By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
TRY THIS EXPERIMENT: if you regularly watch TV breakfast programmes and the main news in the evening count how many days there are in one week when a health or medical related story does NOT feature. Air pollution, mental health, cancer, autism, alcohol, vaping, abortion, diabetes, obesity, sugar, salt, allergies, intolerances, children’s dental problems, all turn up on a kind of unofficial rota.
Every new “report” related to diet and health – sugar, meat, fats, eggs, butter, etc, will be presented as gospel, even if it’s a direct contradiction of the advice presented as gospel just a few years before. Chuck in the obsessive coverage of the NHS, inefficient ambulance services, doctor shortages, and the trumpeting of miracle cures that are a decade off from being realised, and you have an endless source of scare stories and cheap PR for a seemingly limitless supply of think tanks, NGOs and pressure groups.
I’m surprised I’m still alive at this rate. A few years ago butter was consigned to dietary hell because it contributed to artery-thickening and heart disease, so we all went over to eating “spreads” (Margarine somehow having vanished into consumer amnesia in the interim). Now butter is fab and you can slather it back on your toast just like my old Mam used to do.
The same with eggs. It only seems a couple of years ago we were being admonished that eating even one egg a day would guarantee clogged arteries and an exploding heart. This was followed a few years later with, nah, that was a bit of an exaggeration: eggs are OK.
The argument about different types of fat has gone back and forth so many times it’s like watching a tennis match you can’t switch off. Non-animal trans fats were for along time lauded as the best option. Until they weren’t, because it was discovered they caused heart attacks and cancer.
The same goes for meat of any kind. That’s why I prefer the old-fashioned, evolutionary approach. So give me red meat, rare steaks, pork chops, lamb burgers, roast beef, venison escalopes, bacon. Every now and then I long for fried liver and onions with mashed potato, gravy and peas. Offal started to go out of fashion when the young ‘uns became squeamoid veggies and blobby pizza gobblers. Mad cow disease almost did for it entirely. I’m glad to see it beginning to make a come back in restaurants and supermarkets. I may even get hold of some beef dripping as well.
As if having to tune out the incessant blather from the food nazis were not enough we also have to put up with the other mob whingeing about air pollution in our cities. I noticed this one entering the media frame about six years ago when our esteemed and fearless journos suddenly announced that the air in London and other cities exceeded the official safety levels for particulates and was consequently gassing thousands of people to death every year.
Why so sudden? I thought air quality had been improving? Not trusting the rigorousness of our fourth estate’s dedication to checking the sources and automatically suspecting the hidden hand of the EU I rattled away on my warrior’s keyboard and sure enough discovered that a rejigging by the empire of its requirements meant that previous levels which had been safe were now accounted lethal. One minute Oxford Street air was good enough to breath, the next minute it was not. What has followed since in news rooms up and down the country are repetitions of the same nonsense with anguished stories of asthmatic children and reports that air pollution kills 40,000 people a year in the UK. That’s a claim I prefer to ignore because it is untrue.
What these climate commissars don’t tell us is that indoor pollution is more harmful than that outdoors, what with all the chemicals and recycled air in modern buildings. We may just as well step out into the filth of the modern metropolitan air.
But even if we survive the poisons in your food and the particulates waiting to choke us we may still fall prey to the latest health scare: mental illness. Brought on, most likely, by worries over diet and pollution. The health commissars and their PR outlets in the media have been pushing this a couple of years now, especially with regard to young people. Whether more youngsters are suffering real problems than previously is hard to say since there is a tendency nowadays to medicalise anything. Boisterous behaviour by young boys, for example, is the kind of thing that gets categorised as autism or attention deficit syndrome requiring extra help and sometimes drugs. God knows what is going to happen to those kids who have taken the trangender agenda seriously and not only started behaving accordingly but also embarked on drug treatment to screw up their bodies. Another decade and they will definitely have mental problems.
Just to make matters worse for our youngsters, whatever their supposed gender, they can now freak themselves out with climate emergency panic and fears about the world burning up within the next twenty-five years. We can thank a variety of people for that but currently the main villains are Greta Thurnberg and her disturbing family and PR man Ingmar Rentzhog, who runs a climate business called We Don’t Have Time.
Mr Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook are the founders of the Extinction Rebellion, the organisation running this racket. Last year they had the support of dozens of UK academics who wrote a letter to the Guardian, calling for “a Citizens’ Assembly to work with scientists on the basis of the extant evidence and in accordance with the precautionary principle, to urgently develop a credible plan for rapid total decarbonisation of the economy.” The Citizen’s Assembly idea is another fantasy of the chattering classes (no wonder Matthew Taylor, head of the RSA, is in favour). As for academics, they’re just a middle class rentamob for the hard left, too dumb to realise they’re being hustled. Marvellous.
I have an answer to the stress of confronting all this, whatever your age: ignore the hustlers, eat more meat, and laugh in the face of idiocy. It may save your life.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet and writer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire. A Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Lincoln University (2005 – 2008), his poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent book is Albion Days (perennisperegrinator press). Sucks to Your Revolution is a collection of his Fortnightly columns.