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Iconoclastic sources of influences

By Anne Frederick - posted Monday, 14 January 2013


Selecting one book is a too much of a challenge, so the field is narrowed to the two I feel have most to add to the conversations that need to occur in Australia. These are The Source by James Michener and The Flouride Deception by Christopher Bryson. Pipped at the post is To Kill a Mockingbird that I read around the age of fifteen. Lee Harper's message shows that our human frailties prevent us living in harmony, fortunately the Atticus Finch's are here as beacons of light, hope, and truth.

The Source by James Michener, published in 1963, traces the history of the Jewish people and is one of his finest epic tales blending fact with fiction. This is a huge book that would daunt many, however Michener's solution to a very wordy novel is reduce it to bite size portions so the time poor, or easily bored by reading, can pick up and put down without losing the thread of the story. At sixteen, I could not put this book down. It swallowed me; my only disappointment being that it ended and not one of Michener's other stories touched me in the same way.

Cleverly, Michener frames his history around a central plot set in Israel which involves the members of an archaeological dig. Members include a Muslim, a Jew, and a Catholic Christian. The linking story provides a picture of modern Israel, that is, 1960's Israel and the political issues of the time. The dig progressively unearths artefacts, while unearthing the stories of the main characters. Each artefact becomes the key to a short story that explains how the object came to be in that location. In this format, the history of the Jewish people is revealed, layer upon layer.

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As Atticus Finch says in To Kill a Mockingbird, 'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. ' Michener's stories left me with a profound empathy for the Jews and personalised the conflict over Israel through his many characters representing various races and cultures. I recommend this novel to those who have never studied history or who have a desire to step into the shoes of another people. Knowing the past is one way to better equip today's generation to face the future, having made decisions with the wisdom of Solomon.

The Flouride Deception by Christopher Bryson in 2004, is a well researched expose, by an American investigative reporter, of the fluoride industry. This non- fiction book reads as a who dunnit, revealing how a product considered a dangerous toxin, that was increasingly involved in law suits for its damage to the environment, people and animals, metamorphosed to a respectable toxin. Endorsed by Doctors and Dentists, professionals highly trusted and regarded, consumers ingested fluoride daily through their toothpaste, their tap water, and unthinkingly through their canned goods, their beer, their tea, their bread, and their lollies and coke cola.

Dissenters continue to exist and then, as now open public discussion, debate by professional and educated people on opposing sides, and reporting in the media of new research and changing attitudes not encouraged. Phyllis Mullenix's fall from grace in 1994 is an informative read as to what happens when a professional seemingly switches allegiance by reporting negative findings on fluoride toxicity. She loses funding and is unable to continue advanced studies into her findings and then her job at Forsyth Dental Centre in Boston. A precursor to this is William Marcus, a senior toxicologist with the EPA who is fired in 1922, for protesting about downgrading the results of a government study of cancer and fluoride.

It's the history of fluoride component of the story dating from the 1930's, that appeals most, establishing an historical framework that puts the continuing debate on the need to add industrial fluoride to community water into a context easy to comprehend. While there are numerous books by anti fluoride scientists, Bryson's book wins out because it puts each step in the decision making process to popularise fluoride into an historical perspective. Today's readers may not appreciate that people once lived in a pre internet era, relying on expert opinions; today we can readily source material and reach our own conclusions.

Even if you agree with water fluoridation, this is a must read for any marketing, advertising, business, or political student as a manual on how to succeed against the odds. Edward Bernays, spin doctor extraordinaire, plays a key role in selling fluoride to New Yorkers in the 1960's. According to Bernays, if New Yorkers will accept fluoride, other cities will follow. Bernays correctly says: 'our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of,' and selling fluoride to the people best 'solved by the engineering of consent.' and importantly, gaining the support of professionals that people trust pp160 -161. To this day, the strategies utilised in New York are regularly employed by pro fluoridation groups.

As this is an issue with campaigners as keen as Wilber Wilberforce, who will campaign to their death beds, this is a need to read book if you are open to knowing if the anti fluoride lobby is right, that having fluoride permeating throughout our food chain is not as beneficial to individual health and the public purse as you've been lead to believe.

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