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A little less lobbying, a little more curing, please

Join thousands of Dryathletes dropping the drink this January and raising money to help beat cancer sooner”, says Cancer Research UK. What bilge. Abstaining from alcohol for a month does nothing and is nothing. Absent real problems, anyone can just drink exactly what they want whenever they want. That anyone takes seriously the pretence that deciding not to drink for a while is an act of effort comparable to training for an athletics event only indicates how low standards of achievement have sunk. People should be expected to grow a spine and take responsibility for their decisions as a matter of course, not pandered, patronised and praised for minor acts of agency like a toddler managing to eat his vegetables before his ice cream.

The supposed benefits of a month of abstention, apart from a “sense of achievement with your newfound hero status” — good grief — include losing weight, saving money and sleeping better. But one month out of twelve will not get you anywhere. If you are spending half of your life doing X and the other half worrying that you are doing too much of X, you are doing it all wrong. Either do less of X, or decide that the benefits of X are worth the costs. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

But maybe it will help to “beat cancer sooner”, and I should stop being a big meany. Well, it would be nice if Cancer Research UK would stop taking money away from its worthwhile research to squander on activism and lobbying.

The Dryathlon is, of course, just another bit of neo-puritan nagging. It probably makes a certain amount of sense for a cancer research charity to give out information that helps people balance fun versus risk. If I was told that my lifetime chance of getting cancer was 48% with total abstinence and 50% if I get completely drunk 3 times a week, and left it at that, I would say, “thank-you very much. Mine’s a pint of Pride.” But they will not do that. They’ll just tell me that alcohol causes 4% of cancer cases and really I should just stop thinking and drink less, and are happy to have taken a little bit of the joy out of the beer. Ok, it does not work on me but the BBC can find and interview people in a pub who have been made to feel bad about doing something they enjoy.

It does not stop there. Cancer research UK wants to prohibit product placement of alcohol. And in the latest panmedia offensive, we are told that there will be 700,000 cases of obese people getting cancer over the next 20 years, with no clue as to how significant this is. Then they are they are calling for a ban on advertising sugar before 9pm, a tax on sugary drinks, a general reorganisation of society to suit the NHS and, chillingly, the government to “take children’s health more seriously”. Supposedly children are bombarded with advertisments for sugary food and drink. I am a parent and I am not seeing it. I even have trouble buying sugary drinks without artificial sweeteners without resorting to Google and specialist suppliers.

I do not want to donate money to an organisation that is happy to goad the local mafia into “taking care” of me. Just cure cancer already so I can eat and drink what I want with impunity.

18 comments to A little less lobbying, a little more curing, please

  • Patrick Crozier

    Puritanism, that haunting suspicion that someone, somewhere is happy.

    Out of interest, what have Cancer Research actually achieved?

  • As I said over at Tim Worstall’s site, “They never talk about the quality of life benefits of being left the fuck alone.”

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ted, for goshsakes. If you are LtFA, you’ll be Doing It Wrong. (That’s why you can’t be LtFA. It’s obvious.)

    1. QED. (In Latin!)
    2. Man needs Society.

    Besides, you are asking the people who are not L’ingYtFA to rearrange their entire psyches. What are they supposed to do with themselves if there’s no call for people who tell other people what to do?

    They need to feel important and get paid too, you know.

    I think you are being very wrong-kind-of-selfish.

    On the other hand, if you find a place where They will LYtFA, can I come too?

  • Laird

    Of course, what’s always missing from these drives is the minor problem that there are hundreds of different types of cancers, all with different causes, so it is fundamentally impossible to find a single “cure for cancer”. There is, and can be, no such magic bullet; the best we can hope for is to find more and better cures for the different forms of cancer. And we’ve gotten pretty good at that already, although certainly more remains to be done. Common cancers such as prostate or breast are rarely fatal any more if caught early. That’s true of many others, too; even the survival rate for pancreatic cancer (once a short-term death sentence) is improving. A cynic would suspect that the motives of some of these organizations is more organizational survival than actually improving the lot of cancer sufferers. But we’re not cynics, are we?

