Living A Lie

Some ten or fifteen years ago, I fell into conversation with a couple of people at the bar of the River in Devon. We had not been talking long, when one of them told me that there were three matters which should never be discussed in pubs. The first was religion, the second was politics, and I forget what the third was. It simply “wasn’t done,” he declared. Because no doubt I had just strayed into one or other of the forbidden regions.

My response was to ask, “Then what’s there left to talk about?”

It seemed to me then, and now, that there should not be any forbidden subjects of conversation. If some matter is in contention, then that is the very best reason why it should be avidly discussed, rather than be forbidden to be mentioned. There is only a problem in such matters when people of a dogmatic character encounter each other, and occupy entrenched opposing positions, which can end up in a shouting match. But for those of a less dogmatic cast of mind, debate and discussion are the principal ways by which we humans resolve our disputes.

Around about the same time, I met (at the same bar) the friendly old submariner, Ron, who was one of the few ex-servicemen I’d ever met who spoke freely about his war-time experiences. Because, once again, there seems to be an unspoken rule among such people that the war was another thing that should never be discussed. You didn’t mention the war.

But I was also told, that while I might have liked Ron, a lot of other people didn’t. And this, it was explained to me, was because it had been Ron’s habit, after his wife died, to arrive at a pub, and burst into tears after a few drinks. It was further explained to me that it was “not done” to bring your domestic troubles to a pub. They were to be left at home.

But I could only feel sympathy for Ron. It must have been awful for him to lose his wife after many decades together. And only to be expected that he’d burst into tears periodically. If I’d been there, I’d have bought him another drink, not tut-tutted about his supposedly inappropriate behaviour.

But then, I’m someone who will talk about anything, with anybody, anywhere. I don’t have a rule-book full of forbidden topics. I’m always willing to learn, and to encounter new perspectives and points of view. Why should I not talk about what I so often think about, or write about?

Anyway, given so many different matters that many people seem to think should never be discussed, I was wondering today whether the smoking ban had become another such forbidden topic.

Because the people I meet (outside pubs) never mention it, even though it is the principal reason why they are sitting outside. And perhaps that’s because, in order to maintain the semblance of normality, all concerned must pretend that life is going on as normal, and that nothing has really changed.

I was not there, but I imagine that the same sort of thing happened during the blitz in London in 1940. When your house had been bombed flat, and you had only just managed to escape from the ruin, and you arrived at your local pub (assuming it was still standing), you didn’t describe in gory detail to everyone present what had just happened. No, you talked instead about Vera Lynn’s latest hit record, or a comedy show in the West End, or which horse had won at Ascot. You talked about anything and everything apart from the war, which you wanted to forget for an hour or two. You went to the pub to escape. And you didn’t want to be reminded of what you were escaping from.

And I think there’s a bit of this happening with the smoking ban. It’s called “putting a brave face on things,” or “keeping a stiff upper lip.” You pretend that everything is all right. You pretend that life is the same as it always was, even if everything has utterly changed.

But it could also be described as living a lie. The justifications for the smoking ban were all lies, and the claims that it is “very successful” and that “everyone likes it” are also lies. They are public lies promulgated through the mass media, and repeated by politicians. And to go along with this, by refusing to discuss it, is to become complicit in a vast public lie.

And once people have learned to live one lie, there can be no doubt that they can learn to live a great many more lies, until more or less everything they say or do is the product of a vast edifice of unquestioned and unquestionable lies, and they have become entirely empty, hollow, and superficial people.

Ron didn’t live a lie. Ron spoke freely and openly. And he showed his feelings. And he was a wonderfully friendly man. And he was also, of all the people I’ve ever met, the only one who was a real hero who had fought real and terrifying underwater battles.

And he was, in his last days, also issuing dire warnings that my generation would have to fight the same battles that his generation had fought. Although at the time I couldn’t see why.

About Frank Davis

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19 Responses to Living A Lie

  1. Budvar says:

    Had a bit of a “Heated” discussion with some prat in the pub a few weeks back who loudly proclaimed the smoking ban was a good thing in his view. He then went on about how he and his clothes used to stink.

