Saturday, July 10, 2010

Where is personal responsibility?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest announced last week that it will file suit against McDonald's if the company does not stop using Happy Meal toys to promote their kids' meals.  The organization likens McDonald's practice to "the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children."

U.S. lawmakers are considering requiring hybrid cars to have synthetic car sounds because the usually quiet cars are endangering cyclists and pedestrians.

Parents complain misbehaving celebrities are poor role models.  The fast food industry gets blamed for the country's obesity epidemic. Schools are doing something wrong if students are not doing well. What ever happened to personal responsibility and accountability?  It seems everyone wants to pass on blame for their own poor choices.

Here are some novel ideas: Say no to your kid when they ask for McDonald's, or go and make a healthy choice from the menu.  Get off the phone, turn down your iPod, look both ways before you cross, and pay attention when you walk on the street.  Use all your senses on the road and don't wait for a revving engine or blaring horn to bring you back to consciousness. Teach your children the importance of education, to respect others, and to make good choices.

We have gone from a society that took responsibility for others beyond ourselves, to a society of people not wanting to accept responsibility even for our own food consumption.  Now I know this argument taken to its extreme could be construed as uncharacteristically un-socialist of me, but I think personal responsibility does not negate government responsibility in matters affecting the public good.  Government agencies are right to encourage the decreased use of trans fats in foods. Consumers are responsible for their portion sizes and should be able to avoid getting hit by a Prius.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hope against hope

Christopher 'Dudus' Coke is in U.S. custody and Jamaicans at home and abroad are hoping that his detention will prove cathartic for the island. Fingers are crossed that he will sing a song in his defense that will reverberate through Jamaica's House of Parliament, shaking loose the old guards of corruption. I'm not feeling hopeful.

Corruption, crime and human degradation are rife in Jamaica. They are not confined to politicians. Police officers assume drivers will be willing to pay a bribe to avoid a ticket. A visit to a government office comes with an expectation of long lines, rude and inept workers and lots of inefficient processes. Drivers are required to keep constant watch for red light runners and those who create and speed through shoulder lanes. Barbarians with guns terrorize communities, while their violence and disrespect of women is lauded in the music blaring at dance hall sessions. How will the attitudes that have been tolerating these behaviors be culled out to reveal a new way of thinking and living for Jamaicans?

Let's say Dudus' song does ensnare a long list of politicians, and vacancies abound in parliament.  Then what? Is there an educated populace ready and able to take the reins and move the country forward? More importantly, will those who step into the void have the support of Jamaicans to cut the new path.  Are Jamaicans ready to do things differently?

As the saying goes, "if wishes were horses..."  We can all hope for the best in Jamaica, but I have not been hearing/seeing on the discussion boards, Facebook pages, or in editorials any realization that the hard work will have to start with Joe Average. Change the constitution, change the instruments of policy, but if residents are not cognizant of their role in the process it will go nowhere.

I want to be hopeful, but taking one criminal off the streets doesn't yet throw up rainbows for me.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

If it's broke sign the papers

I never assume that I know what's going on in anyone's home - not my neighbors, not my friends, and certainly not people I only know through the media.  I have to admit though, that Al and Tipper Gore threw me for a loop.  Who doesn't remember "The Kiss" at the 2000 Democratic National Convention? And most of us assume that after couples make it to 40 years they are pretty much on the "til death do us part" home stretch. Surprise! Not so.  The Gores show that these days up until death you can still part. And I think that's great.

Disclosure: My own parents divorced while I was in my early teens.  My husband says this tainted me on marriage, and makes me more embracing of divorce.

I don't think I am tainted at all.  After all, I did adjust my early-held opinions on the institution, and bet on marriage myself.  I have not always felt like I was winning that bet, and that is reasonably expected.  For me, having divorce on my drop-down menu (my husband's words) makes marriage a choice, not a life sentence. I know what a bad marriage looks like - couples who are never in the same place at the same time, husbands who cannot stand the sound of their wife's voice, wives who turn a blind eye to philandering husbands - and I see a lot of them around. I wish those couples would do the Gore and just cut each other loose.

Life expectancy in the United States now stands at just under 80 years old. Considering that the last national census indicated the average ages at first marriage for men and women were 27 and 25 respectively, 40 years of marriage only takes a couple to their late 60s. Good physical and mental health prevailing, that leaves at least 20 good years that ought not to be squandered tolerating or putting up with anything or anyone.

Spouses can come up with a hundred new reasons to stay in a bad marriage - from laziness to fear - but Al and Tipper have now taken 'we've been married for so long' off the table.