Self-Denial

Yesterday I quoted from a recent article by Chris Snowdon. In the same piece he wrote:

there is more religious influence in the ‘public health’ crusade against alcohol than most people realise,

The above link takes one to a 2015 article by Snowdon in which he wrote:

 [the modern anti-alcohol movement] remains steeped in temperance. Most people think that the temperance movement is virtually dead and that ‘public health’ is a different beast which just happens to have the same objectives of raising taxes, restricting licensing and banning advertising. In fact, the old temperance groups are still very much alive. They have simply changed their names or set up new organisations to pursue the same goals. This is one reason why I use quote marks around ‘public health’. I refuse to accept the rebranding of moralists, religious zealots and puritans.

The definition of temperance is. 1 : moderation in action, thought, or feeling : restraint. 2 a : habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions.

What’s so good about moderation? Why is it regarded as virtuous to engage in self-denial with respect to alcohol and tobacco (and any number of other things)?

In Christianity there is a long history of abstinence or self-denial of this sort. And one form of abstinence is fasting. And one period of fasting is Lent:

From its start on Ash Wednesday until its conclusion on Easter Sunday, Lent has been a traditional time for fasting or giving something up or abstinence.

Why should it be virtuous to engage in self-denial for several weeks every year? What are the origins of this practice?

The Christian practice of fasting must also be associated with with the opposite practice of feasting. For if Christianity entails fasts, it also has many feasts. The practice of Christianity entails a cycle of feasting and fasting.

And in this respect Christianity simply reflects the annual cycle of rural life. During Spring, seeds were germinated and animals mated. During Summer both plants and animals grew. And in the Autumn the plants were harvested and the animals were slaughtered. And so it was in late autumn that there was an abundance of food available, and so this was the time of necessary feasting, in a time when many foodstuffs could not be preserved for long.

But the corollary of this was that Winter and early Spring (the period around Lent) was a time of relative scarcity of food. There were few plants or animals to eat. And so this was a period of necessary fasting and abstinence.

And this might often be a period of self-denial. During periods of relative shortages of food, parents might deny themselves food so that infants and children could continue to be well fed. Some people would deny themselves food so that others could continue to eat. It was a “selfish” adult who refused to deny himself for the sake of others.

Seen in this light, self-denial and abstinence and fasting were not virtuous in themselves, They were only virtuous to the extent that other people (e.g. children) benefited as a consequence.

But this annual cycle of necessary feasting and fasting came to an end when ways of preserving food for long periods of time (using salt, sugar, drying, canning, refrigeration, etc.)  became available. Once this happened, it was no longer necessary to have feasts at the end of summer to consume surplus food accrued over previous months. Nor was it necessary for fasting at the end of winter in order to extend a deficit of food during this time. Instead, preserved foodstuffs could be eaten at the same rate throughout the year: there ceased to be a need for either feasting or fasting.

But if people continued, as a matter of settled religious practice, to observe the traditional annual cycle of feasting (Thanksgiving, Christmas) and fasting (Lent), it could only be by detaching these practices from their original practical purposes, and making them virtuous in themselves. There was no longer any obvious reason for these practices, and so some other justification for them had to be found. It was only at this point that self-denial came to be regarded as virtuous in itself.

Christianity’s annual cycle of feasting and fasting, and of death and rebirth, was one which reflected the same cycle already present in the natural cycle of the seasons. Christianity was fully embedded in the natural world. It is us moderns who, insulated by our technologies from the worst effects of the natural cycle of seasons, have become estranged both from the natural world and from the Christianity that reflected and celebrated it. We no longer know why we there should be Christmas and Easter, or feasting and fasting, or death and rebirth. Or if we continue in their observance, we do so using new justifications for them. If we continue to practise self-denial, even though the necessary and purely practical reason for it has vanished, it is because some of us see self-denial and abstinence and fasting as virtuous in themselves.

Certain traditional practices are slow in dying out. Tea was always traditionally made in a teapot in which the tea leaves could be retained. But once porous teabags were invented, it was no longer necessary to use teapots and tea-strainers. Nevertheless, many people continue to brew tea using loose tea and teapots and strainers. But to do so they need to invent new justifications for this practice (e.g. better flavour/authenticity).

