Completely Out Of Control

One thing that strikes me about Tobacco Control, and their attempt to take control, is just how out of control everything actually is.

After all, we’re all living on the surface of a little, spinning, roughly-spherical planet which is in the company of a bunch of other planets eddying around a very, very hot star. And this solar system is completely out of control. There’s absolutely nothing we do about it. We can’t stop it, or put it into reverse. We can’t steer our planet to left or right, or up or down. We’re all more or less riding on a bus whose driver lies slumped dead over the steering wheel as it careers in a circle.

Yes, we’re pretty good at predicting where all these eddying rocks will go next, and we don’t seem to have too much to worry about right now as the bus careers in circles around the very, very hot star. But predicting what something will do isn’t the same as controlling it. It just provides the illusion of control.

And if the Earth in its orbit around the sun is completely out of control, pretty much everything that happens on the surface of it is also completely out of control. The continents strewn around the world are the products of titanic forces that push them and shove them and tear them apart. And these continents are up to their necks in the water in the oceans that sloshes to and fro around them. And they are buried under an atmosphere that is also sloshing around, and developing whirlpools with strong winds blowing round them. And all of it, the continents and the oceans and the atmosphere is completely out of our control. We can’t order up sunshine or rain or wind. We can’t even plan when to go on holiday to someplace where it won’t be raining. We can’t even predict the next day’s weather (as I was complaining a couple of days ago).

And then there are all the diseases that periodically afflict us. They’re all out of control as well. Nobody knows what causes cancer, so nobody knows how to cure it – although these days, of course, everybody knows with perfect certainty that smoking causes cancer and all other diseases as well. But what everybody knows is synonymous with what nobody knows. When the next great plague strikes, the medical profession will be caught flat-footed like it always is.

Nor is it that we are even in control of our own human societies. They also are like seas in which whirlpools and storms appear out of nowhere. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump were both tidal events in a tidal system. We are pushed together and torn apart like corks floating in a stream.

And are any of us even under our own personal control? Yes, I more or less control my own arms and legs, but that doesn’t stop me from periodically bumping into things, and stubbing my toes, or falling down. And my train of thought at any point of time is another perfect little storm of ideas, impressions, dreams, hopes, fears. Do I actually have any control at all over what I think? And am I anyway one single “I”? Don’t I have rival opinions competing in the rowdy parliament of my own mind?

In a comment this morning, Rose reported that

“The word ‘dementia’ describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.”

and I replied that I have been suffering from memory loss, and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving and language for my entire life. Ask me what I was doing on the morning of 23 January 1975, and I won’t remember. I won’t remember what I was doing the day before or the day after. In fact, I can barely remember anything I did in the entirety of 1975. And 1976.

And aren’t there always “difficulties in problem-solving”? Aren’t problems things that are inherently difficult to solve? And isn’t it always difficult to learn other languages than the one that nobody taught you.

So at what point does ordinary forgetfulness slip into dementia? Isn’t it more likely that the fog of forgetfulness just gets a bit thicker. And then so thick that you can’t remember what you were doing 10 minutes ago.

And even if there was a bus driver holding the steering wheel at the front of the bus, in what sense is he “in control” of it. He isn’t really in control at all. All he can do is exert a slight influence over the motion of bus, turning the wheel slightly this way or that, or slightly speeding or slowing it. He can’t stop it dead in its tracks, or move it sideways. The bus is always more or less out of control of its driver (who also suffers from dementia, of course, and has done all his life). And the same is true of all the other cars and trucks and bikes flowing into a busy junction and all just missing each other (except on the occasions when they don’t miss each other).

Everything is always out of control, all the time. Control is an illusion. Or an aspiration. We want to be in control, but we never are. Not really.

Tobacco Control is an illusion. It’s an aspiration. It’s wishful thinking. It will be torn apart by driving winds of change, heaving tides of fortune, and immeasurable centrifugal forces, like everything always is.

Now where did I put my tobacco? I had it a minute ago.

About Frank Davis

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18 Responses to Completely Out Of Control

  1. Smoking Lamp says:

    I agree the quest for control is usually thwarted by reality. Tobacco control is an aspiration — one that needs to be abandoned.

