After writing my essay on the Collective Punishment of Fatties, I carried on thinking about how smokers were also being collectively punished, and also anyone else who didn’t conform to healthist dogmas of every kind. In fact, it seemed to me that, far from punishment being an accidental and unforeseen by-product of various public health measures, punishment was the primary purpose of them. We smokers and drinkers and fatties were wrong-doers who needed to be punished, and punishment was what they were inflicting on us. The antismokers were primarily driven by moral indignation. But they hid this indignation behind a mask of epidemiological science (the whole of which is complete baloney). Rather than say that “What you are doing is wrong!”, they prefer to say that “What you are doing is killing you, and killing us as well!”
And it set me thinking about what’s right and what’s wrong. How does one know whether something is right or wrong, a good thing to do or a bad thing to do? Because, for the life of me, I can’t see what’s wrong with rolling a dried herb in a piece of paper, or stuffing it into a pipe, and lighting it and inhaling its smoke. Disregarding the supposed health risks, what on earth is morally wrong with that? Why do some people think it is such a terrible thing? And why do they think the same about drinking a few pints of beer? And eating a cheeseburger with chips? Because I can’t see anything morally wrong with it.
I have my own ideas about morality which I have developed a little in Idle Theory. In Idle Theory people are regarded as alternating between busy and idle states. While they’re busy they are performing some sort of essential work (e.g. growing food), and while they’re idle they sit in pubs drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. And their ‘idleness’ is the fraction of their time that they spend idle. If they live very busy lives, their idleness approaches zero or 0%. And if they live very idle lives, their idleness approaches unity (1) or 100%. And in general, people prefer to be idle than to be busy. They prefer holidays to workdays. They prefer weekends and Sundays to the days of the working week. And they generally prefer to be rich (and therefore idle) than poor. And it is a good thing that they should prefer idleness to busyness, because zero idleness is the threshold of death (I won’t try to explain why). And so I came to regard Idle as good, and Busy as evil. And began to construct a morality in which good acts were ones which increased people’s idleness, and bad acts were ones that decreased their idleness. If you steal from someone, you make them work harder, and reduce their idleness, and so stealing is wrong. If you kill someone, you reduce their idleness to zero. And so on.
Now I won’t elaborate any further on the ethics of Idle Theory, or discuss its merits and demerits, but I hope that it’s clear that I have been taking a rational approach to morality, and that I see the morality of any act in terms of the consequences flowing from it. If it helps people, and makes their lives easier, it’s a good thing. And if it hinders them, or causes them trouble (traballo, work), it’s a bad thing. And you have to think about what you do, what its consequences might be, not just for yourself but everybody else. You have to think hard.
But the morality of the antismokers doesn’t seem to be based on any rational, systematic notion of good and evil. Perhaps it is, but I have yet to discern any such system. It seems that for the antismokers some acts are simply inherently bad in themselves, and there’s no reason why they are regarded as bad. They just are. It’s just so.
This was brought home to me during my last visit to the dentist when my (new) hygienist told me that I shouldn’t smoke. And she drove the message home by exclaiming:
I found this suggestion risible, and in fact I probably laughed, because it struck me as a very primitive kind of morality, and most probably imbibed in childhood. She had no doubt be told, many times, that it was naughty to smoke cigarettes, and quite probably naughty to drink alcohol, and naughty to eat junk food, and very, very naughty to have sex. And of course she would have been punished for being naughty, if she was ever caught doing any of these things. And maybe also that it was naughty to do all sorts of other things as well, and so she had grown up with a long list of naughty things she shouldn’t ever do, and which ought to be punished. And she was probably completely incapable of attempting to analyse any action to find out what was right or wrong about it, or if there was anything right or wrong about it at all.
So I’m now wondering whether antismokers and their kind are people whose moral codes consist of long lists of do’s and don’ts which they’ve had hammered into them. And they think that they know what’s right and what’s wrong, and they will set out to correct and punish anyone they find doing wrong, because such people obviously don’t know, and need educating (i.e. telling in no uncertain terms).
I lived in the house of an antismoking doctor many years ago. His hatred of smoking was neither rational nor considered: he called it “filthy, filthy, filthy”. In fact he once shouted it out loud. He was also an extremely inhibited man. And he was incapable of smiling – although he could hitch up the corners of his mouth when he felt that a grin was required. And I always felt of him that he had probably been horribly punished by his parents or schoolmasters for the slightest infraction of any of a large set of arbitrary rules, to the point where he had become incapable of laughter and humour and even play. And when he called smoking “filthy”, I couldn’t help but think that he was echoing the words of an angry parent or schoolteacher (who were in turn echoing the words of their parents and teachers).
So today I’ve been wondering whether the morality of the antismokers is the product of coercion. It was what they had hammered into them. There was no rhyme or reason for their lists of do’s and don’ts. They’d never been given one. But once the morality had been fully absorbed, they in their turn felt duty-bound to pass the same morality onto their children, and to everybody else’s as well. Which is why children matter so much to them.
And yet what they set out to pass on to their children, and to their next door neighbour’s children, and in fact all the children on their street, isn’t a morality at all, in my view. They are simply propagating a set of unconsidered prejudices. And they may as well be telling people that not only shouldn’t they smoke and drink, but that they also shouldn’t walk on the cracks between paving stones. And they should put milk in a teacup before they pour the tea in, not after. Because that’s naughty too.
And this vacuous morality is also being propagated from behind a mask of science, all of which is mendacious nonsense. But they can’t see the mendacity of their own actions, because their botched morality never required them to consider their own actions, or the consequences that flowed from them. If it wasn’t on the list of do’s and don’ts, it was perfectly okay to do it. They’d never been taught to think about consequences.
Their morality is, if anything, a kind of disease. And it’s a disease that has reached the epidemic proportions that they see in other people’s smoking and drinking and obesity, and which is really only a reflection of their own disorder.