These days it’s the common, shared experience of smokers to have been “exiled to the outdoors.” And it’s the same experience whether it happened to them in Moscow or Manchester or Melbourne. They’re all outcasts. They’ve all been tarred with the same brush.
But this shared experience is also what binds them together. It has to be a strong bond between these outcast smokers if they can feel connected to fellow smokers who live 100 miles or 3,000 miles away, whom they’ve never actually met in person, face to face.
It’s perhaps the same sort of shared experience that binds together army battalions, whose recruits all joined up more or less at the same time, and fought in the same battles against the same shared enemy over a period of years. They all used once to be bakers or bank managers or builders or something in some forgotten former life, but then they were exiled to fight on distant foreign fields.
It’s the same with school friends. The pupils in a school have the shared experience of being exiled by their parents to the same school, and being taught the same lessons by the same teachers in the same classrooms for same period of years.
I was chatting on Skype with Brigitte yesterday. She lives 100 miles away. I’ve never met her in person, face to face. But we were chattering away like old friends. And yet the only bond between us is that we’re both smokers, and both outcasts. The same thing happened to us both, on the exact same day. We have something in common, in the same way that soldiers in an army or pupils in a school or citizens from some city have something in common.
I put up a little memorial to Harley in my right hand margin today. It felt like using the butt of a rifle to hammer a little crude wooden cross into the ground on some battlefield, and hanging his helmet on top of it, and scrawling his name on it. He was one of us. And I never met him in person either. I used the last photo of himself that he posted on his Facebook page. He was holding a rifle. US soldiers (like him) would know what kind of rifle it was. And it was how I always imagined him, even before he posted it up: an old soldier holding a rifle. Maybe sometime the memorial will link to something. Maybe it’ll link to a few of his many comments here on this blog. Maybe it’ll link to a few of his videos. But for now it just says R.I.P. HARLEY. It’s the best I can manage with a couple of sticks and a muddy rifle butt. Tomorrow our unit moves out. I’ve still got battles to fight, even if he doesn’t. I still can’t believe he’s dead.
Tobacco Control is going to find that, when it expelled smokers from society, it didn’t scatter them to oblivion as intended, but instead united them in a shared experience. And the longer and harder that experience has been for them, the more tightly they’ll be bound together. However far apart they might be, they’ll still be together. And they’ll form an invisible community around the world. And an invincible army. It’s slowly going to get stronger and stronger and stronger. And it will destroy Tobacco Control.
And the larger the army becomes, the less force it will need to win victories. We won’t need rifles. We won’t even need to march in formation. It will need just one spoken word to take down Tobacco Control, when the time for it comes. And maybe just a nod.
And one surprising effect of this, I realised this morning, will be that smokers will unite the world. Because we’re not English and German and American and Russian smokers: we’re all just smokers with the shared experience of smokers everywhere in the world. It’s not just the shared experience of smoking cigarettes or pipes or cigars, but also the shared experience, courtesy of Tobacco Control, of being reviled and rejected and robbed.
There’s been nothing like it before in the whole of human history. Fully a quarter of humanity, maybe more, is now being reviled and rejected and robbed. And when these smokers finally capture Washington and London and Tokyo, they’ll probably number over half of all humanity. Because – another prediction – there are going to be more smokers in future, not fewer. Pretty much everyone is going to smoke. And they’ll be smoking all sorts of different things.
And here’s me in England talking with Gary K in Illinois: