The Only Constant Is Persecution


Northern Ireland has experienced a political earthquake after an extraordinary election saw Sinn Fein surge and unionists lose their majority for the first time in history. A return to power-sharing is now questionable, as Sinn Fein has previously refused to rule along with the Democratic Unionists and now wields even more power at Stormont.

I’m never quite sure whether the political divide in Northern Ireland is a nationalist division, or a religious division. It’s probably both. Northern Ireland is Protestant and part of the Union, while Ireland is Catholic and a sovereign state – and has been a sovereign state since the Easter Rising a century ago (until it joined the EU, and ceased to be a sovereign state).

Before that, Ireland was firstly conquered by the same Normans who had conquered England in 1066, and who arrived in Ireland in 1171, during the reign of Henry II. And it was later reconquered by the Tudors in the reign of Henry VIII, and again very bloodily by Oliver Cromwell a century later. Ireland has a 700-year-long history of on-off English occupation.

I have a distant interest, because my mother’s side of my family originated from the Bog of Allen (a place that I only discovered some 10 years to actually exist, a little west of Dublin ) in Ireland, and I was raised as a Roman Catholic in Protestant England. And part of my religious education consisted of being reminded of all the Catholic martyrs who had died horrific deaths in England after the Reformation introduced by Henry VIII. There was intense persecution of Catholics in 16th century England. And there was also occasional equally intense persecution of Protestants, who also have their illustrious martyrs.

I never fully understood why these various persecutions and counter-persecutions took place, because nobody ever took the trouble to explain. But to the extent that I now think that I understand it, I believe it was because Catholics who owed religious allegiance to the Pope in Rome were regarded as being potential (and perhaps actual) traitors – much in the same way as modern Europhiles are regarded by some people as traitors.

Nor did I ever really understand the Catholic Christianity into which I had been inducted. Seven years of education by an army of Benedictine monks never quite made a lifelong Catholic out of me. Christianity never really quite made sense, in much the same way the chemistry lessons to which I was subjected never quite made sense either (while the mathematics and physics lessons usually made perfect sense). I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to understand both Christianity and Chemistry, with only modest success.

And perhaps a great many other people were never quite able to make sense of whichever brand of Christianity, Catholic or Protestant, to which they had first been introduced. Fewer and fewer people attend church. For in many ways, all Christians seem to believe much the same thing, with only slightly different accentuations and flavourings, and so all must be equally likely to experience the same doubts and incomprehensions. It’s in a deepening spiritual vacuum that a variety of different cults – including Islam – now proliferate.

There is no modern persecution of either Catholics or Protestants in Britain. Their churches co-exist side by side. But the spirit of intolerant persecution lives on: it’s simply that the targets of persecution have shifted elsewhere.

These days, you won’t be persecuted in Britain if you’re a Catholic or a Protestant, but you will be if you smoke tobacco. Just yesterday, I was reporting how antismoking persecutor-in-chief Deborah Arnott was demanding that smokers be forced out of all hospital grounds into the dangerous streets outside. And in next week’s Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond will doubtless ratchet up taxes on tobacco another notch in the endless escalator of tax rises. The Arnotts of the world are driven by an antismoking religious fervour as passionate as any displayed by torturers of previous centuries. We smokers are supposed to recite the new litany, that Smoking Causes Cancer, that Smoking Causes Heart Disease, that Smoking Causes Premature Death, and so on. We are encouraged as assiduously to repent of our wicked and sinful ways, and renounce the Devil (tobacco) and all his works and pomps, as any condemned priest at Tyburn being shown the implements of torture which were about to be used to disembowel him.

In time we smokers will have our own books like Foxe’s Lives of the Martyrs. I’ve already begun one with The Smokers’ Graveyard. It will be an awful record of the people who fell out of windows, or off roofs or balconies, while trying to have a quiet smoke somewhere. And people will read it in incomprehension that so much cruelty and contempt and hatred could be displayed by supposedly civilised people towards something so innocuous.

In time, the accusatory finger of persecution will point elsewhere. 500 years ago it was Catholics and their satanic Pope. 50 years ago, it was the demon drug marijuana. In coming years it will probably be fat people, dog-owners, or skate-boarders who will be demonised and persecuted. The only constant is persecution. There is an endless supply of Arnotts who, having identified some new evil (obesity, dogs, skate-boards), will self-righteously and zealously work to eradicate it from the world. Catholicism. Marijuana. Tobacco. Coming soon, the great Custard Tart Prohibition.

And all these various persecutions leave lasting marks, and result in animosities that endure for centuries – just like in Northern Ireland -, and which modern politicians and pundits and reformers will work to exacerbate, even while they are stoking the fires of the latest witch-hunt on something else.

About Frank Davis

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The Only Constant Is Persecution

  1. Many times over the years I have sworn that when I have the time I shall ‘shop’ a copy of “Der Giftpilz” (poison toadstool)

    to show a cigarette/smokers and call it the ‘der Giftstengel’ (the ‘poison stick’ a humourous word for a fag).

    • smokingscot says:

      Is there a reason why the Star of David is so prominent on the “stalk” of the centre one?

