Private and Public Morality

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?

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15 Responses to Private and Public Morality

  1. RdM says:

    I seem to remember reading “The Agony and the Ecstasy”: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo by Irving Stone shortly after it was published in 1961, and recall a passage in which he was slightly struck and hmm, offended? – maybe noted with surprise, as a new visitor, that people in Rome ate in public and even walking in the street! I was about 12 or so…

  2. RdM says:


    Plant Chemicals

    acetic-acid, aesculetin, alanine, alkaloids, alpha-sitosterol, alpha-theosterol, amyl-acetate, amyl-alcohol, amyl-butyrate, amylase, apigenin-7-o-glucoside, arabinose, arachidic-acid, arginine, ascorbic-acid, ascorbic-acid-oxidase, aspariginase, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, beta-theosterol, biotin, caffeic-acid, caffeine, calcium, campesterol, catalase, catechins, catechol, cellulase, cellulose, chlorogenic-acid, chrysoeriol-7-o-glucoside, citric-acid, coumarin, cyanidin, cyanidin-3-beta-l-arabinoside, cyanidin-3-galactoside, cyanidin-glycoside, cycloartanol, d-galactose, decarboxylase, dextrinase, diacetyl, dopamine, epigallocatechin, ergosterol, ferulic-acid, formic-acid, fructose, furfurol, galacturonic-acid, gallocatechin, gentisic-acid, glucose, glutamic-acid, glycerin, glycerophosphatase, glycine, glycolic-acid, glycosidase, haematin, histidine, i-butyric-acid, idaein, invertase, isobutylacetate, isoleucine, isopropyl-acetate, isovitexin, kaempferol, l-epicatechin, leucine, leucocyanidins, linalool, linoleic-acid, lipase, luteolin, luteolin-7-o-glucoside, lysine, lysophosphatidyl-choline, maleic-acid, mannan, manninotriose, mannose, melibiose, mesoinositol, methylheptenone, n-butylacetate, n-nonacosane, niacin, nicotinamide, nicotinic- acid, nitrogen, nonanoic-acid, o-hydroxyphenylacetic-acid, octoic-acid, oleic- acid, oleo-dipalmatin, oleopalmitostearin, oxalic-acid, p-anisic-acid, p-coumaric-acid, p-coumarylquinic-acid, p-hydroxybenzoic-acid, p-hydroxyphenylacetic-acid, palmitic-acid, palmitodiolen, pantothenic-acid, pectin, pentose, peroxidase, phenylacetic-acid, phenylalanine, phlobaphene, phosphatidyl-choline, phosphatidyl- ethanolamine, phosphatidyl-inositol, phospholipids, phosphorus, phytase, planteose, polygalacturonate, polyphenol-oxidase, polyphenols, proline, propionic-acid, propyl-acetate, protocatechuic-acid, purine, pyridoxine, quercetin, quercetin-3-o-galactoside, quercetin-3-o-glucoside, quercitrin, raffinase, raffinose, reductase, rhamnose, riboflavin, rutin, rutoside, saccharose, salsolinol, serine, sinapic-acid, stachyose, stearic-acid, stearodiolein, stigmasterol, sucrose, syringic-acid, tannins, tartaric-acid, theobromine, theophylline, thiamin, threonine, trigonelline, tyramine, tyrosine, valerianic-acid, valine, vanillic-acid, verbascose, verbascotetrose, vitexin

  3. smokingscot says:

    Dame Sally Davies is a two faced opportunist who does not practice what she preaches.

    and, like many of her ilk, the offspring don’t pay a blind bit of notice.

  4. Ripper says:

    Frank, you have been far too kind to this vile specimen of a human being (human being is a term I use very loosely for her). You credit her with having some kind of morality but there is none, she is completely devoid of all morals. I think you will find, if you dig deep enough, that she is trying to justify her £210,000 salary above all else – if she didn’t find these things to nag the proles with, or create fake ‘epidemics’ then she would be out of a job. Just like ASH, driven by the big pharmaceutical companies, actually NEEDS smokers to survive. Whatever these health zealots choose to pick on, they will regulate it to the point of being unusable to extract as much revenue as possible, but they will NEVER ban it outright.

    @smokngscot – she is NOT two faced. If she was, I’m sure she wouldn’t be wearing that one.

    • smokingscot says:

      My apologies Ripper. T’was my laziness because the link uses the word hypocrite.

      However during my trawl of the tabloids I stumbled upon an article about a town in Portugal when, on their celebration of Epiphany, their curious tradition of parents allowing, indeed encouraging their youngsters to smoke is still adhered to!

      Looking at the photos it’s obvious that the warnings on each pack have no impact whatsoever on the children. They’re only too pleased to make their parents proud by doing their bit for Jesus!

      • DP says:

        Dear smokingscot

        The legal age for drinking alcoholic beverages in this country is 5.

        I assume that is the same for smoking.

        Happy New Year.


        • chris says:

          What country do you live in? It sounds marvelous.

        • DP says:

          @ chris January 6, 2019 at 11:23 pm

          England. Minimum age for purchase of tobacco is 18, for smoking in public is 16. Seemingly no age limit in private, so I was wrong there.

          Some US states have no minimum age for purchase.

          Minimum age for purchase of alcohol is 18 in England, 16 for beer, wine or cider with a meal and accompanied by an adult. Minimum age for consumption in private is 5, except under medical supervision or in an emergency. What kind of emergency requires alcohol?

          Huge scope for the bansturbators to keep themselves attached to the taxpayers’ teat, making incremental changes to the law over the next decade or so, unless we get a truly libertarian government which will sack them all and undo all the damage they have inflicted to date.


        • RdM says:

          What kind of emergency requires alcohol?

