Insiders and Outsiders

It puzzles me sometimes why there are no moves towards finding a compromise solution to the smoking problem, by allowing separate smoking rooms in pubs, or separate smoking pubs.

But I think the answer to this is that the antismokers can’t contemplate such plurality or diversity. Theirs is a one-size-fits-all mentality. In one, single, unified society everybody must abide by the same rules. And they must abide by them everywhere and all the time. There can be no exceptions. To allow any sort of diversity is to consent to society becoming fragmented and divided. And this they cannot tolerate. We must all sing from the same hymn sheet, and dance to the same tune. We are all equal, and must be treated equally, and behave equally.

And yet the very first thing that the smoking ban did – on Day One – was to divide pub-goers into insiders and outsiders. The non-smokers and antismokers sat inside, and the smokers stood outside. It’s a social division which hasn’t become blurred by time. You’re either an insider or an outsider. And if you’re an outsider who’s fed up with standing outside, you don’t go inside: you go home. And that widens the rift.

And it goes deeper than just whether you sit inside or stand outside. Because if you’re an insider you will have the approval and support of the government and the media. It will be to you that the government will look for public approval (say, for further smoking bans), and it will be people like you who will appear on TV to give their considered opinions about a variety of matters. You will be a respectable citizen. But if you’re an outsider, your opinions will be disregarded by the government, and they will not be reflected in the media. And you will be demonised and shunned. And you will feel all the more an outsider for it.

And perhaps, like me, you will get rid of your TV because you no longer want to listen to people who are not like you talking about things you don’t want to know about, and saying things you don’t agree with. And you don’t want to vote for any of them either. In fact, you wouldn’t want to know them at all.

And once society has become divided into insiders and outsiders, in the absence of remedial measures the divisions must gradually and remorselessly deepen. They must become two separate cultures. They must become as different as Catholics and Protestants. Or Jews and Gentiles. And they will have less and less to do with each other.

As a small (and almost trivial) example of this, I came across an article somewhere that Tony Blair had written about the recent riots. I was about to start reading it when I suddenly realised that I had no interest whatsoever in what this former Prime Minister thought about this (or anything else). And equally, I didn’t want to know what David Cameron, the current Prime Minister, thought about the riots either. For as far as I am concerned, Tony Blair is the Prime Minister who brought in the smoking ban as one of his last acts. And David Cameron is the Prime Minister who could have moved to relax the ban, but didn’t. And both also happen to have been (and maybe still are) smokers, which makes their behaviour all the more reprehensible. They are people who expelled me from society (i.e. outside), and I no longer care what they think about anything. David Cameron has been promoting something called the “Big Society” in recent months, about which I know nothing except that I’m not a member of it – because you’re not a member of something you have to stand outside. Neither of these people gives a damn about smokers like me. And I don’t give a damn about them.

And what this points towards is an even deeper growing division which extends into the wider debate within the culture about riots and everything else. There is, quite simply, ceasing to be any shared, common culture. I don’t share anything with Blair or Cameron. There’s an ‘official’ insider culture that dominates both government and the media, and which talks only to itself, and ignores any dissenting opinion (whether it be about smoking, or global warming, or the EU, or riots, or anything else), and they’re members of it. And there’s an ‘unofficial’ outsider culture, of people who are ignored or excluded, and I’m a member of that.

Not only is society divided at its foundations, with the antismokers sitting inside the pubs and the smokers standing outside, but this division extends hairline cracks through the entire fabric of society, including government and media and the whole public debate about everything.

And paradoxically, this divided society has been the consequence of trying to create a single, one-size-fits-all, level-playing-field society.

I think that when cracks open up in society, they should be regarded with same kind of alarm as when cracks open up in ships. For the two are strongly analogous. The ship may float quite well in harbour, but when it’s caught in a storm and it’s subjected to extreme stresses, those cracks are likely to open even wider, and do so catastrophically. So also with society.

It’s one reason why I think that, sooner or later, there will come to be calls for the divisions in society to be healed, and for smokers to be treated fairly, and pubs allowed to open smoking rooms. It won’t be called for because anyone will think that smoking isn’t a bad thing. It’ll be called for because the widening social divisions that have been consequent upon the ban will have at last been recognised by a few percipient observers.

