A comment left here by slugbop yesterday:
I live in a social housing unit with 120 other people. They play Bingo every Thursday night. They used to smoke in the community hall until that was prohibited. Since then they have gone outside in front of the building to light up. That has now been banned, unless they smoke near the sidewalk or in the middle of the street. The edict was posted on the door at the front of our building yesterday. I would love to sabotage it but they have hidden cameras near the front entrance.
The comment ended with one word:
But I can’t see any way in which I can help, except to suggest that those 120 people head down to their local town hall – and burn it down.
Because I think that’s what’s going to happen some day soon. The authorities everywhere seem to have started treating smokers like cattle rather than people. They treat them with the most profound contempt. And indeed, as far as I can see, smokers are as much beneath their contempt as, say, French peasants were beneath the contempt of the French aristocracy in about 1760.
And I think that when authorities start treating large numbers of people with profound contempt in this way, very deep rifts must open up in society, and something akin to the French Revolution, complete with tumbrils and guillotines, is likely to ensue.
The most extraordinary thing about this is that more or less the exact same thing is happening everywhere in the world at the exact same time. Which leads me to think that the explosion – or revolution -, when it comes, isn’t going to be restricted to one country, but will consume the whole world.
A further oddity, perhaps, is that while it has historically been the political left which has fought for the rights of downtrodden workers, it is now the political left which is largely (but not entirely) responsible for the plight of downtrodden smokers. In the UK it has been the “progressive” left who voted for a public smoking ban: 90% of Labour MPs in Parliament voted enthusiastically for one. The same wasn’t true of Conservative MPs. And in fact, it’s been the political right, in the form of Nigel Farage and UKIP, who have spoken up for smokers.
The same is true in the USA, where it has been the political right standing up for smokers. Yesterday I came across an article in the Federalist Papers, touching on yesterday’s post, which began:
Here’s a great story that does two awesome things: It makes American troops happy and it infuriates the left.
Momentum – and donations – are growing for “Operation: Cigars for Warriors,” a movement to send stogies to our servicemen and –women overseas.
And even though there have been a great many smokers on the political left – Karl Marx not least -, it’s hard to name any left wing politician who has any sympathy at all for downtrodden smokers these days.
So it was with some surprise that I came across a left wing article in the Baffler that supported smokers.
The powers that be say anti-smoking legislation is for our own well-being. Nothing could be further from the truth. The attack on cigarette smoking does not improve the lives of those it claims to protect, be they the “self-destructive” workers who smoke or the moralizing professionals who complain about having to smell them. Anti-smoking legislation is, and always has been, about social control. It is about ratcheting up worker productivity and fostering class hatred, to keep us looking for the enemy in each other instead of in those who are making a killing off cigarettes and anti-smoking campaigns alike. It legitimates the privatization of public space, limits popular assembly, and forces the working class out of political life into private isolation via the social technology of shame. It whitewashes the violence exacted on the poor by the rich to make it all seem like the worker’s own doing. It is, in short, class war by another name.
I have made the point myself that the war on smokers is a class war. The piece ends:
In the meantime, my last words for the smokers are simply: Never let anyone make you feel ashamed. You should be able to smoke precisely as much as you want. This is not because mass-produced cigarettes or “Big Tobacco” are beautiful things. They are not. It is, rather, because we are beautiful and precious. Our lives are beautiful and precious. Our lives, despite what the bosses say, are actually for our own enjoyment, not to make others’ lives easier, cleaner, and lazier. As long as the value of professionals’ lives is not measured primarily in terms of their effects on others, but according to their pleasure, so shall our own lives and value be measured….
If state and capital are going to steal our precious energies and vast hours of our lives to line their pockets with profit, leaving us with poor sleep, insufficient rent money, and a diet of 7-Eleven specials as we provide the country’s most basic services, the very least we deserve is to enjoy our cigarettes in peace.
Clearly some people on the left are on the side of downtrodden smokers. But the bulk of the “progressive” left are the very people who are now treating smokers with an aristocratic contempt, and loading them with bans and fines. I wonder what George Orwell, himself a leftist, and also a smoker, would have thought of it?