Following on from yesterday, I found an interview of Barack Obama by Bill Maher. What initially interested me about this interview was that Obama gave a broad wink after saying he was an ex-smoker.
Which sort of meant to me that Obama hadn’t actually given up smoking at all. What else did it mean? In which case he was a goddamn hypocrite.
But last night something else Obama said started bothering me. Here’s the transcript, starting just after Bill Maher had asked Obama whether the federal government was going to end the war on drugs:
(7:58) BM: “Isn’t it time that the federal government caught up to progressive states like Arizona and North Dakota?”
BO: “I have always believed that to the extent that the society legitimately wants to guard against any kind of substance abuse that you treat it as a public health problem. Look, I’m an ex-smoker. Cigarette smoker.”
BO: “Yeah.” (broad wink with right eye)
BM: “Did you wink or did you get something in your eye there?”
BO: “No.. No.. It’s true…”
BM: “I thought I caught a wink there.”
BO: “I’m chewing the heck out of Nicorette.”
BO: “When I passed healthcare reform I think I’d had my last cigarette. But the reason is because there was this enormous public health effort to get kids not to take up smoking, and make sure the parents felt guilty if they were passing on that habit to their kids. And so that’s where I think we need to go with pot, alcohol. And so I don’t think that legalisation is a panacea, but I think that we’re going to have to have a more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana and our drug laws generally…” (9:38)
So the enormous public health effort is to make parents feel guilty. The enormous public health effort is to shame parents. Is that really the right way to treat people? Is it really the right thing to do: to deliberately burden people with guilt and shame? Isn’t it actually a very, very wrong thing to do? Isn’t it something that stopped being done to gays and lesbians? They stopped being shamed and made to feel guilty. Why is it OK to do to smokers what stopped being done to gays and lesbians? And blacks and Jews and any number of other minorities?
And if the answer is that blacks and Jews and gays and lesbians can’t help being what they are, and so can’t be blamed for it, but smokers choose to start smoking, and so they can be blamed – then why are smokers always being told that they’re nicotine addicts, slaves devoid of willpower to overcome their addiction, and as such no better than junkies shooting up heroin?
And also do parents really “pass on” the habit of smoking to their children, like they pass on their genes? My father didn’t pass on his smoking habit to me. I took up smoking after Dr W had shouted about what a “filthy, filthy, filthy” habit it was, and I realised that the war on smoking wasn’t about health, but was really about cleanliness, about purity, about morality – at which point I stopped being frightened of smoking (and never have been ever since). It was the antismoking Dr W who got me to start smoking.
And if the habit of smoking is “passed on” by parents to the children who emulate them, isn’t it just as much “passed on” by anyone else who smokes. In which case the shame and the guilt must be loaded onto all smokers everywhere, not just parents. And of course this is exactly what happens.
And furthermore, just exactly how do you “get kids not to take up smoking”? You can’t. They’re either going to choose to smoke, or they’re going to choose not to. Just like they’re going to choose to read books, or choose not to. Or choose to go swimming, or choose not to. Or choose to climb trees, or choose not to. Life is filled with an infinity of possible choices. The only way to “get them to not not take up smoking” is take away their choice, and keep them in a perpetual childhood in which all choices about everything, including reading books and climbing trees, is made for them by adults who are themselves actually children.
And also wasn’t Obama really telling Maher that burdening people with shame and guilt was also “the way we need to go with pot and alcohol”? So pot-smokers are going to be shamed next? And drinkers?
But, in fact, they already are, of course. The drinkers and the eaters are now also being comprehensively shamed, and made to feel guilty – guilty for eating a cheeseburger or a hot dog or a pizza or a steak or an ice cream.
Shaming people is actually the way Political Correctness works. It extends to everything. It goes far beyond eating and drinking and smoking. You’re also supposed to be ashamed of your own country and your own culture and your own history. So Americans are supposed to be ashamed of once being slave-owners, even though none of them are now. And us Brits are supposed to be ashamed of the British Empire, now that it’s long since history. And we’re also supposed to be ashamed of the Industrial Revolution and the steam locomotives and factories and smoke it brought. Shamed into silence and submission.
That’s how it works.
One last thing. When Obama said “society” might “legitimately want to guard against… substance abuse,” how do you tell what “society” wants? Who do you go ask? And when you’ve found them sitting out in a park someplace, how do you tell whether what they want is “legitimate” or not. And what is substance “abuse”? When I used to build sandcastles on the beach, was that substance “abuse” – sand abuse? And if not, why not?