Anybody who looked out of their window in Hamilton this morning would have been greeted with the delightful sight of some gorgeous balloons. As the balloons were rising, parts of the city were groaning. Hard to imagine, but there are people scattered all around the fine city of Hamilton who looked outside their window and didn’t see beautiful colourful flying objects but instead saw rotating mind control/immuno-suppressing flying blimps. Why – these people ask themselves – do these balloons hover over public places and land in public parks and schools where children are?
Kids – as we all know – are susceptible to everything. Hell, when we were kids we all believed a large overweight man could fly across international timezones undetected by radar (although given the recent saga with MH370 perhaps this isn’t so far-fetched), and that spiritual pixie figures actually cared if we lost a tooth or not (so much so that said pixies were willing to fork over good money for one).
Imagine if the people with these suspicions then started noticing that they would get the flu every time the balloons arrived in town? Well, not everybody did of course, but those that didn’t get the flu at this time of year would be the people who always stayed in their houses(and were therefore out of sight of the immuno-suppressing blimps). Soon these people started holding community meetings and sharing stories about the ‘balloon sniffles’. Public health authorities were unable to provide specific evidence one way or the other regarding the balloon sniffles (in fact, they were kind of puzzled as to what all of these people were on about), so people started googling their condition. Sure enough, they found people all around the world who would get a cold every time a balloon appeared in the sky (although sometimes the effect was delayed by a few days or months, obviously), and wasn’t it also suspicious that Hitler was a big fan of inflatable flying machines?
Soon enough theories started to form, and previously bemused scientists started to get concerned about the beliefs that were starting to take hold of a significant minority of people within the community. Scientists started explaining that it wasn’t the balloons causing people to get sick but the fact that the balloon festival was always held around about the time that the seasons changed over. It was too late however – everybody had hardened in their beliefs – ignorance had bred ignorance and self-selected internet searches had bred even more of it.
This is the situation Hamilton finds itself in today. Hamilton isn’t actually unique in this regard by any stretch of the imagination (Christchurch is the biggest unfluoridated city in New Zealand), however it is perhaps unique in how out of sync this minority crackpot opinion is with majority opinion within the city. Majorities of close to two-thirds have consistently voted for fluoridation across two referendums, and scientifically conducted opinion polls have had people saying much the same thing.
All of this still isn’t enough for the anti-fluoride lobby who believe they have not been consulted sufficiently. Their premise is that this Council’s decision is totally separate and totally unrelated to the tribunal held less than a year ago and the referendum held less than 6 months ago, and therefore requires a totally new consultative process. If their legal challenge is upheld (it won’t) then fluoride will be the least of Hamilton’s problems. Every decision of every Council in the country – that has already been decided by referendum or tribunal – will now be subject to an additional consultative process once the decision has been actually passed at Council.
The honest truth is though, that nothing will ever be enough, not even if Hamilton City Council votes to continue leaving fluoride out of the water. If the City Council backs out of putting fluoride in the water because of the possibility of a laughable legal challenge then you can bet it’ll be the balloons or the Airport that’s next. Who knows, there’s probably an even stronger case that strip clubs ’cause’ herpes. Somebody will find something else to draw an unscientific conclusion about and – now that they know that the mere threat of legal action is enough to scare the Council – will threaten legal action in order to remove various other perfectly harmless activities and services from the public sphere.
To paraphrase an old quote about slippery slopes, first they came for my fluoride, then they came for my balloons.