WEGG Question #13 - Cultural Effects

by Peter Hedges

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WEGG Question #13 - Cultural Effects

Unread postby Liz » Sat Apr 14, 2007 10:14 am

"I would hope that people might view their fellow beings, all beings, with more empathy, more compassion, with a desire to understand. Even if they can't know why people are the way they are, to understand that they're probably that way for a good reason." ~ Peter Hedges

How does our culture treat its obese and developmentally disabled differently than others?

What are the effects on them in our culture?
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sat Apr 14, 2007 11:13 am

Badly, certainly with disabled people its ignorance and fear. Not sure about obese I guess most people just see them as greedy without thinking if there is a problem behind it.And since they keep telling us we are getting fatter as a society I think its almost becoming the norm. There was some research this week revealing a fat gene so not sure how that's going to affect people.
Not sure about the second half of the question.

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Unread postby Endora » Sat Apr 14, 2007 11:55 am

I'll play devil's advocate here, to see what people have to add.

I think Hedges is far too optimistic when he says they're probably like that for good reason, and when he groups the obese with the disabled. A congenital disablility is one thing, bringing disability on oneself through behaviour you know is harmful is another? Obesity is curable, isn't it, whereas conditions like Arnie's aren't.

And an effect on them in our culture? What about the blame culture which says I'll sue the tobacco company for causing my cancer, or the fast food company for causing my obesity? The effect is to negate personal responsibilities.
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Unread postby Lady Jill » Sat Apr 14, 2007 11:55 am

When you say "Our Culture" my mind jumps to America, the US, for I believe we treat obese and developmentally disabled people far worse than other countries. I believe it is caused by a huge ignorance comixed with a pious attitude of indifference, like "we" are better! Not much compassion or empathy.

It is sad indeed that people everywhere are caught up in the almighty rubbish foods they sell both in markets and fast foods places. I think eating real live food went out with the whole concept of close families. Throw in the automobile and a culture changed drastically. GIve me a horse and a buggy and my garden.

The effects of 'them in our culture: assuming you are talking here about the obese and developmentally disabled, not how they are treated by our culture. . . These people have lives, emotions, joys and sorrows just like we all do. Their effect on our culture of them seemingly only cause reactions in others, as above. In regards to a developmentally disabled person 's effects on our culture, I think here is a greater impact on society, as they tends to always be 'taken care of' watched, etc., much like Gilbert with Arney always climbing the tower and freaking out everyone.

Interesting thoughts for a Saturday morning.

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Unread postby Betty Sue » Sat Apr 14, 2007 1:19 pm

I'm hesitant to try to answer these questions as it seems we'd need the results of studies to really know how our culture treats each and its effects on them. It seems that there is a more kindly attitude toward the developmentally disabled as they clearly had no choice in their condition. As Endora notes, the obese seem to play a role in causing their condition. BUT could it have happened to any of us under the right genetic and environmental conditions? I've always wondered.
The effect on them in our culture? Well, some program put a woman in a 'fatsuit' and showed that she was treated quite differently than when she didn't wear it---ignored in stores, stared at and whispered about and avoided on the street, not considered for employment (as I remember...). And I think sometimes the developmentally disabled are treated with fear and disdain.
I believe, like Hedges, that to know is to understand. I'm not sure we learned quite enough about Momma to be understanding, though. It was more her attitude than her obesity that was offensive, however. BUT, as I said before, maybe we'd have been the same under her conditions. :-O
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Apr 14, 2007 5:06 pm

We will have to ask Liz to clarify the second part of the question but I like how you all interpreting it so far. I think the quote is asking us not to judge someone based on their outward appearance or make assumptions about them without knowing their story.

I like to think that as a society we are becoming more tolerant and accepting of differences. I do think we have come a long way in my lifetime. Then I see the story you referenced Betty Sue about how the woman in the fat suit was treated and I have to wonder.

Endora, I agree about the personal responsibility factor. Suing a fast food chain for causing a person's obesity is ridiculous.

Lady Jill, I think some of society's attitude comes from fear. They mock what they don't understand or fear they could become.

GG, I'm sure some people are predisposed to be heavier than others. I see that in my own family. To what extent biology plays a role, I don't know.
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Unread postby gemini » Sat Apr 14, 2007 5:19 pm

"I would hope that people might view their fellow beings, all beings, with more empathy, more compassion, with a desire to understand. Even if they can't know why people are the way they are, to understand that they're probably that way for a good reason." ~ Peter Hedges.
How does our culture treat its obese and developmentally disabled differently than others?
What are the effects on them in our culture?


