To be liberal “is to be elite”, a university lecturer once told me.
I took it to mean only the privileged can be so inclined.
The theory resonates each time I read anti-fluoride fulminations inked emphatically – and regularly – on the opinion pages of this newspaper.
The missives also take me back to the days I ambled to school chewing fluoride tablets my mother dispensed as we walked out the door. I was one of the lucky ones. My mother’s nursing background made for robust domestic health.
That’s why I’m minded to agree with Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills, who recently claimed the fluoride issue is less about science and more about values.
As he said, children’s health is outside their control.
This is where my lecturer’s lofty theory starts to gain a little traction. On the one hand, we have a demographic accusing the local authority of spiking their water. On the other, there is a demographic I’d wager is completely oblivious to the debate. And there’s the rub.
The latter is the very demographic water fluoridation is aimed at; the disengaged – those who either won’t or can’t ensure their children enjoy basic health.
No doubt the opposite is true: the informed oppose fluoridation.
But that’s where liberalism becomes paradoxical; or more cynically, becomes synonymous with individualism.
It’s wholly inequitable – and elitist – to deny at-risk children the very freedoms and equality espoused by those who regard fluoridated water as a threat to civil liberty.