Typos — p. 12: circences [= circenses]; p. 13: mulsifying [= emulsifying]; p. 13: DIS. [= DISS]

Lethal benevolence in England

Anthony M. Ludovici

The South African Observer 5.6, 1959, pp. 12–13

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When indolence, acquisitiveness, envy, ignorance and greed, walk hand in hand throughout a nation, and where the prevailing political system compels rival place-hunters to outbid each other in courting popular favour — which only means gaining more Votes at the next General Election; where such conditions dominate the human scene, the generation living under them is inevitably doomed to enjoy the advantages of a "Welfare State", with its necessary sequel, Self-indulgence and Surfeit throughout the length and breadth of the land.
        Nor to-day in England, can there be any doubt that such is the consequence of the long history of the outbidding of each other by the political parties competing for power. For never has the policy of panem et circences come to a more extravagant and luxurious flowering. No matter where you look, where you may happen to be, or what you may be doing, you can discern no sign of any longing ungratified, any wish unfulfilled, any thirst unslaked, or any appetite not satisfied to safety. Everywhere Want has given place to Waste, and Frugality to Fat-living.

Stricken with Sitomania

        Indeed, over-eating which, once upon a time, economic conditions mercifully confined to a negligible minority — the so-called "idle rich" — who could afford to over-indulge and incur the chronic or acute disorders it entailed, is now a form of dissipation within everybody's means. The result is that at present the whole population is stricken with Sitomania, and the doctors can do nothing about it, because, as far as I have been able to discover, they do not recognise it as a potent cause of morbidity. Indeed, strange as it may seem, Sitomania, unlike Dipsomania, has, for some unknown reason, so far contrived to escape both popular censure and official and police disapproval. One never hears of anybody, however bloated and plethoric, being arrested as a recidivist, Sitomaniac, or being summoned for being in charge of a car while in a state of dizziness after a far too heavy meal.
        It is therefore with complete immunity that the vast millions of Great Britain now consistently and shamelessly over-eat; and the spectacle of grossly over-nourished men and women (particularly the latter) not only adds to the innumerable eyesores of our cities, towns and countryside, but also helps to explain the rising toll of sickness and disease which now cripples our ever-expanding and ruinously expensive Health Services. Even the young are not free from this vice, and Dr. Magnus Pyke has recently warned us that the "high feeding" is "shortening the lives of children" (BRIT. MED. JOURN. 23.8.58). Dr. H. M. Sinclair who says he has "for years carried on a lonely campaign against the over-feeding of children", also declares that it "shortens life" and "hastens chronic degenerative diseases". (Ibid. 14.12.57.)
        If widespread over-eating alone were the outcome of the Welfare State, our plight would be pitiable enough; but unfortunately this is by no means the case. Another addiction which debilitates and impairs the stamina of both old and young alike, is now equally rampant; and this is the excessive consumption both at and between meals, of all kinds of sweet-meats and sugared confections. In 1956, the nation "spent £255,000,000 on chocolates and sweets — equal to more than half a pound each every week. This was £10,000,000 more than in 1955". (DAILY MAIL, 4.6.57.) As early as 1953, it had already been reported that England is now the greatest sweet-eating nation in the world including the United States. (Ibid . 8.10.53.)
        Over twenty-five years ago, the MEDICAL PRESS AND CIRCULAR (9.11.32) pointed out that the high consumption of sugar and sweetmeats "is definitely detrimental to the health of the community, lowering resistance to disease, predisposing to catarrh and other disorders, especially in early years".

Caries rampant

        But serious affections of the epithelium of throat and bronchial tubes are not the only result of such indulgence, bad as this result is (in 1956 25,000,000 working days were lost by bronchitis alone); for an equally

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disastrous consequence is its effect on the nation's teeth. "Every dentist knows," said Mr. Godfrey Macdona Hick, "that the chief cause of the rampant caries (decay) we see to-day is the intemperate eating of sweets". (BRIT. MED. JOURN., 19.9.57); whilst over two years previously, the DAILY MAIL, on the authority of its medical staff warned the public that "undoubtedly one of the main causes of the increase of dental decay is the greatly increased consumption of sweets".
        School Dental Officers have also repeatedly reported that the teeth of the nation, especially of its juvenile members, grows every year worse and worse. "Already there are children in the older age group," says Derbyshire's School Dental Officer, "who are toothless and wear full sets of dentures; while hundreds more will be in a similar condition in a year or two after leaving school". Then, after laying the blame on excessive sweet-eating, he added, "in one infant school of over 200 pupils almost every child has 6d. a day for sweets". (TIMES, 1.8.59.) Sir John Charles, Chief M.O. of the Ministry of Education, referring to obesity in children, which is now almost as common as decayed teeth, has declared that "Too many sweets, chocolates, iced lollies and biscuits, and too much carbohydrate food" are the cause. (DAILY MAIL, 30.1.59.)