  2. Ask me what I was doing on the morning of 23 January 1975, Welcome to my world,brother!
    Just this very morning I have been trying to recall (for a ‘memory palace’/Loci thing for German nouns)my flat in Germany in 88. Lot of good things happened there and I do mean a lot. Things i should be able to recall and the room they happened in. But of course that was pre-cellphone camera. I so envy today’s youth who take pictures of everything including their morning bowel movements. They will never know the misery of trying to restablish neural pathways inorder to recall what the love of their life and mother of their Kids was wearing the first time…

    Why oh why did they not teach us memory techniques at school? Ok, they did teach us a few mnemonics but to be honest knowing that in 1665 almost everyone died of the plague or that London burned to the ground in 1666 hasn’t really been life changing knowledge, you know? Surely knowing how to ‘learn’ and ‘remember’ things accurately would have made out lives easier when studying later or ,say, giving evidence before a court?

    But i raise your “Can’t recall” by a “some of my most vivid memories are infact false” (I’m talking memories that I could pass a polygraph on). As one of them involves a sexual encounter when I was not quite 18, i could conceivably have gotten-and could still get- the lady in question convicted of historic Child abuse purely on the strength of my very very detailed and totally wrong memories! Now THAT is scary!

    • Frank Davis says:

      I’ve got plenty of false memories too. Some years ago I was thinking back to 1979, and remembering it as a very quiet, peaceful year. But I write a journal in which I truthfully record (not everything of) what I’ve been doing and thinking. So I dug out the entries for the relevant year, and started reading them. I soon found out that 1979 had been as turbulent a year as any other. I’d simply forgotten about almost everything that had actually happened. And that was why it seemed so placid in hindsight.

      I found it rather disturbing that I could have such a false memory of that time. I concluded that I probably had false memories of my entire life, apart from a number of key events. And I actually preferred my warm, fuzzy false memories to the true history set out in my journals. And so it was with some relief that I consigned some 40 years of my journals to the garden bonfire. They were too heavy to lug around with me, but also I didn’t want them contradicting me again.

  3. On the subject of control I was fascinated to read the other day of how many believe Thorn Island to have been the setting for King Canute’s early demonstration in control. Oh that the current incumbents of Thorn Island might learn that lesson…
    (for those that don’t know: Thorn Island was an island in the Thames where the Houses Of Parliament now stand).

  4. Vlad says:

    Talking about completely out of the control….how about the excise tax on cigarettes:
    With an average of 0.65g tobacco per cigarette, that gives us the excise rate of £41/100g of tobacco in cigarettes. Compared with £26/100g for cigars, £21/100g for rolling tobacco and £11.4/100g pipe tobacco.
    The tobacco with the lowest quality is the most heavily taxed…
    An old ad for Bull Durham comes to mind…roll your own and save your roll :))

    • Vlad says:

      ##As its early nickname of “tailor-mades” suggests, the manufactured cigarette is really a convenience article, by no means the least expensive way of satisfying the taste for tobacco. A pound tin of pipe tobacco contains the equivalent of 18 packs of cigarettes at a third of the cost (the tax differential, again, being a large factor).##
      From the book Tobacco and Americans (1960) – interesting read:

      What I noticed is that back then apparently a manufactured cigarette contained 1.26g of tobacco (1pound – 454g/18pack – 360cigs) compared to about 0.65g or even less today.

      • Vlad says:

        I took the 0.65g average from the JTI brands…now looking at Marlboro from PMI it seems like the average is 0.5g tobacco/cigarette! What a racket. And for the IQOS gizmos they use half that amount. No wonder the stock’s performance is very good.

    • RdM says:

      Well, it’s with no pride that I show the even more exorbitant excise taxes in NZ:

      Tobacco product
      Rate of excise and excise-equivalent duty from 1 January 2016
      ​Manufactured cigarettes:
      • exceeding in weight 0.8kg actual tobacco content per 1,000 cigarettes
      $952.62 per kilo tobacco content (KTC)
      • not exceeding in weight 0.8kg actual tobacco content per 1,000 cigarettes
      $668.51 per 1,000 cigarettes

      ​Smoking tobacco, homogenised or reconstituted tobacco
      $952.62 per kilo tobacco content (KTC)
      ​Other tobacco products, eg, snuff, cigars, cheroots and cigarillos
      $835.61 per kilo tobacco content (KTC)

      Smoking tobacco includes RYO & pipe tobacco.

      Oh, hang on… that was last year… another 10% added since then!

