I’m a model builder. I build models of all sorts of things. And over the last 20 or so years I’ve slowly built a model – a computer simulation model – of the solar system, with all the planets going round in their orbits. It has Newton’s Laws of Motion and Gravitation built into it, and also, when necessary, Hooke’s Law of elasticity.
This model, and other similar models that I have built, serve to shape the way I think about not just the motion of the planets, but everything else as well, including human life. For we humans can no more contravene the laws of motion and gravitation than any rock in orbit around the Sun.
And so, when I recently constructed a model of the Earth’s atmosphere as set of bubbles of air rolling across the surface of the Earth, and bouncing off each other, I couldn’t help but think that the motion of human life upon the surface of the Earth was essentially no different. We are all either “getting along together” and going in roughly the same direction, or we are colliding with each other, and bouncing off in all directions, sometimes at high speed.
And I see things like smoking bans, which “exile people to the outdoors”, as forces which act to expel them from society, and set them rolling across the surface of the Earth. But, because I see them as being in motion on the surface of a sphere, I also see them as bound to circle back to the place where they started, just like rocks thrown upwards sooner or later come back down. And so it seems to me that, if smoking bans are seen as powerful explosive efforts to expel smokers from society, the smokers are sooner or later bound to come back, even if they must roll all the way round the Earth (or all the way round the Sun) before they return.
And so it seems to me to be inevitable that, in the fullness of time, the efforts of the antismokers in Tobacco Control will be completely undone, and Tobacco Control will be utterly destroyed, and its antismokers scattered across the surface of the Earth just like they once scattered the smokers.
For there is a certain equity built into the universe, such that there is always an equal and opposite reaction to any action, and both energy and momentum are always conserved, in a continually unfolding process.
The antismokers in Tobacco Control seem not to see the world as a process, but as something fixed. They believe that, if they could just once manage to ban smoking everywhere in the world, they could thereby change the whole world forever. But the world, and everything upon it and around it, is always in motion. It cannot be fixed forever in one place.
Either that, or they are model builders who think that they can stop the world, make a few changes to it, and then restart the model. But the world is not the same as a some computer simulation model that can be stopped and restarted and re-run. The world never stops. Not once, not even for a fraction of a second.
The antismokers remind me of myself, at the age of 14, building dams on beaches to hold back the rising tide. It worked for a while. I could keep the spot where I stood seawater-free for quite a long time. But the dam had to be continually extended and raised. Eventually, it became a circular dam all around me, and I was working frenetically to keep it repaired. The end always came very suddenly, and usually from behind me, as a wall of water surged over the dam, reducing it in seconds to a sodden low mound of sand.
It will be much the same for the antismokers. Already, they are having to redouble their efforts, to keep out not just smoke, but completely unexpected vapour from new vaping devices. They are having to work harder and harder to keep their bans in place. They’ll manage for a while, just like I managed on Bandeirantes beach near Rio de Janeiro. And the end, when it comes, will most likely be very sudden, as they realise that all their efforts have come to nought.
Anywhere, here’s a little video I made of my simulation model last night. I spent a long time improving the islands in the Sumatran archipelago, and enlarging Hawaii and Samoa and the Galapagos islands, and adding new lakes in Siberia and Mongolia, as well as editing and correcting the coastline of China. You can do this sort of thing with a computer model. But you can’t do it with the real world.