Too much money

        Much of the trouble is due to the fact that, besides being given a bad example by their elders, children, thanks to their parents' affluence, now get much too much pocket money, and start off every morning with more to spend than I had in a whole month when I was a child. Was this perhaps why I was able to retain my natural teeth until I was seventy?
        One notices, too, how seldom children now walk. From the age of about five they all have bicycles, and distances from home to school, which in the past were, to the benefit of all concerned, easily covered on foot, are now either covered on bicycles or else in the school-bus, against which abuse of the taxpayer's money and injury to the children's health. Dr. Guirdham has raised an eloquent protest. (See Chap. V of his A THEORY OF DISEASE.)
        Everywhere, in short, we see signs of far too much money in the hands of millions, whether children or adults, who know far too little about how to spend it wisely, and who have no means whatsoever of learning better ways; for even their long spells and final death agony in hospitals are never connected with their orgies of indiscriminate spending.
        Yet, despite all this widespread affluence and consistent misspending, crime increases by leaps and bounds. Our prisons are so overcrowded that cells constructed to accommodate only one prisoner now have to suffice for three; and the police cannot cope with the daily crop of acts of violence, ruffianism and brigandage, none of which, of course, can be ascribed to want. What a reflection this is on that much over-rated "Sage", Bernard Shaw, who never tired of trying to persuade us that all crime was due to poverty!

Soaring costs of health services

        Nor does the prevailing pecuniosity, with its sequels, Sitomania, Saccharomania and lack of adequate exercise, exhaust the ills accounting for the soaring costs of our Health Services, now reaching £626,000,000 a year. For the average housewife's prosperity and indolence lead her to obtain from her grocer's, foodstuffs which formerly she bought in a more natural form, or produced at home. She therefore brings home with her parcel of processed foods all kinds of subtle poisons which, because they are not instantly mortal, tend to be overlooked; and thus every day she and her family consume their appointed ration of "flour improvers", anti-staling agents, artificial colourings, preservatives and mulsifying compounds; not to mention other potentially toxic substances, now added to their food. Nor is this all; for, in the water she and her family drink there are at least two poisons, the innocuousness of which, although an official legend, is, one may be sure, a myth.

Polluted water

        As all the rivers supplying tap-water in England are polluted by sewage and industrial wastes, local authorities have now to protect the population from disease, by disinfecting their water with chemicals designed to destroy the noisome micro-organisms it contains. Hence with every drink of plain water, tea, coffee or cocoa, English people imbibe a certain amount of chlorine and sulphate of ammonia — the latter chemical serving to correct the taste; and this water is spoken of as "harmless".
        But the only meaning this word can convey is that the fluid is not immediately lethal; for it is impossible to suppose that the cumulative effect of the daily absorption of two such poisons can be wholly innocuous. And when we learn that at least the urban populations of England have, in increasing numbers, been drinking this medicated beverage ever since the turn of the century (for the first use of chlorine as a sterilizer was in 1897), we cannot wonder that, as Dr. Guirdham assures us, "the vitality of our stock is becoming impoverished". (DISEASE AND THE SOCIAL SYSTEM, 1942, Chap. V.)
        Now, until quite recently, most if not all of the rural population were protected from the scourge of piped tap-water, because they obtained their water from local wells. But unfortunately within recent times the whole of our countryside, ignorant of the consequences, began with increasing urgency to demand the luxury of disinfected sewage, enjoyed by their friends and relatives in the towns. Obese housewives, no longer willing to undergo the trifling physical exertion of carrying their pails to the village pump, were foremost in swelling the clamour for this coveted privilege. Indeed, when tap-water ultimately came to the village I inhabited, I caused consternation by refusing to have it and remaining loyal to my private well. Seeing, however, that I had left London in 1941 chiefly in order to escape from its water supply, my decision was hardly surprising. Yet, it is astonishing how seldom complaints are made. There was one such in Norwich in 1953, when the townspeople raised a groan about the vile taste of the "high chlorination" in their water, and the City Council were forced for the second time to attend to the matter. (DIS. EXPRESS, 4.9.53) But such complaints are surprisingly rare.

Ill-fated generation

        Naturally, in the atmosphere prevailing in a "Welfare State", M.P.'s of both Parties, representing rural constituencies, vied with each other in order to bully local authorities and urge them to grant innocent rustics the amenity they so ardently desired; and thus, within the last decade one of the more unpleasant rigours of a benevolent State policy has been foisted on an ill-fated generation.
        When we add to all this, the increasing pollution of the atmosphere by fuel and motor-car fumes — for the Welfare State, by enabling hundreds of thousands who hitherto were only cyclists, to possess cars of their own, have indirectly contributed to this pollution — and remember that this has greatly promoted the development of carbon dioxide in the air we breathe, we have a total sum of benefits which, like the well-meaning but fatal clout a proverbial bear administered to its master in order to rid him of a fly on his brow, may without too much exaggeration be regarded as distinctly disquieting.