In Ayn Rand's classic novel Atlas Shrugged, the productive sections of society, fed up at being held back by government and the unproductive, go on strike.
To some, this analysis explains modern life - those that can, are being held back by those that won't. And it is those who can, who are paying, via the welfare state, for those that won't.
Ayn Rand was wrong.
But perhaps not entirely. I spent three days last week working at a major exhibition in London. Each day some 3000 people came through the doors. They were all ages and ethnic backgrounds, although there was probably more women than men. Watching groups of people has always been a hobby of mine - from football crowds, to supermarkets, to the body language of police officers at a demonstration. You don't usually need to be able to hear what is being said to know what is going on - our communication remains more physical than verbal.
Watching this particular crowd I began to think it possible that our society may come to be sunk by the weight of the physically inactive on the neck of the active. There is no evidence pop will eat itself, but plenty that western consumer societies might. It is only when you see so many people in one place, and you think back to the crowds observed at public events in the 1970s, 80s or 90s, that you realise what an obese nation the British now are. And the effect of this obesity?
In a thirty minute period, I counted the following being used by people to get around:
Walking sticks, shooting sticks, strollers, wheelchairs, crutches, zimmer frames, double crutches, trolleys and mobility scooters. The venue had also paid for a team of medics to be available to tend to any health issues.
In each instance the person using the aid did not appear to be a pensioner. In some cases they were probably still in their 40s. Perhaps some of those individuals were recovering from accidents, or had suffered a past catastrophic injury. Some were no doubt born with a disability. Perhaps some had long term illnesses they had been fighting for a generation, and todays shopping trip was another example of how they were not gloing to let X defeat them. Perhaps. But the majority were simply very, very fat.
What has all this to do with Ayn Rand? Well, what happens when the grossly overweight constitute not a majority in our society, but even a significant minority? Just as there is a scientific limit beyond which population numbers cannot be sustained, there is presumeably a point at which the number of infirm people is so high we cannot care for them to the standard they have been used to? And beyond that, a point at which they cannot be cared for to a standard that maintains their dignity? Whether productive or unproductive, the obese are testing this societies sustainability in a manner it has never been tested before.
Ken Livingstone once said that if you want your children to be succesful, make sure they learn Chinese. Unless something changes, if you want your children to be rich, buy them shares in firms producing mobility scooters. Just make sure you sell your shares before the number of active people in society is overtaken by the inactive..................