Armies and Companies and Unions

I seem to have touched a bit of a nerve with yesterday’s post. Comments after it jumped from the usual average of about 15 to over 60. Clearly people are interested in the idea of some sort of Smokers’ Army. Which suggests that it could be an idea whose time has come, or whose time is coming.

But I was thinking this morning that I’m the last person anyone should consult about armies. I’ve never joined one. I’ve never been a member any military or quasi-military organisation. I was never even a Boy Scout. I like to say that the last club that I was a member of was the Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club (Match record: won one. lost one. drew one) back when I briefly lived in Richmond.

I’m not sure that I’m very ‘clubbable’. I’m a bit of a natural loner. An outsider. And all my thinking is generally ‘outside the box’: i.e. outside the club. I like to start off thinking about anything by asking myself what I think about it, before I go asking other people what they think.

It’s not that I don’t like people. I tend to like everybody I meet. But that doesn’t mean that I want to think the same way they do.

I’ve worked for a few large companies (and I suppose they are armies of a sort) but I was seldom an employee. I was mostly a contractor brought in to solve one problem or other that the companies didn’t have enough people to cope with internally. And once the job was done, I’d leave. Someone once asked me, “When are you going to get a proper job?” But I never had any need of a proper, steady job. Somehow or other I just got by on a stream of short-term contracts. I was never a company man like my father, who joined the same company his father was in, and rose up it to senior management. I’ve never managed anybody.

But maybe my experience of never having joined an army, or even any company, allows me to think about things like armies and companies with fresh eyes. On the other hand, maybe my inexperience is a terrible liability.

One little company, one little band of companions, that I was a member of was the one I mentioned yesterday: Control G. We were all freelance computer programmers, and I was the least experienced one. And freelance computer programmers are independent minded people: they have to be. They have to look at computing problems and come up with answers, usually on their own. So how did four independent-minded young men come together? And why did we come together?

We all knew each other. We were all friends. Occasionally we’d even worked together on the same job, or for the same company.

And we came together because we all felt we were being underpaid. Our employers in the west of England would say things like, “We can’t pay you London rates for doing the job, because we’re a long way from London,” and offer us pay rates which were half what anyone would get for doing the same job in London.

So we got together quite naturally, griping about this (even though we were being highly paid).

And then one of us had the idea of us forming our own organisation or union. Mightn’t we be more effective in raising our pay if we all banded together? Wasn’t that how unions worked? Didn’t coal miners and factory workers have to form unions to push for higher wages and better conditions?

I’m also reminded of something else that happened around that time. We freelance computer programmers weren’t paid regularly, like other company employees were paid. They’d all get their regular pay cheques, and we’d get paid with whatever was left in the kitty. And very often there was nothing in the kitty. So we didn’t get paid. And so after I’d started working for a new company as a freelance computer programmer, I was rather dismayed to find that although I’d been working for them for a couple of months, and had nominally made quite a lot of money, I hadn’t actually been paid a single penny. I asked the other freelance programmers if they’d been paid. And none of them had been paid either. And they’d all been at the company a lot longer than me. And they all seemed to be resigned to not being paid. They were all rather apathetic. There was nothing they could do about it. In fact, they didn’t really want to even talk about it.

But I thought about it. And after a while I decided I’d take a calculated gamble. I’d been working at the company for about three months (unpaid). And I was working on one particular aspect of the product they were building (a visual display unit, or VDU), and I’d come to be the expert on that bit of it, and people would come to me to ask whether it would be possible to add in this or that sort of new capability. I was, in short, a valuable person to have around. So I decided to gamble on myself and my worth to the company. And so one day I went to see the managing director of the little company, and told him that if I didn’t get paid by the end of the month (which was less than four weeks away), I was going to stop work.

All hell then broke loose. The managing director said that they simply didn’t have the money right now to pay me, but they hoped to have it in a few months time. The agency that had got me the job rang me and asked me whether I really meant to stop work. My co-workers were dumbfounded. How could I do that? But I was adamant: what was the point of doing all this work, if I wasn’t going to get paid? I mean, really, what the hell was the point? And then I went back to doing my job, just as before. And watched the clock tick slowly down towards the end of the month.

