Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Does U2 think your weight is shameful?

No snark here, I just don't know the answer.

My friend and colleague Dr. Glenn Posner snapped the photo up above when he was at the recent U2 concert in Montreal.

According to him, the scoreboard had all sorts of statistics including:

How many births this year?
Deaths from smoking?
Population of the stadium?
World population?
Current time in different cities?
How many years the leader of Thailand spent under house arrest?
Amount of money government spends on education?

Another friend who went told me there were more, including number of people starving, homeless, unemployed, etc.

Sounds like the theme to a degree are things of which society might want to be ashamed.

So what's your take on their inclusion of,

"Overweight people in the world"?
Undoubtedly I see the world through weight-sensitive glasses, and consequently my read on this is that U2 considers it to be a shameful statistic, reflective of gluttony. If they wanted it to reflect a failing of our environment leading to global weight gain they'd have included statistics like,

Number of commercials for fast food a kid sees before they're 4.
Crop subsidies given to corn and HFCS vs. fruits and vegetables.
Percentage of parents who think juice is a fruit.
Percentage of kids who go to school without breakfast.
Percentage of schools with deep fryers.
Percentage of schools selling chocolate milk and sport drinks.
Average number of fast food restaurants within walking distance of a school.
Dollars spent on meals not cooked at home.
Percentage of families that still have family dinners every night.

Of course, maybe I'm just being overly sensitive. Am I reading too much into this?

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  1. Um, given this is U2, I would say you are.

    I don't associate being "overweight" with "gluttony", rather a lack of activity vs caloric intake.

    I wouldn't necessarily associate that with "shame" either...

    I would add to your list:

    Percentage of kids who walk or ride their bikes or skateboards to school without taking a bus, and what their average distance traveled is.

  2. G Wilson7:05 am

    They ought to include "number of rich semi-educated rock stars in cowboy hats preaching to working people about how we live".

  3. They also included stats like "Total number of emails sent" and "Babies born" and "People in this stadium." I dont't think it was meant as a chiding message. I think they were going for stats that make you think about the people around you and your place in the world.

  4. Yoni, It's because you are really obsessed with food and nutrition and food industry.. while U2 preoccupation is elsewhere! But, you are right, both are not incompatible and even in some extend linked. Both are important.

    Indeed, listing statistics about obesity and related complications would do an interesting add.

  5. Catherine Lefebvre7:52 am

    U2 or anybody else, it would still have been interesting to have a comparison between the two worlds, the stuffed and starved.

  6. Anonymous7:57 am

    How about the headline: Profession with the most arrogant over opinioned know nothings - Rockstars.

  7. Anonymous7:58 am

    Most sanctimonious idiot lead singer - Bono/U2

  8. Anonymous8:00 am

    I hear ya on this one Yoni. Even if it was just a random stat that got put up, it's the fact that this sort of subtle 'shame on you obese people' message is pervasive in our society...goes back to the whole 'weight as the last acceptable form of prejudice' thing. How many people in the crowd glanced over at the larger person in the row in front of them when they read that message and felt a bit of self satisfaction that they were not one of the overweight people that were counted in that number up?

  9. Anonymous8:14 am

    Yes, you're overreacting. For one thing, I'd guess 75% of the hundreds of thousands of people who will see U2 on this tour won't be reading the screen or remember what was on it 30 seconds later. Second, maybe a staggering number like the one displayed about overweight people should be talked about. Call me mean, whatever, but why shouldn't there be shame? I was ashamed of myself when I was obese and it was SHAME that triggered me to address the situation.

  10. I'd say it was probably a general global statistic acknowledging the obesity epidemic. I doubt Bono/U2 was making anything other than their usual political points -- what that might be? Obesity epidemic amongst the poor perhaps?

  11. Either way, rest assured that no one cares what Bono thinks anymore.

  12. Roman Korol9:14 am

    My take on it is that U2 were trying to display their heightened broad awareness of the world around them. An important feature of that world nowadays is that "fat" is the new "normal". That reality hit me squarely between the eyes just last night in Montreal's metro. While I was standing facing the wagon's entrance doors, in surged agitatedly an entire grossly overweight family, 3 young kids, the latter slurping ice cream cones with molten drops of the yucky stuff slopping randomly over the vertical grip pole which they instantly apporopriated. It was an unrehearsed comedy skit, calling to my mind this spoof that targets Big Agro (you have to wait till the very end to appreciate the point): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmPUXVZL1xA&feature=player_embedded

    No sir, you are not over-reacting. A sharper focus on the worldwide obesity crisis would have been entirely de bon ton.

