Paradise: A Beer and a Cigarette

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.

About Frank Davis

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21 Responses to Paradise: A Beer and a Cigarette

  1. Clicky says:

  2. Rose says:

    Two world’s meet.

    After ISIS, Smoking Openly to Feel Free
    APRIL 22, 2017

    “He was the only man I saw when we entered the nearly empty village in northern Iraq, which had just recently been liberated from the Islamic State. The first thing he did when he approached our car was ask my colleague for a light. That’s when I noticed the pack of cigarettes sticking out of Mohamed Ahmed Saleh’s shirt pocket.

    Just over a week after the terror group was flushed out of his hometown, Mr. Saleh was making a visual statement. He wanted people to know that he’s a smoker, a crime that until recently would have earned him 20 lashes.”

    “I’m no fan of smoking and avoid bars because I can’t stand the smell of secondhand smoke, but it was obvious that smoking for this man equaled freedom.”

    • Wonderful Rose! Thanks for sharing that! As Dmitri and Frank have pointed out, being free to smoke, or to drink, or to make love for that matter, are all part of “paradise.”

      – MJM

    • Tony says:

      The torch of liberty emblazoned on the packet looks good too.

    • Joe L. says:

      This is an uplifting article, but the hypocrisy of publishing this in the New York Times strikes me as odd.

      An article proclaiming the ability to smoke openly is a symbol of freedom being published in a city/country where smokers are progressively being forced to smoke in seclusion almost feels like our authoritarian policymakers and their lobbyists in Tobacco Control are rubbing our dwindling freedom in our faces.

      Also, this quote from the author is quite strange:

      I’m no fan of smoking and avoid bars because I can’t stand the smell of secondhand smoke

      I looked up the author and found out that she is Romanian-American; born in Romania, but now an American citizen living in NYC. So, just where are these bars that she avoids because of the “smell of secondhand smoke?” There sure as hell haven’t been any in NYC since the Bloomberg regime, and Romania has had a comprehensive indoor smoking ban in place since March 17, 2016. Something seems ‘off’ about this article.

      • LOL! Joe, that is a **REMARKABLE** catch! We should try to do something with it (I have no idea WHAT at the moment, but SOMEthing!

      • Tony says:

        Yes, that’s odd but just a thought:
        I suspect that a high proportion of non smokers are oblivious to smoking bans. They are not affected and frankly neither know nor care about their fellow citizens. They dutifully remember and repeat the anti-smoking soundbites of course but have no personal desire to go to bars anyway. So maybe her article was simply written in wide eyed innocence. She probably didn’t even understand the gravity of the heresy she was committing.

        • Joe L. says:

          I suspect that a high proportion of non smokers are oblivious to smoking bans.

          I respectfully disagree. Today it’s nearly impossible to approach a door to a public establishment without seeing one or more signs or stickers with a picture of a cigarette inside a red circle with a slash through it which read something along the lines of “Smoking is prohibited within X feet of this door.” These stickers are required by law to be displayed in many states here in the U.S.

          Also, especially for someone like the author, working in a city full of hi-rises like NYC, the accumulation of smokers on the sidewalks is quite noticeable and the complete lack of smoking inside every building is a stark contrast. It’s practically impossible to be ignorant of smoking bans today.

          There may be a small proportion of non-smokers who are oblivious to smoking bans, but I presume they would need to be people who live in rural areas and never travel.

        • Roobeedoo2 says:

          I agree, Tony. Most non-smokers do not even have a clue. Not even if you tell them to their faces. Some smokers too, but the “I really should give these up” whiners seem to have moved over to vaping. Perhaps we’ve reached smoker’s bedrock.

          The branding does have something of the Statue of Liberty about it, but, you know, with her letting her hair down…

          *That says ‘liability’, Clicky… that’s a legal word, like ‘addicted’… Unless those were TC being flung off, then bravo…*

          Interesting etymology of the brand name Akhtamara:

          ‘It appeared as if the words “Akh, Tamara” (Oh, Tamara) were frozen on his lips.’

      • RdM says:

        Well there seemed to have been no edits in it, putting the URL into

        But this one seems to have had quite a a few revisions… I haven’t looked into them yet

    • RdM says:

      “The young man with the carton told me that he smoked because he was >b>addicted, but that it was also his own form of resistance.”

      “One carton like this used to cost more than $100, which he said was approximately the monthly pay of an Islamic State fighter.”

      Tobacco aficionados in New Zeal Land would be glad to see cartons at $100.

      As I wrote earlier, the cheapest (shitty) packs of 20 here are now NZD $22 each.
      I’ve torn a few of the cheapest brands apart over the last few weeks; I’ve a mind to make a youtube video showing just how poor the tobacco quality is, even sharp stalks & all, compared with RYO tobaccos of also differing brands.

