Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Slithering Season

My truce with authority is over. Well it wasn’t really a truce to begin with, more a case of me looking the other way for twenty-four hours while I found a reason or two to be cheerful. Then I did something very foolish indeed this morning, I looked at Saturday’s Guardian.
Science correspondent Ben Goldacre has been waging a laudable campaign against Durham County Council’s wholesale emersion in medical quackery for some months now. He writes,
‘Durham county council claimed it had proven that expensive ‘Equazen’ fish oil pills improved school performance in various trials, and was eager to sing about this in the media, but when I approached to ask about the science, with a loaded post-graduate medical qualification in my back pocket, they shut up shop and fled.’ The Guardian 11/11/06
As a point of clarification, the claim for the fish oil is that it enhances the performance of the pupils rather than the school itself – they use whale blubber for that.
Goldacre has run across rather too many slammed doors for comfort, even failing to secure information on these supposed ‘trials’ through the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). Yes indeed, Durham County Council has been allowed to refuse a citizen information which is clearly in the public interest, on the grounds of ‘cost’.
What is going on here? Authorities seem to be awfully precious these days when it comes to protecting their lame-brained ideas. Whose spouse is in the snake oil peddling business and why is a local authority shilling for these grifters? If you want to aid and abet Goldacre in exposing this sham, log on to www.badscience.net and join in the pursuit.
I sometimes wonder how local authorities recruit management staff. Do they place an ad saying ‘wanted – brain cell to share large space with one other’ perhaps?
Every year we have the same palaver about whether or not local authorities should mention the ‘C’ word when draping the high street with festive lights. I refer of course to Christmas. To be a fly on the flock wallpaper in November as white councillors explore their wildest imaginings for new ways in which to avoid offending ethnic minorities. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so excruciating.
Many years ago, I was in charge of all things administrative on a community project in an area where the majority of the population was Muslim. In an early December management meeting, someone asked if we could get a Christmas tree. There were no Muslim managers, otherwise the foolishness that ensued might have been curtailed sooner. Before I knew it, one person said ‘no because the Muslims might be offended’ and the next thing everyone was getting upset at them for spoiling Christmas! I said I’d ask Muslim members of staff if we should have a tree. I did it quietly so that no one would feel under any pressure to betray their true feelings. Everyone thought it was a great idea and we got a tree – and lights and an angel for the top.
That year local schools all got together for a Christmas concert at Spitalfields Church. Muslim children played and sang Christmas Carols and their parents came to watch them, in a church. No one thought that was particularly weird. I don’t recall anyone even being struck by lightning. I have seen this mutual respect and enjoyment with my own eyes. So, why do we go through this bollocks every year? Why have local authorities had the word ‘Christmas’ excised from their collective vocabularies? They are the only people who seem to be bothered about this.
Maybe this year some common sense might battle its way into the town halls of Britain. The new Muslim Christian Forum, a think tank of senior clerics from both faiths, is pleading with local authorities not to use the excuse of offending Muslims to turn Scrooge as it’s providing ammunition for the far right. Well duh! This extract makes the point,
‘Those who use the fact of religious pluralism as an excuse to de-Christianise British society unthinkingly become recruiting agents for the extreme Right. They provoke antagonism towards Muslims and others by foisting on them an anti-Christian agenda they do not hold.’
It’s all one great treasure hunt for hidden agendas. I sometimes wonder whether credit card companies haven’t somehow colluded with retailers and inspired this hoax in order to expedite the season’s final descent into a rampant greed fest. Sometimes the only thing that stands between parents and bankruptcy is the statement, ‘let’s try to remember what Christmas is really all about shall we?’
(Note to self – remember to order frankincense and myrrh).

Picture from www.mnsi.net


mullet said...

It all sounds a bit fishy to me

clerk from kent said...

I WAS that brain cell.

That's so pants said...

Funny. Witty. Urbane. You are both very welcome.