Fostering Guilt And Shame

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.”
BM: “Ex?”
BO: “Ex.”
BM: “Really?”
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.”
BM: “Really?”
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?


About Frank Davis

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20 Responses to Fostering Guilt And Shame

  1. smokingscot says:

    It does sound like something Mrs. Obama (and other wives laying on the guilt trip to mask their own fears that smoking may kill their spouse – and in many cases the source of their income and the basis of their nice little nest of sprogs) might say.

    The result – very unfortunately – as panned out as an attitude at the very top that all parents should feel guilty. In so doing he – and others like them – have ignored people who never married and never had offspring. They just get caught up in the hyperbole.

    Google tells me that there are 26.7 million households in the UK and 28% of them contained only one person. They do of course ignore bedsit land and DHSS accommodation.

    Astonishingly the percentage figure in the US is identical at 28% with 29% married but without children.

    In the case of the US, President O simply is not speaking for the majority of his “fellow Americans”.

  2. Vlad says:

    I see that in the UK they’ve started to plaster cigarette packs and RYO tobacco pouches with shit intended to foster guilt and shame:

    • Roobeedoo2 says:

      Was the child harmed in order for them to produce that bit of evil propaganda?

      My son fainted and had to be removed from assembly when his school did their ‘this is the disgusting damage smoking does to you’ presentation.

      • nisakiman says:

        Probably only insofar as he was made, against his will, to pose with an actor he didn’t know. The smoke certainly wouldn’t have caused him any harm.

    • Joe L. says:

      Wow. What an unrealistic, contrived pose!

      • prog says:

        Obviously photoshopped/faked like all the warning images – whoever created that or issued the brief was not a smoker, nor understands one – there’s no way a smoking adult would exhale smoke like that whilst holding a miserable kid, nor hold a cig so close to its face. No one would deliberately blow smoke in anyone’s face. In reality, the smoke would be exhaled through pursed lips away from the ‘victim’.

        • The phrase/image of “a smoker blowing smoke on me” is a relatively new one. I don’t think it even existed five years ago…. hmm… OK, not having much luck with more extended versions but the phrase “smoke on me” had its frequency per (million?) go up from 500 to 800 between 1997 and 2008 (See: )

          So by now it’s probably reasonable to say the general usage in our area of concern has at least doubled and maybe tripled in the last ten to fifteen years. And since the Godber Conference in the mid 70s it will have increased roughly a THOUSAND percent!

          Just like “Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray.” the picture of “a smoker blowing smoke on me” is simply not a “natural” thing at all: it was deliberately created as part of a hate campaign with the ultimate goal of eliminating smokers altogether. (Put “like licking an ashtray” in that N-Gram engine and take a gander. Remember: no quotes around a search phrase! And two search phrases can be compared, separated just by commas.) E.G.:

          like licking an ashtray,smoke on me

          “smoke on me” existed before Godber, but I can’t tie down a wider context for it.

          – MJM

  3. Frank, I always suspected you were one of those sand abusers. :( I bet you like to play in MUD too? eh? A bit of dirt abuse on the side? A multiple substance abuser.


    – MJM

  4. jaxthefirst says:

    “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”

    That argument has always struck me as a very worrying one. Because (leaving aside the point which you rightly make about it running contrary to the “helpless addict” mantra), when you analyse it in detail, it’s actually saying that bullying is OK, provided the victim is able to alter their behaviour to do what the bully tells them. What kind of a message is that? And yet it’s a highly prevalent one. Pretty much anyone you talk to who can’t see anti-smoker bullying for what it is, when it is pointed out to them that that is what it is, will instantly justify it in this way, i.e. “Oh, but it’s not fair to bully ethnic minorities because they ‘can’t help’ being ethnic minorities.” (Ergo, the insinuation being that it would be OK to bully them if they were in a position to change their race!) It’s tantamount to telling a little kid who’s being bullied in the playground that the best way to stop being bullied is to willingly give their dinner money to the bully every morning or, even better, don’t take any dinner money in to school – they might have to go without lunch, but at least they won’t be a target for the bullies any more.

    It just goes to show that the basic principle that bullying is wrong per se – under all circumstances and regardless of who the target is – really hasn’t been taken on at a fundamental level, not even by all the right-ons of this world who like to think that they know what bullying is and who fondly see themselves as being against it. Because it just isn’t possible to be “anti-bullying, but with exceptions.” That’s like being “a little bit pregnant!” You’re either anti-bullying or you’re not, because bullying, of whatever type, is so insidious and nasty that if any exceptions are allowed – under any circumstances, for whatever reason, and regardless of the excuses that a person might make to allow themself or others to continue with it (i.e “It’s for his/her own good”) – it’ll run rampant. Exactly as it now is, and will continue to do all the time that that little exception of it being OK to bully smokers exists.