From what I've seen and read Americans treat the disabled and obese badly. There are too many jokes that seem to be accepted as funny. In this country it seems to be a negative to not fit the norm. As much as our country talks of our great diversity most people like those similar to themselves as friends and associates. Same color, religion, lifestyle, politics etc. With these attitudes its not a stretch to see how those less able to defend themselves like the disabled and obese are treated.

I can see that nature dealt the disabled a tough burden, but in some ways the obese are also disabled and I am not sure we know enough to say its their own fault. Heredity does seem to play a big part in families for obesity and as in Momma's case depression is a big contributor which while argued whether it is a disease, it is now called a silent disease. Its only been recently that mental illness was considered a disease.

As for the effects on them in our culture, they are not good. The disabled would have a much better life if they were accepted like anyone else. In jobs your qualifications and ability should be the only consideration, not your looks, or lack of ability to move around as fast as the next person. A full life, it seems, would help both the disabled and over weight person to do better. And as said before the nation is gaining weight because our lives are not as active as when we grew our own food and worked hard labor instead of desk jobs. Not to mention processed foods.

As for Peter Hedges comment, I think he speaks like he has first hand knowledge or maybe someone close to him to think there is always a good reason to treat those different with compassion. What is that about "Walking a mile in someone else's shoes?

As for other cultures I really am not that well traveled to know. Guess we'll have to let each zoner describe their homeland.
Last edited by gemini on Sat Apr 14, 2007 6:35 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Apr 14, 2007 5:41 pm

I would like to add that I found that quote from Hedges on Darlene Cates website.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

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Unread postby nebraska » Sat Apr 14, 2007 7:27 pm

I think the disabled are gaining respect....for instance, the very words "developmentally disabled" are much more politically correct than the way Gilbert refers to his brother. Schools now offer lots of special help for disabled students as required by law, public buildings must be accessible, overall things have improved a lot for disabled people, whether the disability is physical or mental.

Movies, TV, magazines, all the popular media idealize the slender. We have been lead to believe anyone who does not fit that mold is somehow "less than." I think obesity is still looked on as a terrible thing caused by weakness and gluttony. My own opinion is that obesity is a symptom rather than a condition, and it is not fair to be judgemental based on someone's outward appearance. But it happens all the time... I am not sure the law prevents discimination based on weight.

I am choosing my words as carefully as I can, as a heavy woman this is a really emotional issue for me.

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Unread postby deppstergal » Sat Apr 14, 2007 8:42 pm

A very interesting question, and some great ideas and interpretations so far. I have always felt that people and their actions/attitudes are the result of circumstance. That's how I see Momma and her weight problem, and it's how I see Gilbert and his reluctance to express his feelings.

I guess it is different for Arnie and although he is not always treated lovingly by those around him, his disability affords him a sympathy not so willing given to Momma. Gilbert seems okay on the surface so it's easy to ignore the damage he has suffered. Arnie is seen to be blameless for his plight is no more or less than a simple twist of fate.

Momma is viewed with more suspicion. Some would think she was to blame for her own predicament because she should be able to control her weight problems, but is her obesity a result of greed or need?

It's easy to say that Momma could have avoided her situation by regulating her food intake, but if her overeating was more to do with filling an emotional void than an empty stomach, where does the blame lie?

As I have grown older I have grown less and less judgemental of the actions of others. The experience of others as well as my own has taught me that people do what they are driven to do by the situation they find themselves in.

While it is all fine and dandy to know what should be done in a given situation, it's not that easy when you are the one having to deal with the problem. The cultural times we live in have an inbuilt expectation that people who are smart will succeed by living useful, productive lives, and those who fail, fail because they are dumb and therefore inferior.

My own feelings are these expectations are stupid, needless and often cruel. We have no control over the hand life deals us. All we can do is respond to the circumstances as best we can. Without knowing how deeply wounded some people are by the blows life has dealt them, are we in any position to judge their response? I think not.

Who can say how they would react to something as devasting as the suicide of a husband and father? How can we know how Momma or Gilbert felt when this tragedy struck their family? We can't and therefore we don't have any right to judge them. Sympathy is all we can offer, and if our culture leant more towards sympathy and less towards blame then maybe we could eradicate some of the needless suffering that occurs day in and day out.

Don't get me wrong, I am the last person to condone a single tragedy as a one way ticket out of responsibility for life.....but we all make mistakes sometimes, and I for one am willing to forgive because the next victim just might be me.
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Unread postby gemini » Sat Apr 14, 2007 9:33 pm

Endora wrote:I'll play devil's advocate here, to see what people have to add.

I think Hedges is far too optimistic when he says they're probably like that for good reason, and when he groups the obese with the disabled. A congenital disablility is one thing, bringing disability on oneself through behaviour you know is harmful is another? Obesity is curable, isn't it, whereas conditions like Arnie's aren't.

