You can’t go two steps in London without seeing Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) controversial, ubiquitous and hypocritical ‘Obesity is a cause of cancer too’ cigarette comparison campaign. Apparently, we all have collectively forgotten this message from the last time they ran a similar campaign and were heavily criticised for it.
Rather than focusing on all of the reasons why this campaign is a horrible idea, because that has been covered at length by multiple experts in the METRO, on Medium, and on Twitter — instead, I want to highlight the reasons why these types of campaigns and everything the diet industry throws at us sometimes sticks so well — it’s our fear of death.
Obviously a charity that devotes it’s time to ending deaths by cancer is going to be motivated to… well, not talk about death in a positive way and seek to prevent it. Breaking the taboo around talking about death, being more comfortable discussing it, and actively planning for death doesn’t mean thinking cancer is a good thing.
But one cannot deny that we’re a society obsessed with mitigating our risk of death so as to have the longest life possible without really thinking or understanding what that really means. We take it for granted that the idea of a long life is ideal — not because we have any guarantee of our quality of life as we age but because we’re so eager to prolong the confrontation of our own mortality, we can only assume a long life is a happy one.
This isn’t to say that a short life is a better one, that ‘only the good die young’ or any other hatcheted cliche people use to placate those who lose someone well before what feels like their time is valid. It’s to say that, when we all want to live until 100, we’re making a massive assumption of what our lives will be when we do reach that age.
Anyone who experiences fatphobic harassment can tell you how often fat people are told that they are digging themselves into an early grave and objections to their public existence are all about ‘health’ — both reasonings leading to the idea that it’s an moral offense to be ‘morbidly’ obese and thus so close to death.