      • Yes, the book is most infamous Nazi’s children’s book, all about the dangers of the ‘poison toadstools’ that were the jews. Warnings about Jewish doctors molesting German girls in their surgeries, of Jews using the ‘would you like a sweetie?’ trick to entice good German children into god knows what. Hence the David’s star and the supposedly non-aryan faces on the ‘shrooms’.
        I’m not Jewish but even reading it now 70 years plus after it came out, is stomach turning. The word ‘vile’ doesn’t come close.
        Closest I ever came to punching a German work colleague in his anti-semitic gob was when he started on the ‘that book was the truth’ line.

  2. lleweton says:

    ‘ …. the spirit of intolerant persecution lives on: it’s simply that the targets of persecution have shifted elsewhere.’ My thoughts exactly.

  3. Smoking Lamp says:

    I agree persecution is a constant factor in the politics of nations. Now some of the programs are focused on smokers. A move to persecute person who drink alcohol is also in the wings. Temperance and antismoking go together! The question is how do we stop the persecution of smokers?

  4. waltc says:

    From yesterday but on target. About hospital bans, Rose reports that: Hospitals have been told to remove smoking shelters and end the “terrible spectacle of people on drips in hospital gowns smoking outside” by introducing an outright ban on cigarettes. So to hide the evidence of the shameful cruelty they themselves impose, they impose yet more cruelty. Yes, if there’s a history this will be looked back on with the same disgusted amazement as history looks at the segregation and lynching of blacks, the ghettoizing and extermination of Jews and the jailing of homosexuals. As Frank says, it’s all the same thing–answering the same foul need–and only the objects change.

  5. Smoking Lamp says:

    AT least there is some resistance to smoking bans in Japan. See “Japan’s tobacco lobby seeks to head off indoor smoking ban” at the Financial Times. The paper claims the ban is needed to bring Japan in line with ‘global norms’.

  6. MikeR says:

    A US TV interview from 1957. Like something from another world – the days when smoking was just something lots of people chose to do, rather than a deadly sin. Mike Wallace talks with Malcolm Muggeridge. The show was sponsored by Philip Morris tobacco and it’s a delightful half hour or so for ciggie fans, as Wallace waves his “death stick” about and sincerely plugs the brand; Malc and Mike puff away vigorously throughout (Muggeridge uses a cigarette holder). Malcolm Muggeridge lived to be 89; Wallace was 94 when he died in 2012. It’s an interesting interview too. Lots more are available to watch, and other guests frequently enjoy a relaxing gasper along with Wallace.

  7. Some French bloke says:

    all Christians seem to believe much the same thing, with only slightly different accentuations and flavourings

    Reading that, one particular so-called tobacco harm theory that basically says “the devil is in the additives” popped into my mind. On the one hand, the Gospel truth has been tampered with by various sects, turning simplicity into strife and confusion, on the other, tobacco has never been so adulterated than since TC forced Big Tobacco to tamper with their own product to fit the overarching agenda, i.e. less nicotine and ‘tar’ (how on earth they’ve been able to pull this off is anyone’s guess, though I’d suggest total collusion, combined with public apathy). The result being a debased product being sold at extortionate prices.

    @ BD: thanks for the appreciation of my comment on the previous-to-last Banging on thread:
    This Sunday I biked my way to the nearby (≈ 8 miles) Belgian locality of Beauwelz to get 200 grams of Fleur de Semois – Val Ardennais – coupe fine by Vincent Manil’s workshop/museum (the one displayed on your profile pic – and not a debased product!) I’m now denting my just-replenished stash, thinking of you among other people and things. Commenting on this blog allows us to become mentally ‘visible’ to each other. Smoke signals, anyone?

    • The Blocked Dwarf says:

      *colour me green with envy* I love semois tobacco (i may even try growing some next year if I can get the seeds), I visited Manil’s last June and it blew my mind….the head rush from the semois aroma just from going down the steps into his workshop, fondling all the ancient equipment, my arms in boxes of fresh cut tobacco and I was even allowed to smoke in the workshop/museum!
      I may yet persuade Granddad to post up a report of my visit ….

  8. Rose says:

    More than 600 health quango chiefs on six figure salaries amid cash crisis
    March 2017

    “More than 600 NHS quango chiefs are now on six-figure salaries, with a doubling in the number earning more than the Prime Minister, new figures show.
    Many of the highest earners have made repeated demands on Government to increase NHS funding as it battles against its worst financial deficit in history.

    But figures uncovered by the Telegraph, show that the nine main health quangos are now employing 628 officials on salaries of at least £100,000.”

    They include 93 taking home more than Theresa May’s £149,440 salary – up from 48 at their predecessor bodies three years earlier.
    Among the highest paid is the NHS deputy medical director, earning around £225,000 a year.
    Dr Jonathan Fielden is currently suspended from work and banned from contact with patients, after being arrested on suspicion of voyeurism.”

    “Dame Sally Davies CMO: £205,000 – £210,000”, well she can certainly afford the tax on a packet of cigarettes but she is not doing as well as Harpal Kumar CEO of Cancer Research UK who was getting £240,000 a year and that was back in 2015.

No need to log in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.