Stop Bullying Fat People

There seems to be a belief in some quarters that the best way to affect change in human beings is to humiliate, berate and shame them into changing. The people, who think this is a really, good idea, call it tough love even though love has nothing to do with it. In fact it should be called the antithesis of love. I call it harassment and the perpetrators are just bullies. These people have a phrase they love repeating and I’m sick to death of hearing: You need to toughen up. No they don’t. They just need you to get off their case.

Sadly, there is a select group of people in our community who seem to be a magnet for what I call the shame game. And they are people who are overweight. Of course the humiliation directed at fat people wouldn’t be complete without them having their very own TV reality show. In Australia it’s called The Biggest Loser. Clever title you might think. It can be understood in two ways, can’t it? The competitor who loses the most weight? Maybe. But I think we all know its true meaning. The biggest loser, as in, you are the biggest loser if you happen to be obese. Now I recognize that people all over the world are getting fatter and obesity is a serious problem and a significant health issue. But I also happen to believe that nothing good comes from trying to shame people into drastic action. It makes a situation worse not better. But try telling that to UK television personality Katie Hopkins. I’d never heard of Katie Hopkins until I read that she is about to screen a documentary called Katie Hopkins: Journey To Fat And Back. As you can gather from the narcissistic title it’s all about Katie and nothing beneficial for fat people apart from telling them how pathetic they are.

Not content with that, Katie set out to prove a point didn’t she. Cameras filmed her as she ate 6500 calories a day for three months, gaining almost three and half stone in weight and then she goes about losing it through self discipline, as in not eating 6500 calories a day and through exercise. In a promo clip from the documentary we see Katie cry (like we are meant to feel sorry for her) as she recites what she has eaten in a day and we are told in graphic detail what she ate: cereal with chocolate milk, a donut, two pieces of toast, pasta, ten pieces of shortbread, two cans of drink, a jacket potato, chocolate cake and a tube of Pringles. “It’s a lot of eating in day,” Hopkins says. “ This is a stupid project. I hate fat people for making me do this.” To which her husband makes the eminently sensible observation: “Well it was your idea.”

Of course, the television publicists wanting to promote this tosh describe it as a “ documentary that will confront Katie’s attitudes and put her beliefs to the test, by following he own physical and emotional journey as she gains and loses weight, whilst exploring the broader body image in our society.” Thank God for TV publicists. They couldn’t lie straight in bed. This documentary may be many things but one thing it is not and that is a conduit for promoting, compassion and understanding for the overweight. I’ve since learned that Katie Hopkins has for years been telling overweight people the only reason they are fat is because they are lazy. In a breakfast television interview to promote her documentary, Hopkins even said, fat people need to look in the mirror, look at themselves and realise it’s their fault.

And if you need even more good reasons not to ever watch this mockumentary of the overweight, Katie in a moment of candid honesty, reminded the breakfast TV interviewers that the emotion she shows in the documentary was not real and that she was crying crocodile tears. ‘Nothing in my life has made me cry, not you two, not anyone else,”{ Hopkins said. “ I am the witch with the heart of stone.”

Boy did she get that right.

Over the years, the overweight have not been her only target. Hopkins once said, in commenting on the social class system in England, “ I think you can tell a great deal from a name. For me, there are certain names that I hear and I think ‘urrgh’ for me a name is a shortcut of finding out what class that child comes from and makes me ask, Do I want my children to play with them?” Charming. If you think being a total snob can be charming. Personally I don’t.

And this: “ I tried to get someone else’s husband because I wanted him. I gave myself 8 out of 10 for ruthlessness for that one.”

Of course the overweight are never far from her loving thoughts: “ To call yourself plus size is just a euphemism for being fat. Life is much easier when you are thinner. Big is not beautiful, of course (getting) a job comes down to how you look.”

You might have gathered I don’t particularly like Katie Hopkins. It’s not that I have a problem with her opinions. She’s entitled to have them. I just don’t like bullies. Even passive, aggressive ones.

But rather than say anything more that’s nasty about Katie Hopkins I’ll let her have the final word:

“ Personally I hate mobility scooters. I find their owners intolerable. Ran past a mobility scooter going up a hill. Made me giggle. I need to grow up and stop being an arse.”


Are Smart Phones Turning Us Into Dummies?

Sometimes I like to observe human behavior. I find it kind of fun watching what other people do and how they behave. But I am also a bit weird.

One thing I’ve noticed quite recently is that it doesn’t seem to matter what people are doing, travelling on public transport, going to the pub, sitting having a meal or enjoying time with friends, everybody is totally preoccupied with their smartphones.

They’re looking at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, video games, emails, listening to music or just surfing the net. Clearly all of these smartphones, provide endless distraction and entertainment.

But what are these devices doing for human interaction? Because it means people are not talking to each other.

They are not verbally sharing opinions, discussing ideas or having a debate.

They have stopped communicating with human beings and replaced them with a machine.

Here is a question that is too obvious, but I’ll ask it anyway. Is this a good thing? Could it be affecting how we think?

A British neuroscientist called Baroness Susan Greenfield doesn’t think this is a good thing at all. She also says it’s affecting our brains.

Now I am going to add a disclaimer.

I am not endorsing Susan Greenfield or her neuroscience. In fact a number of her peers think she espouses a load of old rubbish. The London Guardian newspaper described a book she wrote as a “poorly researched diatribe.”

But what I do think is that what she is saying is worth a discussion. So let’s have one.

Susan Greenfield says modern technology is changing the wiring in our brains. For example she says a lot of people equate Facebook friends in the same way that they might regard a close friend they have known all of their life.

She says social media gives us opportunities to share, connect and present points of view. But it takes away real human empathy. In fact she says the 21st Century human mindset seems to be characterised by short attention span, sensationalism, and making the mistake of equating information given to us by search engines with real knowledge and wisdom.

Greenfield says the human brain is perfectly designed to adapt to its environment. And because technology creates a vastly changed social environment, it must follow that our brains may also be changing in an unprecedented way.

Here is something that she says that is definitely out there but interesting.

Greenfield argues that young people are developing in a world where relationships are being made and lost online. That means they never get the chance to rehearse important social skills. For example, when people normally meet someone they have in interest in getting to know, they want to talk about themselves, and nature has given us body language cues so that our interactions keep us reasonably safe and secure and we don’t make fools of ourselves, generally speaking.

But words, the primary source of communication in social media networks comprise only ten percent of the impact we have on people when we meet them. As a result, young people are more likely to behave inappropriately and insult each other on line because they don’t have those visual clues as a point of reference. If they tell someone they hate them to their face they are unlikely to repeat it because they can see the offence and the hurt it can cause. But people interacting on social media don’t have that handbrake. I am not saying I agree with this but it’s interesting.

Before we had the internet, a young person who might have been bullied at school had an escape when they went home. But with social media and smartphones the bullying follows you everywhere and can be unrelenting 24/7.

Greenfield claims there is scientific data to show that when young people were deprived of access to smartphones even for just five days their interpersonal skills improved.

Our connectedness to social media means we spend less time thinking and reflecting and more time reacting. She says if young people switched off their devices they would have a stronger sense of personal identity instead of one that is constantly defined by the approval of others.

It doesn’t mean being anti-technology but it does mean acknowledging there is more to life than looking at a smartphone, a tablet or a computer screen.

On that point I agree with her.