Spain stands up to corporations – and protects children

The Spanish government just passed a ban on advertising junk foods and drinks to children – across all media, including social.

Till now, they’d allowed the junk ‘food’ industry to self-regulate. Laugh at that; and the joke is on us: almost all other nations still let the pushers be their own police. Corporate “self-regulation”: a superstition that gave us exploding rates of childhood obesity and a pandemic of inflammatory disorders (diabetes, heart disease, cancers, depression, asthma, etc etc etc etc etc) that, among other things, prime the body for severe or fatal responses to Covid-19.

I’d find myself tied in the same ambivalent knot if I had to congratulate a nation for, let’s say, banning slavery. Or restricting cannibalism. What to say? Three cheers for the reformed abuser? And yet, by comparison, the world – including my own sorry country – makes Spain look like a paragon of child rights enlightenment.

So, for now, I say ‘bravo España’ (and: ‘what took you so long?’).

The tyranny of the normal means smothers outrage before it even gets off the ground. And that’s what the ‘self-regulating’ corporate interest counts on: our benumbed acceptance of a commonly done thing. Notice how the worst swill can start to seem inoffensive somehow, when all our friends and neighbors are feasting on it. And so, our children’s gut biome and immune response are divvied up among advertisers, while we sleep.

What Spain has done goes beyond an early step towards sensible child protection. An elected government has just dared to regulate corporate behaviour. This is nothing short of blasphemy, to the global church of Neoliberalism. ‘A slippery slope towards Godless Communism!’ will cry the priests of the free-market. Well, cry if you must, into your share portfolios, but Spanish kids are no longer so easily for sale. For a slice of that sugary pie, come to Australia, or USA.

This is more than a child rights issue, inescapably it’s a political, economic and social justice issue. Humanity has worked hard to pare back its long and ugly tradition of violence towards children; in schools as in homes. The only way we’ll put a stop to corporate violence against children is to re-take democracy; to immunize government from corporate bribery. For the sake of the world’s children. Until then, I do salute Spain for its courage and leadership.

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