TCS Daily

London Calling

By Russell Seitz - November 21, 2003 12:00 AM

When Air Force One landed in Britain, London's mayor, "Red Ken" Livingstone hastened to roll up the carpet at City Hall. Only protestors dancing in the streets were welcomed to the reception he gave in dishonor of America's President.


In an interview with The Ecologist magazine, Livingstone said: "I actually think that Bush is the greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen. The policies he is initiating will doom us to extinction." He added: "I don't formally recognise George Bush because he was not officially elected."


The Ecologist prides itself upon: "contemplating and considering the world we live in and the myriad ways we find to destroy it and ourselves." In its current issue, an "explosive 16-page... report lifts the lid on the world's most dangerous white powder." Smallpox spores? Weaponized anthrax? Smack? Crack? Botox? Plutonium? No, The Ecologist is talking about the hard stuff -- sugar.


Twenty years ago, in the dark days of Baroness Thatcher's hegemony, The Ecologist tells us that the doyen of British advertising firms, Saatchi &Saatchi, won the "'silver award' for the most outstanding public service campaign." It was "commissioned by the UK's Health Education Council (HEC)" in an effort to banish sucrose from Britain's shores. But the syrupy empire struck back, hiring the same firm to warn Britons that even their most beloved sandwiches were bulging with second hand sugar -- it's 80% of a cucumber's dry weight.


Both campaigns went down like lead balloons, but HEC lurched on from bureaucratic strength to strength. Later in the 1980's, "a task force coordinated by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) was set up... 'to shape government policy on diet and health'. In a move that foreshadowed the current government's efforts to 'involve all stakeholders' in decision-making." Stakeholders don't come any larger than The European Parliament, and in 2000 its minions gathered in Crete to craft the colossus a sharp instrument guaranteed to forever nail the demon sugar to the bottom of its grave: "The Eurodiet."


It's likely to surface again with Tony Blair's Cool Britain in the vanguard. "At the beginning of 2003" The Ecologist continues," the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued 'Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases'," a report so full of notions ranging from the organic to the biodegradable that it needs to be refrigerated to prevent fermentation.


The oddest is that it strictly limits sugars from cane and corn syrup to 10% of the calories of the human diet, while excluding those in milk and fruit from regulation.


This occult organicism makes one reflect on a deeper mystery of the human organism -- one that touches on molecular biology. What perverse symmetry within the human genome is it that dictates that the appearance of an entrepreneurial genius is often accompanied by a fall of nutcases from his family tree?


The late Sir James Goldsmith, capitalist extraordinaire and Tory grandee was brother to, and subsidizer of, The Ecologist's founder; one of the Rockefeller cousins strives to save the world from the ravages of flush toilets; and a sprig of the Nestle family is famously "Appalled by the nature and intensity of" campaigns by Big Chocolate and the Sugar Baddies to subvert the Eurodiet by leaving you at liberty to: "choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars."


Yet there is hope for Goldsmith the younger -- at times he reverts to the libertarian mean exemplified by his more intelligent older brother. Turn the page and The Ecologist warns of the coming of "the nano-panopticon -- ... the emergence of a future without privacy in which every aspect of society will be tracked, measured and visible from the bottom up."


Imagine a dystopian capital where surveillance cameras track every license plate that enters, and computers can levy fines on city dwellers for driving around the block in search of a parking space without filing a flight plan and paying a road congestion fee.


It's not Fritz Lang's Metropolis, its Red Ken's merry old London, where bottomless punch bowls likely adorned the groaning boards as the clock rolled round to the midnight ball Ken threw for all who came to make the town rock as they redefine 'special relationship' by "organising an alternative reception for everybody who's not George Bush." Sounds like it must have been the best tea party since Boston; I hope the March Hare brought plenty of sugar. Anything beats Ken's latest cocktail: Peoples Gin shaken violently with Turkish Delight.



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