          Methanol poisoning. Methyl alcohol. Replace with Ethanol … ;=})

          {there had been some concerns around fruit drinks or aspartame drinks}

          Anecdotal notes:

          A small amount of methanol is
          harmless, but if worried note that the best antidote for methanol
          poisoning is copious amounts of ordinary ethanol. The ethanol
          competitively slows down the biochemical oxidation of methanol to
          formaldehyde, while the methanol is lost by simple evaporation from skin
          and lungs. In at least one published case, a member of a ship’s crew
          who had been overcome by methanol fumes after inspecting a mostly-empty
          solvent tank, was saved by the heroic action of his shipmates in breaking
          open the medicinal alcohol locker and plying him with booze.

          And more:

          The first piece of advice from all the experts is to quickly seek medical help if you fear you may have been poisoned with methanol.

          “People know what it feels like when you’ve had an alcoholic drink and if something does not feel like normal alcohol intoxication then they would be concerned and should go to a hospital,” says Paul Haber.

          At the hospital, doctors can treat methanol poisoning by administering ethanol, which prevents the toxicity by stopping the production of formic acid.

          “The sooner it is given, the better,” Haber says.

          Another antidote is a drug called fomepizole. Like ethanol, this drug inhibits the conversion of methanol into toxic compounds in the body. Hospitals may also use hemodialysis to clear the methanol from the blood.

          And more:

          How does ethanol fit into this? Ethanol is metabolized by the same enzyme as methanol. So when someone comes into the emergency room with methanol poisoning (high blood methanol, high blood formic acid), the way to stop further production of the formic acid is to give ethanol, as the enzyme will preferentially metabolize it, and leave the methanol. This gives the body time to break down the formic acid before more is produced.

          Therefore, the argument that the ethanol protects against methanol poisoning is correct. However, this fact applies only in cases of actual methanol poisoning and has absolutely nothing to do with dietary sources of methanol. In the case of consuming aspartame (as with fruit and vegetable drinks or other sources of methanol), the levels are so low that it makes absolutely no difference whether ethanol is present or not.

  5. Timothy Goodacre says:

    Yes ‘Prodnoses’ is an accurate description of these people seeking to control our lives. Time we saved money and abolished the lot.

  6. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    Yeah, two faced hypocritical parasites, the lot of them.

    If any of the so called Public Health puritanical meddlers could run a business successfully, meeting consumer demand they wouldn’t be doing the (obscenely overpaid, with money extorted from smokers, NOT tobacco companies, who pass on charges to we “proles”) the government stroke.

    Get a real job, stop inflicting subjective lifestyle preferences on others, clowns, dangerous dogmatic clowns.

    • money extorted from smokers, NOT tobacco companies, who pass on charges to we “proles”

      An all-important point you’re making there, Mark Jarratt! Makes me think that you wouldn’t be unsympathetic to Guy Debord’s seemingly outlandish theory of the integration of State and Economy, so seemingly outlandish that ALL the influential and affluent intellectuals since he published his ideas (notably in 1967 and 1988) did their worst to discredit him (their totally unsubstantiated claim from the mid-1970’s onwards being that he was outdated, or just stating the obvious; as things stand right now the integration of State and Economy remains less than obvious to most people).

      What smokers have been witnessing and enduring for decade upon decade is not the Public Sector lying about a part of the Private Sector’s supposed misdemeanors (as some pro-smokers still surmise, impressed by the ‘evidence’ of a lung cancer to smoking link that has relentlessly been presented to them), nor has it been a case of so-called Big Tobacco lying to the State and the populace at large (as all ex-smokers, most never-smokers, and even some smokers have been led to believe).

      Case in point: the US MSA (Master Settlement AGREEMENT) hasn’t yet been replicated elsewhere since 1998, and is unlikely to be in the foreseeable future. In France and other countries, a State monopoly existed at the time those “crimes” or “misdemeanors” (doesn’t Robert Proctor even refer to a Golden Holocaust?) were committed, yet the antismokers never attack the State. How strange is that?

      This is pure politics, not science, for even bad science wouldn’t have gone that far astray from the facts (see secular trends for lung cancer vs smoking prevalence after – and also before! – the drop in prevalence in various countries, and also men v women trends in LC: discrepancies abound!)

      As Tim Goodacre says, let’s abolish the lot, but how do we go about it?,

  7. chris says:

    In the US, back in the day, during holiday periods we were wished a “Happy_____”. Now we’re wished a “SAFE_______”.

  8. Lepercolonist says:

    Poor people eat ‘junk food’ because it is tasty and AFFORDABLE.

    • smokingscot says:

      Two other things that matter to people who genuinely live on a financial knife edge.

      Availability. Because the cost of a bus ride to and from a shop could be.too much.

      Cooking. If you’re on a pre-paid electricity meter, chances are you’ll eschew slow roasts roasts and long boil times. (Getting “hot” – read tepid – water, bathing all the kids in the same bath water, keeping a probably damp flat warm are all there – and even £20 doesn’t buy much electricity or gas).

      So I thought I’d take a look at what Poundland offers in their grocery section.

      There’s nothing there that I’d describe as junk, though I have to say that 220 gr of “ham” or 280 of “beef” is a bit of an exaggeration. Neither is exactly what’s described, as you might expect given that for your £1, once you take out profit, shipping, processing and storage, then the contents probably cost well less than 40p. And that’s not a lot of meat.

      Same with the Fray Bentos.pies; heaps of gravy and pastry, but not much meat.

      It really tick’s me off when some twit proposes a tax on red meat, or salt or sugar, because many of these products would go up in price. I go to Poundland because they have stacks of stuff for ryo smokers, so l see the queues and what they’ve got in their baskets – and unlike most supermarkets, virtually all transactions are cash. And yes, their wallet or purse has just enough and no more.

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