      At the moment, a 50g pack of rolling tobacco costs retail here about 50GBP, 87.50NZD

      More than the international price of silver per gram!

  5. Also on the subject of control, I hope the Brexiteurs among us have been following events in Poland this week. Rather disproves all notions about the evil EUSSR controlling us, taking away our sovereignty, their supposedly ‘making our laws’ for us and all the other nonsense the Leave campaign came out with (fair’s fair though, the ‘remain’ campaign was just as bad).
    Particularly poignant is that the laws that Poland is passing are pretty much the same kind of thing PMT.May will pass after Brexit. She will not allow the Supreme Court to ever again challenge her CONTROL.

    • roobeedoo2 says:

      Aren’t the EU taking Poland to court for that? And Hungary and another one… *shrugs*

      • Yep the EU will probably initiate the process that will end …at some point in the distance future with them fining Poland…maybe. But whether Poland pays the fine or not , Brussels can’t force them to change the law. The only other sanction available to Brussels would be to launch the process of removing Poland’s ‘voice’ from all discussions but that process would take years and has to be a unanimous decision and Hungary have already said they will veto it. Some dictatorship the EUSSR has got going on there. Even I’d hadn’t fully realised just how powerless the EU is. All those Brexiteurs who thought the ‘primacy’ of EU law meant ‘supremacy’ are looking a bit ‘boy-what-cried-wolf’.
        And all PHE posturing about Brexshite allowing a rethink is also just so much dingoes’ kidneys. If May had decided to be a naughty girl and disobey the recent EU Tobacco Plan thingy she could have done so without fear of consequences.

  6. smokingscot says:

    Talking about control.

    There’s a game “Blue Whale” that allows fuckwits to go through a series of increasingly degrading challenges that culminate in the idiots killing themselves.

    And they did. All over the world, they really did. Knowingly!

    more, including that business of cutting yourself to show the blue whale logo.

    Sort of like our politicians doing what tobacco control say.

  7. waltc says:

    There’s a big difference between “senior moments” and forms of dementia. I think I’ve read that the aging brain normally shrinks tho I don’t know how that affects the slower firing of synapses at those “moments.” And aside from Alzheimer’s, there’s also what used to be–and still is–called “hardening of the arteries” which slows blood flow to the brain.

    I checked my files on Alzheimer’s and nicotine and found that most old links are gone. But there are studies showing nicotine, cotinine, CO, CO2 and NO are all protective or preventive.

    Here’s a sample:
    “Smoking can improve memory, PREVENT BRAIN CELLS FROM DYING and…markedly reduce stress. New research on animals explains why smokers are less likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease. Rats were better at learning their way around mazes and solving new problems. Other rats with symptoms of Alzheimer’s had their memory and learning problems completely reversed,” said Dr. Edward Levin, associate professor of toxicology at Duke University, “and it even kept brain cells from dying when they were exposed to toxic chemicals that should have killed them….”In addition,” Levin said,”other people have done studies with aged rats and monkeys showing that NICOTINE REDUCES AGE-INDUCED IMPAIRMENTs.”
    SOURCE: “Study: Nicotine can help memory, save brain cells,” Knight Ridder, 11/9/98.
    Source: “Burning Questions About Nicotine,” NY Newsday, 4/5 94, But there’s more:

    “[smoking] can enhance learning, memory, cerebral blood flow, and performance of certain repetitive tasks. Dr Paul Newhouse, of the Univ of Vermont College of Medicine said researchers found significant increases in short-term recall, improvements in spatial memory and better reaction time on tests.”
    SOURCE; “Researchers Investigate…” NY Times, 1/14/97.

    cotinine v Alzheimer’s April 27, 2011

  8. Rose says:


    I’ve just come across a Harley tour de force in the comments on this article from 2014, could they be put behind the In Memoriam on your side bar?

    Study examines increase in lung cancer risk from combined radon and tobacco smoke exposure
    April 25, 2014

    “In the words of Dr. Ellen Hahn, professor in the University of Kentucky’s colleges of nursing and public health, Kentucky has the “triple crown of lung cancer” – the country’s highest rate of smoking combined with high rates of second-hand smoke exposure and high levels of radon exposure.”

    I miss him.

  9. RdM says:

    Good to see these +70 yr olds playing a free concert to a million or so people in Cuba
    Out Of Control – Havana Moon – The Rolling Stones

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