Iain Murray: …the world ends, not with a bang but a burger

According to a recent poll, a quarter of the population feel suicidal. Some people lay the blame with marketers: surely they exaggerate.

It is not surprising that ten per cent of respondents to a questionnaire on a medical website believed they would be better off dead.

Faced with yet another poll, who would not prefer the easy way out? To sleep, perchance to dream of a world free of busybodies, health campaigners, scaremongers, animal rights lobbyists, social engineers, and persons with clipboards?

The survey revealed that a quarter of the population saw no hope for the future and were miserably dissatisfied with their lot. “Why, oh why?” exclaimed the social commentators, hands a-wringing. We are materially better off than at any time in our history, life expectancy has never been greater, the threat of war that once rumbled ceaselessly around Europe is a distant memory. So why are we suicidally fed up?

Inevitably, the finger of suspicion points at you, dear reader. In the minds of many high-minded, comfortably-off people, marketing is the source of widespread dissatisfaction. It creates this misery by leading people to aspire to levels of comfort and degrees of physical beauty that in their hearts they know they can never attain. And with the realisation that in their comfortable homes, with all the benefits that relative prosperity and health can bestow, they will never look or feel as perpetually delighted as the golden models who serve the cause of advertising, comes despair.

While there may be some truth in this, it is greatly exaggerated. Most people realise that advertising is a world of fantasy and make due allowance. Not so easily discounted are the opinions of doctors, academics, and restless social agitators. These are the guilty people: meddlers, who for reasons of their own – self-aggrandisement, the prospect of promotion, vanity, an innate bossiness, a presumption of superiority, a desire for power – foster alarm and dismay.

Christine Webber, the psychotherapist who carried out the survey, says: “Sadly, it comes as no surprise to me that so many people are unhappy at home and work.” She doesn’t say why she is not surprised, but merely expresses her sadness that this should be so. Is she, too, a victim of the malaise?

If so, that is only to be expected. For it is often the case that those who lecture the population on the need to eat a healthy diet, take more exercise, drink less, and smoke not at all, are themselves plainly unwell. For all its shortcomings, television news demonstrates this with incomparable clarity: almost without exception, the health experts who pop up in the news bulletins are morbidly suicidal in aspect and pink about the gills. A stiff brandy would not be out of order, and my, how they would benefit from the deep solace that only a fine Havana cigar can bestow.

To judge from her picture in the papers, public health minister Yvette Cooper might benefit from a little fattening up for the winter. However, rather than concentrate on building an insulating layer of subcutaneous fat, she busies herself with warning parents that they are killing their children. Hamburger diets and increasing amounts of time spent in front of TV and computer screens are, she warns, creating a nation of children whose life expectancy is less than that of their parents. Thank heaven, then, for Government’s plan to give every child aged four to six a piece of fresh fruit in school every day. Under the terms of the Human Rights Charter each child will be free to decide what to do with its piece of tax-funded mango, eating it being merely one among many options.

If only the experts knew how miserable they made us. In a desperate attempt to follow their advice, families are now spending more on “fun” than on food and drink, the message having been absorbed that eating and drinking are sure ways to shorten one’s life. According to a survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), expenditure on leisure has overtaken that on food and drink for the first time.

But, when you see what the ONS classes as leisure, it is obvious why misery is the norm and we’re half in love with easeful death. TV, DIY, gardening and holidays are where the money is going, and each is known to be harmful. According to the Department of Trade and Industry, DIY and gardening are the cause of more serious accidents and injuries than any other activities, including sex. No one ever returns from a holiday without feeling miserable, either because the hotel was lousy or the prospect of returning to work is so dreary. As for TV, it is without doubt the single most pernicious influence on modern life. Children put in front of it wax fat, their parents moronic.

Amid all this gloom, however, there is, as ever, good news. We have long known that man’s existence is doomed. The sun, to which we owe life (and of course skin cancer), is mortal. About 5 billion years from now, give or take a year, it will explode and burn the Earth to a cinder.

The good news is we don’t have to wait that long. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, at the rate we are going all of the Earth’s natural resources will be used up by 2075 and Man will be done for. At last, a cheering thought.

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