I don’t drink alcohol. Not for effect, anyway. A while ago I invented a low-calorie drink (20 drops of Angostura Bitters in 1 litre of soda water; chill & serve), which is very slightly alcoholic (1/40 unit in 333ml by calculation, and thence I gather about 1.4 calories, but the measurements are difficult without chemistry things), and once in a blue moon I take a sip of single malt, but I’m not exactly what you’d call a drinker. Indeed, before I invented the drink and met the single malt I was completely teetotal, and was able to get that cheap car insurance from Sweden (which is probably called something else by now, unlike the insurance firm, which is still with us).
I don’t smoke tobacco either. I did once, but I gave it up, without missing it for very long, having had the following conversation with a cardiologist (name slightly changed) who was ticking boxes on his clipboard as I dutifully tried to outrun one of those conveyor-belt type exercise machines while also avoiding entanglement in a set of ECG wiring:
“You don’t smoke.”
“That’s a pretty confident assertion, Dr. Patel.”
“No, I’m telling you, you don’t smoke.”
“Do go on.”
“Well, you see, you’ve been in my [sic] hospital for three days.”
“The withdrawal period for nicotine is forty-eight hours. Everything else is just psychological habit-breaking.”
[Pause. Conveyor belt thing cranked up]
“You don’t make very much of this in public, do you?”
“Bit of a trade secret, as a matter of fact.”
“You might think it was to do with the multi-billion pound industry around selling people worthless smoking-cures, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”
[Machine cranked up again. Collapse of stout party]
I still cannot stand health-nazis, though. The problem is now much worse because as the otherwise unemployable upper-middle class seeks to pay itself more than the prime minister for something, anything, so it creates endless tax-funded fake-charities or pseudoquangos to employ its nephews and nieces – just as the byzantine BBC created mock-current-affairs programmes in order to employ anyone surnamed Dimbleby, Day or Magnusson – and nearly all of these made-up organisations are to do with telling ordinary people how to run their lives, always with a substantial side order of snobbery, contempt and authoritarian bullying.
Some time ago it reached food. For years there was a campaign against salt, and then one day the junk science behind this was decisively debunked, and overnight the campaign morphed into one against sugar, with the same people ’employed’ at the same ‘competitively necessary’ rates.
On and on it goes. Today I read, in someone’s comments (can’t find it now) a remark to the effect of:
I can’t listen to the BBC any more. That tit Jamie Oliver was on just now. He says that despite the fact that people are eating far less sugar nowadays, much more needs to be done.
Which rather sums it up. The purpose of the operation being not to change the nation into Sparta but to maintain the continued and remunerated ’employment’ of Mr. Oliver. Perish the thought that people should change their ways. There must always be a Problem, in order that the comrades of proven worth can be paid to provide Solutions.
However, the law of unintended consequences applies, and the nation is changing into Sparta, as the recent results in the Olympics make clear. Even I am fitter than I once was.
Eventually those of us who survive the selection process will be as fit as Marines, without a vice to our name, and there’ll be nothing left for ‘Public Health England’ and its handsomely-paid chums to do.
And there’ll suddenly be a new Problem; perhaps with hairstyles, as there is in North Korea. ‘Public Health England’ will utter a series of sententious warnings about something or other that it’s just made up. Earnest patrician voices will assure us often that experts have said, and studies have shown. Many millions of pounds of our money will be spent on setting up ‘Action on Partings and Health’, complete with celebrity CEO, Grade I Listed HQ and fleet of Mercedes. A famously bald member of the Royal Shakespeare Company will appear in a heartrending but costly TV commercial written by three psychologists and an advertiser’s copywriter, with the general subtitle ‘Don’t Let This Happen To You’. This will be followed by a rather obviously scripted interview with a shifty-eyed ‘senior policeman’ in an armoured hat a size too large for him (North Korea again) about ‘Comb Crime’.
You can stop sniggering at the back there because you’re so acclimatised now that when this really happens you probably won’t even notice.
We have evolved two completely counterproductive and very large groups within what is left of our society, neither of which we can really afford.
On the one hand the managers; having along with the unions written off British industry, they took over the public services, with results from which we suffer to this day, and are now deliberately creating problems in order to be paid to ‘solve’ them, or, if they got it wrong, to drag people before the courts for merely mentioning them.
On the other, their clients, whom they identify, create or import in geometrically increasing numbers.
Before long these two groups will together outnumber all others. Neither makes, extracts, creates or contributes anything. Both are very aware of their own value and entitlement and the imperative nature of their needs and preferences. Each supposes that its own definition includes both moral advantage and legal privilege. Both hold the people who pay for their ‘lifestyles’ in utter contempt.
Dealing with these complicated sociological issues is easier for we geese, who have a naturally diplomatic manner.