One of my many false starts in life was a short-lived career in state-sector teaching: I loved the teaching bit but loathed the staff rooms’ all-pervading sense of gloom, hopelessness and pupil traumatic stress disorder. I quickly realised that almost all my colleagues had probably started with the naïve, youthful enthusiasm that I still possessed – and, almost before I had started, I took the decision to turn my back on the profession before I, too, took more pleasure in inflicting punishment than converting students to the wonder and artistry that is mathematics.
During my training, when not dallying with the future Mrs Time Traveller, I was for ever being reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s aphorism, “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach.” If Shaw had been alive today, I think he may have been more inclined to use the punch line, ‘..those who can’t, tell the rest of us how to live our lives’.
The sun is going down on western capitalism. How do I know this? The proof lies in the decline of those engaged in productive work and the consequent rise in shrill, nannying advice from the New Puritans, those with nothing useful to do and probably more of a drain on the country’s wealth than all those millions on welfare. Governments have sought to shore up the employment figures by a vast expansion of the public and third sectors, where functionaries seem to spend their entire working lives creating new and ever more byzantine rules, initiatives and advice by which we have to live our lives. In Scotland alone, £8.1 million pounds of taxpayers’ money has been
squandered spent on green projects. The money has gone on advice projects to Nepalese and Hindu communities (the interfering, infantilising, preaching the b****y obvious advice that the rest of us get is clearly not adequate), a scheme to encourage Glaswegians to grow vegetables (in their high-rises?), eco-drama productions (more ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ than ‘The Heretic’ in values, I suspect) and – I kid you not – an army of “Eco-congregation co-ordinators”, presumably the equivalent of church wardens for the eco-religion. Not a lot of production there, I think you’ll agree.
Elsewhere, we’re nagged about what we eat. Red meat is bad for us, apparently. Isn’t red meat what incisors are for? Those of us who smoke (I have never smoked but loath the anti-libertarian anti-smoking lobby with a passion) are constantly persecuted – despite engaging in a perfectly legal activity- on the basis of increasingly tenuous evidence that now talks of third-hand smoke even though the supposed dangers of second-hand smoke remain unproven. Our children are nagged and humiliated over any politically incorrect contents in their lunch boxes. We have an army of inspectors to enforce ludicrously complex and unnecessary recycling procedures that force us to separate rubbish into smaller and smaller subsets before they are collected, thrown into a communal truck and as often as not, dumped in landfill. We’re nagged about obesity even though in the UK it’s an overstated problem and may not be as bad for us as has been suggested. We’re nagged to buy diesels for the sake of the environment and now that we’ve all bought them, we’re told that we’ve got to pay more tithes because diesels are bad for the environment. The list goes on and on. Et alors!, even the French, the true champions of egality, fraternity and the all-important liberty, insist on all their TV food advertising to carry nannying warnings about eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Aaaargh!
Meanwhile, despite the poor record of success for prohibition, the do-gooders continue their relentless campaign against alcohol. Yesterday’s Guardian claimed that 13,000 cancers in the UK are the result of our drinking habits according to a study by Cancer Research UK. See if you can spot a Cancer Research UK agenda on this page.
But as The Register points out, the study itself only assumes causality: there is absolutely no proof for the claim. And to show the truth of all the old adages about the reliability of statistics, the study goes on to examine cancers in people who had previously given up the consumption of alcohol – and this shows an identical rate for those who are currently drinking. As The Register observes, giving up booze can be injurious to your health.
But the New Puritans gloss over anything that does not accord with their personal view of how we should conduct our lives. The anti-alcohol movement is developing a fine head of steam for their new truth and, no doubt, we shall soon be hearing about reduced safe drinking limits. If they’re based on the Cancer Research UK study, they will be as made up as the old ones.
*Henny Youngman – Comedian whose dissolute lifestyle caused him to die at the tragically young age of 91.