Friday, August 3, 2012

It's Just water

I am reminded once again that the latest object of the crazed, obsessive hatred of the ‘Person who knows that anyone who does anything he doesn’t enjoy or understand, however trivial, is evil and must be denounced with great frothing and drumbeats’ is a bottle of water.

I don’t know who Andrew Martin is, but apparently he has a book to sell, so we mustn’t expect too much. Even so, you would have thought that, having been offered a column in the Independent to attach to the advert for his novel, he would take the opportunity to find something intelligent or interesting to say. He sees things differently.

He starts by belittling someone who thoughtfully put a bottle of water beside his place when he was speaking at an event. Maybe he hasn't spoken in public much but there has always been water available to speakers, because they often like to moisten their mouths as they speak. (Personally I prefer whisky, but they you are.)

He goes on to insult entire classes of people who he has never met, whose motives he makes no attempt to understand, whose 'offence' should eb beneath the notice of any intelligent person, and whose behaviour he has, in any case, invented himself for the occasion.

Water is essential to the human body. How much is a matter probably left to the judgement of the individual body, which has ways of making it very clear when it needs more (or less). It is probably better to err on the side of overhydration than dehydration, since the body suffers far fewer ill effects that way. They aren’t so great anyway, the body is good at recovering from most imbalances.

Prolonged exertion in hot weather can cause considerable loss of fluid, which will need to be made up, at least in part. Dehydration can lead to headaches, nerve inflammation, muscle weakness and pain, aging of tissue and damage to organs. Of course, few people need to be told when they should drink water. If you don’t feel thirsty you probably aren’t.

On the other hand, a lot of people have acquired the habit of carrying a bottle of water around with them, and sipping regularly from it. In so doing they have gained the opprobrium of the sort of people who cannot allow anything, anything at all, to escape their criticism and sneering condescension.

Why these critics are prepared to show their pettiness and meanness of spirit in this way I couldn’t say, but they clearly are. And they can refine it further, too. They can criticise the use of bottled water as against tap water, ‘ethical’ versus ‘unethical’ brands, bottle size, mineralization levels, the apparent physical condition of the bottle carrier.

People drink water. They drink when they feel the need or the desire to drink. Sometimes they act for no particular reason. Sometimes they are influenced by the words or actions of others. It really isn’t a big deal. It’s just water.



Vincent said...

You may despise me for this but despite your not having appended a link to the offending article, I thought "interesting" and eagerly read it.

I would never waste my time polishing such an article but then I don't have a book to sell. However it did echo my own unspoken thoughts on the topics he covers. It's a bit much to say "the unnecessary man" but there was nothing ad hominem about his observations, which turned out to be a plea in favour of the old tea-drinking ways. I find myself put off by the habit of people taking water bottles everywhere and having occasional sips. I've never stopped to wonder why, but I like to build up a thirst, I suppose.

I note that Andrew Martin is a mere 50 years old but he has a traditionalist attitude of which I silently approve. It's a venerable tradition of course to supply a speaker with a carafe of water. The modern equivalent of a plastic bottle is a sensible alternative, but the guy is a barrister by trade pushing his case to appeal to the jury's prejudice (for or against) & not pretending to be a fair-minded judge.

I'll say this for him, that he knows how to exploit the notions that people have but normally keep to themselves. In modern Britain there are many things which it's illegal to disparage, so a public speaker or writer has to be careful or he'll end up in court.

By some inexplicable loophole, it's still permissible to disparage bottled water and associated life-style habits: a loophole to be exploited whilst it lasts.

CIngram said...

An interesting perspective. The very important difference between Andrew Martin and you is that you can be put off, as you say, by some habit in others that you find annoying, without feeling the need to denounce it in the Independent. Most people are able to bring some measure of balance and reason to their little prejudices. But again, he had a book to sell.

I didn't realize he was a barrister (do you mean that literally, or in the sense that he is a good advocate for himself?), but it explains why he can write about (almost) nothing with such passion and panache.

He doesn't attack the person responsible for placing the bottle of water beside him personally, but he begins his article by expressing contempt for what was, after all, an attempt to attend to his comfort. It seems to me a rhetorical blunder to begin in that way, unless he knows his public very well indeed, which you suggest he may. In any case, I'm sure if he'd asked for a cup of tea he'd have got it.

Vincent said...

Well, Wikipedia says that he was called to the Bar, but doesn't say that he practised, only that he is a journalist as well as a novelist.

It doesn't seem a bad idea to present oneself as a "character" who may appeal to some and repel others. Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone have both done well through behaving in a forthright and polarizing manner.

But now that you mention it, the passion and panache is probably fake, for he is a journalist, and there's nothing like being controversial to get people to read your columns about nothing.

CIngram said...

So he's a character, playing a role for the readers, who don't recognise the game they are caught up in. Yes, that sounds about right. It's why I regularly resolve not to go anywhere the press.