      Which also vary widely in quality. ASH says there is no ‘quality’ in tobacco…

      It’s weird that RYO is hardly known in SE Asia, and perhaps from the above in the Middle East? Or maybe it’s just convenience for smuggling there… but wouldn’t RYO be just as easy to smuggle?

  3. Emily Wieja says:

    Apropos of nothing, I had a look at Dmitri’s newest blog post about you (21 April) in Google Translate, and this is just about the most charming thing I’ve ever read :)

    “…A computer technician who bought himself a pension on the eve of a pension in a real British village to live there, like the heroes of Agatha Christie.”

    • Frank Davis says:

      Yes, it is rather charming. The very best bit is:

      “Frank suddenly became an internationally recognized philosopher.”

      Hurray! And about time too!!

      • nisakiman says:

        Ah Frank, you’ve been an internationally recognised philosopher for years around here. Nothing sudden about it. We are after all a pretty international group who camp out in your comments section. It’s just that your fame is spreading. :) Today, Russia, tomorrow, the world!

  4. jaxthefirst says:

    Oh, indeed I do think that the likes of Arnott are jealous. They just won’t admit it. It’s one of the reasons why so many ex-smokers (like her) become so rabidly obsessive about “hating the smell of smoke” and all the rest of it – it’s a means of covering up the fact that, deep down inside, they’d actually love to be daring enough to be the target of all those hysterical, exaggerated health warnings and just “do it anyway” nevertheless, and they’d love, too, to be brave enough to cock a snook at all those bossy “authority figures,” to tell them to get lost and that they don’t give a hoot whether or not they approve, and that they’ll behave exactly as they want, thank you very much.

    But they aren’t brave enough to do that. They’ve caved in to all the pressure and obediently given up and they’ve lost a little bit of their self-respect by doing that, because inwardly they know that their decision to give up wasn’t made independently – it was simply because they didn’t have the courage to keep doing something that they enjoyed in the face of others’ disapproval. And because of that there’s a lot of pride at stake, hence the over-reaction to people who do still smoke – it’s to save face. A case of “the lady doth protest too much.”

    So, yes, they are jealous – not of the fact that we still smoke per se, but of the fact that we still smoke unrepentantly in spite of everything that’s been thrown at us. By refusing to tug our forelocks in the presence of our “superiors” and mumble “Yessir. Very good, Sir. Right away, Sir” and do as we are told (like they have), and instead lighting up with our heads held high and a devil-may-care look in our eyes we highlight to them the very weakness of their own natures. Hence all the over-acting on their part. Jealousy? Absolutely. It’s jealousy writ large!

  5. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    Idle theory, as interestingly articulated by globally renowned ethical philosopher Frank, reminded me of the central theme in Max Weber’s densely argued ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’.

    Guaranteed ‘salvation’ became possible for those other than clergy, even if profit (the sin of usury) was produced, provided a vocation was exercised ‘for the glory of God’. Weber observed this new ‘freedom’ became a gilded cage.

    Our modern ‘rights’ in the cage include the right to work, to pay for the kleptocracy, and the right to conform, especially by yielding to public funded mass scale anti smoking behavioural modification campaigns.

  6. Rhys says:

    Only slightly OT. Look at the budget numbers. Can we apply for this?

    We’d do SUCH a good job for tobacco control! And Frank does deserve some subsidy for writing this blog.

  7. Rose says:

    I’m no fan of smoking and avoid bars because I can’t stand the smell of secondhand smoke

    I was struck by the fact that the New York Times journalist felt the need to put in that disclaimer, which seemed quite unnecessary and out of place, until you remember what is currently going on in New York.

    What Bill de Blasio doesn’t get about the minimum wage and cigarettes
    Apr 20, 2017

    “Another day, another proposed social engineering tax for the residents of New York City. While former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a well-known anti-soda crusader, even going so far as an attempted ban on the beloved “Big Gulp,” current Mayor Bill de Blasio has another target: cigarettes.

    Wednesday, de Blasio announced a new initiative aimed at curbing smoking in the Big Apple by raising the minimum price of cigarettes to $13 per pack. New York already has the highest minimum price in the nation at $10.50 per pack”

    What is the conversion rate for $13 per pack to lashes, because the intent is exactly the same.

    “Mr. Saleh was making a visual statement. He wanted people to know that he’s a smoker, a crime that until recently would have earned him 20 lashes.”

    Which until 2010 wouldn’t have been a crime at all if it were not for a very rich man with an obsession.

    Mar 15, 2010
    “Muhammadiyah issued the fatwa on Tuesday, comparing smoking to suicide, which is prohibited in Islam.”
    “Over the weekend, however, Muhammadiyah found itself on the defensive, denying that the fatwa was related to a grant it received from a US-based antitobacco organization.
    The Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, funded by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, lists a November 2009 grant to Muhammadiyah worth $393,234 on its Web site.”

    Bloomberg’s lashes by proxy

  8. our debs just twangs her harp in purgurtory, sorry for spelling error but i be a mere mortal)

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