From Chris Snowdon:
…These health lobby groups appear to be dismissive of the actual public – the choices that people make and the opinions they actually have. They see themselves as speaking in the name of public health, which they present as being as a matter of life and death, and are therefore above any profane manifestation of the public, such as what people themselves may think or want. In an email to PHE, AOS said that the aim of the reformulation policy is to ‘save millions of children from disability or early death’, and that ‘[t]his is the priority – not the profits of the food industry, or even public opinion’. The interest of public health policy, then, is something that stands above – and even against – public opinion: it claims a higher mission. So AOS is able to masquerade as the true public good, as standing above the millions of people who actually form the public.
I think the key words above are “a matter of life and death.” That’s what’s used to trump all other considerations. Staying alive is the only thing that matters; everything else is unimportant.
But is it? I often cite the example of soldiers who fight in wars, and who very often die fighting, and who also very often know perfectly well that they will die fighting. They are people who have placed something else above their own life: nation, friends, family, religion.
Are such people misguided fools? If staying alive is the only thing that really matters, shouldn’t soldiers all desert their armies? And shouldn’t firefighters desert their firetrucks? And police refuse to patrol the streets? All of them saying: “Staying alive is the only thing that matters to me, and I have no wish to put my life at risk fighting enemies or fires or thieves.”
And if someone were to see a child drowning in a lake, should they say: “Staying alive is the only thing that matters to me, and I have no wish to put my life at risk saving this stupid child’s life,” and let them drown?
If it were to become everybody’s moral imperative to simply stay alive at all costs, there would follow the complete disintegration of human societies as cooperative enterprises in which people help each other, share burdens, share gains and losses.
That’s what must happen if staying alive is the only thing that matters. And yet that is the ethos of Public Health: Nothing else matters except staying alive.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Such a doctrine can have no place in Public Health or Tobacco Control. If staying alive is the only thing that matters, it’s a damn stupid man who lays down his life for the sake of his friends. In fact, it’s a damn stupid man who lays down anything for the sake of anybody.
But how can staying alive be so important, given that everybody eventually winds up dead? Death is the one certain fact about life. Death is the only certain fact of life.
The medical profession doesn’t “save lives.” It really only defers deaths. The one truth about doctors is that all their patients eventually wind up dead.
And if we’re all going to wind up dead anyway, what does it matter whether we die young or die old? What’s wrong with an early death? What’s wrong with dying young like James Dean? Would it really have been better if he’d lived to a hundred? Wouldn’t it be a dull world that was devoid of James Deans and Marilyn Monroes?
If we all lived forever, would any of us ever do anything? Isn’t it the prospect of death that spurs us into action? Why should anyone want to make anything of their life if they can never lose it?
Death is a bit like something on a plate that you don’t like eating, but must eventually eat anyway. You may not like swedes or spinach or celery, but you’re going to have to eat them anyway. So why not eat them first, rather than eat them last? I always eat what I like least first, and what I like best last: it leaves the nicest final taste in my mouth.
A life is a life, no matter how long it might last. So why not enjoy it while it lasts, instead of devoting oneself to simply trying to prolong it as long as possible?
We got just one shot of life, let’s take it while we’re still not afraid.
Because life is so brief and time is a thief when you’re undecided.
And like a fistful of sand, it can slip right through your hands.