Thursday, March 30, 2006

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor...

If everything is killing us, why do we live so long?
By Jeff Randall (Filed: 31/03/2006)

Is it me, or are we becoming two nations, a society where what occurs in one half of the country bears no relation to events in the other?

I'm talking not about the divide identified by Disraeli - that between rich and poor. Nor do I mean the gap between north and south, or even black and white. No, the contrast to which I refer is starker than that.

It's the split between Negative Britain, in which we appear to be under relentless attack from an increasing list of death-inducing ailments and Positive Britain, where life expectancy is rising at such a rapid rate that the pension system is on the brink of collapse.

Flick through the daily papers' news pages and it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that everything is killing us. But then turn to the personal finance sections and it seems that our pension funds are skint because nobody is dying.

How can this be? Are we dropping like flies or living for ever? Such questions nag away at me, after I spotted a feature in yesterday's Financial Times under the headline "Dangers of a good night's sleep".

Jeepers! Now even having a kip is a cause for concern.

Every day, it seems, new warnings of a looming health disaster emerge in Negative Britain. The scale of imperilment is truly spectacular.

Mass obesity, rampant anorexia, drug addiction, drug shortages, NHS super bugs, junk food, salt poisoning, sugar dependency, sexual diseases, sexual impotence.

Chronic stress, passive smoking, alcohol abuse, carbohydrate overload, the Atkins diet; too few vitamins, vitamin pollution, fruit deficiency, factory farming.

Insomnia, night starvation, vicious sun beds, mobile phones that fry our brains, carcinogenic wrinkle creams, E numbers and, according to Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield, killer domestic baths with no thermostats.

Wow! Call me paranoid but living in this half of the country feels like a stroll through a minefield in hobnail boots. I'm still in shock after reading on the internet that "Cheese is the Devil's Plaything".

It's a wonder that anyone makes it through to lunch.

I'd be tempted to stay in bed all day were it not for the risk of… too much sleep. Moving to Baghdad is probably a safer option, but I'm told that the beer there is not so good.

No wonder that UK health ministers have spent more than £50m on management consultants in the past six years. Dealing with all this must be giving Patricia Hewittless a headache.

That's Negative Britain for you. Now, hold my hand and we'll cross over to Positive Britain. It's a journey of only a few inches: the gap between your ears. There you go.

You're now in a very different place.

It's a happy scene, where far from being wiped out by avian flu, those on the back nine of life are heading for a golden age of independent activity, well past the biblical target of three score years and 10. Grey Power is on the march.

In 1900, the average life expectancy of a newborn British male was 56 years. By 2000, it had risen to 76 years. For women, it was even higher, 80 years. And since the turn of the millennium, life expectancy for both sexes in Positive Britain has improved further still.

Despite the range of illnesses, real and imaginary, in Negative Britain, about which public-safety warriors constantly remind us, the over-fifties in Positive Britain have never felt quite so fortified.

So why does one side have so many scares, when the other is in such good shape? The answer is, I suspect, a conspiracy, an unwitting alliance of private enterprise, lobby groups, a credulous media and a nanny state.

The next time you hear a story on BBC news or read a headline that claims, "Braeburn shock: thousands at risk from apple shortage", check out the source. The report invariably goes something like this:
"A new study today reveals that insufficient consumption of apples is creating possible dietary problems across the country. An investigation by the Kent Apple Growers' Collective shows that…"

You get the picture. Business groups, with a vested interest, commission research which reveals - surprise, surprise - that if we only bought more of what they're selling, we'd all be better off. Desperate news editors buy into "the crisis" and, the next thing you know, a pandemic of Apple Deprivation is sweeping the nation.

Another source of bogus fears is local councils, motivated either by crackpot political correctness or a genuine worry about being sued by ambulance-chasing lawyers.

Only this week, we learnt of the Yew Tree Danger Alert. No, I'm not making it up. A row of yew trees, next to a children's playground in Bristol, was pulled up in case the kids poisoned themselves by eating the leaves.

It's amazing. On one hand, nutritionists tell us that we need a government programme of food education because too many children won't eat salads, on the other a risk-assessment officer is warning that our kids are in danger of stuffing themselves with toxic foliage.

Try to imagine the conversation: "No burgers, chips and fizzy pop for me tonight, Mum, I've just tucked into a large portion of belladonna and toadstool mix". I don't think so.

As a fully paid-up hypochondriac, I decided long ago that residing in Negative Britain wasn't for me.

It was simply too depressing.

So, sustained by the thought that if sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll are bad for us, why is Keith Richards still alive? I packed up my mental baggage and left for life on the other side.

Here, along with fellow members of the Saga generation, I look forward to confounding the actuaries and draining the pension system of its resources, way beyond the point where my contributions will have run out. Growing old disgracefully is a wonderful prospect.