    No wonder bullying, despite endless campaigning for schools and workplaces and even internet providers to adopt strong “anti-bullying policies,” is rife in our society. We see it everywhere. It’s there in the way kids deal with each other in the playground, with their teachers in class and with their parents at home; the way middle managers deal with their subordinate staff; the way the police and other public servants deal with the public; the way cyclists deal with car drivers. It seems that people’s automatic response to being given a modicum of power, no matter how slight, is to abuse it. And of course, they all take their lead from those right up at the top of the establishment – the MPs, the Senior Civil Servants, the big business owners, leaders of organisations like the BMC – who, of course have no qualms about bullying whoever and whatever they dislike at this present moment in time. When all of those places are only required to be anti-bullying in certain circumstances but not in others, that’s precisely the message which they pass on. And so the bullying continues apace. It’s yet another example of the damage that the anti-smoking movement has done. By opening the door, even slightly, to the “permissability” of bullying smokers they have opened up a huge can of worms which have now crawled out in all directions. And until that one, first door is closed, I don’t see any chance of the level of more general bullying being stopped, regardless of how many places adopt meaningless “anti-bullying” policies.

    • nisakiman says:

      “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”

      Blacks and other races certainly can’t do anything about their colour, but I would say that’s about as far as the argument goes.

      Jews can’t do anything about their race, either, but their religion, which is part and parcel of who they are as a people is a choice. And that, of course, goes for all religion, including the new religion of healthism.

      Gays and lesbians? Well, they may not be able to help being what they are, but that’s a debatable point still. Nature or nurture? And in theory they can still exercise control over their sexual urges if they so desire, so from that point of view, they can be blamed for it. So would the NHS refuse to treat gays for STDs because they are a result of a lifestyle choice? Or demand that they adopt a heterosexual lifestyle before treatment is forthcoming?

      When you start looking closely at the argument that smoking is a choice so doesn’t merit consideration, it falls apart.

      As you point out, Jax, the ‘choice’ justification used by anti-smokers is just an excuse for bullying.

      • Fredrik Eich says:

        “Blacks and other races certainly can’t do anything about their colour “

        People can and do use bleaching products to go a whiter shade! My standard response to the argument that people can not change their skin colour is to ask the question “Would racism suddenly become acceptable if people could change their skin colour?” .

        • nisakiman says:

          Heh! Yes indeed Fredrik, the Asians are very keen on skin lightening products. My wife is Asian, and although she doesn’t use any of those products, she avoids exposure to the sun because “It makes my skin dark and ugly”. It makes no difference to her how many times I tell her that I love the milky coffee colour of her skin, she’s nevertheless convinced that pale is beautiful, dark is ugly. Back in Thailand, the stores have shelf upon shelf of skin lightening stuff. It’s a huge market.

          “Would racism suddenly become acceptable if people could change their skin colour?” .

          Good question!

        • Rose says:

          “In the millennia preceding the industrial revolution, pallor was popular within the upper classes, hinting at a noble life of leisure spent indoors. Dark skin was associated with serfdom and toiling in fields all day.

          Using poisonous whiteners to create pale skin has been popular throughout history – particularly during the ancient Greek, Roman and Elizabethan eras”

          Apparently, tanning was only made popular by Coco Chanel in 1923.

          Then fell out of fashion again.

          “Fears surrounding the risks of tanning were confirmed in 2009, when it was found that rates of malignant melanoma in the UK have more than quadrupled in the past 30 years and that it is the most common form of cancer among those aged 15-34. The World Health Organisation has found that people who have been using tanning devices before age 30 are 75% more likely to develop melanoma.”

          Now that the importance of vitamin D from sunshine is known, doctors recommend taking tablets.

          Get all the sun you can – bleak UK weather puts Brits at risk of RICKETS

          “Britons are being urged to take supplements because a lack of bright sunshine across the British Isles is stopping the majority of people from receiving healthy amounts of the essential vitamin – and natural food sources alone are not enough to boost levels.

          The Government’s independent Scientific Advisory Body on Nutrition (SACN) made the recommendation after studying the links between vitamin D levels and a range of health problems, including musculoskeletal health, heart disease, type one diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis.”

          Following Fashion too closely can get you in all sorts of trouble.

        • jaxthefirst says:

          “Would racism suddenly become acceptable if people could change their skin colour?”

          Precisely, Fredrik, and put much more concisely than I did!

  5. Lepercolonist says:

    Melania Obama chews plenty of Nicorette now. Wink, wink.

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