About Frank Davis

smoker
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Self-Denial

  1. Rose says:

    A perfect explanation, Frank and one with which I entirely agree, these once rational behaviours get lost in the mists of time and hang on only as traditions. Talking of tea, have you tried that Betty’s tea yet, or is it still stored away for winter with your bamboo socks?

    – –

    On an entirely different subject, but one that we sometimes discuss, I’ve been absorbed all morning reading about the unmasking of an important member of NHS England who has been trolling internet forums, in a very similar manner to the online antismokers .that appeared on newspaper threads after the Ban.

    NHS England’s top GP resigns
    5th August 2018

    “England’s top GP has been forced to resign after using a fake profile to troll family doctors and suggest that they are overpaid.

    Dr Arvind Madan, NHS England’s Director of Primary Care and Deputy Medical Director, has admitted using the pseudonym ’Devil’s Advocate’ to post anonymous messages on an online forum.

    In one message he wrote: “We can get 6 figure salaries for working 4 days a week, 45 weeks a year. Run that past the general public and see how much sympathy you get.”

    “His resignation came as the British Medical Association wrote to the head of the NHS Simon Stevens “raising our concerns and demanding action”.
    Dr Madan, who also works as a London GP, apologised “unreservedly” for his behaviour, particularly to those who run small practices.

    On Friday he had issued an apology for his comments in the interview, but over the weekend he was outed as the anonymous poster on the Pulse Today website after his details were pieced together by other doctors.

    In a statement released on Sunday, Dr Madan said: “It is clear to me that, sadly, I have lost the confidence of some of my colleagues, and I have therefore decided to resign my NHS England position.”

    “The key revelation from the pseudonym postings, specifically his belief that individual GPs losing their practice, and their business, is not only necessary, but something he thinks should be welcomed, has severely compromised his integrity.

    “We feel that posting under a pseudonym in this way is unacceptable for someone in his position and urge you to ask him to consider whether he can continue as Director of Primary Care for NHS England having lost the confidence of the profession.”
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/05/englands-top-gp-forced-resign-using-fake-account-troll-doctors/

    NHS top GP quits after using fake profile to troll doctors online

    “He used the same secret profile to praise his own work. His comments under stories on the Pulse magazine’s website prompted dozens of angry replies — then medics discovered his identity by piecing together clues.

    Dr Sammy Batt-Rawden asked how it could be acceptable for such a high-profile figure “to create burner accounts and pseudonyms to troll people that disagree with them?”
    https://inews.co.uk/news/health/nhs-top-gp-quits-after-trolling-doctors-online-under-fake-profile/

    “The London based GP had been leaving posts under stories on the magazine’s website under the psuedonym “Devil’s Advocate” for years, often speaking out in favour of NHS England policies.

    Doctor Madan said in a statement that he had been seeking to “provoke a more balanced discussion” by challenging negative views and conspiracy theories aired by some of the commentors.”

    “He routinely commented on recent closures of GP practices saying those remaining should be “pleased” that less viable businesses were shut.”
    https: //www.independent.co.uk/news/health/nhs-england-uk-gp-resigns-arvind-madan-online-troll-comments-a8478376.html

    Just like the pubs.

    The question is, was he a freelancer or part of the “1,500 Full Time Equivalent staff to distort, manipulate and pollute social media” allegedly employed by the current Government?

    As Simplex remarked the other day.

    “As it turns out, stigmatizing a large part of the population and force them to stay at home in front of their computers and educate themselves might not have been such a good idea, after all.”

    • Frank Davis says:

      I still have quite a lot of your tea (which is very nice). Still haven’t tried on the bamboo socks.

      If Dr Madan seems to have so readily used pseudonyms, maybe it was because he was well aware of the practice already being in frequent use by colleagues? His crime was to employ a technique used against smokers against other doctors. It was okay to do the former, but not the latter.

  2. beobrigitte says:

    In Christianity there is a long history of abstinence or self-denial of this sort. And one form of abstinence is fasting. And one period of fasting is Lent:

    From its start on Ash Wednesday until its conclusion on Easter Sunday, Lent has been a traditional time for fasting or giving something up or abstinence.

