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Salman Rushdie: what do we do?
How can we support him? And are you ashamed of your body? I can't be the only one.
“Censorship, is anti-creation, negative energy, uncreation, the bringing into being of non-being…” Salman Rushdie, in an essay on censorship, 2012.
Credit: Andrew Wiard. Muslim demonstrators descend on the UK Parliament, calling for the execution of Salman Rushdie, 27th May 1989.
Poor Salman Rushdie has been moved from a New York operating table to a ventilator, fighting against non-being. "Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged," his agent, Andrew Wylie said.
I am taken back to 33 years to the day the above image was taken by the photographer, Andrew Wiard. I remember the parliament square protest shocking me. Why would anyone make an effigy, tie it to a gallows and call for a writer to be executed? I was familiar with the contours of political violence, but this seemed so, well, so shockingly anti-creation.
My late father told me I should become a printer because every revolution needs propagandists. I have a mixed political heritage, but dad had a point about radical views and freedom of expression. At least, I’d like to remember that as the point that dad was trying to make.
Not that Mr Rushdie would say that Satanic Verses, the book that changed his life, was radical. To him, it wasn’t even about Islam:
“the book isn’t actually about Islam, but about migration, metamorphosis divided selves, love, death, London and Bombay.”
Salman Rushdie is the reason I moved my writing to Substack. I subscribe to his newsletter, and I have been reading his serialised book. If he feels at home over here, I thought, everything will be ok.
With patchy news reports painting an incomplete picture of how this literary septuagenarian is recovering, I am thinking about how the Substack community can show solidarity with him.
One idea I had was that we all - every Substack writer and every newsletter reader - subscribe to his newsletter. Let’s make him our honorary President and subscribe to his words.
Share his work
There’s one other thing newsletter writers can do. They can share his words in an act of peaceful solidarity.
So here goes. This is a paragraph from Satanic Verses:
“What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.”
If you have any other ideas, or know of other initiatives being organised - I’d love to hear from you.
Back to the planned newsletter bit: Middle-aged body image
There’s an endless amount of things to worry about in middle age. Since I reversed diabetes and lost a ton of weight, I care about my body more. It doesn’t always feel like this is a good thing.
At least when I was in denial, I didn’t worry about everything drooping and sagging or bloating, after uncontrolled carbohydrate consumption. In my case, this is usually pre-bed sourdough bread. I hate myself when I do this. I know it’s terrible for me, but I sometimes can’t stop.
The shame is so great that sometimes I switch off the lights and eat standing in the dark. I know I should be happy that eating a slice or three of sourdough is my vice when it used to be a litre of ice cream and a gallon of coca cola, but it still represents failure. Impulsive eating. Eating disorder? Maybe.
At least I’m not alone. A Mental Health Foundation report in 2019 found that a third of adults feel ashamed or depressed by their body image. This month’s report from the UK Parliament’s health select committee caught my attention. Eight out of ten survey responders said their body image impacted their mental health.
These people are the people I want to work with and help. They’re also the ones I want to be riled that we live in an obesogenic economy, where supermarkets sell us ultra-processed pap and lie to us about how good it is for us. I want people to be furious with politicians who describe measures to curb sugar in food and soda pop as “sin taxes”.
I believe the research published in the last few years is incontrovertible that ultra-processed food is destroying our health. There are acres of very credible evidence that policymakers are ignoring. This recent research shows the link between dementia and ultra-processed food, for example.
For God’s sake, Boris/Liz/Rishi - a third of our kids are leaving primary school overweight or obese. Indeed you get that this is a big problem? It didn’t use to be like this. It's not like as a nation; unlike our forebears, we’ve collectively decided we’d like to be morbidly obese. The system is stacked against us. Ultra-processed food, hidden sugars, misleading advertising, attractive packaging, and crazy deals it’s impossible to avoid.
Please forward this newsletter if you know anyone who wants to grab their pitchfork and meet me in the Pringles aisle in Tesco. I write for them.
Want to get your steps up? Get an Apple Watch or Fitbit
On a lighter note, the discipline of writing an honest account of myself to you has motivated me to maintain two gym bookings despite a heatwave. So thank you! We have to be positive.
In Lose Weight 4 Life I talk about motivation being one of the 4 M’s to success. I build as many nudges into my daily routine as I can. A classic is trainers by the front door last thing before bed.
Closing the rings on an Apple Watch daily has been an unexpected boost. I share daily data with a few close friends, and they ping messages when a target is met or exceeded. One friend (hello L!) is assiduous at texting me if I close my green exercise ring or the red movement ring. Sometimes I go for late-night walks to complete the circle.
New research shows it’s not just me that feels weird trying to close three rings on a watch. According to the study, wearable devices nudge us into an additional 1800 steps daily. Take a look here:
If you’d like a little extra support and accountability yourself, you might want to consider upgrading to join our new PoP health support & accountability group. Paid subscribers get access to a members-only Facebook group, exclusive content plus regular Zoom calls with me. I’d love you to join us.
Sheila Dillon’s ever-reliable Food Programme. Ultra-processed food (UPF) makes up half of the average diet in the UK, and there is growing evidence to show that it’s likely driving the rise in diet-related diseases and the global obesity epidemic.
If a product includes ingredients you wouldn’t find in your kitchen and was made in a factory, then it’s probably ultra-processed. So when it comes to nutrients, what are the technical challenges for reformulating our food, and how far can this approach improve the quality of ultra-processed food? And if the problem lies with processing rather than nutrients, do we need a different direction entirely?
That’s it for this week. Stay safe and hug your loved ones when you can.