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RAISING THE TONE

08-03-2007

Not content with creating a new word - willy-nillily -Laurence Inman rages against Muckfurters and praises the Australians. Can I have some of what he's on?

In Australia they've just banned old-style light-bulbs. From now on you have to buy those long-life ones. This is to save energy, reduce their carbon-footprint, set an example to the rest of the world in the battle against global warming, or whatever; the reason is not as important as the fact that they have done it.

In a world where something called ‘freedom' is held to be the highest virtue, they have told their country, a whole continent, that there is something they will no longer be allowed to consume, for the greater good not only of themselves, but also the rest of the world.

Now, I realise that the companies which make the new light-bulbs are probably the same as those which made the old ones, but even so; a democratic government has made a decision over and above the commercial considerations of an industry.

And then, just last week, Prince Charles of Wales, on one of his trips somewhere, doing whatever it is he does in these places, hinted that he thought a certain chain of fast-food outlets should be banned.

I won't name them because I don't want to be sucked into a libel action for the next twenty years, and I know The Stirrer couldn't afford it, so we'll just call them Muckfurters. (Interesting that the words ‘chain' and ‘outlet' seem so naturally to be linked with them.)

Banned. Yes, he said it! The B-word. That first tiny, groping, slimy tentacle of an approaching Nanny-State! The all-powerful, all-seeing Finger of Rectitude sticking its presence into all our private lives, making our minds up for us, knowing what's good for us, even before we do ourselves!

Sorry. I came over all Daily Mail for a minute there.

Actually, I don't mind some things being banned. Murder, for instance. Or frightening strangers in the street. And my Nanny was a very nice old woman, and she did know what was good for me.

Freedom is not, to quote Janis Joplin, just another word for nothing left to lose. It denotes a very difficult and many-faceted concept, one which taxed the intellects of people like Plato, Kant and John Stuart Mill. All the more amazing then that people like Tone and Bush should bandy it about so willy-nillily.

Where does my freedom end and somebody else's licence begin?

I think I know the exact answer to that question. The exact when and where. It was on Kings Heath High Street in about 1984, when Muckfurters opened the sluices on their two-millionth UK outlet. My house is exactly the distance from that outlet that it takes a normal man, having consumed ten pints or lager, to finish a Munga-Mega-Muckfurterburger and Fries.

He then throws the polystyrene box and paper bags down the entrance to the tunnel under my house. Every week. He gets a few paces down the street then pukes up the lot in my mate Dave's front garden.

Neither Dave nor I asked for this. In fact, nobody did. Nobody in Kings Heath or its environs was asked if they wanted Muckfurters to infest the High Street. If they had been, and if all the unsavoury facts about them had been made available (fat, salt and sugar contents, treatment of non-union casual workers, treatment of cattle minced up to make the stuff, garbage down my tunnel) and we had been allowed a vote, it could only have gone one way.

A ban.

But also a victory. A victory for local democracy, for health, for decency, for streets free of the detritus of global consumerism and money-grabbing American corporations.

Perhaps when Tone's gone we can be a bit more Australian in our attitude towards these things and start doing some real banning. (Have you noticed that panicky look in Tone's eyes whenever he's confronted with even a vaguely radical idea ? ‘Who's going to shout at me about this ?' it says. ‘The Daily Mail ? Rupert ? George ? God ?')

Or the road lobby, the mobile-phone lobby, the fast-food lobby, the supermarket lobby, the let's-reduce-life-to-a-pointless-treadmill-of-eating-and-crapping-and-whining lobby.

I'd start a Greet Life Lobby and put it up on Tone's website.But I don't want to see that look in his eyes any more.

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