    Why should it be virtuous to engage in self-denial for several weeks every year? What are the origins of this practice?
    Perhaps fasting periods have a beneficial aspect; to this day I do not know what caused my mother to live with her, at the time of diagnosis terminal, cancer until she died of old age complications, not helped by dementia.
    I do remember that after the diagnosis she embarked on a fasting “cure” and at the time I just got angry with her. At some point I followed it up out of interest and came across some interesting side effects of fasting, such as stem cell regeneration etc. etc.
    https://news.usc.edu/63669/fasting-triggers-stem-cell-regeneration-of-damaged-old-immune-system/

    The difference between this and the health-crazed people is that:
    A. it is only short periods of abstinence
    B. it is an advice
    C. it is voluntary
    The health-crazed talk about life style changes of permanent nature and try to force their ideology into laws i.e. sugar/salt/fast food/drinking/smoking bans. We now have lived with nearly 50 years of the “fat-free” craze to discover that the research back then did not include what fat is needed (i.e. vitamin uptake) for. The problem with all this severely limited science which creates these crazes everyone so blindly follows/is forced to follow, is that “the big picture” is excluded.

    Christianity’s annual cycle of feasting and fasting, and of death and rebirth, was one which reflected the same cycle already present in the natural cycle of the seasons. Christianity was fully embedded in the natural world. It is us moderns who, insulated by our technologies from the worst effects of the natural cycle of seasons, have become estranged both from the natural world and from the Christianity that reflected and celebrated it. We no longer know why we there should be Christmas and Easter, or feasting and fasting, or death and rebirth.
    If we start to remember this we will be instantaneously attacked for “regressing” rather than “progressing”. Progress has brought us a new god: HEALTH and (superficial) BEAUTY and amplified our inherent fear of death, which we are nudged into excluding from our lives.
    Perhaps we need to get rid of “nudging” and just live our lives.

  3. Smoking Lamp says:

    The propaganda supporting this imposed abstinence is getting really thick these days. At the daily Mail a new article claims intense negative effects from second hand smoke: “Secondhand smoke is giving teens severe breathing problems: Just one hour of exposure increases their risk of being too sick to go to school, study says”.

    The propaganda piece goes on the claim:
    – “Teens who live at home with a smoker are more likely to report shortness of breath, wheezing and difficulty performing exercise…
    – “Those exposed to more than an hour of secondhand smoke had a 1.5 times increased risk of frequently missing school due to being sick…
    – “Additionally, they were 3.5 times more likely to visit an urgent care facility or an emergency department over the past 12 months”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6031509/Teens-exposed-secondhand-smoke-just-one-hour-suffer-breathing-problems.html

    This so-called “study” ignores all prior findings and actual experience to make its spurious assertions.

  4. Rose says:

    Public Consultations

    Tobacco Retailers Concerns ‘Air-Brushed Out’ By Government, UK 2008

    “Members of the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, a coalition of 25,000 independent retailers, have expressed outrage that their views were excluded from a Government report into retail displays of tobacco.

    In a report on the Future of Tobacco Control consultation published on Tuesday 9th December 2008, the Department of Health appears to have deliberately omitted evidence offered by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance.

    Ken Patel, Leicester retailer and National Spokesman for the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, said: “First the Minister refused to meet with retailers, now they have censored our formal response to a public consultation.”
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/132901.php

    Thick fug hangs over tobacco
    “Incidentally, of 96,515 submissions to the DoH consultation, 49,507 came from something called Smokefree North West and a further 8,128 from Smokefree North East.
    It is to be hoped that their pre-written postcards or e-mail campaigns are not accorded equal weight to the more considered, but less shrill, views of the small retailers and tobacco industry.”
    http: //business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/columnists/article5315436.ece

    How do you get the government to ignore both shopkeepers and members of the public.?

    IN MY VIEW: Brainwashing in the Anti-Smoking Movement: #1 – Smearing the Opposition

    “If you take part in secondhand smoke policy training in the tobacco control movement, chances are that you will be taught that all opposition to smoking bans is orchestrated by the tobacco industry, that anyone who challenges the science connecting secondhand smoke exposure and severe health effects is a paid lackey of Big Tobacco, and that any group which disseminates information challenging these health effects is a tobacco industry front group. Consequently, the a chief strategy of tobacco control is to smear the opposition by accusing them of being tobacco industry moles. And in no situation should one say anything positive about an opponent, even if true.

    How do I know this?

