Over the years I have met a number of people who bring me information that catches me out.
Not in a bad way, but rather in a way that I appreciate because I do quite like being caught out as it makes me ponder and think.
For example, I do have a particular liking for what these days are known as inconvenient facts, such as the one that one of my more eccentric clients came up with which suggested that taking the drug ecstasy was no more dangerous than horse riding.
Now I have to admit that I didn’t believe a word of that until my client directed me to the work produced by the pharmacologist David Nutt, and yes it has been reported in various learned journals which like to use statistics in the proper way (that is to say, taking the number of people doing x, seeing how many of them get injured in various ways, and then comparing all the data with the number of people doing y).
But now apparently you can’t read it in any government journals because the head of the team that did the research was sacked and his findings removed from the official record.
I was both horrified that the information could be covered up, and fascinated by my own reaction to the finding.
I guess such a statistical finding is very uncomfortable, perhaps because horse riding is considered “good” and “healthy” and maybe above all “done by the right sort of people” while taking ecstasy is considered the opposite in every regard. And I didn’t include the relationship between horse riding and gambling in that.
But apparently it is so. If you go in for horse riding you are as likely to get more injuries of a more serious nature than in you take ecstasy. Which I must stress is absolutely not a suggestion that taking ecstasy is safe, but rather than it might be worth easing up on the horse riding.
So it seems these days there is a movement to be economical with the statistics. Just as there is a spot of being economical with the freedom of speech as well.
I suspect most people in the UK do actually value free speech – up to a point. The problem is where that point is reached. Personally I don’t value the freedom of speech within the audience in the theatre while I am trying to focus on the production. And I find myself very confused about whether or not I want to defend the right of racists to speak about their beliefs. Probably not, when I think about it.
But freedom of speech can be misused. Take, for example, the issue of water.
We are gradually seeing in this country the arrival of the notion of “raw” water – something that has become quite popular of late in certain parts of the United States.
Raw water is apparently real, original, honest to goodness water. Water that people who write things on Twitter with the hashtag nofilter go in for. Water that doesn’t have any fluoride in it… except the natural fluoride that occurs in groundwater … and which actually occurs at much higher levels than is allowable in the water that comes out of our taps. Levels that could be quite dangerous.
And because it is not treated it also has a nice juicy variety of waterborne bacteria within the H20, the drinking of which can lead to… well, it’s a nasty disease but you might be eating your lunch while reading this so I don’t want to mention it.
The more I look at it, the more complicated (not to say lopsided) the whole world seems to be.