    So I chimed in with “So did you never used to get washed then?”. He got all defensive and said “Well yes, I used to stink of smoke”, so then I said “Well if you used to washed yourself and put your clothes through the washing machine, what difference did it make?”.

    He hummed and Ah’d and then I said to him “So how long do you wear your clothes now, now the smoking ban has stopped you stinking?”.
    He replied “Well how long do you wear yours?”. To which I said “Oh probably about a fortnight, as the only thing that makes people stink these days is tobacco smoke”.

    He then got all agressive and squared up to me saying “You trying to start an argument?”.
    I replied “About the smoking ban, yeah!”, as I thought to myself if you’re going to start swinging sunshine, it comes back a sight harder.

    About this time my mate came back in from his smoke break, and was mouthing *NO* and shaking his head behind me at him.

    He then backed off and decided to change the subject.

    These people need showing up for the idiots they are when they come out with this sort of claptrap.

  2. Some other Tom says:

    A brilliant post. I too, try to go through life as unbiased and curious about things as possible. I simply love learning, understanding and having encounters with real people speaking freely, which these days, is a complete rarity.

    I enjoy your writing for that reason; you are inquisitive and never propose that you know – only that you don’t know and want to figure it out. Admirable trait.

    I’ve always held similar beliefs about things one should or shouldn’t talk about. I’ve never quite understood why topics have to be ‘off the table’ of ideas, or uttered through a veil of ‘political correctness’.

    I think when it’s all said and done, this particular and strange war we’ve all been sucked into, people will thank the smokers. We’ve been at the front lines in the cross hairs far longer than the others who are about to be, and are the first to begin seeing it for what it is; a war against each and every individual and their autonomy and sovereignty. We’re learning how to defeat them on the fly, unorganized, with simple acts of defiance, writing blogs, inspiring others to be proud, challenge the status quo. Thank you.

  3. Marie says:

    Simone de Beauvoir said, “The writer of originality, unless dead, is always shocking, scandalous; novelty disturbs and repels.”

  4. smokervoter says:

    President Obama is the most divisive politician I’ve had the displease of witnessing in my life time. It is no wonder my country is so polarized. I’m almost glad that it is. The foreign press (and in particular today, presenter Katty Kay of the BBC) just doesn’t grasp what was behind the supposedly earth-shattering government shutdown/debt default.

    One party absolutely loves Big Government, mandatory lifestyle interventions and legions of jobsworths. The other party distrusts all of the above. Cutting the budget, lowering taxes and fixing the deficit is simply code for Big Government Go Away and don’t come back another day. It’s not particularly complicated. One only had to observe (as per the BBC newsfeed) the Democrat party hacks greeting the returning jobsworths, as if all was right with the universe now that federal employees were back on the job.

    And continuing as per the BBC broadcast, one such jobsworth was delighted to be back at her job “saving the environment”. More like obstructing every attempt to supply the American people with energy and jobs. The EPA is probably the biggest job-killing entity there is.

    Obama’s press meeting was one part disgustingly partisan grandstanding and one part Big Government, jobsworth-union cheerleading.

    To wit he said “let’s work together to make government better, rather than treating it like the enemy.”

    Mr. President, do you mean we smokers should feel like the allies of your Health Services Secretary, your CDC appointee, your Surgeon General, your little buddy William Corr – all of whom go out of their way on a daily basis to brand us Public Health Enemy Number One ?

    Go F yourself, ex-smoker from Hell, you are the enemy of 46 million American smokers.

    And if we’d all get together and vote as a bloc, you and your Big Government smokerphobic parasites would be history. It only takes 66 million to take the presidency, surely there’s another 20 million “enemies” out there to join us.

    Candidate Herman Cain was really on to something during the last campaign with that video of his manager smoking.

    • gary k says:

      Those 46 million smokers would be joined by another 30 million or so spouses, close friends, etc of the smokers.
      That is a group larger than any political party.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      The EPA is probably the biggest job-killing entity there is.
      Your right!

