What’s Going On?

It’s a funny Friday evening when, instead of crashing out in front of EastEnders with a cuppa, you decide to look out your old blog site and see if it still exists, or whether it has crumbled in to cyberspace, another million dustbytes to be recycled in to celebrity tweets and advice on where to get a really good curry.

So here it still is and as it turns out, here I still am. Which is vaguely reassuring after more than a year which has seen some interesting and not entirely helpful developments in the UK and across the Globe.

Before I ramble on (yes, I still do that), I should point out that my blog will continue to contemplate happenings from a public health perspective, because that is largely what I know and think about for at least some of the day. But I have changed its name to Pop(ulation) Culture, because I think it is time to be a bit more bold about naming what is critical for a population’s health. Effective medication and pioneering surgical techniques are amazing and fantastic and save people’s lives, but they are not the main reason for millions of people living well or otherwise. The luck of the draw that sees some of us born in to nurturing, hopeful environments full of opportunity for self-fulfilment and some of us born in to deprived, hopeless environments full of barriers remains the overwhelming determinant for our health and wellness from cradle to grave. And feel free not to take my word for it – the history of humanity has recorded this in many different ways over the millennia. From great works of fiction to great works of science, here we stand on the shoulders of giants with the same set of problems that we have always had. Some people have, some people don’t. How big does this gap need to get before we all need to shout?

I would suggest that now is a good time to shout. I am a child of the 80’s and I don’t remember too much about the zeitgeist of the day, being more interested in The Famous 5 and whether there would be enough time after school to play outside before it got dark. But I do remember that a lady called Thatcher seemed to have a lot to say and that my Grandad was livid with a man called Arthur Scargill (my Grandad was a miner and probably would have had a lot to say on a blog if that sort of thing had been around in his day).

Today, I am seeing a lot of echoes of the 80s and not very subtle ones at that. The economy rules the roost and the freedom of the markets is protected above any other ideal, the general idea being that the market knows best. I am not an economist, but I do know that I have never met a non-sentient process that is able to factor in the complexities of human life and churn out a single solution to the myriad of issues that we face. How on earth can we expect an unregulated process to decide what is best for a population? And how did we get to a place in popular thinking that has decided that economic growth is the thing that we need to focus all our efforts on in order to thrive. Have we gone stark raving bonkers? Where’s the balance? Where’s the acknowledgement that it takes everyone and all sorts to develop and support a healthy, thriving population?

At this juncture, I should point out that I do not think that the people who are keen on this plan are malign despots who wish to destroy the fabric of society and hollow out all that is intrinsic to the soul of a population. I have met a good few of these folk and they are as mixed as the people on the other side of the fence. There are some very decent people who genuinely think that this is the way to opportunity and plenty for all. They see the failures of the other extreme and think that this is the curative, fix all remedy. Similarly, (and I am trying to steer clear of party politics here, but it gets tricky so bear with) if you want to fix something that has gone awry, throwing the baby out with the bathwater will mean that you lose some good stuff and also the opportunity of listening to and being heard by the people who liked the baby a lot.

More blogs to follow on the fairly dire state of UK politics and what it means for the health of our population (which will inevitably lead to musings on the health of our health system at some point), but here and now (before I catch up with EastEnders) I would just like to put my vote in for a bit of balance. We are out of kilter with our own health and wellbeing. We have forgotten to value people for the simple fact that they are human and have put too much value on what they represent in terms of power or financial wealth. Without regulation, our systems and our markets have responded to this impetus and we in turn have been shaped by these systems supplying us with endless reasons to value power and wealth above other far healthier infatuations.

So time to stop the blame game, we are all at fault and none of us are at fault (depending what side of the ideological divide you sit). And time to shout (or at least say in a voice that can be heard)… “how are you” to your neighbour (whether they are sitting in a Ferrari or at a bus stop makes no odds – everyone’s health is better for a friendly hand); “thanks very much” to the person who has survived 70 more years than you on this earth and just offered you their trolley at the supermarket; “would you like a cup of tea” to the woman down the road who has 3 kids and risked life and limb to get to a place where her children won’t be shot at; and “please stop and listen” to the decision maker who is also human and may just need a bit of a wake-up call (hope springs eternal).

Thanks for stopping by!

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