Empty Moral Outrage

I was going to use the title of “Smokers Of The World, Unite” for today’s essay, until I discovered that I’d already used it, over four years ago. But this time the essay was anyway going to be less about smokers, and more about the original slogan in the Communist Manifesto from which it is borrowed: “Workers Of The World, Unite. You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains!”

For I was wondering whether the original Communists had the same problem getting workers to identify themselves as workers as we’re currently having getting smokers to identify as smokers. Because most smokers don’t think of themselves as smokers. Ten years ago, if anyone had asked me what I thought of myself as being, I very much doubt that I would have said: “a smoker.” Smoking was just one of many things I did back then, and thought no more about than the fact that I drank tea, or read newspapers, or programmed computers.

And so if you had stopped someone on the streets of Manchester in 1848 (the year in which the Communist Manifesto was published), and asked him what he thought he was, would he have said: “a worker”? Might he not just as easily have said that he was a carpenter, or a Methodist, or a father, or a Mancunian, or maybe even an Englishman?

And if you’d asked the same question on the streets of London or Paris or Rome or Athens in any previous century, would anyone have called himself “a worker”? Why had all these “workers” suddenly appeared in the middle of the 19th century? They don’t seem to have existed as a separate species beforehand.

The answer, most probably, was that during the Industrial Revolution in England, which began in the 18th century, there began to appear factories in which were employed thousands of workers producing numerous iron and cotton and porcelain products in towns like Manchester or Sheffield. And many of these workers were children who worked for 16 hours a day in very dangerous conditions, surrounded by whirring machines, before going home to sleep in squalid, damp, rat-infested hovels. These workers had no particular trades or skills, and they were hired at rock-bottom wages to control machines producing any number of different products. And these were the fabled new species called the workers, who were being exploited by rich and powerful factory owners, who were selling knives and forks and pots and pans and cotton trousers and shirts at rock-bottom prices, and paying their workers rock-bottom wages. The plus side of the Industrial Revolution was that the new industries produced all sorts of consumer goods far more cheaply than before, which were sold all over England and much of the rest of the world. The minus side of this revolution was that, while the standard of living of England and the rest of the world was raised, the condition of the workers in many of these factories was very sharply lowered: they were reduced almost to slavery.

And it was burning moral outrage at what was being done to these workers that animated Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and an army of other assorted socialists and communists, determined to set right this glaring wrong. The worker was born when workers began to be become an oppressed and downtrodden class in ways they never really had been before.

And this moral outrage swept the world, and resulted in a series of revolutions in which Communist or Socialist parties set out to construct new, egalitarian societies in place of hideous, exploitative Capitalism. And very often these revolutions took place in countries – Russia, China – which had yet to industrialise, and in which there were hardly any oppressed, downtrodden workers.

Oddly, there was never any Communist or Socialist revolution in England or any of the other rapidly industrialising countries in the world (USA, Germany). And this was probably because, in England, moral outrage converted itself into reforms of one sort or other that addressed the most egregious abuses. Slavery was abolished in Britain in 1807. Child labour was reduced in the late 19th century. The union movement in Britain also grew gradually stronger throughout the 19th century and the early 20th century. Housing and education and medicine were all improved during the 20th century. The result, in Britain, was that the species known as the downtrodden worker gradually ceased to exist, thanks to a series of reforms over a period of nearly 200 years. There gradually ceased to be anything to be morally outraged about.

But if the moral outrage at the treatment of workers in the 19th century had diminished, the same outrage could be newly employed in the 20th century in an environmentalist movement which focused not on the conditions of labour in industrial Britain, but on the effects of smoke and soot and toxic wastes generated by industry upon the environment – air, rivers, forests, wetlands. For Britain in the mid-20th century was a smoky place with factory chimneys pouring out smoke, steam trains belching smoke and soot and steam, clouds of smog enveloping entire cities, and streams and rivers polluted with a variety of chemical wastes generated as by-products of one industrial process or other. It was on behalf of the Whole Earth itself, and all the animals and plants living upon it, that the new environmentalists loudly campaigned.

