About once a month I commit something of a crime when I go into McDonald’s in St George’s Street for my breakfast.
The crime I commit is putting salt on my hash brown. I don’t often eat from main menu, but when I do you’ll see me putting salt on my fries, too.
Why? Because I like it on food and don’t think those two particular potato products have enough of it.
- Council should more carefully consider city’s parking needs
- Smart meters: A con of eco-zealots and energy firms
That’s probably deliberate since there’s currently a war being waged on what we eat. Chocolate bars are getting so small that almost all makers now offer doubles or large bags of sweets to sate our sweet tooths.
But my adding salt to my food despite the warnings is also in my own way an act of defiance, a personal guerrilla war.
I’ve always done the opposite of what others want me to do. I did little work at school because my parents and teachers implored me to do it.
Freed from them and the dandruffed bores in brown suits who passed for teachers at the Boys Langton in the late 80s and early 90s, I worked hard at university.
It was here that I was introduced to the writings of the Russian radical Alexander Herzen (1812-1870) who became a philosophical hero of mine as a result of his faith in personal liberty.
In a letter to the Italian revolutionary Guiseppe Mazzini while in exile in London, Herzen wrote: “Since the age of 13…I have served one idea, marched under one banner: war against all imposed authority, against every kind of deprivation of freedom, in the name of the absolute independence of the individual.”
Decades later in a world that had moved on significantly from Herzen’s thanks to war, revolution and decolonization, it would take an American-born Irishman who grew up in England to reassert the great message of individual liberty.
I believe that Patrick McGoohan’s 1967 series The Prisoner is still the most intelligent tv show ever made.
Part science fiction, part espionage story, part psychological thriller, it explores numerous themes across just 17 episodes.
But its central theme is constant, contained as it is in the opening segment of each episode when McGoohan’s character Number 6 roars: “I am not a number. I am a free man.”
And in an one episode he tells his captors: “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.”
Like Herzen and Number 6, I, too, resent authority. I dislike government and the tentacles of the state through which it operates. I loathe being told what to do, how to think, how to organise my life.
Any attempt to do so will result in the opposite happening.
But what, you may ask, has any of this got to do with me eating salt in Canterbury’s McDonald’s restaurant.
It is this: we as free individuals are under attack. We are under attack from groups of people who believe it is both their duty and their prerogative to run our lives for us.
They tell us we eat too much sugar or must abandon our cars for bikes or adopt the accepted attitudes to any number of political and social issues against our experiences, our better judgments and our freedom to make choices about our beliefs and actions.
For example, I’d never heard of an organisation called Action on Salt until I was watching Sky News one morning last month when up popped a spokesman for it.
This soppy tart warned viewers people are eating dangerous levels of salt and demanded that the government tackle what she defined as a crisis.
In other words, she wants the government to legislate in order to make less free to eat food the way we want to eat. That, to my mind, is extraordinary and unpalatable.
The upshot of all this will be that limiting choices will hurt the poorest worst. But will affect us all as individuals who want the freedom to make choices and not have our diets dictated by others. We must resist it.