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.