My sugar intake is very high.
I am not a fan of coffee, so my mornings begin with a 350ml bottle of energy drink that exhausts my recommended sugar intake for the whole day.
It is terrifying to even write that sentence.
It seems that I am not alone. Health campaigners are getting antsy about the ‘obesity epidemic.’ They want our Government to force manufacturers to slap cigarette-style health warnings on sugary food and drinks.
As we approach the election, I am starting to think that similar warning labels are needed for most of what is currently passing for political reporting in this country.
Next time you are reading, watching or listening to the news, try this: analyse how much time is spent talking about the real issues. Compare that with the space given to speculation about polling, thoughts on how voters will respond to an embarrassing tweet, or arguments over whether or not a minister should resign.
Scandal is the sugar of politics, and we have already had far more than the recommended annual intake in just a few months. There have been rule-breaking emails, forgotten letters, missing donations and a trail of MPs disgraced, demoted, or defiant.
But who does not love a good scandal? Journalists can make a name for themselves by digging dirt. Politicians enjoy making the other side look bad, and the voters get to watch the powerful get taken down a peg or two.
But are these really the most important things for us to consider in an election year?
We must balance our political diet, or else, to stretch the metaphor, we will see our political debate decay, and rot away. We should consider not just the people we are voting for, but also the policies that they will implement if they get into power in September.
Policy may not always be fun to talk about, but the ideas contained in each party policy manifesto have the potential to shape the future of New Zealand much more than any single Member of Parliament. Each party’s political agenda should be inspected and tested in the public realm; refined by open debate.
American politician, the late Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Are our election year conversations creating vigorous and intelligent debate or are we too distracted by personality clashes and sideshows?
It might seem to be condemning the media. Just like the makers of my energy drinks, they know how much fizz is in their products.
But remember: I choose to buy those drinks. And I choose which stories I read, and the conversations in which I am a part.
The only way to encourage the media to give us good coverage of political issues is by providing an audience for it.
Jeremy Vargo is Media & Communications Officer at Maxim Institute based in Auckland.