Life Arts

Let's all be Eurotrash.

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Which country in the world has the highest per capita intake of sugar? Not the US, it is our very own Scotland. The highest rate of tooth decay? Tick! We can beat the US again. Associated illnesses.. such as diabetes? I think so.

Let's continue on health. OK! I know we have the lung problems covered. Yep. Not, however heart problems? Sorry! Strokes? But of course! Drugs. Cigs. Drink. They take their toll you know.

Enough! What are we not worse at? OK! Britain has an appalling record of teenage pregnancy compared to the rest of Europe. Scotland is the worst in Britain. Dundee is the worst in Scotland. But even Dundee cannot match the American figures.

Despite the Mormons bringing the average down, by keeping young people segregated until they are 42, the US has the worst figures in the industrialised world for teenage pregnancy. Their schools must have the most restrictions on sex education for one thing. The parents are embarrassed, maybe and do not spend time either telling their kids what's what, or actually being with them to prevent 'what' happening.

I sat on a beach in France where hundreds of young folk were swimming. Les filles were prancing about. However, there was always some formidable gran within shrieking distance and everyone simply accepted it. The boys were kept under close scrutiny. The girls were chaperoned. And none-too-subtly.

I think youth culture in the States precludes a rotund older relative springing magically and athletically to life whenever some handsome garcon approaches their beautiful granddaughter. In the States, grans are more likely to be seen with young boyfriends themselves and unable to babysit as they are late for their round of golf. Stereotyping a little aren't we? Sorry, the point is that 'Old Europe' has got a huge amount to offer both the US and Britain.

Their ante-natal preparation is superb. Their babies' fathers have more paternity leave to help with childcare. Their toddlers have more access to medical and safe nursery facilities. They are better behaved as young children. Their streets are safer. Their schools are better provisioned. Their teenagers are less likely to commit crimes.

As they age they take less drugs, drink less, smoke less, have sex later, leave school later, get married later, have healthier children, get divorced less, are more involved in their own kids' schools and communities, vote more, look after their elderly relatives better and finally...they die later.

In Holland where cannabis is semi-legal they smoke it less than in Scotland where public humiliation and huge fines are still seen as part of 'aftercare'.
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If they take serious drugs they are treated like humans and less likely to be poisoned by dirty needles or tainted 'goods' as the facilities are caring, non judgemental and sensible. They are less likely to become prostitutes to obtain drugs, as happens so frequently in Scotland.

We huddle indoors in winter, watching life on TV. The Swedes and Norwegians are out on cross country skis living it. We allow our kids to hang about on streets. They play with theirs. We go to war. The Dutch and French go to Art Galleries.

An astute friend I had in Canada, where I lived when I was about 10, one Steven Petty (I hope he reads this one day) was talking about continents, after geography class. We had learned that Britain was in Europe. He said that a lot of British folk would disagree as they do not like the idea of being associated with (he maybe said 'part of') Europe.

OK, Steven, you were bright enough to have a vision of a world thousands of miles from home, as a child and correctly identify a trait in Britain which still has relevance decades later. Answer this. Why not be associated with these people?
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'Hamish ' is an antiwar writer socialist- scientist and musician living in Scotland.

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