Adrian Williams: Of Anti-Freeze, Brake Fluid and Ideology, An Ideo-Commercial Speculation

In IC20, p.4, under the heading “Gernuetlichkeit” there is a brief reference to Austrian wines, diethylene glycol, mountains and anti-freeze. We have it on good (epistatic) authority – the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – that Austrian wines have been adulterated with diethylene glycol, but what has this to do with antifreeze? Somewhere in the news media of the Western world is someone with a partial knowledge of chemistry who has started a modern myth. The chemical usually associated with anti-freeze is ethylene, not diethylene glycol.

Just as those interested in systematic ideology developed new nomenclature to make it clear what they were talking about, so modern chemists have developed a systematic terminology to permit clear distinction of their chemicals by words and show the relationships to other chemicals. Thus ethylene glycol is now formally known as ethan-1,2-diol and diethylene glycol is now formally known as 3-oxapentan-1,5-diol. Having said that, for the rest of this article diethylene glycol will be referred to as DEG and not 3-oxapentan… (protostatic expediency surfaces again). DEG is actually used as a solvent in a variety of industrial applications and has been used in heavy duty brake fluids. It is not known to be used in anti-freezes.

The same editorial article in the chemical literature that explains all this [1] includes a statement from an ICI spokesman (more parastatic / epistatic authority) that you would have to drink DEG neat for it to be poisonous. It is roughly half as poisonous as neat alcohol by weight. Just to rub in the complexities of whether DEG is poisonous or not, a 1965 report (unattributed) says that the effects can be minimised by administering a large dose of alcohol. (Parastatic question: how large is large? No info.)

Since DEG is an effective sweetener of wine (so that not much is needed) and not highly poisonous, there is no great risk in drinking Austrian wines, but only a chemist can be sure of this. In a later issue of the same journal a correspondent points this out [2]. The scare causes people to avoid Austrian wines so the prices drop and Austrian wines suddenly become a bargain as long as you don’t drink too much at once. (Protostatic opportunism tempered by parastatic knowledge). His problem now is that he cannot find a shop with any stock.

A cynic would say all the stock has been bought by staff of the MAFF, but an ideologist accepts that parastatic chemical analysts reporting to epistatic legislators are caught by the contradictions in their own position. They convince the legislators that DEG is poisonous, of no benefit in food, and should not be permitted, so the legislators rule it out of order completely in an attempt to satisfy their own wish to work by longlasting principles of protecting people. Detection of the opportunism of Austrian wine blenders leads to epistatic authority requiring all stock to be withdrawn/destroyed to protect the majority who know nothing of DEG and its toxicity.

Even if the government did not require withdrawal of the suspect stock the traders would be well advised to withdraw it for their own sake. How can the non-technical person, without several thousand pounds’ worth of equipment to do a parastatic analytical job, tell good Austrian wine from bad? Better to withdraw all of it and avoid the spreading of guilt, by association (protostatic logic in operation) to the rest of the trader’s stock.

The chemist finds that he needs to appeal to the authority wielded by the epistatic establishment to frighten the majority into stopping drinking Austrian wine but it goes too far and all the wine is withdrawn. To get a personal benefit from his knowledge he needs to get the same epistatic establishment to say that the low concentration of DEG is almost harmless and anyone can safely drink Austrian wines. This gives a short period when people at large are suspicious and when the wine reappears the price is low. Too late! You frightened the epistatic authorities too much to start with and they frightened the protostatic majority too much.

If you want to make easy money from parastatic knowledge you need to cut out the epistatic level and go straight to protostatic action. Funnily enough, that is what some Austrian chemists did when they arranged to use an easily available and difficult-to-detect chemical to sweeten the wine. Unfortunately, you only have a short time to get this benefit before epistatic authority catches up with you. The ideo-levels interact in particular ways and anyone who tries to cut out one of them in his dealings is likely to find himself with short-term benefits and long-term disbenefits such as fines and gaol sentences.

So, Mr. parastatic chemist, better stick to your secure job with an index-linked pension and report to epistatic authorities who mediate your interaction with the protostatic mass. That way, at least you will continue to make more money out of your skill and knowledge than anyone has ever made out of systematic ideology.

[1] Chemistry in Britain (Sept.85), 21, 785.
[2] Rout, A.E. Chemistry in Britain (Dec.85), 21, 1074.

from Ideological Commentary 23, July 1986.