Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Is it worth a candle?

Tonight dinner at FatBigot Towers will consist of one of the finest meals in my modest repertoire and a bottle of even finer wine, because today is this blog's first birthday. I could claim to light a candle in celebration but I would fib because the truth is that a candle always burns in the evening here (it's a fine way to prevent stale ciggy odours greeting one for breakfast).

Thinking of this anniversary and of candles I was reminded of the phrase "not worth a candle", meaning something of such little use or value that it is not worth lighting a candle to view it. It seems only appropriate to discuss a subject I would place in that category, namely, counselling.

Most of the true evils of the modern world can be identified by asking whether they existed fifty years ago. I don't mean things - microwave ovens, mobile telephones, computers and the like - I mean methods of human interaction that are claimed by self-appointed "progressives" to ease life's problems. We are infected by a whole host of people whose "work" is claimed to make life better. They tell us what we should and should not eat, drink, drive, see, read, think and goodness only knows what else. None of them has any expertise in anything, they just regurgitate a message fed from on high by "progressives". Let's take a look at eating a drinking.

We should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, they tell us. The message necessarily suggests that eating fewer than five portions a day is harmful. They know they could never get away with saying eating fewer than five is harmful because it would be unsupported by any evidence, so it is put in advisory terms. There is only so much satisfaction in advising people to eat more grapes so a subtle change of emphasis turns it into a minimum dietary standard, thereby turning advice into a requirement and adding weight to the lie implicit in the initial advice. It doesn't much matter how you define a portion because the whole thing is utter tosh. To live in a state of reasonable health we need a combination of protein, carbohydrates and vitamins. We each require a particular balance of the three in order to be able to stave-off diseases of malnutrition. Some are perfectly fit and well and maintain regular bowel movements despite eating small quantities of vegetative matter, others get clogged at the drop of a hat unless they take a whole savoy cabbage and nine pears a day. Five-a-day is far more than many need and less than some need. It is an invented figure. Those employed to promote it are spokespeople for a cause not medical professionals. Yet the message has been pushed so hard and so often it has taken on legitimacy by repetition. And those who promote it are given legitimacy. Their work is now vital because eating five-a-day has been deemed necessary.

We should not drink more than so-many units of alcohol per week, they tell us. I know not and care not what the current figure is because every weekly figure they have ever come up with seems to me to be more appropriate as a recommended daily minimum. Let's call a spade a spade I'm a drunk, my level of consumption of alcohol is off their scale but it also isn't the point. The recommended levels of consumption are simply invented figures, plucked out of thin air and given a thin veil of respectability by not being absurdly low. Those employed to promote these fictitious limits are spokespeople for a cause not medical professionals. They too are deemed to be necessary because the lie they tell has become the official standard to which everyone must comply.

The "work" of fruit and booze advisors / consultants is pointless in practice as well as being patently dishonest. Find me someone who eats more fruit and veg or drinks less booze by reason of this army of expensive naggers. Just one, that's all I ask; one person who has been persuaded by the nagging but would not have been persuaded by reading a sensible message about balanced nutrition or the possible effects of drinking more than your body can tolerate. I suspect that such people are as rare as those whose lives were ruined by failing the Eleven-Plus exam but would now be living in bliss if only comprehensive education existed when they were ten years old.

It just so happens that current mandatory "advice" on the intake of fruit, veg and booze is based on lies. That it is based on lies makes it particularly objectionable but it would be objectionable anyway. It is dressed up as scientific advice being delivered by experts when it is nothing of the sort, it is a robotic message thrust at us by people who require no special knowledge or skill in order to hold down their superannuated positions.

The reason I mention these two hideous areas of governmental waste is that they are, at heart, pseudo-science. Humans lived perfectly well for centuries without it. Malnutrition in the past was not the result of ignorance but of lack of nutritious food. Starvation in Africa today is not the result of the parents not knowing how to feed their children, it is the result of insufficient food for the size of population. If they had the food they would eat it. Suggest to them that they would benefit from someone telling them what they should eat and the most likely response is: "sod that, don't pay them, spend the money on food for us". No one needs food and drink advisors, let alone food and drink advisors paid for out of dwindling tax receipts. The whole thing is a nonsense based on a perceived need that simply does not exist.

And that is where we arrive at counselling.

Did widows in the two World Wars suffer to the end of their days because the death of their husbands was not eased by a visit from a fat baggage in a crocheted shawl? Of course not. The widows grieved as we all grieve when we lose a loved one or, as the case may be, as many spouses grieve when they lose someone who made their life a misery. Then they stuck their chin in the air and said "that won't put food on the table" and got on with life. Of course many of them felt the need to talk about their grief, they did so to relatives and friends who would help ease the blow. There was no magic in it. Auntie Flo didn't need a degree in social work and four weeks of refresher courses a year in order to know what to do and say when her beloved niece cried on her shoulder. She did what human beings have always done, she responded to the situation and gave support as best she could. And she always said "life goes on".