And an effect on them in our culture? What about the blame culture which says I'll sue the tobacco company for causing my cancer, or the fast food company for causing my obesity? The effect is to negate personal responsibilities.


Boy, We really have some good answers to this question. I agree with all of the groups commensts. But since Endora was brave enough to play devils advocate I'll go for the other side.

I think most people believe exactly what Endora said that comparing disabled with obese is ridiculous since one can be controlled and the other not. Disability can be physical and mental, and though not all can be cured some can be controlled with treatment.

Obesity I think is the same. Some who gain weight are having a lapse in will power and can get hold of themselves and loose the weight. Although our sedentary lifestyles, and lack of time, making us choose quick foods make this harder.

True obese people in my opinion have more than a normal problem. This is most noticed by Doctors prescribing anti depressants for weight loss instead of trying to find the cause of the depression. I think depression gets them started and self esteem after considering themselves fat keeps them less active.( A catch 22) Peoples opinion comes in here, by the way they are looked at or treated when they go out in public.

Endora , Your comment on the effect on culture I think is right on. Suing is getting out of hand in this country. I can see it for an actual injury but not a long term problem like smoking or eating. I think cigarettes and fattening food are getting the bulk of the forefront of this trend because they were slow to add warnings. Fast food is gettting to that point now. Children should really be educated on nutrition in school and I don't mean subsidized by the Meat & Dairy industry or McDonalds. It is surprising how many of their parents don't understand nutrition.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Apr 15, 2007 1:37 am

Wow! Lots of great responses to this question today. I had in-law obligations today and couldn’t get to a computer to check up on the board until now.

I’m sorry about the confusion in my last question. What I meant by the last question was: How do you think society’s reaction to them effects them (them being the obese and the developmentally disabled).


Betty Sue wrote: I'm not sure we learned quite enough about Momma to be understanding, though. It was more her attitude than her obesity that was offensive, however. BUT, as I said before, maybe we'd have been the same under her conditions. :-O


Betty Sue, I have to agree that what bothered me about Momma was her attitude. But I also can be sympathetic towards her because of her circumstances.


I tend to be tolerant and understanding of those in these categories and of others who are different. But I think I was less so as a child. And I think that was due to the times in which I grew up. I think fear played a big part in my lack of tolerance back then. And I think that is because I had a lack of understanding. As DITHOT put it, we fear what we don’t understand.

And I think society is too judgmental. I think, we, as a society, are still too ready to judge people based on how they look, what they wear, and what they ingest. I get very angry with my father who constantly puts down those who are overweight. “How can they let themselves get that way?” “All they have to do is control their eating.” Yeah, right, dad, like you can quit smoking. Plus he’s naturally skinny and has never had to deny himself anything. He has no clue. And I have always thought that the tendency to be overweight is in the genes. Seems that there might be some scientific evidence now to support that.


http://newsroom.finland.fi/stt/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=15494&group=General

nebraska wrote:I think the disabled are gaining respect....for instance, the very words "developmentally disabled" are much more politically correct than the way Gilbert refers to his brother. Schools now offer lots of special help for disabled students as required by law, public buildings must be accessible, overall things have improved a lot for disabled people, whether the disability is physical or mental.

Movies, TV, magazines, all the popular media idealize the slender. We have been lead to believe anyone who does not fit that mold is somehow "less than." I think obesity is still looked on as a terrible thing caused by weakness and gluttony. My own opinion is that obesity is a symptom rather than a condition, and it is not fair to be judgemental based on someone's outward appearance. But it happens all the time... I am not sure the law prevents discimination based on weight.


Nebraska, I couldn’t agree with this more. And I’m glad you pointed out the positive changes (at least politically) in regards to the disabled. There seem to be safeguards in place to guard against discrimination against that group, but not so for the obese.

And Deppstergal, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

But the suing of a fast food chain for causing one's obesity is just over the top.
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Unread postby SamIam » Sun Apr 15, 2007 12:52 pm

This is a good question. I think that there are a lot of cultural effects on obese and challenged people. For me I think the effects are that they don't get treated like regular people. They are people and they are just differently abled than you and I. Because she was obese, Momma was treated as a joke which is a cultural effect of being obese however we would probably all be in the same situation if someone that close to us died. But everyone deals with grief in different ways.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Apr 15, 2007 3:59 pm

SamIam, I like what you wrote,
"they are just differently abled "
That is a good way to describe it. :cool:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby SamIam » Sun Apr 15, 2007 4:48 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:SamIam, I like what you wrote,
"they are just differently abled "
That is a good way to describe it. :cool:


Thanks DITHOT!
I thought so too. :cool:
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