    Still, you have to give them credit for coming up with “Dryathlon.” It is a clever name.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I have mixed feelings about this.
    The idea of one whole month without beer or whisky, and January at that, is somewhat alarming. Not because booze warms me up, but because i need fats to keep warm, and alcohol and fats seem to go well together. (The temperature here is -24C, right now; the forecast is that it will stay below -20C until Saturday, and below -10C until Tuesday.)
    Also, beer feels good, in moderate amounts, after skiing and/or a sauna.

    OTOH there was an article on the BBC (which i might track down tomorrow) which claimed much greater benefits from a month of abstinence than the Cancer Research site claims. As i remember, the BBC article did not say that it’s good to abstain for one month every year: it just said that it’s good to abstain for one month; then you can drink for the rest of your life.

  • Bod

    I’ll be (somewhat) generous here and note that I go on the wagon for a few weeks, every 6 months or so, just to see how much I miss having a drink. I have a number of relatives who have – let’s be delicate and say “Impulse control issues” – who have found it very difficult to say no to a bottle in front of them, and so my cheap-and-cheerful way of ensuring I’m not getting dependent is to give my liver a rest now and again and see just how much of my drinking habit is genuinely habitual.

    I have no opinion one way or the other whether this behavior might help or hinder my ambitions of living to a ripe old age, but I’ll be buggered if I’ll let these neo-puritans hijack my faux-virtuous posturings, so out comes the Glenlivet and a big glass.

    sláinte mhaith!

  • bobby b

    “Just cure cancer already so I can eat and drink what I want with impunity.”

    Are you nuts? If we cure cancer, how the heck do we continue to secure government grants for Cancer Research UK? We’ll all be out of work, and we’ll be reduced to working to end mange, or psoriasis, or some other lame scourge with not even a tenth of the emotional impact of “Cancer!”, and can you imagine trying to boss our population around with crap like “stop drinking and doing other things I disapprove of in order to cut down your chances of getting mange”? I mean, with cancer, we have some power here. With mange, or icky colon, or whatever, who’s gonna listen to us?

  • Eric

    Of course, what’s always missing from these drives is the minor problem that there are hundreds of different types of cancers, all with different causes, so it is fundamentally impossible to find a single “cure for cancer”.

    You’re mostly likely right that we won’t find a single cure, but not necessarily, depending on how you define “single”. The most promising current approach, IMO, is the one which “paints” cancer cells so the immune system can destroy them. The idea is you take a biopsy, pick out markers on the cell that distinguish it from normal cells, and inject the patient with a drug that latches on to those cells and removes the “don’t kill me, I live here” signal the cancer cell is sending to the immune system. In theory this could be automated.

    Right now they’re painstakingly producing drugs for common mutations, but the tools for specialization are coming.

    It goes without saying the decisive action of a handful “thousands” of martyrs who stayed off the sauce for a month is critical for carrying this kind of research forward.

  • Stonyground

    I tend to become suspicious of charities that can afford to spend money on advertising. Presumably the resulting increase in donations offsets the cost. My understanding of the whole Dryathlon wheeze is that those who are doing it are doing so to raise money for Cancer Research.

    From the OP:
    ” That anyone takes seriously the pretence that deciding not to drink for a while is an act of effort comparable to training for an athletics event only indicates how low standards of achievement have sunk.”

    I have actually given up the booze for the time being because I have to prepare for an actual triathlon and I need all the help that I can get.

    I see that some health bigwig has now announced that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. I have news for him, there is no safe level of doing anything, so if you are going to take that attitude you might as well curl up and die right now. So how about it neo-puritans? preferably today but by the weekend at the latest.

  • The Jannie

    I avoid charities which have plush offices in the nation’s armpit – the most expensive in the country – and ferry people from all over the country at vast cost to attend meetings there. Yes, CUK, I know of what I speak.

