Thursday, 1 January 2015

The View from Cullingworth - best of 2014...

Hallas Mills, Cullingworth

Happy New Year dear readers.

Here are the posts more of you read this year - an odd collection!

Fair trade and the keeping of peasants in their place- my gentle criticism of fair trade on the occasion of Keighley becoming a 'fair trade town'.

..."fair trade" is part of this corrupted idea of development, of an idea that guilty rich folk should simply hand over extra cash so that people farming ever more marginal land don't starve to death. An idea of development that proposes the use of Western wealth to keep peasants as peasants and then guilt-trips us into coughing up charity to do just that.

You and your racist garden!- a response to some daft sociologist who argued that the “...'crisis in white identity in multicultural Britain' meant people felt unable to express their views for fear of being called racist, so expressed their racial identity in other ways, such as talking about gardening."

...the idea that talking about gardening is suppressed racism may be gibbering, dribbling nonsense but underlying such a statement is something else - an ignorance of the garden, the dismissing of the pastime as some sort of 'white, middle-class' obsession and the desire to make something as quintessentially English as gardening somehow an ethnic marker rather than a cultural wonder.

Prostitution in Bradford - what we should have said in response to that petition. I got into a little bit of bother over a Tweet - so I wrote down the gist of the speech I would have made had I spoken.

I don't know the extent to which we can - on our own in Bradford - move towards a more European approach to the sex trade. Whether we can use licensing and the drawing of boundaries to ensure that the 'red light' area is well defined (avoiding the disturbance to families or communities) and that health advice and support can be provided to the sex workers. It seems to me that this would be a better outcome than what we'll actually get - more police patrols, the hounding of punters and a lot of hot air about community safety. 

The smoking ban didn't work, did it? A more traditional blog topic - commenting briefly on the continued failure of draconian controls to reduce levels of smoking (unlike e-cigs).

The smoking ban in pubs, the thing - the silver bullet - that would suddenly change the world and stop every one smoking was introduced in 2007. And look folks - it didn't work, there was no accelerated decline in smoking and one-in-five of us still smoke. So we've shut down thousands of pubs, destroying business and creating unemployment to achieve almost nothing at all.

A Manifesto for Health Fascism. Reporting on an opinion piece in The Lancet, house journal of New Puritans, nannying fussbuckets and prohibitionists, that describes a 'manifesto for planetary health' - essentially a state of the health fascist ideology.

What we have here is a proposal that denies any individual or personal choice - it is subsumed into the 'wellbeing of all', a well-being that isn't determined through markets or even government but via an unspecified 'independent accountability'. We can only assume that the "special part to play" that our authors ascribe to 'public health' is to provide that 'independent accountablity' and 'remedial action' - regardless of the democratic choices made by people and the politicians they elect.

New Puritans revisited. Returning to an earlier set of blog posts looking at New Puritanism and the sacralising of health. This one took at quote from Lord Macaulay about the (old) Puritans as the basis for looking at how the opinions of 'doctors' outweigh those of others even when those others are better qualified - with the conclusion that:

Such is the sad, drear, judgemental world the New Puritans would have us live in: rationed celebration, the condemnation of unlicensed pleasure, the placing of contentment - wellbeing if you must - as the primary virtue. These are the tenets of New Puritans, tenets that cannot be revoked by either the choices of individuals or the exercise of democracy - they are statements of faith in the religion of self proclaimed by that religion's priesthood - the public health profession.

White Hat bias - fixing results to support what you think is righteous. Explores this idea (posited by biostatistician, Professor David Allison) in the context of out public health debates.

We went through a time when 'evidence-based policy-making' was all the rage. What we should now realise is (as those cultural studies students could have told you from the start) that scientists and researchers wedded to a particular position will be selective in their interpretation and presentation of evidence so as to provide support for that position.

So how much power do your local councillors have? Looking at how the expansion of local government duties resulted in diminishing power for local councillors and an opposite increase in the power of unelected officials. A process accelerated by the local government 'modernisation' of 2000.

The truth of all this is that 80-90% of the spending and activity undertaken by your council (or councils if you live in the shires) is simply given - determined by regulation, set out in statute or otherwise required by central government.

Poking, sneering, moralising and despising - the defining character of Fabianism. Prompted by an article from Polly Toynbee (Posh Polly as we like to call her) accusing Conservatives of being poking, sneering, moralising and despising when it came to the working class. Struck me that Polly's Fabian socialism was far more patronising!

And it's the left - including the last Labour government - who led the charge against people's lifestyles. Banning smoking in the pub, whacking a duty escalator on beer (while exempting wine and champagne), imposing planning restrictions on fast food takeaways and trying to ban gambling. It's the left that want taxes on fizzy drinks, bans on added sugar and salt, restrictions on portion sizes, the ending of multibuy offers and a host of other nannying interventions in people's lifestyle choices.

Finally - here, for you delight, is a squirrel in a sports car...


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