  5. beobrigitte says:

    Because, once again, there seems to be an unspoken rule among such people that the war was another thing that should never be discussed. You didn’t mention the war.

    I remember that, too……….

    But it could also be described as living a lie. The justifications for the smoking ban were all lies, and the claims that it is “very successful” and that “everyone likes it” are also lies. They are public lies promulgated through the mass media, and repeated by politicians. And to go along with this, by refusing to discuss it, is to become complicit in a vast public lie.

    It is amazing how many people fell for it!
    “The smoking ban helps me to cut down smoking”
    “Erm, you accept then you should not be an adult and that you are weak? If I want to cut down smoking, I just light up less. I am adult enough to make my own choices and see them through. I do not need or wish ‘help’ from the state.”


    Hope the message got through!

  6. harleyrider1978 says:

    Anyway, given so many different matters that many people seem to think should never be discussed, I was wondering today whether the smoking ban had become another such forbidden topic.

    Frank I was just watching the ”HITLER BUNKER” and they stated many Bunker Occupants began smoking in earnest within its domain against the Fuhrers direct orders not to!

    I just smiled knowing the Bastard was being poisoned by second hand smoke,yet didn’t die of it as claimed by the likes of Arnot…………No it took a Cyanide capsule and a bullet to the brain to end Hitlers Dynasty……….But we can be pleased his own folks tortured the Bastard with ciggy smoke!

  7. harleyrider1978 says:

    Problems with scientific research

    How science goes wrong

    A SIMPLE idea underpins science: “trust, but verify”. Results should always be subject to challenge from experiment. That simple but powerful idea has generated a vast body of knowledge. Since its birth in the 17th century, modern science has changed the world beyond recognition, and overwhelmingly for the better.

    But success can breed complacency. Modern scientists are doing too much trusting and not enough verifying—to the detriment of the whole of science, and of humanity.

    Too many of the findings that fill the academic ether are the result of shoddy experiments or poor analysis (see article). A rule of thumb among biotechnology venture-capitalists is that half of published research cannot be replicated. Even that may be optimistic. Last year researchers at one biotech firm, Amgen, found they could reproduce just six of 53 “landmark” studies in cancer research. Earlier, a group at Bayer, a drug company, managed to repeat just a quarter of 67 similarly important papers. A leading computer scientist frets that three-quarters of papers in his subfield are bunk. In 2000-10 roughly 80,000 patients took part in clinical trials based on research that was later retracted because of mistakes or improprieties.

    What a load of rubbish

    Even when flawed research does not put people’s lives at risk—and much of it is too far from the market to do so—it squanders money and the efforts of some of the world’s best minds. The opportunity costs of stymied progress are hard to quantify, but they are likely to be vast. And they could be rising.

    One reason is the competitiveness of science. In the 1950s, when modern academic research took shape after its successes in the second world war, it was still a rarefied pastime. The entire club of scientists numbered a few hundred thousand. As their ranks have swelled, to 6m-7m active researchers on the latest reckoning, scientists have lost their taste for self-policing and quality control. The obligation to “publish or perish” has come to rule over academic life. Competition for jobs is cut-throat. Full professors in America earned on average $135,000 in 2012—more than judges did. Every year six freshly minted PhDs vie for every academic post. Nowadays verification (the replication of other people’s results) does little to advance a researcher’s career. And without verification, dubious findings live on to mislead.

    Careerism also encourages exaggeration and the cherry-picking of results. In order to safeguard their exclusivity, the leading journals impose high rejection rates: in excess of 90% of submitted manuscripts. The most striking findings have the greatest chance of making it onto the page. Little wonder that one in three researchers knows of a colleague who has pepped up a paper by, say, excluding inconvenient data from results “based on a gut feeling”. And as more research teams around the world work on a problem, the odds shorten that at least one will fall prey to an honest confusion between the sweet signal of a genuine discovery and a freak of the statistical noise. Such spurious correlations are often recorded in journals eager for startling papers. If they touch on drinking wine, going senile or letting children play video games, they may well command the front pages of newspapers, too.

