At first, I thought the appropriate reaction to Mayor Bloomberg’s suggested ban on mega-ounce drinks was to roll one’s eyes and be grateful for not living in NY. After all, “I may not drink super-sized carbonated beverages but I will defend until death your right to do so,” just doesn’t have the same force as the original slogan. However, my attention ratcheted up when a Wall Street Journal sentiment tracker analyzed the conversation on social media and noted that 64% of the online buzz supported the proposed ban.
What are the tweeters saying? Is it, “I’m out of control, please help me Mayor Bloomberg,” or is it perhaps, “Those unwashed, ignorant masses aren’t capable of running their own lives. We elite have to force them to make the right decisions.” Assuming that social media trends young, it seems fair to ask if the words, ‘personal responsibility,’ and ‘individual freedom’ have little meaning for the Facebook generation.
I am reading a truly horrifying book; it is so disturbing that I can only read a bit at a time. In Life and Death in Shanghai, Nien Cheng details her experiences during the 1960’s and ‘70’s in China under Chairman Mao’s regime. As I have been reading, I have been continually asking myself, “Could this happen in America?” How close or removed are we from a cult of personality dominating a culture, from allowing a central government to define what is good and moral, and from giving tacit approval to youth to revel in their ability to terrorize and victimize fellow citizens?
Sadly, events of the past few years including the quasi-deification of candidate Obama by mainstream media and police passivity in the face of rioters and criminals who are motivated by leftism, is not reassuring. It would be ridiculously far-fetched to think that Mayor Bloomberg is an evil megalomaniac or that he envisions re-education camps for those who enjoy too much Coke. In fact, if the government assumes the responsibility of paying for its citizens’ health care, then his proposal may be futile, but it can be defended. The soda issue is a sideshow reflecting a major challenge. How can we help more Americans understand that sincere and well-intentioned policies can cause greater damage than obesity? Is it possible for a generation that is shamefully ignorant of history to comprehend that a government that supplies your needs also controls your life?