  • Mr Ed

    How on Earth am I going to drink Moldova, Macedonia and Portugal out of the economic doldrums by giving up alcohol? I can support the flooded Lake District by drinking Cumbrian ales. I can’t drink enough water to remove the floods, even if I were local. Too much water is dangerous.

    Today I heard the UK government’s chief medical officer on the radio prattling on about there being no safe amount of alcohol, with a mild but surprising challenge about the lack of science behind her ludicrous claims, and behind the ‘limits’, claims made with no mechanisms elaborated, no explanation for how previous research had got it wrong, and then a call for a sugar tax from that bureaucrat. It is for Parliament to propose new taxes, not bureaucrats. Let us call for a tax on officious bureaucrats, 10% of their entire wealth per annum, with reductions in wealth in future years disregarded.

  • PeterT

    I’m doing my best to support Christians in the middle East (Lebanon) by buying vast quantities of Chateau Musar. That is my idea of charity. If you like (red) Wine I recommend it.

  • Mr Ed


    Indeed, seconded, Chateau Musar has a super range. Laying down your liver for your brothers in Christ, true charity.

  • Derek Buxton

    I saw a Professor no less on the BBC TV, rather large was he in a blue suit with bright brown shoes, pontificating on the evils of drink. “Red wine is not good for you” he cried, “I know”. One glass of the red stuff means cancer he carried on. The presenter, to be fair, did mildly question his assertion by asking “what about the foreign countries where wine is a staple”. ” Nothing to do with it, I know”. For a middle aged man he was rather scruffy which used to be odd but now seems the “thing”!

  • CaptDMO

    “…including losing weight”?
    When I quit I gained 15 pounds, just from Oreos. (have since “given it back”)
    Buckets of public/private cash to Cancer “research” has given us “avoid sugar”?
    Tell us about the sequestered, by bottling, WATER those “sugary drinks” are made with.
    (As well as that trendy bottled water) Any coincidental cross reference to florinated/chlorinated/and otherwise “treated” municipal water? (just sayin’)
    Oddly, cancer “research” has given us buckets of subsidized public/private cash to purchase it’s treatment.
    Stranger still, only as long as “subsidized payment schemes” hold out.
    Often with the same coincidental attrition crap shoot that results in ACTUAL progress.

    In My Humble Opinion, and there ARE a few exceptions, of course.

  • Bruce

    People need to understand that cancer is basically “immortal” cells.

    Unlike “normal” cells that divide and expire after a short(ish) time, cancer cells divide (reproduce), like “normal” cells but “expire” at a spectacularly lower rate. They are pretty much “immortal” whilst the “host” is alive.

    Furthermore, they can “migrate”. One of the big issues here in sun-drenched Australia is Melanoma. Interestingly enough, it is not this skin cancer, per se that is lethal. What seems to happen, and is strongly indicated by the biopsies, is that “stray” cells from, say, a melanoma on your face or arm, enters the bloodstream and lodge in your liver, lungs, brain, etc.

    From that moment on, the “relocated feral cells” will do their immortality thing until you are dead. (Or until the Chemo or Radiation therapy MIGHT work). Essentially, they “clog up” the system. In my Grandmother’s case, she developed “liver cancer”. The liver essentially enlarged to the point it was stressing her lungs and heart, and the resultant “overload” and restricted cardio-pulmonary function killed her.

    Another “amusing” thing is that “effective” (sometimes) chemotherapy concoctions are extremely closely related, chemically speaking, to some of the evil brews that the nice Dr. Mengele and others trialled on shedloads of unfortunate and involuntary patients.

    Over the years, I have had to watch several people, including a neighbour’s child with an inoperable brain tumor, die in very nasty circumstances.

    The “money-go-round” gets bigger and faster each passing year. Oddly enough, “progress” is slow.

  • Give up booze for a month? A whole MONTH? Has the world gone mad?

    As my friend Patterson always said (and he was right): “A meal without wine is… breakfast.”

  • John in cheshire

    All the woes of the world can be defined as the difference between collectivists and individualists. Christians, by definition are individualists and only through the personal relationship each person has with Jesus Christ will they be saved. Salvation will never come through consensus.