Some things I read stick in mind, and bubble back up into consciousness days later, like dead bodies washed up on beaches. This one from Dick Puddlecote:
They simply can’t bear to imagine people enjoying themselves, so every festive period sees some vile prodnose come out with a miserable or spiteful pronouncement, and this year is no exception.
Via the BBC:
England’s top doctor has accused the food industry of “failing the public” and is calling for taxes on unhealthy food high in sugar and salt.
Dame Sally [Davies] said “industry had not delivered” on voluntary targets set by Public Health England to make their products healthier and called for them to do more.
“Those sectors that damage health must pay for their harm or subsidise healthier choices,” her report says.
She hinted she would like to see a tax on chocolate and junk food, with the proceeds going to subsidise fruit and vegetables, which should be on offer in obvious places in shops.
Are there really any “unhealthy foods”? If Dame Sally Davies found herself marooned on a desert island with nothing but chocolate to eat, would she refuse to eat any, on the grounds that it was “unhealthy”? And, stuck on that desert island, wouldn’t she be glad of food “high in sugar and salt”. Sugar contains a lot of energy. And energy is what living things need in order to keep working, just like cars need petrol, or steam engines need coal.
There’s actually nothing “unhealthy” about foods like “chocolate and junk food.” By “junk food” she just means foods that are cheap and tasty and readily available. She means Italian pizzas and Indian and Chinese takeaways and British fish and chips. She means any food that can be bought piping hot, and eaten standing outside the shop where it was bought. She means any food that is consumed in public, rather than in private.
A food is only “healthy” if it’s eaten in the privacy of one’s own home or an expensive restaurant. The real crime of fast food vendors is that people stand outside them eating in public. What’s wrong with chocolates and sweets and biscuits is that they are highly portable foodstuffs which can be consumed anywhere, and don’t need knives and forks and plates.
Perhaps that’s the objection she and her ilk have to smoking and drinking: she can’t stand people who smoke and drink in public. It’s perfectly all right to do this in private, but not to do so in public. And that’s why they primarily want public smoking bans.
Her attitude is the same as that with sex: You may do whatever you like in private, but you must never do it in public.
Hers is a moral crusade to keep private vices behind closed doors, and stop them spilling out into public spaces. What’s offensive to her is the sight of people openly and publicly eating and drinking and smoking. The sin lies not in the act itself, but in being seen to do it.
After all, we all know perfectly well that these Public Health campaigns have nothing to do with “health.” They have to do with morality, but a morality which is never spelled out. It is instead for us to guess what this morality might be.
Hers is perhaps the morality of intensely private people who do everything out of sight and behind closed doors. It’s the morality of some little village made up entirely of closed and shuttered private houses, completely devoid of public places like shops, pubs, cafes, theatres, art galleries, and the like. In this little village, you can do whatever you like in your own home, but when you go out of your front door you must behave yourself with perfect propriety.
It’s something along those lines. I may not have captured it exactly. Why, for example, do they always exempt fruit and vegetables from their long lists of “unhealthy” foods?