People who believe it right to pass judgement on others' choices, to criticise the life decisions of folk they've never met - these are the nannying fussbuckets. And it has always bothered me why these people - whether from a supposed righteous authority or else some corrupted concept of the zeitgeist - feel able to pass these judgements. To attack someone for being too fat, for smoking or drinking, for bringing up their children wrong. These nannying fussbuckets take it upon themselves to know better, to badge others' choices as wrong and to call for controls and bans to enforce these judgements.
This morning I came across the response of CBS WKBT news anchor, Jennifer Livingstone, to someone who chose to judge her for being overweight. Here's what that person said:
Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Jennifer responds with a condemnation of this bullying approach - judging her on the sole basis of her body image. Jennifer says to the person:
"You don't know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family..."
Some people - friends, family, personal advisors - are qualified to talk to us about our lifestyle. To tell us we drink too much, should stop smoking, might like to lose a few few pounds, perhaps would benefit from some healthy exercise. No-one else has that qualification - and to act as if you do st to step from the path of tolerance into a world of the bullying control freak. To embrace life as a nannying fussbucket.
However, this approach - the judging of other people's lifestyle choices - has become institutionalised. This includes politicians pontificating about the "sexualisation" of young girls (it's always girls, never boys) or the availability of chocolate bars at the supermarket checkout. It covers self-serving groups that want to regulate the display of magazines and ban The Sun's Page 3. It encompasses the growing licence regime - seeking to control pleasure and enjoyment in an overplayed concern about anti-social behaviour.
Above all it results in so-called "public health" policies designed to denormalise choices about drinking, smoking and eating. To control any behaviour that isn't "healthy", to ostracise people who refuse to worship at the shrines of "well-being". These people - I've called them New Puritans - are everywhere seeking to direct the choices of others, playing with statistics and promoting pseudo-science as justification for these controls.
And it starts with people who think it OK to send an e-mail (or a letter, a passing comment, a tweet - any communication) to someone they don't know telling them they are fat. Or shouldn't smoke. Or drink.
This pathology - an obsession with health above all other things - has infected our society, has created the worst sort of nannying fussbucket. Complete with "stoptober", minimum pricing for booze, motions to council about shisha, fat taxes and a vast, pseudo-pharmaceutical industry of health and well-being. Yes it is bullying but more than that, it drives the legions of prohibitionists, rules merchants and health fascists in their mission to remove every last vestige of pleasure from the lives of ordinary people.