But when, as before, these campaigns resulted in a series of environmental reforms that restricted the emissions of factories and vehicles throughout Britain, and the soot of centuries was washed off the buildings, and the streams and rivers restored, and otters and buzzards and foxes protected or re-introduced, the face of Britain began to gradually change throughout the late 20th century, and it gradually became the green country that it had been before the dreadful Industrial Revolution of previous centuries. And as this happened, environmentalist moral outrage abated much like outrage at the conditions of down-trodden workers.

And so moral outrage began to need a new cause behind which it could throw its abundant energies. And in the late 20th century there arose a mutant variant of 20th century environmentalism that focused its attention on the few remaining wisps of smoke in the air: tobacco smoke and carbon dioxide. The latter was declared to underpin the new threat of Global Warming, while the former was declared be a poison as potent as mustard gas, killing not only smokers, but everyone around them, and of course children as well. Smoking bans were enacted all over the world, and smokers excluded from pubs and restaurants and other enclosed public spaces. Smokers were reviled as addicts, fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and refused medical treatment. And this was carried out with the same high moral indignation as any socialist or communist campaign for the liberation of downtrodden workers or the emancipation of slaves, or any environmentalist campaign to Save The Whales.

At this point, it might be said that a social revolution, that had originally been driven by moral outrage at the condition of workers, has gone full circle and begun to eat itself. After all, Karl Marx chain-smoked cigars as he wrote Capital, and Clement Attlee, Britain’s first Labour Prime Minister, was an avid pipe-smoker (as also were many other key figures on the British left, Tony Benn for example). Such people would now be expelled from the modern antismoking Labour party. What had been a social movement in favour of people – workers – gradually metamorphosed into a social movement in favour of the environment and the planet, and has now become a social movement in favour of an abstraction: health. At each step in its evolution, it maintained its moral outrage. The early socialists were outraged at the treatment of workers, and the environmentalists were outraged at the treatment of the environment, and the antismokers were outraged at the persistence of any smoke whatsoever. If anything, their moral outrage grew inversely with the real threat posed by anything they campaigned against. And they no longer care about people, or planet, or health. All they have is empty outrage at more or less everything.

And they commit outrages against millions and millions of smokers and drinkers and fat people, who are the new targets for their unquenchable moral indignation. But since 21st century smokers are now being treated as badly as any workers in 19th century Britain’s mills and factories and mines, it’s almost a certainty that sooner or later somebody, fired by moral outrage at this manifest abuse, will pen a tract that calls upon “Smokers Of The World, Arise.” And it will trigger a global social revolution as powerful as any launched by Marx or Engels or Lenin.

About Frank Davis

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12 Responses to Empty Moral Outrage

  1. garyk30 says:

    If they are to be like the other ‘downtrodden’, smokers will have to find saviors that want/need vast sums of money for leading them to equality.

    It always seems to work that way.

    In America, the congress-critters need/must have/vote themselves a salary that is over 3 times that of the average worker.

    Union leaders are even worse in their greed.

  2. Dmitri says:

    Hi, Frank, you reminded me my Communist childhood, when a lot of homes in Russia proudly displayed complete works of Marx + Engels, 25 thick volumes at the look of it. It was purple, with golden lettering. Nobody read it, of course.
    One thing I remember from those times is, the bearded fellas wrote all these lengthy, solid volumes, but only a small booklet really shook the world – the Manifesto you mentioned. It happened exactly because it was small. At school we were supposed to read Das Kapital, but I don’t know a single nerd who plodded through that monstrosity. But we all managed with a short Manifesto.
    You know my dog/pigeon English, polished by the Nanyang University of Singapore (must be Chinglish). But I’d risk producing a first draft of such a Manifesto in about a week. And then all the club is free to improve it, while keeping it short.
    How about that?

    • Frank Davis says:


      Sounds like a good idea. Is it going to start with “Smokers of the world, unite”?

      Perhaps you could take the original Communist Manifesto, and adapt it a bit like I did?

      I got through the first 6 chapters of Capital. That was quite enough!

      P.S. The Communist Manifesto is actually quite long. It’s even got chapters. The bearded guys seem to have been incapable of writing 1000 words: 10,000 seems to have been the absolute minimum. And it doesn’t start with “Smokers of the world, unite”, but with “A spectre is haunting Europe…”

  3. Lepercolonist says:

    For starters, corporations and businesses should provide a smokers lounge for their employees.
    15-25% of the working staff would be much more content and productive.

