I was sitting outside in my favourite pub garden this afternoon. A couple of other people were also sat outside, eating. I wondered if they were smokers or not. Eventually, after they’d finished eating, one of them lit a cigarette. ‘Good,’ I thought. ‘One of us.’
I wasn’t wondering whether they were eastern Europeans. I wasn’t wondering whether they were Welsh or Scottish. I wasn’t wondering whether they were left wing or right wing. I was only wondering whether they were smokers or not. Because that was all that mattered.
Because these days that’s how it is. My life is framed by the smoking ban. And I’m no longer English or Irish or Welsh. No longer Catholic or Protestant or atheist. No longer left wing or right wing. I have become… a smoker.
I think that if someone had told me 10 years ago that this would be how I’d be thinking one day, I would have laughed and told them they were crazy. Back then I didn’t give a damn about smoking. It was no more important to me than drinking tea or eating apple pie. It was just something else I did.
It’s become this way because, while I may not have given a damn about smoking, quite a few other people did. These people were utterly obsessed with stamping out smoking. And many of them – like New York mayor Michael Bloomberg – were in positions of sufficient power and influence to be able to do something about it, and start driving out smoking – and by extension smokers – from society. And in the process, someone like me has been transformed from a perfectly respectable member of society into an outcast, and has had his identity entirely defined by the single trait of smoking.
Probably Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals in Nazi Germany had a similar experience. They probably didn’t think of themselves in those categories either, anymore than I thought of myself as a ‘smoker’ 10 years ago. They probably just saw themselves as people like anyone else. It took somebody else to apply those labels to them, and impose a new identity upon them. And it was an identity that they wore as a coloured star or triangle on their lapels.
And when this happened, they ceased to be ordinary members of society, with the cares and concerns of ordinary members of society, because they were no longer members of that society. They would no longer be trying to advance themselves within that society, as artists or scientists or anything else, because they no longer belonged to it. They would instead be simply trying to hang on to their jobs and their homes. Later, they would be trying to hang on to their lives.
The same Nazis are back again now, and with the same eugenic ideology, and doing the same things. They never really ever went away. Only this time the targets aren’t Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals, but smokers and drinkers and fat people. These are the new unwelcome. These are the latest vermin that need to be cleansed from society. And they in their turn are being excluded from society, refused healthcare, fired from their jobs, and evicted from their homes. All of which passes unreported in the mainstream media, just as it passed unreported in Nazi Germany.
It is utterly horrific that this is happening all over again. And most people don’t wish to believe that it is – and so prefer not to believe it. Yet it is indeed happening all over again, only this time more or less everywhere, rather than in just one country as in the past.
And it’s happening because the underlying eugenic ideology never went away. It’s the modern orthodoxy, and it’s been the orthodoxy for 100 years.
The best that can be said about this newly resurgent Nazism is that it is not overt. The new Nazis don’t wear jackboots and black uniforms: they wear well-cut suits. And they largely conceal their hatred of smokers by feigning to care about them, and by masquerading as concerned healthcare professionals, while all the while pushing for measures that will exclude and harm them. And while so far they aren’t yet actively murdering smokers, their programme of eradication is inherently murderous, because its goal is to rid society of certain kinds of people, and in the end this must lead to murder, just as it did in the past.
And at present, most people have been successfully duped into believing that these antismoking healthcare professionals really are primarily concerned with health and well-being, despite all the evidence to the contrary. And it’s very important for them that people continue to believe this, because the moment that they are identified as Nazis will mean the end of them.
One inevitable consequence of these various persecutions is to build solidarity within the ranks of the persecuted. And that’s what I was experiencing today, sitting in the pub garden with my beer and cigarettes. The more people are persecuted, the more they bind together. In this respect, it might be argued that both the post-war Jewish state of Israel and the post-war rise of gay activism were the product of the Nazi holocaust, and wouldn’t have happened without it. And the same will happen with smokers and drinkers and fat people. The future is going to see proud smokers and proud drinkers and proud fat people, smoking more, drinking more, and getting even fatter.
And that’s why smokers are talking to smokers all over the world. They’re the latest persecuted minority, and they’re reaching out to each other. They might be right wing, or they might be left wing. They might be artists, or they might be engineers. They might be black, or they might be white. But increasingly those differences are ceasing to matter in the face of the existential threat which they all share, and which supersedes and negates all other differences.
They’re one of us.