A minor explosion of middle-class parenting angst (I reckon it’s their hormones) has followed the Myerson saga. For instance, families are now being torn apart by the skunk epidemic, according to the Observer. Yes, that was the Observer, not the Daily Mail. I checked. (Disease metaphors for society. Don’t you just love them?)
“It is the end of a taboo: articulate, middle-class parents are speaking out about the nightmare of seeing their children spiral into drug abuse and, all too often, mental illness. Many blame themselves for staying silent, assuming that modern strains of cannabis were little different from the pot that baby boomers smoked at college. The reality is very different” (from the Observer)
I’m going to skip past the embedded semiotics, because it’s boring and pretty blatant. (e.g. “at college” – the politician’s way of trying to imply a merging of excusable youthful folly and underlying respectability; “articulate middle class” as if no one else’s experience counts, and so on.) Basically, some “baby boomers” have grown old, changed their views and some have privileged access to the media. In the way of the world, they have become their parents, but – hopelessly self-indulgent – they don’t want to acknowledge this or accept that they themselves might have ever made mistakes. it was only purely innocent substances they didn’t inhale. So, it’s just the next generation who must be wrong.
A commenter (called ILoveMaxGogarty ) on Anne Perkins’ Guardian article made a sarcastic reference to the “skunk pandemic.” Great phrase.
But that particular moral panic is just one in the pandemic of pandemics that we are apparently facing. Alcohol and obesity are perennial favourites. Barely a day goes by without some hand-wringing and new initiative to deal with these. Both can apparently be addressed by taxing the poor more.
Clearly, if you’re well off enough to pay more for alcohol and sweets, they don’t harm you. But , if you aren’t well off, they are really quite dangerous. I think we should follow this idea to its logical conclusion then. No tax on vintage champagnes or hand-made Swiss chocolates. £1000% taxes on cider and own-brand chocolate-flavour biscuits.
Ignore the complex combination of biological, psychological and social factors that shape our behaviour. Every social ill can be solved by blaming the victims, spending money on advertising and taxing the poor more.
Modern “epidemics” are so strange. These are the only epidemics where you can happily blame the victims, even express contempt for them without anyone thinking that you are morally reprehensible. It seems that we actually eat fewer calories than people did 50 years ago (according to the Office of National Statistics.)
But we can still view “obese” people as ravening gluttons, who deserve to die because of their sinfulness. And see ourselves as “good” because we didn’t take a slice of cake.
If only these medical ideas had been around in the middle ages. If only the rich had just taxed the peasants more heavily, the Black Death could have been eliminated. Ah, I understand now that the feudal landlords have been greatly misunderstood. They were really taxing the peasants on health grounds, to avoid the dangers of millet-related obesity or mead-binges. Throwing recalcitrant peasants off their land probably even qualifies as tough love, even.