Contradictory Messaging

Contradictory Messaging

Since childhood we have been told that elders and experts are fountains of knowledge and that their word should be taken as the gospel truth. But what happens when experts give us messages that are, in fact, misconceptions or misconstrued advice?

Since childhood we have been told that elders and experts are fountains of knowledge and that their word should be taken as the gospel truth. But what happens when experts give us messages that are, in fact, misconceptions or misconstrued advice? Given below are some of the messages that have been ruled out as misconceptions by experts over a period of time.

Eating eggs: It is often said that eating eggs is harmful, especially the yolk. Eggs, we have been told, are full of bad cholesterol. The yolk became a four letter dirty word, which had to be avoided at all times. Things have reached a stage in the USA where customers can buy yolk-less eggs at an added cost. The egg manufacturers got into the damage control mode. This was where the contradictory messages started pouring in. Egg manufacturers said, “Eating four eggs per week is perfectly alright for a healthy person”. US based research reportedly indicates that yolk is actually good for health and that it gives good rather than bad cholesterol. Health experts now say that eating one egg per day is perfectly alright and that eggs are one of the perfect bundles of energy that is provided by the nature.

National Egg Coordinating Committee (NECC) in India did even better. They said that eggs were vegetarian and that eggs can be eaten by pure veggies. Their logic was very simple. Poultry hens are not fertilised and that the subsequent eggs given by poultry hens are not fertile and will not hatch out as chicks. This led to such a furore unleashed by the vegetarians that NECC had to back pedal. This incident gave birth to the marking of the infamous green and red dots on all the packaged food in India. Red indicates non-vegetarian food and green indicates vegetarian food.

Chewing gum: As children we were told by doctor not to chew gum as it leads to mouth cancer. Now the same doctor say that eating bubble gum is very good for the muscles in the mouth and that it aids digestion, and keeps bad breath away.

Consuming iodised salt: The craze for iodised salt, I suspect, is the creation of clever marketers. They realised that in a poor country like India more people use rock salt rather than smooth table salt. That is when the campaign was launched for the smother version of salt albeit it was called iodised salt. Most of the doctors promptly fell in line and started telling us that we should use only iodised salt and that deficiency of iodine will lead to health problems. Now the same medical professionals have done a volte-face. They are of the opinion that rock salt is better than iodised salt.

Playing video games: It was supposed to be the ultimate evil. Kids getting glued to the video screens. The doom sayers had a field day. They predicted a generation of zombies glued to the computers, who never had any social contacts. In their view video games were the ultimate evil in the world. The generations that have been addicted to the video games have not done that badly. They have come of age and have started many technology savvy companies like Facebook and others. Now the same experts say that playing video games is perfectly all right. They say that playing video games is good or motor skill development and that leads to analytical thinking. Great examples of a double speak!

Rice or Chapatti? : This is one issue that is always raging. Ask any self-respecting north Indian and he would sing paeans of praise for chapattis. In his view it is the ultimate meal. He dismisses eating idlis and rice as a softie. He repeats the often cited example that chapatti is better for health and that is why most north Indians have a better build than the south Indians. But at the same time the south Indian is ready with his argument. He cites the power of rice eating as the prime reason for the south Indian states emerging with better indices of economic development than the north Indian states. So the war is always on – is chapatti better than rice or rice better than chapatti?

What is vegetarianism?: For Bengali Brahmins eating fish is perfectly alright. They call it Jal Pushp (Water flower). On the other hand, most Indian vegetarians drink milk and they are okay with it. In orthodox Ethiopian society milk is supposed to be non-vegetarian just like eggs, as both come from the body of the animal. Thus during Lent the orthodox Ethiopian Christians do not even consume milk. We have the vegans who do not consume anything that is of animal origins. This leaves many of us very confused as to what is vegetarian and what is non vegetarian.

Which way should the customer go? Are we being informed or we being confused?

One professor wanted to show his students the ill effects of consuming alcohol. He brought some alcohol in a jar to the class and put it on the table. He then took some mosquitoes and some house flies and dropped them into the jar. The mosquitoes and the house flies struggled for a few seconds and died. The professor then addressed the class and said, “What is it that you have learned from this demonstration?” Somebody from the back tittered and said, “If you take alcohol all the parasites and viruses in the stomach will die and our stomachs will become clean.” The professor was speechless.

Another professor said, sarcastically, pointing his pointer towards a student, “At the end of the stick there is a fool.” The student said, “Which end sir?”

Groucho Marx, the famous critic, once famously said, “I don’t want to join any prestigious club that will accept me as a member. Very succinctly said, the attraction of the club is only when it does not accept anyone as a member. Once a membership is granted the allure of being part of an exclusive group is lost.”

An actress once said, “It is painful to be recognised. It is irritating to be mobbed and the centre of attraction. People gape, make snide comments and pinch.” But she quickly added that being recognised and facing all that irritants is much better than being ignored completely. The actors who walked into the sunset find it very difficult to face the reality where they are no longer the centre of attraction.

A mother was comparing notes with her friend. “I have sent my son to the boarding school. He wrote a long letter saying how much he missed me. He is home sick and feeling so depressed that he is not able to eat. I feel very bad and upset. But I would feel very very sick and extremely upset if he was not feeling home sick.”

My boss once told us in a meeting, “If you don’t understand my silence you will never be able to understand my anger.”

The rule of the game is to understand the real message of what anyone says. One should be adept at reading between the lines. What is said is not as dangerous as what is not said.

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