Monday, January 7, 2013

On Sugar, Guns and Entertainment in America

Our five month stay in New England is drawing to a close. I've had very little time to blog, and even less to articulate any differences between the world I grew up in and the one I live in now. This post is an effort to catch up. Here are a few ways America shocked me this time around.

 Why in the world is there sugar in virtually every food product in this country?

Every time I come to America I go to the doctor for a physical. And every time I see the doctor, I am reprimanded for my high triglyceride level. This time it's happened twice. In fact, according to the  doctor: "if you haven't had a heart attack yet, I guess you probably can afford another 6 weeks to try to get it down without medication."

So I got the message. No red meat. Very few carbohydrates. And no sugar.

I eliminated the sugar from my coffee. I stopped eating desert. But then I realized there's sugar in everything around here - even the healthiest cereals and breads! (Update: No sugar in Ezekiel bread.)

I must admit however, now that I'm counting calories and tracking triglycerides, it's nice to have nutrition facts on the packages of most food products and on the menus of so many restaurants. Being on this diet will be much more difficult to maintain without this handy information once I get back to Croatia.

Guns: Do you realize how crazy so much of the rest of the world thinks our gun laws are?

Just look at the London Times. Or check out how Australia dealt with similar issues. As for Croatia, even though there are numerous veterans dealing with PTSD, many with other mental disorders and just as much video game use, the murder rate is still significantly lower. It's simply much more difficult to find a gun.

Additionally, in a culture where it takes a village to raise a child, it's hard to imagine a young man being so isolated that he would be able to develop a plan to go on a shooting rampage. In fact, as far as I know, it's never happened in Croatia. Isn't it interesting to think that a country ravaged by war 20 years ago is significantly safer than "the land of the free".

Commercials: Why in the world would I waste 30 seconds of my life trying to be convinced to buy something?

That's a question I never asked growing up, but thought about every time I turned on the television or radio during my latest stay in America. In Croatia, there are fewer commercials.The European soccer league doesn't interrupt their matches to advertise. And, as I've mentioned, the weather segment is just that - a humble prediction of how warm it will be or if there will be some sort of precipitation. There's no drama. You sort of get the impression that the television doesn't mind if its channels get changed or even if it gets turned off.

Of course, here I've been scrounging to gain any extra seconds in my day I can possibly find. With four kidsfour classes and last minute things to take care of in America I hardly have time for 180054GIANT or the Geico gecko. In a culture that is so schedule oriented why aren't people protesting the massive waste of time that happens on television, radio and certain video based websites?

My guess is because we love to be entertained. The Duggars, the Daily Show and the divisional playoffs all hold our attention through the breaks because we are dependent. If there's one thing I have been reminded of while here it's been how much America wants (needs?) to be entertained.

Am I wrong?


Barrett Marcantel said...

Yes, there exists, in America, a need to be entertained; however, this need is not simply reducible to a penchant for excitement. There is something deeper that drives this need. Our entertainment is a means of amusement (non-thinking sedative). We live in a cultural environment that creates high levels of anxiety and we find release in our therapeutic entertainment. We are isolated from family and community, made to live as machines and the way we seek to cope with this dehumanizing reality is to stare at our big screen TVs. We don't wish to think or deal with our harsh existence.

Kacie said...

This is SO true. Currenty trying to fight the need to be entertained in our family. We're moving overseas and I'm glad of it. My dad says that when he moved my family overseas when I was going up, the loss of entertainment was one of the hardest things for him that ultimately was best for our family.

Daniel N. said...

You can get blood checked in Croatia as well for the triglycerides and cholesterol. Also, you can have ultrasound of the arteries in your neck. They are simple tests. There are also other treatments (pills) to lower you triglycerides.

As for the entertainment, TV is privately-owned (mostly) in the USA, but mostly public in Europe. For instance, BBC in UK has NO COMMERCIALS whatsoever.

All TV stations in Croatia are limited in their commercial break time.

Regarding guns, they are a big industry in the USA, somebody has an interest to sell guns to people, and keeping the laws quite lax. Then ammo should be strictly regulated.

There were gun rampages in Croatia, actually.

It does take a whole village to raise a child in smaller towns, but not so in Zagreb or Split. Still, both are relatively peaceful cities.

In most western European countries (Germany, Italy) there's even LOWER homicide rate than in Croatia. In Germany, the homicide rate (per 100,000) is a quarter of the US rate.