Lots of insightful comments today. Too many to address. Nightlight kicked it off:
But to start educating smokers (i.e. creating millions of Gian’s), one needs web sites, with videos, blogs and other viral techniques to replicate an equivalent of a simple message “smoking is good for you” (or a clumsier form “smoking is at worst harmless, but it is likely beneficial to most” or “smoking doesn’t kill, smoking is not a sin”).
Even that stage requires few preliminary phases, such as collection of scientific materials, creation of wiki & well written articles where the language of science is translated into language accessible to those millions.
Only then a viral movement can be kicked off, focused exclusively on mass awakening of smokers, helping them out of “smoking kills => smoking is sin” Matrix. Forget debating antismoking loudmouths and others about SHS or rights or fairness… etc. First get those millions behind you, outside of the antismoking Matrix where few of us are, and only then your message can be amplified enough to make a difference.
The problem Nightlight identifies is that there are far too many of us smokers who think that smoking is wrong, and that we shouldn’t really be doing it, and so mount little or no resistance to the War on Smoking. And there are not very many of US who think that smoking is good for you, or is at least harmless and enjoyable. And until the majority of smokers can be convinced that there is nothing wrong with smoking, it’s not going to be possible to raise an invincible army of angry smokers. There will only be a resistance movement.
It is this moral issue that needs to be addressed. The War on Smoking is primarily a moral crusade, and its primary moral purpose is to punish sinful smokers. Antismokers begin with the conviction that smoking is wrong, and proceed then to convince themselves that therefore smoking must kill, and are forever trying to show that it does. But where does this initial moral conviction, shared by both antismokers and a great many smokers, originally come from?
This is actually the same question of why many people believe that drinking alcohol is sinful, that engaging in more or less any sexual activity outside marriage is sinful, that gambling is sinful, that dancing is sinful, that ostentatious wealth is sinful, and so on and on and on. Smoking-is-sin is really just one (very minor) sinful card in a whole pack of sinful cards. They’re all “naughty”. And such beliefs aren’t restricted to Western (post-)Christian society. The same convictions are found in Islam and Buddhism. Atheists share them too. These values are ubiquitous.
But why? Why exactly are all these things so wrong? And why are these moralisers so utterly certain of it?
The one common feature to all these prohibited activities is perhaps not just that they are all pleasurable, but that they are all surplus to the minimum requirements for survival. They are unnecessary luxuries. And so the underlying moral code that proscribes them is minimalist in character. It is ascetic. These are the values of nomads who must of necessity travel light, carrying the minimum of baggage. Or else they are the values of people who have endured some catastrophe, and must survive on the barest minimum.
These might be values suitable for desert nomads, or nuclear war survivors, but are they really suitable for prosperous industrial civilisations? The answer seems to be that if it’s all very nice right now, it won’t be in a few years time, after nuclear war, or global warming, or global flu epidemic, or asteroid impact, or whatever, has decimated the population, and returned humanity to a bitter struggle for survival, rooting through ruined buildings for food and drink.
For the minimalist ascetics are always talking up the likelihood of apocalypse just round the next corner. They even helpfully supply dates, from time to time. And these days there are armies of disasters just waiting to happen. Ours seems to be an age in which we have not only central heating and cell phones and well-stocked refrigerators, but also the haunting fear – the terror indeed – that it’s all about to disintegrate and collapse, and be swept away by a tsunami or a storm surge, or an earthquake or a drought or a famine, or maybe just a plague of killer bees. Life cannot be enjoyed, because it is about to end. You don’t need beer and cigarettes: you need a water filter, a compass, a map, and iron rations sufficient for a year or more.
Within this apocalyptic vision of impending doom, health and safety becomes paramount. And all threats become vastly magnified. Smoking ceases to be a mere habit, and becomes an epidemic. So also does obesity and alcoholism. Everything becomes fraught with danger. And children need more protection than ever.
But what we really need is something that is devoid of such exaggerated, irrational fear, and which talks down potential problems rather than talking them up, and which encourages people to enjoy their lives to the fullest in what would otherwise be regarded as the best of times.
P.S. Very relevant video: