Wednesday, 1 May 2013

They're Messing With Our Minds

I mentioned going to see Barbara, a film set in East Germany, a while back. There was one aspect of seeing it though that I didn't go into then.

I'm referring to the dreadful conversation me and my husband had as we were coming home after the screening. He said, 'I know it's ridiculous, but every time anyone got into one of those awful Ladas, I got distracted with wishing they'd all put their seatbelts on' and I said, 'Oh, me too - plus every time Barbara got on her bike, I kept worrying about the fact that she wasn't wearing a helmet.'

In the film we glimpsed the odd East German slogan - 'Believe in the bright future of your fine socialist nation', that kind of maddening exhortation - and at the time I thought, 'Ugh, how absolutely awful'. Now though I realise that those things weren't too bad really. They must have been annoyingly ubiquitous but at least they were too flat-footed and obvious to be genuinely insidious, whereas the messages we've absorbed from our local government have been much more subtle.

I thought I disapproved of bicycle helmets and all other aspects of the state interfering in how I do things, yet somehow, without billboards or megaphones, I've been silently brainwashed. And heaven knows how many other nanny initiatives I am equally meekly in thrall to, all unawares.

It's no good worrying about it, I decide. Instead, I'll seek comfort in a nourishing glass of gin. But even that's hopeless - my head, it turns out, is awash with messages about moderate drinking and government guidelines - and one thing I'm pretty sure of is that it's only when you get to what the authorities would consider immoderate levels of consumption that the comforting qualities of alcohol kick in.


  1. Well since the guidelines for alcohol consumption were made up and have no empirical basis, I would drink the gin.

    My senior cardiologist friend - and this has been confirmed by others in a similar position - told me that the negatives of alcohol consumption only outweigh the negatives of being a teetotolar once you get past, for men, 60/65 units(UK) a week.

    Drink up. And relax.

    1. I've just been thinking about Edwina Currie, so that is good news indeed

  2. Barbara on her bicycle was elegant enough that I at least didn't think about helmets; and my family has managed some pretty impressive spills from bicycles. But I notice people all the time riding without helmets, a very few of them possibly as attractive as Barbara. That I didn't notice the lack of helmet in the movie is probably because her rides all seemed to happen on deserted roads--no landscaper's truck was going to drive her into the ditch.

    At the risk of shocking you, I will confess that I road almost a mile today in a taxi without fastening my seat belt, though usually I'm punctilious about them. Does that diminish the weight of my remarks about the helmet? After all, didn't everyone in the movie smoke quite a lot as well?

  3. I cycled to town without a helmet today. I hate the things. But I've been taught what I should think about them. As to the smokes, I just wish they weren't bad for you. I used to enjoy having a fag of an evening, until they spoiled it all by implanting the idea in my mind that large pools of tar were adhering to the inside of my lungs every time I took a puff. Kind of took the fun out of things.