But, at the same time, there is reason to suppose that such urgent calls will be ignored. And this will be precisely because the government and the media only consider insider views and opinions, and resolutely ignore and disregard all outsider opinions. And because of this, they will continue to think that the smoking ban is a great success, and everybody loves it, particularly those many smokers who enjoy standing outside in the wind and rain.

It’s a bit like Libya under Gaddafi. If you were a Gaddafi loyalist and insider, you got preferential treatment, and in turn you told the dictator that everybody loved him, including his enemies. In fact, particularly his enemies. And Gaddafi believed this, because nobody was telling him any different, because nobody was permitted to tell him any different. And so the divisions in Libyan society were never addressed, and insiders and outsiders became ever more divided and opposed. The Gaddafi government insiders just talked to themselves, in their own self-congratulatory dialogue, while the outsiders fumed outside.

And nothing ever stays the same. When cracks open up in society, or in the hull of a ship, or in anything else, they only ever get wider. They don’t ever spontaneously close together and reseal. And so the very real divisions that are opened up in a society by smoking bans are not going to heal themselves. They’re only going to widen.

And so this is what will happen. But don’t expect any of our current crop of politicians to see it happening any more than Colonel Gaddafi could see it happening.

About Frank Davis

smoker
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18 Responses to Insiders and Outsiders

  1. Kenny Kenson says:

    well said, Frank. i feel exactly the same way. i’m an outsider, and have no interest whatsoever in what the insiders say, do, or think. just wanted to let you know that you are not alone.

  2. Leg-iron says:

    There are a lot of us out here now. And I agree, it is becoming increasingly difficult to care at all what any of the inside people think.

  3. smokervoter says:

    Blair, Obama and Cameron – all former outsiders. At one time, they’d smoke outside in the cold with us and chat. One by one all three decided “Well pals, this is my last smoke out here with you all. I’m quitting and joining the insiders where it’s nice and warm. Nice knowing ya’. And I’ll make damn sure that no one ever builds a room inside for you to smoke in.”

    There’s a special hell somewhere for turncoat Reformed Smokers.

  4. Junican says:

    But there is an added dimension! Those who can say who can be inside have been told in no uncertain terms whom they can can allow inside! If they fail to conform, they are likely to be punished severely! What has really caused the problem is that ‘Those who can say who can be inside’ did not rebel – in fact, many of them (the pubcos) actively conspired to create ‘the outsiders’.

    When the day comes, as it must surely do, that we are allowed back inside, we can expect a proliferation of new, smaller bars. I, for one, will be looking to patronise these new establishments. In fact, if I was younger, I would now be planning to be in the forefront of the new order – smallish lock-up bars with comfy rooms for smokers and non-smokers with TV and tapas and fun. None of your ancient, magnificent edifices.

    But we must try to be patient. Certainly, this petition could be a major step. But even if it fails, the ‘dream’ is still alive.

  5. Walt says:

    I thought this was summed up nicely by a poster here a few weeks ago who said she’d thought about volunteering to help clean up after the riots but then thought…why? why help a city, or in fact, fellow Londoners who treat her like a leper? It occurs to me that, when any of are asked to volunteer or to donate, that we all ought to articulate exactly why we won’t. Okay, it’s a small step, but it might begin to cause the oblivious to have a passing thought about the consequences of their prejudice.
    :

  6. George Speller says:

    “when it’s caught in a storm and it’s subjected to extreme stresses, those cracks are likely to open even wider, and do so catastrophically”

    What wonderfully clear vision you have, Frank.

  7. Rose says:

    “It puzzles me sometimes why there are no moves towards finding a compromise solution to the smoking problem, by allowing separate smoking rooms in pubs, or separate smoking pubs.”

    Because they want you to stop using tobacco, and they will shrink your world smaller and smaller until life becomes so impossible, that you do.

    It would look bad if they forced you to stop and might have unfortunate consequences, so it has to be your own idea.

    At first it seems to have been mostly about the money.

    1956
    “As we all know, the expenditure of dollars on tobacco is one of our most serious problems.”
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=1956-06-05a.880.3

    Mr Frank Beswick ( Uxbridge) in a debate on removing the Old Age Pensioners tobacco tokens, to reclaim £2.25m for the Treasury.
    The concession was given in 1947 to insulate the pensioners from the effects of a massive tobacco tax rise.

    One year later, when presumably having to pay for tobacco in dollars was still “one of our most serious problems”.

