by Lon Woodbury
Maybe McDonald's restaurant chain is the Icon for most of the internal problems our country is facing. Use of fast food restaurants, and McDonald's is probably the best known, has been commented on endlessly as a major part of the problem of increasing obesity of our young people, and adults too for that matter. For example, a report on a recent dieting binge experiment is discussed by the Family Foundation School in an article called Fast Food Misery. (http://thefamilyschooltimes.com/2010/04/18/fast-food-misery/comment-page-1/#comment-174) In this experiment, for a month the researcher ate only at McDonald's restaurants. Not only was his weight increasing from this extreme fast food diet, but there were numerous other physical ailments developing that caused physicians watching him to start encouraging him to stop before the thirty days were up.
The conclusion that excessive use of fast food is unhealthy is obvious. But the reasons so many people eat too much fast foods is why McDonald's might be the icon for many other problems in our society.
Now, I'm not against fast foods. I succumb to a "Big Mac Attack" from time to time, and a fast food restaurant often fits my busy schedule best. Part of the reason for their popularity is they are suitable to a busy lifestyle, but perhaps a more important reason is because they taste good. At least that's what I hear from most people. And it is this immediate gratification of speed and taste that suggests an underlying attitude in all activities by much of our population that creates some of our other problems.
The problems with obesity and how it relates to the fast food industry can be summarized by the mantra made popular in the 1960s: "If it feels good, do it!" In this case, if it tastes good and doesn't slow you down from your other activities, then go for it.
For this to happen there needs to be limited self-restraint, a desire for instant gratification, an ignoring of consequences, and a lack of self-control. All of these are implied by "If it feels good, do it!" All of them, and a weakness in emotional growth, play a part in excessive use of fast food. Its probably also key to other excessive activities.
These attributes probably can explain a lot of what is happening elsewhere in our society. Take politics for example. Washington DC seems to believe that if an idea is good, then we should do it, and we should do it NOW! Hang the consequences of what might be the results in the next few years and there is no need to hold back or provide priorities. Washington DC seems to almost fear setting priorities because that might mean rejecting proposals that some constituency favors. And we need to remember that we get the kind of government we, the voters, want. Just because we might not like what happens doesn't mean that we didn't get what we asked for, just like we get the taste and speed of fast food along with obesity and health problems. In both areas, we get what we asked for.
The housing bust came largely from people, encouraged and misled by bankers and politicians, who wanted that house of their dreams right now instead of saving to make a down payment. An ample home is a good idea, and so the attitude became do whatever it takes to move into that dream house now. Unfortunately, many of them are now facing foreclosure. They got the house they wanted, but forgot about or ignored the possible consequences.
Many times I've heard the term for young people as the "entitled generation." We have seen a lot of them in our emotional growth and therapeutic programs. They "want what they want when they want it" and seem to feel deprived if it isn't forthcoming. Many are the ones who lived the "If it feels good, do it!" and placement in a program was the unanticipated consequence as adults try to straighten out the mess these kids are making of their lives.
So, not to pick on McDonald's, but they seem to have successfully grasped a mood of the country that pleasure right now is the highest goal. Since McDonalds is probably one of the best known of the fast food chains, studying their success, and the weaknesses in their customers, can tell us a lot about what is lacking in our national character, and the causes of other domestic problems.