Birthday symbols

Birthday wishes

Thanks Kathy

It is really strange.

I get the societal symbolism of cakes.

I get that adding alcohol and sugar to a mix of berries and covering it with a layer of solid sugar was a mechanism of preserving autumn bounty for the leaner winter months.

And today we have replaced those mechanisms for preservation with others that are far safer(freezing and freeze drying as examples).

And it seems that the amount of sugar we have in our diet is a major contributor to disease.

Sugar by itself isn’t a problem, if one is on a high exercise regime that requires a lot of calories, and one is getting a lot of fresh raw fruits and veges as well. But for most of us, the sedentary lifestyle dominates (few of us are exercising at a rate that maintains our heart rate over 180 for more than 3 hours continuously most days – I was a few years ago, but not currently, nor at the time I got the cancer), and the sugars promote cancer, diabetes, gout and heart disease.

So I get that offering a cake is a cultural expression of the gift of a treasure, and it is actually extremely unhealthy for most people in the dominant context of today of having far too many sugar calories in our diet, and far too few from raw fruits and raw green leafy vegetables.

It was really weird for me when I started on this diet, and the cancer society representatives came around (who were all women I know and love) and they brought sweet treats – absolutely the worst thing they could possibly do for someone who is trying to recover from cancer (or more generally live a healthy life) – but a cultural hangover from times of genuine scarcity.

At a wider societal level, our whole exchange and governance structures are suffering from the same sort of cultural drag.

We are stuck with things that were entirely appropriate for our ancestors, but are no longer anywhere near optimal for us in our modern context.

Money and markets are a great example – evolved in times of genuine scarcity but utterly incapable of dealing meaningfully with universal abundance. Thus we have the technical capacity to feed and house and educate and deliver healthcare and transport and communication and secure freedom to every person on the planet – rather easily, yet we don’t do it because not only is there no profit in doing so, but to eliminate poverty does actually break any economic system based purely on market values.

If we held as our highest values sapient life and the liberty of sapient individuals, then we could control and direct market systems to deliver on those values, but markets in and of themselves cannot do so – the internal incentive structure cannot support it.

I am completely clear that the vast bulk of the finance and financial trading sector is nothing less than a cancer on society at large.

Our food preferences are another example. Partly as a result of values purely derived from markets, we allow the promotion of sugar based drinks and foods, when we know that these cause major health issues for most people in the contexts in which they now live.

We promote the use of heat treated foods because they have long shelf lives and can be managed for profit much more easily than foods which rapidly degrade (like fresh fruits and veges).

Our systems are about making profit, not about delivering on human health and well being.

And this is nothing personal to you Kathy. I really do appreciate the sentiment. I really do get and appreciate your love and respect.

And if systems are to change, then they have to start changing, one conversation at a time.

How about a new birthday offering – something like a bowl of salad.

[followed by]

Hi Lulu
Yeah – my daughter bought me three bags of goodies from:
Little Bird UnBakery

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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1 Response to Birthday symbols

  1. Mushfiqua Fatima says:



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