"Come in as a stranger and return as a friend" is posted over the entrance to a
notable Amish marketplace in a rural countryside. This is no resort for the jet set, nor does this area attract the mover
and shakers, but it does depict a representative cross section of regional culture. Quality craft creations, functional wood
furniture, plants for your garden and charming apparel entice the buyer. But the draw that grabs your attention is the aroma
of the food. All kinds of edibles and eats. So what's the big deal? If you have ever been to any flee market, you know the
As familiar as the nature of the open air market-place, the real bargains are not up for sale - they are the
buyers themselves. The customers reflect behavioral customs and manners. Even the most casual observer would be struck by
the obese condition of the average shopper. Contrast this state of overblown fat with the slim and trim frames of the
Amish. It reminds one of the difficulties those trapped miners would have had fitting in that narrow rescue lift if
they resorted to the diet of the average American.
Let's face facts, most make unhealthy consumption choices. And they are not limited just to what we eat. But
at what point does the individual surrender their own responsibility for well being and become the instrument for cutting
new ground for public policy? Since our society is supposedly based upon the principle of free association and choice, where
is the line that can be legitimately imposed to establish utilitarian conduct? Should it reside in public policy, in decisions
from courts or in the constantly shifting attitudes of the general culture?
Enter, the likes of John Banzhaf, through a very different gateway from the farmer's market. He's a professor
at George Washington University and engages in legal activism. You may not recognize his name, but you surely know his work.
Most famously, Banzhaf pioneered the notion of suing tobacco companies for the deleterious health consequences of smoking. He started
doing it in the mid-1960s, when everyone thought he was nuts, and he was still doing it in 1998 when the US states successfully
pried hundreds of millions of dollars out of the Big Five tobacco companies as compensation for their smoking-related health-care
costs. If tobacco advertising is now banned on television, and smoking no longer tolerated on planes or in shops and restaurants
in many parts of the United States, it is largely due to Banzhaf's 35 years of campaigning and savvy application of public-interest
Now he has another mission - "If government is willing to regulate, force disclosure of fat and calorie
content, get fast food out of schools, put more health foods in vending machines, install bike racks and showers at public
buildings to encourage more exercise, and so on, great," he said in an interview. "But if government does with obesity
what it did with tobacco, which is largely nothing, then we may be forced to go to our third branch, the legal system."
Well; hold the burgers and pass on the coke, this guy wants to take away my fried chicken! Big Mac's will
be out and soy and salsa in - no more French sauces, you got to be kidding? Just who has the "mad cow disease" ? No doubt
this roar will be heard from the average Joe, but who can dispute that something is wrong and yes, unhealthy in our popular
diet. But the lesson eludes most and certainly escapes Mr Banzhaf and his disciples.
Maybe the answer lies in a comprehensive healthful holistic life style! The Amish example certainly illustrates
an uncomplicated and pure system of values and cultural choices. Could that be closer to the true American tradition? If their
physical condition is healthier, just maybe their values and spiritual orientations may play a role in their cultural choices.
At the core of our shared belief foundations is the acceptance that the individual American has a choice. That means that
he or she, has the ability to be wrong.
Those like the legal eagle who wants to save us from ourselves is surely a stranger to us, while his trade
is all too familiar. Are we really better off as a society when the self appointed and privileged lawyers seek to run our
lives with their legal class actions suits? The question to Mr Branzhaf is whether he can return into our community as a friend?
Let the individual decide, while you encourage the beneficial actions. When is doubt, consume sustenance with the Amish. Their nourishment will reduce your waistline and may well improve and uplift your soul . . .
SARTRE - July 28, 2002