EDITOR'S COMMENT: One of us has to go...
PUBLISHED: 11:47 19 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:33 23 August 2010
THE artist Maggie Hambling talks free and easy about not really trusting anyone who doesn t smoke. What she s saying is she s darned sick, not from tobacco, but of the Nazi-style hold the health police are having over our lives. She says: It is alarmi
THE artist Maggie Hambling talks free and easy about not really trusting anyone who doesn't smoke. What she's saying is she's darned sick, not from tobacco, but of the Nazi-style hold the health police are having over our lives.
She says: "It is alarmingly arrogant not to need that reassuring little mate who, constant and faithful, allows you time to think. Not to mention affording you a great deal of what is more or less illegal nowadays: pleasure."
The beliefs of this middle-aged painter, famous for her great swirling artworks of death, were echoed quite by chance by a colleague of mine of a mere 30 years of age and of a generation the Department of Health likes to target with its do-goody propaganda.
This time we were talking about some diet hysteria being pumped out by some Whitehall press office. Something about too many green leaves staining the innards or some such flimflam, or the anti-sugar Stasi blaming chocolate for the obesity problem. "I am so fed up with being told what to do," yelled the young woman with a face the purple colour of panic. (Hardly causing a healthy reaction at all then)
She's right. Ms Hambling is right. There's a despicable atmosphere of finger pointing, and frowning going on at those who are perceived to indulge too much beyond the 2,000 calories of life a day as specified by whatever po-faced doctor maybe advising parliament. They don't seem to consider the effect this is having on our perception of personal liberty. Who wants to be brainwashed? Only the fearful who really would enjoy paying more tax for chocolate. "It doesn't effect us," they'd whine, "because we don't eat it anyway..."
What is equally upsetting is discovering how the complete abiders are using their new puritanical powers as a license to become lifestyle police officers. Even more perverse, (and I want to think, funny) is how those who now subscribe to this arrogant new social policy wobble about among us like Born Again Christians with the cautionary and accusing sound of 'oh' on their lips if they so much as even smell a Mars Bar on our desks. Think of Mike Leigh's brilliant play Nuts in May and we know the type . . .
Thing is real conformists and members of the 'joie de vivre club' don't behave this way. They certainly don't judge others. Most really healthy people have some class. They just get on with their own lives and adapt what suits them to their own existence and don't make a fuss and issue about it. Most people I know enjoy a drink, some smoke, some laugh, some even have sex, some run, some walk, some shout, some even get angry, but there's no one in my social circle who rules out anything human just because the government says they should and they'd feel a whole lot better if they did opt for the life of the school sneak.
I'd argue personal health is in the head. We know the dangers of this and that but, as far as I know, we still have a choice in life and don't need over-educating about medical statistics. Is choice now being taken away from us because some people just feel the government should make decisions for them?
Pleasure should not be associated with law breaking, either. The wine buff is not a criminal, a potential thief, or a murderer. Neither is the man or woman who puffs at the odd cigar or enjoys a crafty Benson and Hedges in the car park. A speeding fine or a small bump with another car should not scar a person for life, either. Stuff happens. It's called life. It's uncontrollable.
Putting a minimum price on alcohol is the latest wheeze from the liver specialists in the employ of Whitehall. Here we go then - another preaching, another quick-fix remedy and alleged potential vote catcher that really won't stop the unhappy of the world reaching for the supermarket lager because the recession, fueled by the fashion for a lot of costly bureaucracy today, (ask the police, ask the social workers on this one), has led to the closure of the nearest social outlet - the pub.
And looking on the bright side? We can cherish our freedom to sally forth, as always, with fate on or off our side.
To quote Oscar Wilde who once whispered to his wallpaper in Paris: "One of us has got to go and I fear it will be me..."