Friday, 30 May 2014

“O Lorde, have mercy upon us miserable offendours”

Very little, it seems, has changed in many centuries of human history. Even in the modern world of scientific research and immense knowledge, the same old arguments are still being put forward by the self-appointed guardians of our social, moral, and spiritual welfare as they ever were. The difference now is that the guardians do not only stand in the pulpit of the village church, or the chapel, to deliver their sermons since too few are there to listen, and they need their message to ring loud and clear to all humankind. So one thing that has changed is the launching-point for their words of salvation - they now concentrate their efforts on the media; film, TV, radio, the press, the internet and the paid disciples of their cause, the holy army of health practitioners.

But the message they carry has not changed. The Book of Common Prayer, as published in 1559 contains words that were drummed into our brains as children:-

we have erred and straied from thy waies, lyke lost shepee we have folowed to much the devises and desires of our owne hartes. We have offended against thy holy lawes: We have left undone those thinges whiche we ought to have done, and we have done those thinges which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us”.

I am sure that most of us remember those words, albeit in a more modern form and with standardised spelling. Even more sure am I that you recognise the message contained within them. Read any leaflet that you will find at your doctor's or dentist's surgery, or at a hospital or clinic, and you will see the very same message. Open any newspaper or magazine, and it is there too. Pick up a packet of cigarettes, and a highly graphic version of the message will stare accusingly at you. Light a cigarette in the street (while you still can!), and there's a very good chance that a herald angel in a grubby grey suit will approach you with a wagging finger to deliver the same message. Even if you do not smoke because you have already heeded the warning, but choose to vape your nicotine instead, you still cannot avoid it.

In the new, disease-free, pollution-free, sterile world granted us by the good offices of bodies such as the World Health Organisation, science has largely taken over as the religion of the thinking man (and woman, of course), except for certain groups who still accept dogma over data, spiritualism over science and theism over thought. For them the world will always be flat, only six thousand years old, and non-evolving. For most of the world, however, scientific explanation and reason have taken over from scripture in guiding our lives. But science can be a two-edged sword (or scalpel), that, like religion, can be manipulated and interpreted in several different ways, depending on the personal beliefs, ambitions or politics of our leaders and guides. By their methodology life, the universe and everything can be analysed, categorised, documented and theorised like never before, yet apparently still devolve to the statement, “we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us”!

Every day we are assailed with further evidence of that statement. We eat too much, drink too much, smoke too much, sit too much, sleep too much, stay awake too much, consume too many resources, listen to too much music, watch too much television, play too many games, breed too much, et cetera, et cetera – and there is no health in us. The facts, of course, are that we are born at great risk to ourselves and our mothers, we face multiple hazards, contract childhood diseases, learn how to survive the world as best we can. If successful so far, we breed, then get ill or have an accident and die. For there is no health in us. Like every living creature on earth, we are mortal, we are dying, we are born to die. Sorry, folks, that's just the way life is; we cannot change it!

However, it would appear that august bodies such as the WHO have such faith in their own abilities that they believe it is we ourselves who are causing our morbidity and mortality, by doing all those things that we should not do, or by not doing all those things that we should do. That is why there is no health in us! If only we were to follow all their guidelines, and live our lives according to their rules, we could eradicate all our illnesses, avoid all accidents and solve our own problems! They have never yet claimed to give us life everlasting, but they seem to to have decided for us, on our behalf, how long our lives should be. How else can they tell me that, by smoking, I am reducing my life by ten years? I recently read that sitting is four times as dangerous as smoking, so by sitting at my keyboard typing this essay, it seems that I am reducing my life by forty years. But I am 65, so was I granted 105 years (or 115 given that I also smoked), and I should drop dead tomorrow?

I was always led to believe that I could expect three-score and ten (seventy) years of life, so did the health authorities, by their efforts, give me an extra thirty or forty years? Or have I been dead without realising it for some years now? The fact is, of course, that life is a lottery. Illness and accident can terminate a life at any stage. I remember schoolmates who died before even reaching their teens, and I had uncles and cousins I never knew because they were killed in war. I have relatives in their nineties who smoke, and I have lost much younger relatives who never did. To further confound matters, I believe that I am healthy, that is to say I have no life-threatening or disabling conditions as yet diagnosed or suspected, but I have partaken of salt, sugar, fats, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, sunshine and so on freely through my life. How can I be healthy – especially since I know that I am destined to die?

These arguments naturally tend to weaken the consensus of the health police. That is why they have invoked the moral support of my peers in order to bring me to heel. They have re-written the Book of Common Prayer so that it now reads “We have done those things that we should not have done, and there is no health in our neighbours, or in our cheeldren.” By this means they can justify raising taxes and duties on anything that people like, they can ban us doing anything that might be considered 'sinful', they can ride roughshod over our civil rights, pass illogical laws and regulations, twist science, law and common sense to breaking point, protect their jobs and their sources of income, maintain their moral high ground and keep us all within their power for eternity. If all of that sounds familiar, then you probably had a similar religious upbringing to mine!


  1. More and more "scientists" are a shame to real ones. Big companies can buy those "scientists" by the dozen. And they can easily convince the media to print faked studies using advertising money.

  2. Excellent and very true! Great writing!

  3. I'm quite tempted to take up smoking, just to annoy the do-gooders! Pronouncements from the health police always remind me of Woody Allen's film 'Sleeper, where he wakes up 200 years in the future, being resuscitated with chocolate fudge cake. When he protests that he needs health food, he is told, "but this IS health food".

    I'm not religious, but that prayer does stay in the head, and still resonates. Thanks for the piece.

  4. Why or why and HOW! Aggravatingly illuminated.