    Conversely, failures to prove a hypothesis are rarely even offered for publication, let alone accepted. “Negative results” now account for only 14% of published papers, down from 30% in 1990. Yet knowing what is false is as important to science as knowing what is true. The failure to report failures means that researchers waste money and effort exploring blind alleys already investigated by other scientists.

    The hallowed process of peer review is not all it is cracked up to be, either. When a prominent medical journal ran research past other experts in the field, it found that most of the reviewers failed to spot mistakes it had deliberately inserted into papers, even after being told they were being tested.

    If it’s broke, fix it

    All this makes a shaky foundation for an enterprise dedicated to discovering the truth about the world. What might be done to shore it up? One priority should be for all disciplines to follow the example of those that have done most to tighten standards. A start would be getting to grips with statistics, especially in the growing number of fields that sift through untold oodles of data looking for patterns. Geneticists have done this, and turned an early torrent of specious results from genome sequencing into a trickle of truly significant ones.

    Ideally, research protocols should be registered in advance and monitored in virtual notebooks. This would curb the temptation to fiddle with the experiment’s design midstream so as to make the results look more substantial than they are. (It is already meant to happen in clinical trials of drugs, but compliance is patchy.) Where possible, trial data also should be open for other researchers to inspect and test.

    The most enlightened journals are already becoming less averse to humdrum papers. Some government funding agencies, including America’s National Institutes of Health, which dish out $30 billion on research each year, are working out how best to encourage replication. And growing numbers of scientists, especially young ones, understand statistics. But these trends need to go much further. Journals should allocate space for “uninteresting” work, and grant-givers should set aside money to pay for it. Peer review should be tightened—or perhaps dispensed with altogether, in favour of post-publication evaluation in the form of appended comments. That system has worked well in recent years in physics and mathematics. Lastly, policymakers should ensure that institutions using public money also respect the rules.

    Science still commands enormous—if sometimes bemused—respect. But its privileged status is founded on the capacity to be right most of the time and to correct its mistakes when it gets things wrong. And it is not as if the universe is short of genuine mysteries to keep generations of scientists hard at work. The false trails laid down by shoddy research are an unforgivable barrier to understanding.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      How reliable is science?

      It is not difficult find instances of fraud in science:
      •Ranjit Chandra faked medical research results. He pocketed the money meant for running the experiments.

      •Woo-suk Hwang faked human cloning, among other terrible things.

      •Jan Hendrik Schön faked a transistor at the molecular level.

      How did these people fare after being caught?

      •Ranjit Chandra still holds the Order of Canada, as far as I can tell. According to Scopus, his 272 research papers were cited over 3000 times. As for his University? Let me quote wikipedia: University officials claimed that the university was unable to make a case for research fraud because the raw data on which a proper evaluation could be made had gone missing. Because the accusation was that the data did not exist, this was a puzzling rationale.

      •According to Scopus, Woo-suk Hwang has been cited over 2000 times. Despite having faked research results and having committed major ethics violations, he has kept his job and… he is still publishing.

      •Despite all the retracted papers, Jan Hendrik Schön has still 1,200 citations according to Scopus. He lost his research job, but found an engineering position in Germany.

      Conclusion: Scientific fraud is a low-risk, high-reward activity.

      What is more critical is that we still equate peer review with correctness. The argument usually goes as follows: if it is important work, work that people rely upon, and it has been peer reviewed, then it must be correct. In sum, we think that conventional peer review + citations means validation. I think we are wrong:

      •Conventional peer review is shallow. Chandra, Hwang and Schön published faked results for many years in the most prestigious venues. The truth is that reviewers do not reproduce results. They usually do not have access to the raw data and software. And even if they did, they are unlikely to be motivated to redo all of the work to verify it.

      •Citations are not validations. Chandra, Hwang and Schön were generously cited. It is hardly surprising: impressive results are more likely to be cited. And doctored results are usually more impressive. Yet, scientists do not reproduce earlier work. Even if you do try to reproduce someone’s result, and fail, you probably won’t publish it. Indeed, publishing negative results is hard: journals are not interested. Moreover, there is a risk that it may backfire: the authors could go on the offensive. They could question your own competence.

