A month or so back I showed a video of my bubble model of the atmosphere, which had bubbles of air rolling over the surface of the earth, and bouncing off each other. I was particularly pleased that the air bubbles gradually started moving faster and faster, and ‘boiling off’ into outer space: Global Warming!
But watching the video a bit more recently, it struck me that it could just as easily have been a political model of the world, with human players roaming over its surface, and colliding with each other. With a wave of migrants currently moving from south to north, we are perhaps seeing one of those times when there are large movements of peoples. It was a wave of such migrants from east to west, in the form of Huns, Vandals, and Goths, which submerged the Roman empire circa 500 AD. The rise of Islam, not long after, saw another wave of invasion and conquest sweeping through the Middle East and north Africa into Spain. And the European colonisation of the world from 1500 AD onwards was another migration outwards from Portugal, Spain, Britain, France, and Holland all over the world, and in its wake brought counter-migrations of slaves from Africa into the Americas, and finally a wave of decolonisation: the Ceylonese tea-planter whose story I recounted yesterday had returned to England by the time he told his story.
For a while there are periods of uneasy, frozen stasis, when the map of the world doesn’t change very much, but sooner or later the tectonic plates start moving again, with political earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in all sorts of surprising places.
Brexit was one of those political earthquakes, and Trump was a volcanic eruption. They were both the consequence of political forces that had been building up for a long time. The immensely fragile EU has only been in existence for about 50 years – the blink of an eye in historical terms -, and is already showing signs of incipient disintegration as centrifugal forces on its periphery act to spin member states out of it. First Britain and Brexit. Most likely, sooner or later, Greece and Grexit. And then Pexit, Spexit, Itexit, and maybe even Frexit. The political landscape, frozen for 50 years or more, is liquefying.
But all these large-scale political processes are ultimately being driven by the people in all these places – the people who are little bubbles of air rolling around, bumping into each other.
I am myself one of those little bubbles, and in recent years I’ve been bumping into other people a lot more than I ever used to. For many years I enjoyed a quiet, placid existence in the English provincial town of Bristol, where I had a wide circle of friends, some of whom I had known for 30 years or more. But over the past 10 or 15 years, a variety of forces have acted upon me to exile me from that tranquil backwater.
The most powerful of these forces was the UK smoking ban, which struck like a hurricane on 1 July 2007, and tore apart my circle of friends. In the first place, it left nowhere to meet up with them, because I nearly always met up with them in pubs or cafes or restaurants in which smoking was now banned. And in the second place, it divided people into warring smokers and antismokers – categories which hadn’t really existed beforehand. For example, one of my friends of some 30+ years duration, with whom I’d gone on holiday in Europe many times, stunned me when she told me she’d been working in Tobacco Control for 20 years or more, specialising in Smoking Cessation. That was like a Jew discovering that one of his best friends was a camp guard in Sobibor. Once we used to get along together swimmingly, but now we were in high-speed, head-on collision.
And, as befits an angry, agitated little bubble, I’ve become far more active than I ever was in my sleepy Bristol days. I started writing this blog, which now has readers all over the world, mostly fellow smokers experiencing their own grim, divisive smoking bans in New York or Munich or Moscow or Madrid or Melbourne.
Friendship is when you all flow slowly along together, going in more or less the same direction, like some slow, lazy river. Conflict comes when things get heated, and people start moving fast, and in all directions, and into inevitable collision with each other.
And Tobacco Control has, over the past 50+ years, slowly been heating up the world with its incessant antismoking propaganda. It’s been another form of Global Warming. And it’s been another Anthropogenic – human-caused – Global Warming. And quite likely it’s going to turn out to be Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, CAGW. Tobacco Control’s incessant antismoking propaganda has created an army of fearful, worried antismokers. And as antismoking busybodies have collided with smokers, they have created angry, vengeful, and equally agitated smokers. And now nobody gets along with anybody. Everyone is odds with each other.
Back in the placid pre-smoking-ban days I used to routinely vote Liberal Democrat. I stopped voting for them when it emerged that 95% of Lib Dem MPs voted for the smoking ban, and that “liberal” and “democratic” now seemed to mean “illiberal” and “undemocratic”. Now my vote is pretty much up for grabs, for anyone who will repeal the smoking ban and destroy Tobacco Control. And I’m animated by a spirit of resistance to top-down control and ‘expertise’ of every kind – which includes the UN, the WHO, the BMA, the RCP, the EU, and any other organisation you care to mention, including NASA. And of course I’m one of the 17,410,742 Britons who voted for Brexit.
And if the global political climate has recently been getting hotter and hotter, I can’t help but think that everywhere in the world, smokers have been set in conflict with antismokers, climate alarmists set against climate sceptics, everyone against everyone else, as all the countless millions of little bubbles come into mounting collision with each other, gradually boiling over, and toppling or sinking the governments and organisations that were built upon them.
Never mind building up NATO or the US armed forces, the simplest thing they could do to quiet the whole world down a bit would be to switch off all the smoking and carbon dioxide alarmist propaganda, repeal all the smoking bans, and close down Tobacco Control. But the people at the top are completely oblivious to the social divisions their policies have created. It would never occur to them to do anything so simple.