    Because for many years, I was one of the main trainers of tobacco control advocates in the United States. And this is what I taught, because this was what I was led to believe. I attended many conferences and trainings and this is precisely what I was taught. I accepted it for the truth, and passed it along to others.”
    http: //tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2007/04/in-my-view-brainwashing-in-anti-smoking.html

    A lesson thoroughly learned by ASH UK
    The result –

    MPs fall foul of ‘dirty’ tricks by tobacco giants
    2008

    “Yesterday MPs expressed dismay that the campaign had been orchestrated and funded by the tobacco companies. ‘The early-day motion very carefully avoids any kind of hint of their support,’ said Frank Cook, Labour MP for Stockton North, who signed up to it. ‘It’s a pretty dirty, surreptitious quest they’re on. I felt a bit pissed off about it. As a result of what I now know, I’ve withdrawn my name from the motion.’ Cook said withdrawing his name from the motion was not a signal he was turning his back on small retailers.

    ‘People will say Frank Cook no longer supports the independent newsagent or grocer,’ he said. ‘Well, that’s a load of bollocks, but I’ve got to make the gesture. I’ve been conned by these people and I’m not going to put up with it.’

    Deborah Arnott, chief executive of anti-smoking group Ash, accused the tobacco lobby of ‘hiding behind the cloak of retailer respectability’.
    http: //www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/dec/14/tobacco-industry-small-retailers

    And I’ve just found out how it’s done

    Warning over sneaky tobacco company campaign
    20th June 2014

    “ASH Scotland is warning about a devious new bid by one of the world’s largest tobacco companies to defeat fresh health measures in Scotland.

    A campaign supposedly led by local retailers is actually being masterminded by tobacco firm Philip Morris International in an effort to undermine the upcoming tobacco display ban in small shops and plans for plain, standardised tobacco packaging.

    The ploy is known as “astroturfing” because it creates fake grassroots support on behalf of a big commercial interest.

    An Edinburgh-based public relations company (Halogen Communications) in the pay of Philip Morris has convinced bosses of local newsagents to criticise the public health initiatives and make the alarming claim that they will “kill” small businesses and communities.

    The tobacco company campaign pushes the message that plain packs will lead to more illegal tobacco products. It says illicit tobacco is “rife”, “growing”, or “burgeoning”, despite official figures from HMRC showing the illicit market has halved since 2000.

    ASH Scotland Chief Executive Sheila Duffy said:

    “This tobacco industry-funded campaign is deliberately misleading, and the comments made by local retailers are based on false information and scaremongering.

    “Using hard-working local business people to say things that you know aren’t true is a sneaky way to put out a misleading message without having to put your own name to it.

    “The display ban is an important policy to prevent promotion of tobacco and to deter young people from being attracted to smoking.

    “Tobacco bosses also know that the level of illicit product in the UK has halved since 2000 but they ignore that in order to spread their scare stories.

    “Big Tobacco’s campaigns never mention that one of the major reasons for the reduction in illicit tobacco is greater controls on the tobacco companies, who have played a big part in the illegal trade themselves by oversupplying some markets so that product can be smuggled into territories where cigarettes are more expensive to buy legally.

    “Astroturfing is an old tactic of the tobacco companies. They know they have no credibility themselves so try to set up other voices to speak on their behalf.

    “We hope people do not to fall for these tricks and look closely at who is paying for these local scare stories, and what their motives are.”
    https://www.ashscotland.org.uk/media/news/2014/06/warning-over-sneaky-tobacco-company-campaign/

    So having briefed everyone in authority that every one who objects to being thrown out of the pub or being made to pay extortionate taxes or being hampered in their small business , or unlike any other shopper not even allowed to look at your purchase before you buy, is a shill for tobacco, MP’s think they are being clever by ignoring what really is the voice of the public talking in the only places they can still be heard.

  5. sackersonwp says:

    Tea: definitely better with leaves, not bags. Like cigarettes without filters, for those of you who smoke (Raymond Chandler said smoking filter tips was like breathing a “high fog strained through cotton wool” – in The Long Goodbye.)

    Factlet: P.G. Wodehouse used to crumble cigars into his pipe, rather than use pipe tobacco, according to Robert McCrum (Wodehouse: A Life, p.405).

No need to log in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.