Wednesday, 20 November 2013

"Regulation kills kindness": thoughts after a public health event in Bradford


It's a rare day when something from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation strikes me as profound and significant so this simple statement - regulation kills kindness - again made me sit up. Especially, as was the case today, it came as a refreshing moment in a depressing conference about 'public health' and health inequalities.

The context is a study on loneliness - a real killer, as bad as smoking and worse that obesity - and the finding that one barrier to people doing stuff like befriending projects, running events and, in truth, just being a good neighbour is the annoying rules, forms, bureaucracies and general jobsworthiness of public agencies.

However, the simple observation that people don't feel able to help because of "the rules" represents a more profound criticism of the modern state. The consequence of officials and their agents moving into spaces previously occupied by voluntary actors hasn't been enhanced service (as was probably expected) but the withdrawal of those volunteers into peripheral roles of little significance. Or indeed to the armchair in front of the telly.

The state doesn't 'care' (despite all the billions spent by it on caring) and this means that the state cannot be 'kind'. But, by deeming certain actions deserving of state finance, the government creates a society where 'care' - or kindness - is nationalised and where people think they need permission to do those acts of kindness.

I was also cheered by another conversation, one about the curse of "smokadiabesity" - the obsession of public health with smoking, drinking and diet rather than with more significant problems. This fits well with the loneliness study and the idea that it's unemployment, isolation and lack of material resource that creates health problems not simply the booze, burgers and fags. Far more important than telling people to stop smoking and to drink less is the idea of social engagement and physical activity being central to wellbeing and good health.

When 'public health professionals' are confronted with this idea they smile, nod and agree. But carry on with spending millions on ineffective campaigns that merely act to wind up the public. People don't see the nannies' message as relevant.

A small glint of hope in a slagheap of interventionist, judgemental new puritan waste.



Ken Eastwood said...

Those public health professionals are going to be regretting coming under local government and elected member control. Pity them. Should never have left in the first place.

Your challenge and down to earth realism is entirely appropriate. They have a long way to go before they get beyond the centrally driven (by cash) simplistic message campaigning.

So what are they doing about air quality? I saw you mentioned that earlier today. A subject close to my heart (as a former Environmental Health Officer and as an asthma sufferer).

Junican said...

Hello, Mr Cooke.
I am not sure that you will see what I am driving at in the sequel.
Brian Montieth wrote an article for the 'Free Society'. Here is the link:

In that article, he said that just lighting a cigar, in today's climate, is a political statement. It says: "I do not agree that the enjoyment of a cigar is like a bullet to the head" (my paraphrase)

I personally believe that "anti-smoking" has become a 'false god'. It is not dissimilar to worship of water gods, volcano gods or sun gods. It has elevated longevity to a similar state to immortality. Few of the major religions see longevity in this life as important. Why is that? It is because philosophers down the ages have recognised that life ends. It amazes me that Government has accepted the false god.
Anyway, on a separate subject, I wonder if you know that your blog is recognised across the Atlantic? There is a blog in the US called "VapeHalla" - a vaping site.
I thought that 'the vision' of your blog might amuse you:

I doubt that you will publish this comment, and I don't blame you. I just thought that it might amuse you. However, my point about 'false gods' is valid, and ought to be borne in mind by councillors.