In their own eyes, I’m sure that antismoking zealots think they’re doing good, and making the world a better place. They think the world would be a better place without tobacco. They think people would live longer and healthier lives without it. They probably also think that people would live longer and healthier lives without a long list of other things as well.
But how do they know what’s ‘good’ or what’s ‘better’? As far as I can see, all they have done is to equate goodness with longevity. For them, the best life is simply the longest life. And if tobacco or alcohol or sugar or salt or anything else they care to mention can be shown to reduce the longevity of human life in the slightest way, that is sufficient grounds for it to be banned outright or punitively taxed.
Nothing else matters. Longevity is the god they worship, and it’s an old and sick and ruined god, that’s only kept alive on a life support system. Nothing else matters: not truth or happiness or honour or compassion or friendship or community. Those things don’t matter at all. Longevity is the only thing that matters. And everything else must be sacrificed on the altar of the golden calf of longevity.
To me it seems morally vacuous. Too much is being sacrificed. Longevity is really only one good among many. There are lots and lots of good things. And maybe that’s why in antiquity there were lots and lots of gods, each of which was accorded their appropriate consideration. But in our monotheist era, there can only ever be one god. And right now that god is called Longevity, and it is everyone’s duty to live as long as they possibly can. Everything else can go to hell. And everything else has gone to hell.
We live in an age of moral confusion. Healthism is a product of that confusion. It’s a new religious cult, much like the cult of Isis or Attis or Cybele in antiquity, and its adherents are as fanatical as any of theirs.
Some people would say (and do say) that our moral confusion is the result of the decline of religion – specifically Christianity – in Western Society, and we have lost our way, and need to rediscover our Christian roots.
But was the Christian era really ever one of notable moral rectitude? Did men behave any better then than in any time before or after? And how does one measure moral rectitude? Were Buddhists any worse than Christians, or any better?
Isn’t the truth of the matter that humanity has been in a state of moral confusion since time immemorial? We have never known what was right and wrong. It’s just that periodically a Moses will descend from a mountain carrying tablets of stone on which the law is written, and bring a moment of moral clarity after which the confusion soon returns.
The trouble with all the great religions is that they are all of them based upon Mosaic figures of one sort or other, authorities who write authoritative books. But these Holy Books are all open to multiple different and conflicting interpretations. And from these rival interpretations there arise rival and conflicting sects. Christianity has been torn apart by rival sects, and so has Islam, and probably any and every other major religion as well.
But it has not been these rival sects that have done the real damage. What has happened is that an entire cosmos inhabited by gods and demons and angels and saints has been replaced by atoms in motion. The scientific world view has been chipping away at that cosmos, and replacing it with another one. The ancients may have looked up at the night sky and seen the outlines of the gods, but we only see planets and stars and galaxies. We inhabit an entirely new cosmos. We have said goodbye to the gods and demons, and to an entire moral universe. We have progressively stripped away the unnecessary and the inessential, and all we have been left with is atoms in motion. And this bleak new scientific cosmos is devoid of any morality. There is no up, and no down, but only relativity.
And the antismoking healthists are as thoroughly scientific in their outlook as our astronomers and physicists. They also strip away the inessential. And they have declared smoking to be unnecessary. You don’t need to smoke. You don’t need to drink. You don’t need sugar. You don’t need soda. And what you don’t need, you shouldn’t be allowed to have. And so they use the force of law to ban tobacco, alcohol, sugar, salt, and anything that is deemed unnecessary or superfluous. Soon they will be banning music, and dancing, and sex, and anything else we don’t need. We will end up with a society as bleak and cold as the universe of atoms in motion.
The antismoking healthists, in true scientific style, measure longevity with clocks. And for them the best life is the longest life.
But in Idle Theory, which is equally as ‘scientific’ in its outlook as modern healthism, a life is measured not only by its duration, but also by its idleness. And the best life is not the longest life, but the longest and idlest (or more exactly, longest times idlest). And idleness roughly corresponds with material wealth: the idle rich enjoy idler and better lives than the toiling poor. They very often live longer lives as well. (I read yesterday somewhere, maybe here or here, that the average age at death of Roman slaves was 17.5 years). Idle time is free time in which people can do whatever they like, and so if someone lives a 90% idle life of 70 years duration, they get to do as they like for 63 years in total. But if they live a 10% idle life of 90 years duration, they’ll only get to do as they like for 9 years in total. In Idle Theory, 63 years is better than 9 years. But according to healthist dogma, which doesn’t include any notion of idleness, 90 years is better than 70 years. So Idle Theory disagrees with Healthism about the best life. And it also includes a term that corresponds roughly to “quality of life”. After all, who wants to live a very long life being kept alive by a life support system? People justly ask: What sort of ‘life’ is that?
Furthermore, in their idle time, will not people want to do all sorts of things they enjoy doing? Like drinking and smoking and talking? Or eating or dancing or flirting? Or running or swimming or skiing? True, none of these things need to be done. But idle time is time in which nothing needs to be done, and so anything may be done.
Idle Theory perhaps provides a new weapon that might be used to to defeat the pernicious Healthist doctrine of the modern era, and to destroy Tobacco Control, which are currently doing so much harm. Idle Theory restores a moral dimension to the cosmos which went missing when the old Christian religious cosmos was dismantled, and everything unnecessary in it dispensed with. It breathes life into the atoms in motion. In Idle Theory heaven and hell re-appear, and so does God and the devil. But they have all been transmuted into new mathematical terms.
New wars need new weapons, and Idle Theory is a new weapon. And modern, scientific Healthism is going to have to be defeated by a modern, scientific antagonist in precisely the same way that modern scientific tanks are defeated by modern, scientific cruise missiles. Using Christian theology or Enlightenment philosophy against modern scientific Healthism is like sending infantry with spears, or cavalry on horseback, against trenches and machine-guns.