Dmitri Kossyrev: a Google translation from Russian into English:
Paradise: a beer and a cigarette.
At the same blog, my British friend Frank Davis – his long (with pictures) essay about the philosophical meaning of the struggle against smoking. I will not quote it, retell important.
In fact, says Frank, the objections of anti-smoking forces against smoking – ethical character, but they express it is not able to, so they try to build on the very weak health arguments.
Ethics here is this: all beings have to work to stay alive. But the essence of this work, its purpose – to make sure that you can do nothing. This is the aim all the inventions of mankind: the car, so as not to walk, etc.
It turns out that in the human representation is ideal existence – is doing nothing, in fact, a paradise where you can always sit in the garden with a glass of beer and a cigarette. And there is its opposite – it is hell, where you always have to do something unpleasant (to be tortured, well, in general, to work).
So says Frank, the people who can not see how we smoke (drink, eat, listen to music, read books) – the inhabitants of hell is that we simply wildly jealous.
Did I write that the inhabitants of Hell were jealous of the inhabitants of Heaven? I have searched my essay, but found nothing about jealousy or envy. This looks like it may be an artefact of translation from English into Russian, and from Russian back into English into which jealousy has crept.
The ethical system I had constructed was one in which idleness or leisure was good, and work and toil were bad, and living things (most notably humans) were always trying to increase their idleness. Heaven was a condition of perfect idleness, and Hell was a condition of unrelenting busyness. Humanity, suspended somewhere between Heaven and Hell, aspired to reach Heaven, and to escape Hell. And to do this, humans employed useful tools – axes, hammers, saws, roads, bridges, engines, computers, and so on – to reduce the work they needed to do, and to thereby increase their idleness. But if there were useful tools like axes and hammers, there were also useless tools like playing cards and chess boards and footballs and surfboards. And these things filled up human idle time with pointless and entirely unnecessary activities like gambling and chess-playing and football and surfing. While humans were unloading work from their shoulders with all their useful tools, they were busy loading new work onto their shoulders in the form of all these quite unnecessary activities. They were getting nowhere. They were getting nowhere nearer Heaven. If they were to attain Heaven, they would have to forego all these pointless activities. They would, in short, have to stop gambling and surfing and dancing. And they would also obviously have to stop drinking and smoking.
Anyway, it is not inconceivable that the busy, toiling inmates of Hell should feel jealous of the idle inhabitants of Heaven. But there is one very good reason for supposing that this cannot be the case. And it is that the inmates of Hell are simply far too busy to take note of whatever is going on (or not going on) in Heaven. The idle residents of Heaven are perfectly able to gaze down in horror and dismay at the toiling figures in Hell, but the inmates of Hell don’t have the luxury of being able to return that gaze. So Hell cannot be jealous of Heaven.
Furthermore, if Deborah Arnott was in Hell, and somehow managed to find the idle time in which to stop scrubbing its floor, and to cast her eye upon Heaven, would she be jealous at what she saw? I think not. I think she would be shocked and dismayed at the sight of people drinking beer and smoking cigarettes in Heaven. She would be very glad that she didn’t live there. How awful to have endure all those drunken smokers! Why doesn’t Heaven have the No Smoking signs that are these days the badge of civility? And No Drinking signs too? And she would feel exactly the same if she saw people sitting on clouds, twanging harps. How could anyone possibly put up with all those annoying harps? What a hideous cacophony! Was there anywhere in Heaven where anyone could get away from it? It could go through walls and along telephone wires, just like tobacco smoke. Even in the wide prairies of Heaven, you could still faintly hear the damn tinkling notes.
No, Deborah Arnott would pick up her scrubbing brush, and renew her labours with a will, glad that she wasn’t in that hellish place, but instead had a useful job sweeping up brimstone and ash from the deserts of her idea of Heaven.
Which brings me back to the moral cliffhanger question: what’s wrong with smoking? The charge against it was that it was a completely unnecessary activity, a new form of burdensome work, which had replaced vital, necessary forms of work like fishing and farming. The fishermen had laid down his rod and line, and the farmer had laid down his plough and his spade, and both had picked up their pipes and matches instead. One tool had merely been replaced by another tool. No progress whatsoever had been made! One form of toil had been replaced by another.
But if smoking is something people freely choose to do in their idle time, along with drinking beer, and playing chess, and talking about the weather, it’s not ‘work’. It only becomes work if there is some sort of obligation to do it. And the Deborah Arnotts of the world supply this obligation in the form of ‘addiction’. The cigarette addict can’t stop himself smoking. No sooner has he stubbed out one cigarette, than he must light another. He is the slave of his cigarettes, just as much as any slave in the American Confederacy toiling in its cotton fields. And of course these cigarette addicts want to escape their enslavement just as much as any slave on a cotton field. Who wouldn’t?
But couldn’t the same be said of the army of harpists in Heaven? No sooner have they stopped playing one tune, than they start playing another. They are as addicted to their harps as smokers are addicted to their cigarettes. And the same goes with beer drinkers and chess players and conversationalists. They are addicted to beer, to chess, and to talking respectively. Can’t they ever stop?
In what way are they all ‘addicted’ to these pointless activities? Are they ‘addicted’ at all? Might not the idea of ‘addiction’ itself be an addiction?
Anyway, I’ve just noticed that Dmitri has written another blog about me. I haven’t read it yet.