You can’t have it both ways

THERE are few things more uncomfortable than 10 hours in economy class on a long-haul flight sitting behind someone who puts his seat back to its fully extended recline position the moment that the plane is in the air.

Unless you are very short, it means you will be barely able to move, the little screen of your personal in-flight entertainment centre will be virtually impossible to watch and getting up to go to the loo or just to stretch your cramped legs is extremely difficult..

It was at least amusing, in a bleak, crunched muscle sort of way, to watch the outraged expression of the man in front of my friend (who was mercifully asleep) when the person in front of him put their seat back so that he could no longer watch his screen from a leisurely reclined position.

Needless to say, the man in front did not bring his seat back to upright, and nor did his companion. I went to sleep eventually – boredom is even more soporific than not being able to move.

Here was somebody who simply assumed they had the right to do what they wanted, while resenting anyone else’s right to do so too. They had paid for their seat and they were going to make the most of it.

(And no, we don’t put our seats back, because we know how uncomfortable it is for the people behind us.).

Last week I read an interesting article by a Scottish doctor about the arguments in medical circles over the scapegoating of certain foods such as salt or sugar and policies on mass medication such as the proposal that statins should be prescribed for millions of people (men over 50 and women over 60) to prevent a range of possible conditions. GPs who do not prescribe these drugs (in part because of genuine concerns over side-effects) are accused by some medical “experts” of putting lives at risk.

The issues are whether it is right, desirable or necessary to put millions of otherwise healthy adults on long-term medication, and whether the advice being given to GPs to prescribe these long-term drugs is objective, thoroughly tested and based on empirical research – or whether it is influenced by funding from companies that manufacture the drug in question and therefore stand to make vast profits from such policies of treating millions of people.

The writer exposed the spurious (and oddly old-fashioned) “Doctor knows best” attitude of those who would put us all on pills for the rest of our lives to prevent something we may never suffer from anyway, costing the NHS millions of pounds and helping to increase the profits of the global pharmaceutical companies.

He also revealed the apparent hypocrisy of some of these doctors and scientists whose own practice, chair of learning or research labs receive generous funding from those same pharmaceutical companies.

These experts are keen to stop us eating or drinking things they believe are bad for us, and want not only to prescribe preventative medication but also to ban advertising or even production of these “Bad” foods. We can’t be trusted to make our own decisions because we are influenced by BOGOFs and celebrity endorsements (we are weak-minded). But they are subject to no such human frailty. The endorsements by Big Pharma (otherwise known as research grants) do not in anyway influence their judgements because they are scientists (and therefore strong-minded).

But scientists and doctors are not a special breed. Chances are they are just as influenced by money or blandishments as the next man in the airline seat.

There isn’t one rule for you, the expert, or for you, the man in front who paid much the same as I did for my seat.

You can’t have it both ways.

Fanny Charles