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GP10June:  Thin Minds in Fat City

Good Ideas, Bad Ideas, and No Ideas.  Last week Scott Burns of the Dallas Morning News did a review of our Annual Reports on Annual Reports 2002 titled “Crisis of Ideas.”    He stated our case better than we did:  we said business leaders, statesmen, and pundits are—temporarily—running out of ideas and that is a big reason why the steam has gone out of business.  Good ideas, even bad ideas, can be catalysts for action, but no ideas sends us into a torpor or into aimless anxiety. 

Mr. Burns is the reigning king of financial journalists in the Southwest and adds necessary luster to the Dallas paper, a dily that does not quite capture the greatness of the city where it abides.  Broadly syndicated, he deservedly has built a fanatical following:  he has brought a flock of new readers to the Global Province.  This week we are adding a new feature to Best of Class:  “Journalists Worth Reading.”  You can be sure that we will be adding him to the list in weeks to come.  Of course, it’s not hard to admire someone who has such nice things to say about us.

Obesity.  The world’s Barnum and Bailey Disease.  There’s a cancer association, a heart society, and a pressure group for every disease under the sun, but, despite WeightWatchers and 40 fad diets, we have yet to hear about the American Obesity Association (AOA).  Maybe we have not searched hard enough.  Yet clearly the tons of fun that afflict all of us comprise this nation’s greatest disease, and our affliction is rapidly taking over the world, with reports of the tragically overweight even among the poor in the world’s developing and undeveloped nations.  Fat, fast foods are now all too available wherever you go.

What bothers us is that there is often a tone of hopelessness in the face of fat when you do a read of the health scribblers around the nation.  We read that every year more and more people from every age group are getting too copious.  Moreover, we are told that all sorts of metabolic checks will sooner or later overwhelm the thin aspirations of most overweight people, with the subtext: you almost might as well not bother trying.

On Stitch in Time in future weeks we will be devoting more time to the obesity  problem.  How not to get fat!  How to get rid of it when it creeps up on you!  How not to ruin your mind or your body in dealing with fat!  So get ready for the salmon diet which, by gosh, does work, even it does not, as claimed, do much for your complexion.

Malcolm Gladwell, who will be our first journalist to go up on Best of Class this very week, has written about practically everything, so it is no surprised that he has essayed on obesity.  In “The Pima Paradox,” (New Yorker, January 2, 1998) he explores the fruitful research that has been done on the Pima Indians that has laid bare all sorts of fat secrets except for the fact that neither the NIH nor anybody else has actually helped the Pimas to lose weight.  You can also read about the Zone and Atkins diet, which will make you chuckle and wince.  Needless to say, in the end we all learn that losing weight is about eating the right things moderately, getting exercise every day, and getting one’s personal psychology straightened out.  It’s that last thing, the head part, that is a trifle tricky.

Fat, Dumb, and Unhappy.  Fat City—bulging stomachs, SUVs, overstaffed businesses and governments, production of goods the world does not need, exaltation of quantity over quality, speed over deliberation—make it hard to grow thin or to have lean minds.  The Austrian philosopher at Princeton, Peter Singer, says we must tithe and achieve a lean state of mind if we are to have the good society.  In truth, a good society has a lot to do with whether we can lose pounds and put aside things that don’t count very much.  The bloated 90s have a lot to do with why we lack good ideas today.  However, now that businesses can no longer cost-cut or advertise their way out of trouble, they will have to generate truly new products and services.  They simply will have to get ideas.

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