    1957
    “..the Medical Research Council was planning to issue a statement saying although smoking was a significant cause of lung cancer, up to 30% of cases might be caused by air pollution.

    But the Cabinet committee on cancer of the lung, fearful of another political embarrassment which could be caused by stressing the air pollution connection, asked the MRC to reconsider its statement.
    On 31 May 1957 a modified version was published, which asserted that although it was likely that atmospheric pollution did play a role in lung cancer, it was ‘a relatively minor one in comparison with cigarette smoking’.”
    http://www.lshtm.ac.uk/news/2002/smogpollution.html

  8. Rose says:

    Now it seems to be more about getting control of a high yield plant that is not in the food chain.

    “Within 10 years, researchers are hopeful that tobacco farmers might be raising millions of acres of biofactories rather than ”the killer weed.”

    The latest breakthrough in tobacco ”pharming” may bring such a vision one step closer to reality. Scientists at Monsanto Co. (MTC) reported in the March issue of Nature Biotechnology that they were able to genetically engineer tobacco plants to produce human growth hormone, otherwise known as somatotropin–an extremely costly drug used to treat dwarfism.

    But the Monsanto discovery was more important for the process than the product. The scientists were able to induce the tobacco plants to manufacture the drug in an abundant piece of the plant cell known as a chloroplast, which is responsible for converting light into food. Other efforts to create drug-producing plants have altered plant nuclei instead–far less numerous cell components.

    DNA DILEMMA. ”We were able to produce 300-fold more human somatotropin in the chloroplasts than in the nucleus,” says Jeffrey M. Staub, manager of the Monsanto team that developed the technique. ”As an optimistic scientist, I think it is very reasonable to [believe] we will be able to produce commercial quantities of human proteins in the plants in the next couple of years.”

    The biotech industry has been seeking an inexpensive way to produce its products almost as strenuously as it has been searching for the treatments.
    Old-fashioned drugs are essentially chemicals that can be cooked up in factories, but bioengineered treatments are usually large proteins, and they need to be ”grown”–typically in bacteria. Only very small amounts of a drug at a time can be produced this way, and only in a tightly controlled environment.

    Some biotech drugs are also secreted in the milk of genetically engineered animals, but raising farm animals is expensive and time-consuming, and separating the drugs from the viruses and bacteria in the milk can be difficult. Plants, however, are both cheap to raise and carry virtually no risk of contaminating the drugs they are used to create–making them the ideal bioreactor.”
    http://www.businessweek.com/2000/00_15/b3676121.htm

    As well as the market in medicinal extracts.

    • Rose says:

      Collagen from tobacco shows great promise

      “Natural human type I collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, and the main protein in all connective tissue. Commercially produced collagen (pro-collagen) is used in surgical implants and many wound-healing devices in regenerative medicine. The current market for collagen-based medical devices in orthopedics and wound healing exceeds $30 billion annually worldwide”
      http://www.jpost.com/HealthAndSci-Tech/Health/Article.aspx?id=177599

      “Commercial collagen is currently produced from farm animals such as cows and pigs as well as from human cadavers. These materials are prone to harbor human pathogens such as viruses or prions (Creutzfeldt-Jakob or “mad-cow” disease). Human cadavers are scarce, and for certain indications possesses serious ethical issues”

      In that case, tobacco grown collagen sounds like a great improvement to me.

  9. Frank, you wrote, “It puzzles me sometimes why there are no moves towards finding a compromise solution to the smoking problem, by allowing separate smoking rooms in pubs, or separate smoking pubs.”

    It’s actually simple Frank. It’s because the real motivation for the bans has nothing to do with annoyance or secondhand smoke at all. Those are simply tools used by antismoking advocates to “make smoking as difficult and expensive as possible” in the words of our own Mayor Bloomberg. It’s treating people as rats and delivering electric shocks to them as a form of conditioning them into “proper” behaviour “for their own good.

    In terms of the cracks in society, I very much agree and I think we’re already seeing it to a great extent. The lack of general friendliness and tolerance that had built up so nicely since the 60s, the acceptance of people being different and having different beliefs and practices while also being respected for “doing their own things,” all that has been destroyed with the antismoking movement being the “patient zero” in the epidemic.

    – MJM

  10. Thank you for the invitation good sir! :) I’ll strike when the time is ripe! Or at half-past-the-banana.

    Whichever.

    ;>
    MJM

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