  13. Or how about number of Irish rock stars who shift their corporate headquarters offshore to avoid paying taxes in their home country: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2006/08/20/100/

  14. A more current link, if you are interested: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jun/03/u2-glastonbury-tax-protesters

  15. Anonymous11:12 am

    At least I don't feel alone!

  16. Anonymous11:45 am

    Experts in the field of obesity frequently quote the stats on percentage of the population that are overweight/obese and in fact don't they use the term obesity as an ICD code.
    How is a stat on overweight offensive when it's presented alongside number of births, world population,etc. Maybe just for once it doesn't have to have a sinister motive-it's just a number along with a bunch of other trivia.

  17. Anonymous12:54 pm

    I think in general U2 likes to do this to generate discussion about things that need to change in the world. I would say on this point they succeeded and good for them. To expect them to put up specifics about any one general issue is I think expecting a lot. And as one commenter said - most of those in attendance will not remember what was on the board - or maybe they will and the issue will take one more step into the limelight where it can be resolved.

    I remember the first time I was labelled obese by my physician I was horified. Now the word doesn't scare me - it's just a statistic - that is shameful. Thankfully the word unhealthy still means a lot to me and you don't have to be obese to be that. So I am working toward health.

  18. I would be far more interested in seeing the Underweight People In The World statistic, if 1.5 billion are overweight (which seems really high?) I would bet at least the same amount are underweight (or starving). Which, really, is more problematic? Or do they go hand in hand?

  19. AmandaR1:27 pm

    I think you might be confusing statistics society should be "ashamed" about with what society needs to be "aware" of. U2 have strongly advocated for many causes over the years bringing them to public attention. Some people love them for it, and others hate them, mainly Bono, for pretending to be celebrity know-it-alls (see previous posts!). Regardless, I think their intention here was to raise awareness, and not to shame anyone. Do you think they were trying to shame anyone by showing the "population of the stadium"? Probably not.

  20. Anonymous5:30 pm

    If they were posting a lot of stats about food specifically, I could see that it would be great to include things like you've suggested - all of which are very important issues.

    U2, in my opinion having attended one of their concerts, was simply stating facts - and letting you come to your own conclusions. Hundreds of stats scrolled for at least 30 minutes, so obesity wasn't even remotely a focus. But this number, juxtaposed against other facts about world hunger, and consumerism in general, is a thought-provoking figure, in my mind.

    I don't think they're out to shame people, and I don't think as others said, that their intent is to preach. I've seen and read many interviews that demonstrate that Bono is very self-aware about that perception and I get the feeling he looks at himself as hard as he looks at anyone else.

    But at the same time it is, frankly, hard to argue that obesity is good or healthy.

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  22. Anonymous2:37 am

    I work for a nonprofit, and speaking as someone whose career and passion is all about feeding the hungry, I think it is interesting to see how many of us are dying from having too much food, and how unaware some people here are about how many people don't have nearly enough to eat or to feed their own children. And as for all the Bono-bashing, he does a lot more for the poor, the hungry, and the orphans than all of the Bono-bashers put together will do in a lifetime. I know through my own organization that he has done a lot that he has never sought publicity for, in fact he did it on the condition that we would not promote what he did. The only time he seeks publicity is to get awareness which is seriously lacking.

  23. I think it is shameful, not in the way that an individual who is overweight should feel shame but in the way that it is a crying shame.

    How can people starve to death in this world where a restaurant puts on my plate 3 times the amount I need to exist.

  24. Anonymous8:30 am

    Bono is nothing but a self righteous sanctimonious boob.

  25. Anonymous1:50 pm

    I'm not a fan of Bono, he seems to take up causes only when he has a new album or tour to promote.

    BUT...I do think it's shameful. There are far too many obese people in the world [and I'm one of them] and far too many people starving to death. And these people arent in 3rd world countries - they're here at home. They're on the streets and in the neighbourhoods of my hometown [Toronto], they're in our schools, they're our co-workers, our friends, our relatives.

    I find it sad that we have people dying of over-abundance and others dying from not having enough.

    How do we strike a balance? If Bono had the answer to that...I'd have more respect for him. Pointing out a problem without offereing a solution doesnt do a thing to help anyone.