Events like Las Vegas are like stones thrown into a pond. They make waves. It was the same with the Bataclan massacre in Paris. Or 9/11. Or the JFK assassination. For days (and weeks, and years) people wonder what happened.
Radio talk show host Michael Savage has been comparing Las Vegas to 9/11 these last few days, citing the broken windows in the Mandalay Bay Hotel. But it actually reminds me more of the JFK assassination. Hidden shooters in high buildings firing rifles. Panic in the crowded streets below. Weird lone gunman who is now dead, of course. Multiple Zapruder films. Unsolved mystery.
There’ll probably be a Warren Commission that will find that it was all done by one single lone nut, Stephen Paddock. In fact, we already know that, don’t we?
I was wondering this morning whether these events are distractions to draw people’s eyes away from something else that’s happening. And one event that got buried by Las Vegas was the Catalan referendum that was being bloodily suppressed by the Madrid government on the same day. Arguably that was a much more significant event than what happened in Las Vegas.
I have a personal interest in Catalonia. I was a regular visitor to Barcelona from 2001 to 2010. There’s a little square near the city centre named after George Orwell, in which I’ve sat drinking beer and smoking and wondering what Orwell would have made of it. And on my very first visit there I noticed a lot of hand-written signs on walls. I even copied one into the notebook I carried round with me. VISCA CAtALUNYA, said one. TERRA LLIVRE. I showed it to mi amiga en Barcelona (who was Galician rather than Catalan), and she brushed it off saying that it was just a small minority of Catalans seeking independence from Spain. Perhaps it was just an insignificant minority back then, but according to opinion polls a week or two back, 40% of Catalans now want independence.
I haven’t been back to Spain since 2010. And the main reason I haven’t been back was because on 2 January 2011 the Spanish government introduced a much harsher public smoking ban than the one that had applied up until then – probably in order to conform with the smoking ban enacted by the EU in 2009.
The UK 2007 smoking ban – and to a lesser extent the EU 2009 smoking ban, and Spanish 2011 smoking ban – have been the defining events in my life in recent years. They’ve flipped me from being a slightly left wing Lib Dem voter to a right wing UKIP voter with a deep distrust of top down control by big government of any kind. And they cost me all my former friends, some of whom I’d known for 40 years They’ve changed my attitudes to almost everything. It’s what happens when you’re “exiled to the outdoors”.
I almost bought a house in Spain, and I was wondering this morning how I’d be feeling if I had. And I was also wondering what I’d be feeling if I was a Spanish smoker, or even a Catalan smoker. And I thought that Catalan smokers have probably become as alienated from the Spanish government as I have become alienated from both the British government and the EU.
The Spanish are famous smokers. And mi amiga smoked almost as much as I did (it was one of the things I liked about her). Something like 30 – 40% of Spaniards smoke. And so I thought this morning that most likely 30 – 40% of Catalans have become estranged from both the Spanish government and the EU, just like 20% of Brits have become alienated from the British government and the EU. Catalans want independence from Spain just as much as I want independence from the EU. And that’s why support for Catalan independence had grown from 5% to 40%
The exertion of heavy-handed top down control by the Spanish government, in trying to suppress the Catalonian referendum, has probably now swelled the ranks of the Catalan independence movement even further. And as the EU has swung behind the Spanish government, it’s probably boosted independence sentiment elsewhere. The Express has an article titled: Catalonia is NOT alone: Mapped – the other European regions desperate for independence.
There’s a growing revolt against top down control by big government under way all over the world. And I suspect that angry, alienated smokers are a big part of it. When, in 2009, the EU made about 150 million of its citizens into second class citizens with its 2009 European smoking ban, I thought it had signed its own death warrant.
I also thought that angry, alienated US smokers voted last year for Donald Trump rather than for antismoker-in-chief Hillary Clinton.
It always puzzles me that smoking bans, and smokers’ responses to them, simply don’t register at all in the mainstream media, or in public political discourse. They’re regarded as politically unimportant. Smokers have become invisible. And every attempt is being made to make them even more invisible. They’ve become the invisible bottom layer of the pyramid of society (right). They don’t count at all.
But actually they do count a lot. Because even though they never get any hearing, they’re still spending (or rather, not spending) money, and they’re still voting. If the politicians would descend to the invisible bottom layer of the ship of society, they would find that the bilges are full of sea water, and the ship is sinking. And that’s why the ship is canting over to one side at the top, which is something they have noticed. Smoking bans fragment society, and they also fragment nations. They set everybody against everyone else.
Is it entirely accidental that Stephen Paddick, the Las Vegas shooter who (is said to have) killed about 60 people and injured another 500, was also yet another vicious, intolerant antismoker like Hillary Clinton? Michael Savage hasn’t noticed that about him yet. Neither has Alex Jones. Neither has the mainstream media, nor the political class.
Will they ever?