One of the things that bothers me about Tobacco Control, apart from their holier-than-thou self-image, is their complete indifference to what happens to smokers. They’re just not interested.
If I worked in Tobacco Control, I’m sure that I’d be very interested in smokers, given that my work would be directed at them, and (supposedly) intended to help them. I’d want to know what they thought about what was being done on their behalf.
Not Tobacco Control. They’re only interested in their own opinions. Any dissenting opinion is disregarded, or seen as a threat.
But today I came across a story that seemed relevant to the puzzle. There was an horrific gang rape in India a year or two back, which resulted in the death of the victim. The rapists were all caught, and sentenced to death. But one of them was interviewed in prison by a woman film maker:
In 16 hours of interviews, Singh showed no remorse and kept expressing bewilderment that such a fuss was being made about this rape, when everyone was at it.
“A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” he said.
“Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20% of girls are good.”
People “had a right to teach them a lesson” he suggested – and he said the woman should have put up with it.
“When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy,” he said.
Chillingly, he went on: “The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.’ Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.”
I had the long and shocking list of injuries the young woman had sustained, read out to him. I tried, really hard, to search for a glimmer of regret. There was none.
It struck me immediately that the attitude of this rapist to his victim was very like the attitude of Tobacco Control to smokers.
Firstly, the rapist has the same holier-than-thou moral superiority. The victims are condemned for not being “good girls” who stay home doing housework. The rapist is the judge of this, not them. They were “doing wrong things” and “wearing wrong clothes”. And so people “had a right to teach them a lesson”. And, while being taught a lesson, they should just “put up with it”, and not fight back. The rapist is both the teacher and enforcer of morality. He gives aberrant girls the education they deserve, and he has nothing to regret.
Tobacco Control takes the same holier-than-thou attitude to smokers. Smokers aren’t “good” people who deserve respect. They’re “doing wrong things” by smoking cigarettes. And people have “a right to teach them a lesson”. And the Tobacco Controllers have no regrets about what they do to them.
Of course, smokers aren’t being raped by Tobacco Control. But if rape is humiliating and degrading, smokers are also being humiliated and degraded, and treated with complete contempt. They are “exiled to the outdoors”, and expelled from society. They are reviled and humiliated, and they may lose their communities and their friends, or be fired from their jobs, or evicted from their homes, or even refused medical treatment.
And if most smokers don’t complain about their treatment, it’s because they respond the same way as many rape victims. They keep quiet, and tell no-one. They get on with their lives as if nothing had happened. They pretend everything’s all right. And they may even say that they deserved the treatment meted out to them, and that they knew they shouldn’t smoke. Because many of them share the values of their tormentors. And, above all of course, they don’t fight back.
The rapist had a primitive set of values and rules. There were “right things” and “wrong things”, and he handed out punitive “lessons” to transgressors of the rules. The rules were the rules that had been handed down since time immemorial, and they were written in stone. Women were to dress modestly, and stay at home doing housework. There was no deeper rationale underpinning these values and rules. They were the rules, and that was all that mattered. The rapist was incapable of any sort of moral reasoning. He could not, for example, see that the punishment he’d handed out – to be raped and beaten and murdered – was worse than the crime – of wearing a short skirt. And he could not see it because he had no rules for evaluating rules, or for making rules. He’d never been taught any. He’d just remembered the rules by rote. He didn’t know how the rules had come to be made.
The Tobacco Controllers have an equally primitive set of values and rules. There are “right behaviours” and “wrong behaviours”, and they hand out punitive “lessons” to transgressors of the rules. People shouldn’t smoke. It’s a rule that’s been handed down since time immemorial (since James I of England, no less). There’s no deeper rationale underpinning the No Smoking rule. It’s simply the rule: it is just so. The Tobacco Controllers are incapable of any sort of moral reasoning. They can’t see that the punishment they hand out – to be reviled, exiled, fired, or evicted – is worse than the crime – of smoking cigarettes. And they can’t see it because they have no rules for evaluating rules, or for reasoning why some rules are more important than other rules, and why some rules might even be bad rules. They’ve never been taught how to do it either.
And if nobody – including most people in government – go along with the simplistic (and monstrously destructive) moral certainties of Tobacco Control, it’s because politicians and ministers are equally incapable of moral reasoning.
At least in the case of rape, it is recognised as a crime. But what is being done to smokers all over the world by Tobacco Control is not seen as a crime. It’s instead seen as “education”. An education just like the rapist’s “education”.
Nisakiman made this fascinating video in Hanoi earlier this year: