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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Reading a newspaper can seriously damage your health.

Today's Daily Telegraph is replete with stories (some of them extremely obvious) of gloom, confusion, and worse, any solution being nigh on impossible.

We are greeted by a story that 'compulsive materialism' is destroying family life. This was backed up by an earlier report by UNICEF, in 2007, ranking Britain and twenty other 'developed' (whatever that might mean) countries. Brace yourself for the results... child welfare 21st (or if you prefer, last), self-esteem 21st, teenage pregnancies 20th, educational standards 18th.

The latest UNICEF report suggests that an obsession with buying goods (a bit of an unfortunate use of the word) for our children, rather than spending time with them, is one of the underlying causes of the riots that gripped London and other major English cities recently. The logic applied beggars belief. If the rioters came from families where they were already being spoiled with an abundance of designer labels then, why plunder more? If, on the other hand, the looters came from financially disadvantaged families, where expensive goods were not the norm, then why steal them, as they would rather spend time with their parents than have tangible trophies?

This same UNICEF report suggests that the government should ban advertising aimed at children under the age of 12 and encourage parents to work shorter hours. Seems an excellent idea, but this is in diametrical opposition to the government's intention of getting those same people to work more years to cover the costs of pensions.

On the same day that we have the UNICEF report, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) also puts the boot in. When it comes to teenagers becoming NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) Britain is right up there with the worst of them, ranking 9th out of 32... unfortunately, the higher the place means the higher the likelihood of being a NEET.

The Daily Telegraph continues the Armageddon-like 'news' with another OECD report pointing out that Britain is the third most expensive place in the world to go to university, being beaten into the bronze medal position by the United States and Korea (presumably South but, you can't be too sure of anything these days). But, fear not, that Gold medal position will not escape for long as the data refers to 2008-2009 and Britain is allowing a tripling of university fees; other countries haven't got a hope in this contest.

If you are not depressed yet, here's today's clincher from the Daily Telegraph: there is 'a pandemic of drug-resistant tuberculosis spreading across Europe at an alarming rate, medical experts have warned'. This is under the headline 'London is the Tuberculosis capital of Europe'.

All these stories bring back vivid memories of two characters. One is John Laurie who played Private Frazer, the dour Scotsman and local undertaker, in the television comedy 'Dad's Army'; uttering his catchphrase of 'we're doomed, we're doomed'. The other is of a jubilant Tony Blair at his 1997 election victory party and the blaring (sorry, couldn't resist that one) music of 'Things can only get better'. Both made me laugh, albeit for different reasons. One was an extremely amusing work of fiction; wish they both had been.

Frankly, I think we've all lost the plot.

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