Our obsessive risk culture.

I resolve to be resolute. Yet happenchance always tests one’s resolution.

So, in this year of 2016 as I and many of my peers approach our 7th decade of life (some already pioneering), we’re well into the commentary of our lives. And yet I hang on to the illusion that I am still able to think anew, to make sense of all the bollocks and weirdness and perhaps think that the younger self did have some good ideas.

Feeling a little flat of late, call it ‘The Stanley Phase’, which I’ve put down to the over-indulgence of the ‘festive season’ and perhaps an understandable part of the crabby world. I’ve another scan due soon and it raises fears and anxieties. Having drunk a fair amount of wine and a little ale and still suffering from soreness of throat and neck I start to think is it recurring? Am I responsible for bringing about a possible recurrence? Not so long ago the maladjusted daily mail blazoned headlines that almost all cancers are caused by lifestyle. So all you smokers, drinkers, eaters of red meat, fast food junkies, sitters on sofas made with dodgy chemicals, users of certain types of frying pans, salt users, air breathers, mail readers, non-exercisers, mothers, blue cheese eaters, and oh so many others it’s your own bleedin’ fault!

And then I read an article by the pulchritudinous (I kept using the word lovely too much) Zoe Williams and my interest is piqued with the term ‘risk aversion’ in the byline. And those who know me well know I have long been interested in risk, and not just the board game, which took on a new level when they brought out Lord of the Rings Risk.

She focuses on pregnancy, because this is an area of life that has been risk aversed to a remarkable degree. For example 9 years ago the Department of Health advised pregnant women (rarely are men pregnant) with ‘vague guidelines’ of 1 or 2 units of alcohol once or twice a week, and now it’s no alcohol at all. This is based on no evidence of the effects of moderate alcohol intake on pregnancy. It takes little imagination to picture the way most people would now look at a pregnant woman enjoying a simple drink of a martini or two.

And so more and more stuff is blamed on ‘individual behaviour’, on ‘lifestyle choices’ (what an ugly term), there is less place for simple happenchance, the actually ‘normal risk’ of human existence. And as the onus is put more on the individual the spotlight is averted from the purveyors of much that is wrong with our modern world (the media, the corporates, the kleptos, the tts). And then Zoe refers to a sociologist, Ellie Lee who pontificates on the ‘obsessive risk culture’, I like the association of obsessive with risk, and how it’s rise has gone alongside the ‘end of ideology’, the idea that we can create a better future. And so we are left with a perpetually increasing culture of blaming individuals for their individual choices and little sense of the ‘broader picture’. So many examples to choose from but one fairly recent one was Jamie Oliver and his campaign to reduce sugar intake which has increasingly clear evidence linking excessive sugar intake with many disorders. And the government and corporate response? It’s individual responsibility and they need do nothing to change their ways.

And yes Angry Young Man, I can hear you, we need to talk more about this ‘individual responsibility’ stuff but within the context of ‘corporate responsibility’, ‘educational responsibility’, propaganda, Chomskyan manufactured consent and other stuff.

And then there’s nicky morgan, current minister for fucking up education. She slipped quietly out over the Christmas period that a recent high court pronouncement that GCSE religious education studies should include religious and non-religious beliefs would have ‘no impact’ on RE teaching. That there is no obligation on schools to teach non-religious beliefs. What a twat.

Keep on keeping on, love Duncan.



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