VIA Ghost of a Flea:
Updated maps of London’s poorest areas demonstrate an epidemic of junk food diabetes in the same streets where Victorians died of malnutrition.
“Times have changed and now the poor get fat…”
PS: the excuses made for the poor are nothing new. Here is Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), but in those days he was explaining why the poor were scrawny:
Now compare this list with the unemployed miner’s budget that I gave earlier. The miner’s family spend only tenpence a week on green vegetablesand tenpence half-penny on milk (remember that one of them is a child less than three years old), and nothing on fruit; but they spend one and nine onsugar (about eight pounds of sugar, that is) and a shilling on tea. Thehalf-crown spent on meat might represent a small joint and the materials for a stew; probably as often as not it would represent four or five tinsof bully beef.
The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes–an appalling diet.
Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots.
And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let’s have three pennorth of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and we’ll all have a nice cup of tea!
That is how your mind works when you are at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don’t nourish you to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the English-man’s opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread.
The results of all this are visible in a physical degeneracy which you can study directly, by using your eyes, or inferentially, by having a look at the vital statistics. The physical average in the industrial towns is terribly low, lower even than in London. In Sheffield you have the feeling of walking among a population of troglodytes.