got little grubby little fingers and dirty little minds Theyre gonna get you every time Well, I dont want no short people Dont want no short peopleDont want no short people round here"?Daniel Engber, a senior editor at Slate, suggested in yesterday's NY Times that there should be a war on shortness, just like there's a war on obesity since both are more or less impossible wars to win, but both are measures of poverty and its associated health risks. Also, both shortness and obesity lead to a predictable list of coronary diseases.
Controlling our country’s height may be just as plausible — or implausible — as controlling its weight. It’s true that someone who is fat can lose weight on purpose, while a short adult can’t do anything to gain height. Yet instances of radical, lasting weight loss are exceedingly rare...
Given how hard it can be to lose weight, a realistic war on obesity starts to look a lot like a war on shortness. In both cases, we’re dealing with a complex function of genetics, social class and poor health in childhood.Mr. Engbar assures us that:
None of these policies treat body size as an end in itself. We would never just prescribe growth hormones and bariatric surgery to every child who doesn’t fit a tall, slender mold. Obesity and shortness are society-wide measurements, not reflections of individual virtue or good health. To that end, our goal should be to improve the quality of life for children. If we can manage that, they just might end up a little taller — and thinner too.Idea Lab - Should a War on Shortness Be One of the Goals of Health Care Reform? - NYTimes.com. This is where the article skates onto thin ice. As a culture, we most certainly believe that obesity and yes, shortness, are "reflections of individual virtue or good health." Furthermore, we are prescribing growth hormones and even bariatric surgery (stomach stapling) for young people. The reason for this is simple: eugenics. Eugenics is an ideology that insists that our physical manifestations represent our innate goodness (or evil). As an ideology it was extremely popular in the US among both scientists and people in the first half of the 20th century. Eugenics, like the physical fitness movements of the early 20th century, believed that modernity created physical decay and that this physical decay was a threat to the nation. The response in the US was mass sterilization of “imbeciles” and the “unfit” as well as family planning campaigns, sports, and an effort to strengthen the nation one individual at a time. By the time Adolf Hitler adopted eugenics for his own Final Solution, it was already an internationally accepted scientific belief and a popular one. But in America, especially by the 1930s, eugenicists were embracing both a hereditary model (genes) and an environmental one (improve yourself). In perhaps a uniquely American way, with the emphasis on the possibility of success with enough hard work, eugenics became not just about birth, but about lifestyle. Eugenics American-style worked for the reproduction of the perfect baby, but also to convince adults to adopt new regimes of fitness, health and beauty. Indeed, it made total sense for a famous eugenicist like Albert E. Wiggam to judge the 1929 Miss Universe pageant since beauty was both a sign of genetic superiority and something we have to work at. Today we live in a culture where both shortness and obesity are reviled as signs of poverty. Make them go away and you just might succeed. Success is not related to ability per se, but ability in the right package. But in the same way that eugenics as an ideology can lead to horrible crimes against humanity, eugenics as the basis of health care can lead to many unnecessary deaths. The research on weight, despite all the hysteria over fat, is fairly clear that "ideal weight" is in fact not that ideal. The people most likely to survive long term are neither obese nor ideal, but rather "chubby" (one weight category over ideal). How is it possible that we all know fat is bad, but science is showing that fat might be good? Because of ideology. An ideology that says thin and tall are good. An ideology that believes that our inner nature is written on our physical selves. An ideology of eugenics- wishing the short and the fat would go away. A truly healthy country does indeed fight poverty and try to educate its citizens. A truly healthy country also acknowledges that there is truly a diversity of the human form.