  4. Joe L. says:

    “Empty Moral Outrage” has been the driving force behind all of the ideological witch hunts we’ve seen throughout history, from the Crusades through Nazism, racism and sexism to today’s healthism, environmentalism and radical Islam.

    All of these movements stem from a false, empty, propagandized concept of some group’s superiority over others, and give that group self-aggrandizing permission to persecute the inferior.

  5. RdM says:

    With regard to:
    And it was burning moral outrage at what was being done to these workers that animated Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and an army of other assorted socialists and communists, determined to set right this glaring wrong.

    Consider this, Miles Mathis’s take on Marx, which I find quite interesting ,,,

    Click to access marx.pdf

    – before you rush in to print… Dmitri!

    Skip past the initial misdirection biography stuff to say pages 9, 10, 11;- start there if you like!

    I only mean;- “Read, Mark, Learn, and inwardly digest” :=}}

    How about this:?

    (quoted from the above)

    Remind yourself what happened in Russia: the monarchy and aristocracy were overthrown, but not by the bourgeoisie.
    They were overthrown by a group of mysterious intellectuals like Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, etc.—and under closer examination we find they too were financed by bankers and industrialists.
    I encourage you to read that last quoted sentence yet again, and despin it like this: Marx wanted to see the bourgeoisie overthrow the aristocracy before the proletariat overthrew the bourgeoisie.

    Why would he push that idea? I suggest to you that it is because the overthrow of the aristocracy was the plan all along. All this talk about the proles and bourgeoisie is just misdirection.

    The goal was for the aristocracy to be replaced by the industrialists in Marx’s family, after which the proletariat could all go get hanged.
    Marx and his backers knew that the proletariat would never gain the ability to overthrow
    anyone, but they especially wouldn’t have the power to overthrow a new upper class that had just
    defeated the old aristocracy and co-opted all their resources.

    You see, recent history has been the industrialists against everyone else. But they were always least worried about the “proletariat.” The lower class was mostly lower for a reason. They had the fewest resources, intellectual and tangible. That is why the industrialists were always misdirecting you toward them. They wanted the world to think they were concerned with the lower classes, but they weren’t.

    They were most concerned with the aristocracy, since the aristocracy had all the things they wanted.

    This is why Marx was advising that the aristocracy needed to overthrown first. He is actually tipping
    his hand toward us here, but almost no one has read the cards right.
    The secondary concern of the industrialists and bankers was the upper-middle class.
    They had to watch their flank while they were going after the aristocracy. They couldn’t have those just beneath them bite them in the butt while they were pulling down kings.
    In hindsight, we see that they dealt with this by pushing a materialistic and economic worldview.

    This materialistic worldview kept the upper-middle class chasing the very wealthy above them, rather than attacking them. The middle class didn’t want to ally itself to the lower class, since that would just pull them down. This effectively isolated the lower class. It also isolated and ultimately doomed the middle class, since after the industrialists had defeated the aristocracy, they turned and attacked the stratum just beneath them. The new upper class has now been preying voraciously on the middle class for the past half century—so much so that the parasite may end up killing the host.

    Once the upper class has pushed the entire middle class down into the
    lower class, it will have only itself to feed upon. We are already seeing the first stages of that.
    This is precisely why the aristocracy in Western Europe backed down and gave up the fight.

    After the Russian Revolution, they saw they were outmatched and outflanked by the bankers and industrialists.
    The bankers gave them the choice of following the Romanovs or receding into the shadows, where they would play only a diversionary and functionary role.
    Both the East and the West have experienced fascist takeovers, but the methods have been somewhat different. In both cases, however, the industrialists have won all the battles.
    In Russia they rule under the cover of a fake Marxism.
    In the US they rule under the cover of a Democracy that does not exist.
    In both places they control the masses with fatal doses of propaganda and a completely falsified

    If you want more proof, go to the Wikipedia page titled “Banking in Russia.” There are several
    sections, with the first section being “Soviet Period.” Here is what is in that section:
    This section is empty – you can help by adding to it.
    Do you really believe no one has tried to add anything to that section in the 13 years that Wikipedia has been up?

