Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to be a Jedi?


I remember as a child my mum explaining what the national census was. She said, in hushed tones, that it was very important that we filled it in properly or we would all go to prison. “Why are we whispering?” I asked. “Shhh,” she murmered, “it’s the census” - as though no more needed to be said.

For years after, in my mind the word “census” belonged with words like “politburo”and “dalek”. And my wife wonders why I turned out the way I did.

Such a respectful approach to the census is long past. In the last one in 2001, 40,000 people responded to a question about their faith by claiming to be “Jedi” and a further 7,000 said they were witches. Some people simply colour it in. Others refuse to be questioned about their lives by a snooping government.

The census apparently costs £500m. Goodness knows how. But the next one may be the last because it is estimated that only my mum plans to fill it in properly. It would be nice to think this disregard for collecting an organised snapshot of Britain was some sort of collective stance against bureaucracy or that we didn’t want to waste resources categorising citizens to generate lots of statistics but do nothing to inform public policy. But it is more likely that people mess with them to be sarcastic or petulant or make a stance about their “rights”. Like their right to be petulant or sarcastic.

‘Newly invented disorders, such as “hypersexuality” - a desire for multiple partners once called “blokeishness” – fuel the pharmaceutical industry’

In other ways, though, we seem to like being categorised or given labels; often we are reassured to know which demographic people are in. Tall, short, blonde, bald, black, Jew - the categories we ascribe seem to offer comfort, which may be why the psychiatrist’s bible The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) grows with diagnoses of newly invented disorders every year.

New disorders include “hypersexuality” – a desire for multiple partners once called “blokeishness” – and “absexuality” or the “Mary Whitehouse Syndrome”, which refers to the thrill of being appalled by pornography or obscenity. But my favourites are “sluggish cognitive tempo disorder”, which used to be called laziness (I think I’ve got that) and “relational disorder” which is when two people - often a separating couple - struggle to get on (I think I’ve had that).
These are simple descriptors but they are lent power and consequence by becoming “diagnoses”. Arguably a diagnosis can offer comfort: “I’m not lazy I’ve got this sluggish cognitive thing. Fetch me more crisps!” But it also offers the chance to prescribe because where there is illness there are drugs and where there are drugs there is profit.

The pharmaceutical industry is recession proof. Businesses may shut, public services will be cut but drug companies are safe. The rush to label behaviour and experiences as mental disorder has always struck me as crass. I have been naive; it may have less to do with medical ideology and more to do with simple economics.


Readers' comments (5)

  • Ha Ha!! i scrolled down this story half expecting to see me being named and 'shamed' as one of the people who put 'Jedi' as my faith when replying for my PIN. I see it simply as personal choice and if 40000 of us aspire to learn the ways of the Force then i am inspired. If i want to rebel against the system i start to think for myself. ooooh! send out the thought police

    BIG PHARMA. Most of us have eaten the gifts of the Pharmaceutical Reps, often fruit (coz they care about our health) or accepted their pens (coz they know we get through about 2 pens a day with the amount of paperwork we have to do) or their keyrings (coz they care about us and don't want us to lose our keys). We know how it works in GP surgerys' and hospitals, "You buy £Multi-million worth of products from us and we'll give you a tenners worth of cakes and donuts. Oops i mean fruit coz we care about you... here have a swine flu jab keyring for the panicdemic that we made up to make more £"

    Anyway where was i before my sarcasm got the better of me. Oh yeah, selling out.
    Next time you need to procrastinate from that essay or FLAP course turds, sorry, Logs, then google Big Pharma to see how the health system has been hijacked by the pharmaceutical companies.

    ps. hope nobody finds this comment offensive, but i been diagnosed with 'sarky tongue "conspiracy theory"-so-can't-be-true cynicism syndrome. Luckily Bill Gates has decided against spending $10B on infrastructure, but instead on vaccines, so the 3rd world can live on a $1 a day in "good health" and i can get a jab for my diagnosis.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am not as brave as the previous contributer but intend to put Jedi as my religion next time, but that is because most of my children seem to spend more time being "Jedi's " on line than being anything in this reality! I find it offensive that this government wants to know all my secrets, if I have a sexual preference and what religion I am! stuff and nonsense. Why cant they just leave us alone

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • As a family historian, then I should be grateful that for the first few censuses [1841, 1851, 1861 etc] people only had the opportunity to lie about their age and place of birth. Oh and they could exagerate about their jobs, but they tended, on the whole to be matter of fact about it all.

    The information in the census is only released to the public after 100 years.
    Our children's grandchildren are going to have a hard time making sense of what should be an objective look at society as a whole.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Test comment. To be removed

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • James Hewitt2

    Test comment to be removed

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.