When a landslide killed 116 children (and 28 adults) in Aberfan in 1966 were the parents unable to cope with life because of an absence of people they didn't know sitting in their living rooms? Of course not. They had to get on with life as best they could. Did they talk about it? Of course they did if they wanted to, and they did so to family and friends and anyone who would listen in the pub. I think I can guess what the reaction would have been in a little mining village in Wales to the descent upon them of "professional counsellors" - two short words, the second of which is "off".

These days something awful happens and the television, radio and newspaper reports inform us that the victims have been offered or are being given counselling. It is described like an established medical procedure. "Mr Bigot had another cardiac infarction, he was given morphine to ease the pain, clopidogeral to dissolve blood clots and counselling." Yet it is nothing but pseudo-science, touchy-feely "we share your pain" twaddle. If people need to talk about a traumatic event they will do so. That's one of the many reasons we developed an extensive network of pubs. Getting something off your chest doesn't require any expertise in the listener, it just requires an ear, preferably one that just listens. Seeking advice about how to move your life forward doesn't need a tax-funded sympathiser, it needs family and friends who can give the combination of genuine sympathy and tough love. For those with no family and friends who can fulfill that role they will find it in any good landlord or landlady of a pub or proprietor of a teashop and all for the cost of a few pints or a pot of English Breakfast and a buttered scone.

There is a very simple test of whether we need counsellors and that is to ask whether they would exist if people had to pay for them out of their own pockets. Some with deep pockets might do so, and more fool them. For the same reason the human race has existed happily in the past without these barnacles, we can exist happily without them now. OK, so there might be some benefit in a tiny number of cases where the counsellor does a better job than Joe and Doris behind the bar at the Dog and Duck. But I have no doubt that the institutionalisation of counselling as a response to trauma has a significant negative effect. It formalises the notion that outsiders are better able to give help than those close to us. Nothing could be further from the truth. It also places the State as the first port of call in times of difficulty, a recipe for disaster if ever there was.

Counselling is one of the aspects of modern life that makes me truly angry. So angry that it has become an obsession. Indeed I am so obsessed I must address the problem, I might need counselling. No no no ... gin and tonic does it so much better.

Happy anniversary.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Mr FatBigot, as always an entertaining, and as almost always, a perceptive post.

Best wishes,
Andrew W

Mild Mannered Welshman said...

Happy anniversary FB. I trust the wine was to your taste?

Terry said...

Happy 1st FB. I've been reading your blog since I discovered it in February and thoroughly enjoy your well reasoned observations.

Roger Sowell said...

Happy anniversary, Mr. FB! This blog is a must read, thanks to you.

I want to bring to your attention another law-related blog from the U.S. viewpoint, that perhaps you would enjoy.


The writer is a law professor from whom I took a class in Constitutional Law, and a class in Agency and Partnership Law.

Pogo said...

Happy "birthday" FB.

With you all the way on pseudoscience and psychobollocks.

It irritates me beyond belief when I see "it's part of your 5-a-day" in advertising - you're so right about the Gorbelsian "repetition until fiction becomes fact" methods that are now passed off as "science". I wonder if there is anything more fatuous than the "drink responsibly" tags on adverts - those who take notice amost inevitably do so anyway whereas those who need the advice won't give a shit.

In a former life I was a Samaritan and we used to dispense tea and a friendly ear to loads of people who'd been counselled into the ground - most of whom reckoned that the conselling made things worse rather than better.

Don't let the drink and good food carry you off too soon. :-)

delcatto said...

Happy First Blog Birthday.

As for counsellors I wholeheartedly concur.

Charon QC said...

A fine Anniversary.... do not stop.. you must do your duty... For England, Harry Pothead and Gorgeous George...

A year goes by quickly at our age.... mind you, this is nothing to do with Einstein... but the quality and quantity of wine!

Drink on... it seems to do the business on your blog.

Bob's Head Revisited said...

Happy anniversary FB. I raise my glass of Leffe Blonde to a very fine blogger. Cheers!

Keep it up, your country needs you!


TheFatBigot said...

Thank you everyone.

Dinner was home made steak and mushroom pie with rosti potatoes, a massive pile of runner beans and a sea of powerful gravy. Washed down with a modestly priced by superb Rioja from the Sunday Times Wine Club. What a happy plump boy I was.

J Bonington Jagworth said...

A bit late, but happy anniversary, anyway! That dinner sounds delicious...

You've reminded me that I caught a bit of a debate on R4 yesterday between a supporter of 'cognitive behavioural therapy' (the name says it all, IMO) and a sceptic. It rather reinforced my general belief that psychotherapy is common sense elevated to a science. Nice work if you can get it, though.