About 40 years ago, as a newbie computer programmer, pushily trying to boost my already-high pay rate, four of us programmers got together to call ourselves an organisation which we called Control G (does that still ring a bell?). I remember sitting around the kitchen table of my flat with them all discussing what we would do in concert together. About the only thing we thought might be a good idea would be to have a few calling cards printed, with the name on it, and an address and phone number. Beyond that, we had no idea what to do.
And in fact, we never had any idea what to do. But Control G caused a bit of a splash nevertheless. For once the several small companies which employed us discovered that there was now some sort of a programmers’ union called Control G, they almost reacted in panic. What would this Control G do? Our employers seemed to spend more time talking about us than we did.
The recollection of Control G this morning returned me to one idea that I’ve been trying to float for the past few years: the Smokers Army. For my view is that, given some 1.5 billion smokers in the world, and say 15,000 professional antismokers in Tobacco Control (I have no idea what the actual number might be), there are some 100,000 times as many smokers in the world as there are antismokers, and that an army of smokers would defeat the army of antismokers in very short order (even if it was just a bun fight). So I want to put together an army of smokers, because I think that even if it could only enlist 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000 smokers, it would still be an invincible army.
And this morning I was thinking that the first thing the Army needed was a name. Because my experience with Control G was that just having a name struck holy terror into the other side. And in fact I suspect that a lot of the organisations which strike terror into the world (e.g. BLM, ISIS, etc) are actually phantom organisations. So I was wondering this morning whether I might put the question to my readers: what should an army of smokers be called? One of my suggestions a while back was to call it the “Wehrmacht”, but the Germans promptly vetoed that one (dunno why). This morning I was toying with “Global Smoker Army” (GSA), or “Angry Smokers” or “Smoke In The Wind”. Maybe if we get enough suggestions, I could put them up in a poll, and choose one of them that way.
And I was thinking that it might have its own website where you could sign up to join and be given a name, rank, and number. Maybe you’d just use your own name, but you could be given one if you wanted – e.g. “Thaddeus Firestarter”. The website would have a random name generator. And also a random rank generator – e.g. Private, Lieutenant, Sergeant, Captain, Brigadier -. There might be some quite imaginative ranks, like Special Agent, Superhero, Destroying Angel, Chief Cook, Surgeon General. The number that you were assigned would not be random. It would be a unique number for everyone, which would increment with each new recruit. It would be used to keep count of the number of recruits in total. And when you’d signed up to join you get a congratulatory email from the army’s Commander In Chief, and a little badge you could print off with your name and rank and number on it, which you could wear pinned to your chest.
And you might also get, in the same email, the army’s Handbook of Rules. And I thought this might be modeled on something like Saul Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals. But it would be Rules For Radical Smokers. Rule Number One might be: Never Stop Smoking. Rule Number Two might be: Ignore All Health Messages. These are just suggestions. The handbook would have to be very carefully thought out. For it would contain a set of values and attitudes and recommendations for smokers. e.g. If In Doubt, Light Up. It would seek to cultivate a generally stroppy (or perhaps ornery) attitude towards authority of every kind. Members of the smokers’ army would be encouraged to use their own initiative, think for themselves, act independently, disobey orders (there would be no orders in the smokers army, only polite suggestions).
I’m not really thinking of an organisation here: I’m think more of a disorganisation. Control G was a disorganisation.
And my thought this morning, remembering my Control G experience, was that this army would strike terror into the hearts of Tobacco Control, just like Control G did. And it would do so precisely because Tobacco Control, despite its small numbers, is very highly organised. And the one thing that Tobacco Control doesn’t want to see is any form of organisation of smokers, particularly any with global aspirations.
But for smokers, whoever they were, it would bring a bit of a glow to have become a member of the smokers army, and have a name and rank and number in it, and a congratulatory message from the Commander In Chief, which you could print out and frame behind glass on your living room wall. I know I’d like it, even if I was just a Junior Cook, number 17453. For when we formed Control G, 40 years ago, we all had a bit of a spring in our step for a few weeks, even though all we’d done was dream up a rather good name for ourselves.
Anyway, I think about stuff like this. How do you build an army? What did Vo Nguyen Giap do to start building the Viet Cong? How does anyone ever build any army, or any organisation? At what point, when there is a need for them, do such organisations spontaneously emerge, crystallised out from a shapeless collection of individuals?
The Smoky Drinky Bar is one way that I’ve thought it might be done. And the Smoky Drinky Bar has brought together a few people from all over the world, and shown that it can be done. There may be precious few regulars in the Smoky Drink Bar, but that doesn’t really matter.
The main thing is to keep having ideas. Keep trying new ways of doing things. I’d guess that Orville and Wilbur Wright spent hours discussing with each other how to improve their prototype airplane, to try and somehow get it off the ground. And they never gave up trying.