Monday, November 27, 2006

On a broad front

Apologies for the recent lack of posts but I have been having great fun setting up my new computer - I like new toys.

Well, we fatties are in the papers again.

First the bad news, Blair announces a new social contract. Of course it is nothing of the sort. Rather, it is like the kind of list you get with your insurance renewal documents headed, 'amendments to your policy schedule'. There, in impenetrable prose and near invisible print, are the clauses that mean that your property is no longer insured for simple everyday events such as fire, flood or theft. So worried are they by the future prospect of rising sea levels that they will now only pay up for a flood if it is caused by a prehistoric sea monster coming up the Humber. What this social contract really is is a new set of conditionalities for citizens to be able to get the services they have paid for and, up until now, have had a reasonable expectation of receiving.

So what sins should prevent the automatic receipt of health care? Dead right, being fat is prominent amongst them…

"Examples include an expectation that a local health authority will only offer a hip replacement if the patient undertakes to keep their weight down".

So what will they do if you renege on the pledge? Kidnap you, whip out the new hip and put your old one back? Of course, what it really will be used for is to refuse people the treatment they need. Someone like me who has struggled with his weight all his life will approach a whippet-like doctor who eats like a horse and can't put on an ounce who will then use this chance fact as evidence of his moral superiority to condemn those who have committed the sin of gluttony to a life of pain as suitable punishment.

I have a different idea. How about basing it on contributions paid. All teetotallers will have to pay a surcharge due to the amount of tax they avoided by drinking carrot juice all their sad lives. Non-smokers have paid even less … hold on … I don't smoke … better start again.

On a more serious note, as a left libertarian, I believe that collective action is necessary to ensure security. It is only when we have that security that we can be really free to make different choices, to take risks. Security can only be achieved if it is unconditional. The welfare state was always meant to be the source of our security but the more it is hedged by conditions, the less it can act in that way. Worse, as conditions are shaped by middle-class conventional wisdom or even downright prejudice, the more likely it will be that the welfare state will be an agent of social control rather than liberation.

Well, that has given the new keyboard a bashing. Now for the good news.

Top of the NME's cool list is a substantial singer, Beth Ditto. I had never heard of her, or incidentally of the cool list, until the other morning. There she was on stage; ample, dimpled flesh bulging from a swimsuit. The headline? "Fat, out and proud". Good on you Beth. A hero for our time. Just don't get a bad hip.

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