    I guess they don’t want you to read about Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP) of 1921,
    which even Lenin called state capitalism. Why would he call it that? Because it explicitly bowed to
    foreign investment by bankers and industrialists—the bankers and industrialists that had bankrolled him in the first place. These industrialists were already active in Russia before 1921, but in that year Lenin removed the cloak and simply admitted it.

    They also don’t want you to read about Stalin’s First Five-Year Plan, which viciously pushed industrialization on a country that didn’t want it. Why?
    Was this industrialization done for the benefit of the proles or the bourgeoisie?
    Nope. It was done for the benefit of the industrialists.
    That is why it is called industrialization.

    Industry may—or may not—provide products that are useful to everyone, but the industrialists don’t care about that.
    They will just as soon push products that are harmful to everyone, and have.

    A majority of modern products are harmful to humanity and the environment, and that majority is
    increasing every year. But you aren’t told that. You are told to buy everything that is advertised as
    soon as it hits the shelves, for your own greater glory. However, it isn’t to your glory the products are provided, it is to the glory of the industrialists. Industrialization increases wealth disparity by moving wealth from the poor and middle classes to the upper class. This is why the upper class loves it.

    This is why Lenin and Stalin viciously forced industrialization on Russians that didn’t want it: it moved money out of Russia and into the pockets of foreign investors.
    And this industrialization didn’t help Russia at all.
    In fact, it decimated it via mass starvation, mass murder by the government, and civil war.
    Almost a century later, Russia is still feeling the effects of this fascist revolution and takeover by the financiers.
    Russia is no more communist than the US is democratic.
    Both are just smokescreens for looting by the rich.

    Read the whole pdf. (apologies for the clumsy formatting, or re-formatting)

    That was just an extract. I’d be interested to know what you think of it afterward.
    Of course, I’ve only quoted a small part. Please read the whole.

    And relate it to what is happening for smokers, tobacco lovers, tobacco enthusiasts, now.

    I still think that directly alerting Government, Prime Ministers, Presidents, MP’s, as to what has been happening on their watch but flying under their radar, so to speak, the false and fraudulent advice from their advisers, the real facts beyond and behind the propaganda, the very real possibility that the whole anti-tobacco campaign, albeit rising out of history, the prohibition and temperance movements, has been seized on by if not communists a very real totalitarian desired new world order on a global scale, and that big pharma has been happy to bankroll it so far…

    might, if one were organised enough with the actual facts on tobacco, and the war, change minds.

    But it’s am uphill battle.
    Still, one might undermine the increasingly absurd arguments and demands and show them up for what they are,

    Writing to presidents, members of parliament.

    I still intend to. It’s not easy, is it? ;=})

    • Frank Davis says:

      Miles Mathis is an interesting thinker, but an awful artist. But that’s just my opinion.

      • RdM says:

        I started painting in oils in my early teens, even won a schoolboy national art prize in the 5th form, and a trip to Fiji for me and some of my family some years earlier;-

        I don’t know what you might think of or call art, but having painted portraits myself in oils even though in my teens at the time, I can say that I appreciate his comments on art, and the skills and sensibilities he brings to his portraits. Realist or not, it’s just a thing…

        But IMO it would be a great mistake to transfer some emotional feelings about his art to evaluation of his science site… http://milesmathis.com/

        Do him the favour of starting at the Preface, at least, then explore the whole… over time.
        It all hangs together rather well, so far as it seems to me. Radical new Unified Theory.

        His conspiracy theories, a 3rd tangent, well, meh… I’m not sure what to think…

        But they’re still interesting reading.

      • RdM says:

        His art site is at http://mileswmathis.com/

        Is that really so bad? Cameo, this month? A lot of skill and sensibility there, IMHO.

        But oh well, “de gustibus non est disputandum” ;=})
        (I appreciate all sorts of art, but immediately sense bullshit shoddy shonky work as well)

        The ‘conspiracy theories’ indulgences are off there, at
        http://mileswmathis.com/ (all or almost all pdfs)

        For those who were wondering what all that was about!


  6. RdM says:

    Oops sorry, that second ‘conspiracy theories’ link was meant to be

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