Many thanks for all the comments under yesterday’s post, where I sketched out my plans for producing YouTube videos of Skype conversations between smokers. I’ve taken note of 7 or 8 people who seem interested in participating. At some point I’ll be emailing them all.
As I wrote in response to Dmitri last night: In the first place the idea is to have smokers recount their experiences of smoking bans for other smokers to see, and say, “That’s how it was for me too!”But the other purpose is for non-smokers to watch these videos, and hear all their stories, and say to themselves, “I never knew that smokers were having such a terrible time!”
Either way, it seems like the only way round the mainstream media black-out of smokers, that has rendered them voiceless and invisible.
But it does mean that I want to hear the worst from smokers, not the best. I want to know how bad it’s been for them, not how good. I want to hear how smoking bans shattered their communities, bankrupted pubs, and set friends and families against each other. I can and do write about the impact that smoking bans have had on me personally. Now I’d like to hear from other people – how they personally responded to smoking bans, and how the people around them responded.
I’m never really sure whether I’m libertarian, but I read this morning that the Pope has been condemning libertarianism:
“A common characteristic of this fallacious paradigm is that it minimizes the common good, that is the idea of ‘living well’ or the ‘good life’ in the communitarian framework,” Francis said, while at the same time exalting a “selfish ideal.”
The current Pope is a socialist. And over the past 50 years, popes seem to have alternated between being socialists or conservatives much in the same way as national governments all over the world have alternated. Why should it be any different for popes?
And for socialists, it seems that all individuals are members of society or societies. They are members of something that is both larger and more important than they are, much like the individual grains of sand in a sandstone building are part of a work of architecture that is far more significant than any of them. Something along those lines. Whatever way, society is more important than the individual.
But in my individualistic way of seeing, societies are made up collections of atomic individuals that are connected, like the atoms in a piece of sandstone, by bonds between them. There are all sorts of different bonds, There are family ties, bonds of friendship, comradeship in companies or armies, as well as shared languages, cultures, and countries. There are all sorts of invisible ties between concrete individuals in societies, just as there are invisible ties between concrete atoms in sandstone blocks.
I can’t think of “society” as being separate and apart from the individuals that comprise it, any more than I can think of a “table” as being separate and apart from all the atoms of carbon and hydrogen and oxygen that make up the wood in the table. For if the table catches fire and burns completely away, I don’t think that the “table” will survive as some sort of after-image or phantom form. I think it ceases to exist.
And when I got round to thinking about societies in Idle Theory, it was to first think of lone nomadic humans living entirely separate lives from each other (i.e. no “society” whatsoever), and then combining together to form societies which were more idle than any of the lone nomads had ever been. That is to say that the formation of human societies brought with it an increase in human idleness. And this increase in idleness was experienced by every single individual member of these societies. “Society”, seen this way, was as much a useful human tool as any axe or saw or hammer.
And in what sense is the “common good” ever really separate from individual good. I suppose that roads are a good example of a “common good”, because they benefit everyone. But in practice what these roads do is to allow individual people to go from A to B (or from B to A) more rapidly than they would if there was no road between A and B. And so in practice the “common good” is found to consist of the sum of all the individual benefits – in saved time – experienced by many thousands of individuals using these roads. The “common good” becomes, if you like, many thousands of individual “selfish ideals.”
And if “society” and roads and hammers should ever cease to benefit individual humans, they will cease to be manufactured and maintained. For it takes an effort to manufacture and maintain society, just as it takes an effort to construct and maintain roads.
And the wonder of it all to me is that it always seems to be people who call themselves “socialists” or “communists”, and who profess to be deeply concerned about “society”, who actually do the most damage to society. For it was the socialists in the UK Labour party who brought in the 2007 smoking ban which completely shattered the society to which I had belonged. And, equally amazingly, it was the greedy, selfish Conservatives in Parliament who voted against that draconian ban. And so I have begun to wonder whether anyone who calls themselves a “socialist” or “communist” is actually someone who is the enemy of society, and the enemy of community.