2 years ago
Inspired by a sign I have just read at the local hospital A and E department, I had to rush home (after my treatment of course) and write this. I hope you enjoy it and can agree with my sentiments.
Last week, in most parts of the UK, it briefly stopped raining, the clouds broke and we had, what used to be known as, “a few nice days.” But times change. What I thought was a bit of good weather, was nothing of the sort. It was apparently, according to the government, a potentially hazardous weather event, deserving of a Level Two Alert.
Now this is all new to me. When I was a lad, you only got something as ominous-sounding as a Level Two Alert if there was an impending risk of a nuclear attack, or worse. The fleeting appearance of sunshine after months of gloom was cause for celebration, not a signal to take refuge in a windowless room in your underwear until it went away again.
You may think I’m overstating the case, but I just checked on the advice given by the NHS during a Level Two Alert (we’re talking of temperatures hovering around 28 degrees here by the way). Here are some of the highlights:
- Stay tuned to the weather forecast on the TV or radio. If you’re planning to travel, check the forecast at your destination, too.
- Plan ahead. Stock up with supplies so that you don't need to go out during extreme heat. Think about what medicines, food and non-alcoholic drinks you'll need.
- Keep plenty of water to hand and stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Identify the coolest room in the house, so you can go there to keep cool.
- Don't go outside between 11 am and 3 pm as this is the hottest part of the day. Spend time in the shade and avoid strenuous activity.
- Drink water or fruit juice regularly. Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol. If you do drink alcohol make sure you have lots of water or other non-alcoholic drinks as well.
- Keep rooms cool by using shade or reflective material external to the glass, or if not possible by closing pale coloured curtains. Metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter.
- Keep the windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside. If safe, open windows at night when the air is cooler.
It sounds a bit like something you might have to do after a chemical warfare attack, doesn’t it? Can you imagine how hard a native of the Costa Del Sol would laugh if he saw that? He’d be almost as helpless as a Norwegian, experiencing our governments reaction to a sprinkling of snow for the first time.
Now here’s the thing…you and I are pretty special. Why? Because we are the cream of the cream…the ultimate product of millions of years of evolution. Our ancestors were the smart ones – the ones best suited to survival. That’s how they lived long enough to reproduce, and then their offspring lived long enough to reproduce and so on. And I’d be prepared to wager that they managed to do that by reacting in the appropriate way to a bit of hot weather without needing to have some busybody telling them what they should do. The evolutionary process deselected the “I don’t know I’m hot and thirsty” gene right about the same time as the “Let’s challenge a tiger to a fist fight” one.
I’m only guessing here, but I reckon that when our smart ancestors got a bit hot during the day they took some clothes off and sheltered in the shade, perhaps under a tree or in a cave. They probably got more thirsty than normal and so they reacted to that by drinking some more water. If they had work to do, they probably decided to do it early in the day before it got really warm, or later when the sun wasn’t quite so strong.
Nobody had to tell them to do any of this because it came naturally to them, and guess what…it comes naturally to you and I too. If we get too hot, we know about it and try to find somewhere cooler to sit. If we start to dehydrate we get thirsty and this is a sure-fire signal for us to drink. If it’s too hot to work, we reorganise our schedule for the cooler parts of the day. If we didn’t have these instincts or the common sense to do these things, we wouldn’t exist because natural selection would have zapped our genes hundreds of generations ago. These are the same instincts that cause us to put a jumper on or turn up the central heating a couple of notches when it gets a bit chilly. It doesn’t stop the government issuing equally patronising and insulting warnings though, when the thermometer approaches zero.
I want you to consider for a moment that there are people somewhere, who are being paid (by you and I through our taxes) to prepare and disseminate this information. They are being paid to warn people about weather conditions they are perfectly capable of dealing with themselves, and paradoxically, precisely the conditions which many of them regularly endure the misery of international air travel to seek out.
I understand the government are looking for ways to cut public spending. Perhaps they could start there.
If cost was the only issue here, it might be just irritating, but there’s something far more insidious going on, something that attacks at the very heart of our status as free-thinking individuals, and our ability to progress as a society.
You see, I come from a generation that can see how ridiculous all this is, and perhaps you do too. We know that we don’t need ludicrous warnings and advice like this. We managed to survive perfectly well without them before, and we can laugh at them. But what if you’re a child growing up now? What if you’re being brought up in an environment where no hazard is so small that it doesn’t require the government to tell you how to deal with it - an environment where a bit of warm weather is cause for the state to issue instructions for dealing with it?
And if you come to accept that you need the state to tell you how to behave when there’s a bit of sunshine, in what other areas of your life might you readily accept state interference? In what other areas of your life might you willingly devolve responsibility, and become blindly dependent on the state for guidance and instruction?
It seems as though the capacity for individual thought, action and responsibility is being eroded away on an almost daily basis. Replacing it, is a society in which the individual is treated as some stupid unthinking drone who must be instructed and directed in the most basic of tasks. It’s a way of thinking which can only send us backwards as a society, because real progress is only ever made by free thinking individuals who take risks, and take full responsibility for those risks. Real progress is rarely, if ever, made by governments.
So as adults, I reckon we should take every opportunity to pour ridicule and scorn on unwarranted interference of the state in stuff which shouldn’t concern it. We owe that much to our children, who will only reap the rewards of their genetic survival by taking responsibility for their own actions.
And they can’t do that if they think it’s perfectly okay for Gordon Brown or any other politician for that matter to tell them when to wear a hat.
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