Just as long as that deadly nightshade doesn't get me first.


At April 02, 2006 8:58 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

In Hawaii, the local newspapers rely entirely on trade association (union) lobbyists for their “expert,” as well “citizen” opinions-- and there is no wonder that the answer for every problem is, “More money, endlessly more money!” -- no matter what the question.

And of course, the problems must become infinitely worse rather than solved, because only in that way will they be “rewarded” with more high-paying jobs, as the goal of government. It never occurs to them anymore, that the purpose of government is to resolve problems -- because when government workers are unionized, the highest priority is to create more high-paying jobs as an end in itself, with lifetime security doing as little as possible, and now, creating more problems.

So the schools must do worse -- to create the need for education, and get more money every subsequent year -- instead of exploring and developing better, more efficient and effective ways of learning.

The health of people must be threatened at every turn -- to create a greater need for health care. The anxieties and fears must be propagated to justify an infinite demand for absolute security against every incident and occurrence out of the ordinary. So the newspapers must create a perception of that which is patently false -- that life was never so perilous in the entire history of mankind -- requiring the wannabe saddams to do our thinking for us, because as “liberals,” they are morally and intellectually superior to everybody else, as evidenced by their bloated faces and bodies -- speaking for the homeless and dispossessed.

Only a few depend for their information exclusively on these sources anymore -- now that it is possible to read all the information from the truly best and brightest from around the world -- rather than just what the lobbying interests want the media people to know and propagate for them, to advance their own careers.

Hope has always lay with the few who could tell the difference -- and make a difference, and not merely mouth the words that betray them. That is the objective of life in these times -- to locate intelligent life by their unmistakable integrity. That is what intelligence is -- and not how much they can stuff in their pie-holes.

At April 02, 2006 9:57 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

It’s because the Department of Education is demanding more money for their army of $1000,000+ educational administrators and experts, that there is no money for people actually doing the job fo teaching the students.

That’s where the money should be going -- to people actually doing the job -- underpaid BECAUSE those at the top of the seniority scale are getting paid two and three times as much BECAUSE they cannot teach!

It’s good to help people who need help. But it’s another matter to reward those most highly whose only function is to be “The Boss” -- sucking up all the money intended for those who need the help. That aspect of Hawaii culture needs to change!

Vote for people who understand that -- and not for those who think they are the the kings and queens of society that we all need to carry on our backs for the rest of THEIR lives.

At April 02, 2006 10:46 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The problem with health care professionals taking charge of health is that they make everybody into a patient -- regarding everybody as a person who doesn't realize how sick they are -- if they just had enough tests done, which now are infinite -- but fully covered under their health care insurance, so not to worry!

Most of the people with such generous coverage, have a higher incidence of costly procedures -- coincidentally. The patients think they arem't benefiting unless they are sick -- because that's what they are rewarded for in their union contracts, when money is the only indicator of success.

I always thought the people in the newspapers ran those grotesque photos alongside their bylines so they wouldn't be recognized when they went out in public -- until I realized that was their most flatttering photo, and why they never left the building anymore to go out in public to get the real story, but only compounded the depression they had just read by some other journalist, also afraid of everything.

At April 02, 2006 12:53 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

"Don't worry, nobody will ever know we're eating more than our fair share. Our docotrs will certify that we all have glandular problems.

Oink, oink. Snort, snort. We didn't see anything. More. More. The poor don't need to eat."

At April 02, 2006 1:16 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

"Oink, snort. We're eating for the keikis."

At April 03, 2006 10:24 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Biased partisanship is the problem of the mainstream media; more, improved, even better, balanced, biased partisanship is not the answer.What's lacking in their writing is the non-partisan person without a preconceived idea of what is right and wrong -- but is a truly inquiring mind.

Instead, they give us more biased, close-minded, smug people of the familiar sort -- of the kind their organizations are dominated and infested with. And like failing businesses everywhere, they insist on selling us what they have -- instead of what we want. Their response is to go out and recruit better salesman to sell us what we don't want.

We don't want more biased, partisan information, no matter how good their deceptions and manipulations are. We don't care how much they claim they are "objective" because we can tell how biased they really are -- which further undermines their credibility.

And then when they do locate talent of this ability and quality, they promptly try to make them write just like them -- in the narrow-minded, biased, partisan way they call "objective," undermining that attempt. They just don't get it and all signs point that they never will; they will go down the way they are, and something new and fresh will supplant them.Intelligence has the ability to respond and change -- instead of their editors demanding that the world change to suit them -- and recognize them as the next messiah -- the self-anointed ones who should do the thinking for all mankind.

It'd be appealing if they weren't such narrow-minded, petty people, who are to intelligent discourse what Helen Thomas is to beauty, truth and graciousness. But she's the best they've got -- and they wonder why there are no takers.


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