third strike, too, what is she going to do?

Luckily for her, she's got a couple of things in her favor - first, due to an unfortunate dalliance with certain hard drugs, she's only got the one spare tire. And there's the rich daddy, who while disgusted at his daughter's fall from grace is sufficiently protective of his family's good name (and nagged by his missus) that he would rather not see her go to jail. So he plonks the greenbacks down for a decent lawyer.

Said Shylock ponders carefully and comes up with a novel defense. Yes, yer honor, the young lady admits to her crime. She did indeed, with planning aforethought, make off with exhibit A, a box of Cadbury's Crème Delight, special edition, with Egon Ronay's 5-star fillings. Unfortunately, she neglected to pay for said item and got nicked on setting off the store's alarm. But your honor, please take a careful look at her, she's as skinny as a rail! This crime was no ordinary crime, it was a cry for help from one of society's truest victims! She is almost, and I near dare not say it, anorexic! You cannot possibly convict!

The judge, who has just had a very nice lunch courtesy of a couple of friends at the local law school, is digesting comfortably, emitting the occasional wee burp, and has taken a considerable liking to the defendant's heaving cleavage, wakes up at this and declares "Good grief! You're right! The poor thing! Case dismissed!" Whack! "And someone give her a leaflet for anorexics anonymous, this minute!"

Lawyers being lawyers, word quickly gets around. Pretty soon, courts up and down the land are letting off one lefty after another. Food, after all, is a God-given right and who are these grocery and supermarket owners to so selfishly deny such starving sisters who daily cheat death with no more than a crust of bread with their three course meals? Few judges dare convict. Once in a while, someone will be sent down for lack of excuse - a kilo of caviar under the coat of a 400 pound gentleman is pushing it just a bit too far - but as long as you limit yourself to a carrier bag or two and manage to look drawn in the dock, by and large the judge waves a hand and lets you go.

(In the background, no court staff will waste time making sure any shopkeeper who has the temerity to bring charges is very aware in just how low esteem he is held. Better just to go away and work all the harder to put more food on the shelves for any poor dear who might happen to feel peckish while passing by.)

Pretty soon, the population at large catches on. Behind the smokescreen of all these dismissed cases, small industries develop revolving around cleaning out one superstore after another. Gangs strip one store to stock another, one bag at a time.

They have to be careful, of course, it's hard to justify that DVD jammed between the bread and the pastrami, the beak definitely won't like it. Society, too, still looks askance. Nobody you know would stoop so low. Or if they did, it must have been because they were really hungry, or perhaps other things justify such an obvious and forlorn cry of help. While everyone thinks such reassuring thoughts, supermarkets are forced to their knees, corner shops gutted, lawyers get richer by the hour and advocates for the anorexic sit around being pleased with themselves secure in the unquestionable knowledge that theirs is a righteous and godly cause.

Have you figured it out yet? You live in this country. Oh, yes you do. Anorexia is domestic violence, food is a man's children and his living, the store-keepers are non-custodial parents and the courts are, well, the courts. Oh, yes they are.


GR Klein said...

Hi Mate,

After reading your rather creative analogy I couldnt help but add a commment to your site.

Like you I am a dad who has faced numerous challenges in my quest to fulfill this role.

My blog has a range of articles with topics I am sure you are familiar with.

Anyway keep up the fight, for evil only triumphs when good "men" stand by and do nothing.


GR Klein

Anonymous said...

Let me be the first to say, "Don't get over it".

And let me ask this. I know you would not have wished your experience on your worst enemy, but after having gone through it, are you now much stronger than you realise?

This is the sort of experience that is the making of a new stronger you. Life is not about how much you earn, nor how much you accumulate, and absolutely not what you do or where you live. Life is all about what you experience, what you learn from those experience, and ultimately who you touch with the wisdom of your experience.

Your story, shrouded as it is, touched me. Whilst its a good story, it the experience learned in order to write such a story that reaches out to me.

I encourage you to do more, say more, reach out more, touch more.

One voice can soon become many, and ultimately, its the food that will benefit. Not from one or another right or wrong viewpoint, but from balance, and also that there are many truths in the world, and that not everything is black & white.

Well written, and well read.


JBL said...

It would truly help if you could tell your average citizen what they can do to get the word out.
About me: I was that (female)victim of DV for 13 years. My daughters were beaten, shoved, choked, thrown, as well as verbally abused. I was everything except hit... that way, he could always say "I have never hit you" and it was true. That's why I stayed for 13 years.
Afterward-my daughters and I volunteered at a womens shelter; it was part of our own healing. We truly BELIEVED with all our hearts and minds that DV was overwhelmingly perpetrated on women by men. It was in our training material, it is repeated over and over in every venue where DV is mentioned. This MISINFORMATION is constantly repeated as though it is true. I believed it. I had no reason to do otherwise at the time.
Fast-forward 15 years: a (male) colleague comes to work with bruises and marks all over his face and neck. I realize he has not been at work the past couple of days. This looks familiar to me because of my previous volunteer work. So I ask. And he says "oh I probably deserved it" in a forlorn voice I have heard before... but never from a MAN!! Oh, shocking!
So I look into it; investigate; learn that he has absolutely NO resources. He has no shelter to go to. He has no way to protect his kids. He cannot leave his home with them for fear of being accused of kidnapping. He cannot leave them behind for fear of losing them (and everything else). He has been living with this nightmare for even longer than I had. My heart breaks.
Tell the average citizen what they can do. We unintentionally perpetrate the myth that DV is all man-on-woman. We don't mean to. We just don't know better. How do we get the word out????

John Doe said...

JB, I can well believe everything you say. As for getting the word out, most non-custodial parents are too cowed by the system to speak up. All I feel able to do, for now, is in this blog.

As for your other message, you can use and link to my material however you like, but please always point to the source. You are, with your blog, helping to get the word out...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said, I guess you would not wish this on your worst enemy. My worst enemy is my ex. I would imagine that most of you feel the same. Your worst enemy used to be your best friend. I do wish that my worst enemy could go through what I have gone through. Only by going through this, actually experiencing a situation where your children despise you, where you are unable to communciate with them, when every email you send and telephone call you make is returned with absolute and complete silence do you begin to realize what damage you have done to the person that you formerly called your best friend. Do friends do this to one another. No. Enemies do this to one another and in war enemies do horrible damage to one another for stupid reasons.

Anonymous said...

400 years ago a British writer wrote a play.
When asked waht was needed to return justice and clean the laws of Venice the Prince answered "First, kill all the lawyers".

Michael Shannon

Anonymous said...

In 1999 the Maryland DSS came to my house and threatened to charge me with "Child Neglect" for not reporting the severe abuse of my wife on my two sons.

I said "in a court of law, with a 200 lb 6'3" inch man and a 5' 7" 125-lb woman, and a 'he-said / she-said' case, which of us would go to jail??"

With my wife in the house I told them "you are going home in 20 minutes, my sons and myself have to live here".
An hour later the wife had stabbed me with a steak knife and beaten the 4-yr old in a drunken rage for my comments...

Michael Shannon