      •There are many small frauds. Even without making up data, you can cheat by misleading the reader, by omission. You can present the data in creative ways, e.g. turn meaningless averages into hard facts by omitting the variance (see the fallacy of absolute numbers). These small frauds increase the likelihood that your paper will be accepted and then generously cited.

      How do we solve the problem? (1) By trusting unimpressive results more than impressive ones. (2) By being suspicious of popular trends. (3) By running our own experiments.

      Further reading: Become independent of peer review, The purpose of peer review and Peer review is an honor-based system.

  8. harleyrider1978 says:

    Obama’s Government-Induced Inflation

    The future cannot sustain America’s growing debt.

    Andrew Napolitano | October 17, 2013

  9. harleyrider1978 says:

    Czech president makes unlikely recommendation: smoking safe if you start late

    17-10-2013 15:50 | Jan Richter
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    While many European leaders are concerned about healthcare costs related to smoking, the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, opposes curbs on the habit. Indeed, on a visit to the country’s biggest cigarette factory on Wednesday, he made an unlikely recommendation with regard to starting to smoke. But an anti-smoking campaigner says his views have no place in the modern world

    • beobrigitte says:

      The anti-smokers still stick to their manual………

      The Czech Republic remains one of few EU countries to still allow smoking in restaurants and other public places. Despite relatively high numbers of smokers in the country, however, the vast majority of Czechs are in favour of such a ban. Eva Králíková blames its absence on the tobacco lobby.

      “About 80 percent of Czechs would prefer non-smoking restaurants but we still don’t have them. So this is another instance where we can see [the effects of] tobacco industry lobbying, to say it politely.”

      the vast majority of Czechs are in favour of such a ban.
      Haven’t we all heard that before – in various Countries that were overrun with a smoking ban?

      Eva Králíková blames its absence on the tobacco lobby.
      That no longer washes, either. Tobacco control’s network is too big.

      During his visit to the cigarette plant, the president reiterated his objections to the EU’s anti-smoking efforts, saying that regulating tobacco consumption would only increase the illegal cross-border trade in cigarettes.

      Is there a reason why the Czech president is NOT to visit a perfectly legal industry, which employs a considerable number of people?
      Apart from that; we in England pay £16 for 50gr. tobacco. Naturally people buy cheaper ANYWHERE they can. Regulating tobacco consumption hurts the state and that’s it. No-one else.
      The many, many LONELY OLD PEOPLE are STILL ALIVE! And they have lived through many years without a smoking ban. If smoking “kills”, why are we now facing the problem of “inadequate care for the elderly” and “lonely old people”?

  10. Tony says:

    Jeremy Hunt highlights plight of ‘chronically lonely’
    “He [Jeremy Hunt] warned that loneliness was as “bad for you” as “smoking 15 cigarettes a day”, was “worse than obesity” because of the risk of blood clots, heart disease and dementia, and warned that lonely people “drink more” and were more prone to early admission in residential or nursing care.”

    Further article here:
    ‘Half of adults’ in England experience loneliness

    • beobrigitte says:

      Labour accused of him trying to blame families for government failures.

      In a speech at the National Children and Adults Services (NCAS) conference, Mr Hunt said: “Each and every lonely person has someone who could visit them and offer companionship.

      “A forgotten million who live amongst us – ignored to our national shame.”

      Well, it’s Labour’s fault in the first place!!! They dictated the smoking ban that closed older people’s venues, such as Bingo halls and pubs where many of them used to meet.
      What’s the anti-smokers’ response? To blame the proprietors!!!
      “Go with the times, if you have had to close your pub it’s because no-one wants these old-fashioned places anymore rather than the smoking ban”.
      The fact that EVERYWHERE, where there is such a smoking ban, pubs CLOSE, is “just pure co-incidence”.

      Well, anti-smokers. Now you go and do your best to make these lonely old people want to live again – that means: GET OUT OF OUR LIVES!!!! (And, remember, don’t touch any money; it’s covered in this ultra-hyper-dangerous ‘third-hand-smoke’!!)

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