Spirit of Russia


THAT announcement topped the news in Russia: Health Ministry’s experts have named the average safe dosages of alcohol for human consumption.

But such an announcement may not fibble to some. We all know Muslims’ views on alcohol and Russia, with its maybe 20% Muslim population, knows it too.

But let’s not forget that wine (or beer, or anything similar) is a part of Christian tradition. To many, these are staples like bread in the morning especially in territories where Christianity was born and still stays, embattled by modern non-believers.

But this column is not about drinking.

It’s about an extremely sensitive subject — a global battle against expert opinions on what’s good and what’s bad for a human to consume.

It may have been a subject of religious battles in the past. But now it has become a veritable epidemic of aggressive “science”, creating anxiety and hatred.

What the Russian experts said was nothing new. There are plenty of writings about the medicinal qualities of two glasses of wine (or two beers) per day. But no one made it obligatory to drink them.

Then enter the other experts from the same ministry, trumpeting that there are no safe dosages of alcoholic drinks and anyone claiming otherwise “should be swept out by a dirty broom”.

That squabble has influenced at least one committee at our Parliament, subsequently giving the rights to local authorities to close small bars located at the ground level of residential blocks.

But drinking is not a problem in Russia today as the country was under Communist rule. “Drinking like a Russian” was a proverb in the previous century, and you just need to be on the streets to see what it means. Alcohol consumption has been steadily dropping in the last 27 years, and being drunk is no longer the cool thing.

Despite all these, there are still people who demand a ban on alcohol or to make it more expensive.

And in the past week and I guess only in Russia, we read stuff like eating fish is not good and people should consume seaweed. Or showering every day is bad for the skin, so you just change clothes. Interestingly, all these revelations originated from “medical experts” who referred to foreign researches to back their claims.

And the problem is not solely Russia.

We are seeing a global oversupply of scary medical “research” on almost everything with a general intent to ban certain products or, the very least, hike up the price. My recent article about the scare tactics against palm oil demonstrates this growing phenomenon.

Then there is the anti-smoking campaign.

The New York Times recently published an article titled “A Shadowy Industry Group Shapes Food Policy Around the World”.

It elaborates on the existence of at least two warring camps. One is the alleged “shadowy” (as in the “sinister”) group, called International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), an American non-profit organisation “that has been quietly infiltrating government health and nutrition bodies around the world”. The other camp is aligned with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The general rule is if it’s related to WHO, then it’s about finding another harmful product (meat, sausage, sugar, you name it).

This is followed by another global campaign led by WHO-inspired health ministries to raise taxes or to limit the sales of these products.

Critics of these groups would be labelled monsters with the sole intent to murder the world’s population.

While ILSI’s crime seems to be, according to the article, in accepting the food industry’s donations to finance research, their research is independent of the ones funded by the WHO camp, largely supported by selected corporations.

Despite WHO-minded people adoring the title “health advocates”, they abhor debates and opposing views.

This does not come as a surprise if you look at the value of medicine and its related industries.

But this is my prediction. Sooner or later, after being continuously bombed by more claims of another fatal product or habit, people will ignore such allegations altogether.

Fearmongering “health advocates” will become objects of universal ridicule. A big purge will happen at WHO, and many “health ministries” will be subjected to the same treatment.

Then it will take years before any medical research related to consumption would be accepted by the public.

What is interesting is that in a couple of hundred years, people will remember this research the same way we think about medical revelations 200 years ago.

Dmitry Kosyrev is an author of 8 novels and a book of short stories as well as a columnist for 2 Moscow publications. Orientalist by education (Moscow University), he has a special love for Malaysia.