Over the next few weeks, I had a variety of approaches from the management of the company. And a number of phone calls. And towards the end of the month my resolve was weakening a bit. Was I really going to down tools and walk out at the end of the month? Mightn’t they just call my bluff? What if the managing director showed up on the 30th of the month and said, “Okay, Mister Davis. You think we need you, but we don’t. We’ve got your replacement already lined up. He’s due to take over tomorrow when you’ve left.” I was wobbling pretty badly as the last few days of the month arrived, but I tried not to show it.

And then, two days before the clock had reached the end of the count, somebody came down from the managing directors office, holding a cheque. And it was a big fat cheque for everything they owed me.

I’d won. My gamble had paid off.

My unpaid co-workers then got angry and started demanding that they get paid too. And, in fact, they were also paid shortly thereafter. So I won not just my pay cheque, but I won theirs for them too.

Maybe that’s why, a few months later, when Control G was formed, all the computing companies were alarmed. They knew what we could do, because they knew what I had done.

And the situation of smokers is a bit like the situation of us programmers back then. We weren’t being treated well. We were being treated pretty badly. None of the programmers liked it, but they couldn’t see what they could do about it, and didn’t even want to talk about it. And that’s just like most smokers today.

It’s not that we want higher wages. It’s something else that we want. And maybe there’s not very much we’ll need to do to get it. Because I didn’t actually have to do anything to get what I wanted all those years ago. All I did was set a deadline. I gave the company a deadline that was far enough away for them to be able to meet it. And then I just had to hold my nerve. And maybe that’s all that smokers will need to do.

Anyway, I think that having a name for some organisation is an important first step. I think when the four of us sat around tossing around ideas for a name, we weren’t wasting our time. And I think Control G was a great name (and I wasn’t the one who thought of it). And maybe just having a name was enough to frighten the employers, and push pay rates up nearer London levels.

And of the many suggestions so far, my favourite is SteveL’s “Phoenix”, rising from the ashes. But I also agree with Barry Homan that you need to have a name which is a bit mysterious, a bit enigmatic. And it must be dangerous. Control G was a bit enigmatic. What did it mean? It wasn’t very dangerous though.

So I’ll leave the question open: what should a Smokers’ Army be called?

About Frank Davis

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44 Responses to Armies and Companies and Unions

  1. Barry Homan says:

    I like Phoenix. I like CLASH, but it’s taken, darn.

    • Frank Davis says:

      You would like Phoenix, I’d guess, because that’s where you come from. And where you were visiting a week or two back. Am I not right?

      • Barry Homan says:

        Actually, I don’t (cough) much like the city of Phoenix, one reason I moved away from there (and it got me further away from CA). Yes, I went to Phx to visit my mum for week.

  2. petesquiz says:

    I was late to the party on yesterday’s post, but I suggested the name Antitocon (in homage to Antifa).
    The word ‘Army’ has gotten a lot of use in the suggestions, but in this modern age, armies don’t seem to win very much. What I’d suggest is some form of underground movement set up like al-Qaeda was – a many-headed ‘beast’ that has no central control. After all, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I don’t want to pay homage to Antifa, or al-Qaeda, or the SLA. I hate the lot of them. I think there are other ways of being ‘dangerous’.

      • petesquiz says:

        Fair enough. I should have made myself clearer. The ideals of those organisations are completely against my views, but their tactics are/were very effective. You won’t beat an established organisation such as Tobacco Control by playing to the rules – they certainly don’t play fair. (And just to be clear, I also wasn’t advocating the use of violence, just ‘guerilla’ style tactics.)

    • RdM says:


      Too many syllables, too complicated.
      Better off with AntiCon. Or AntiScam.
      Which while appropriate I think aren’t great either.
      Whatever it is, I also think it ought to be a neat acronym as well.
      I suppose the last one could be… more below.

  3. Phoenix is good, although it will bring up a million other things on Google.

    I also like Smokers’ Liberation Army.

    What you have to work out is, what’s the smokers’ equivalent of withdrawing your labour?

    • Frank Davis says:

      Well, withdrawing our custom for one. I don’t go anywhere much these days. That means I don’t use any form of public transport, or hotels. I also don’t go to movies, theatres, art galleries, museums, etc.. I don’t engage in any cultural activities at all (although I still vote). And I hardly ever go to restaurants (and never on my own, like once I did).

      And it takes no effort to not do these things..

      And that’s just a start.

      • beobrigitte says:

        And it takes no effort to not do these things..
        I totally agree. And it’a a pleasure to use the alternatives. Home entertainment and the internet, e.g. reading blogs or entering the SD bar, or watching interviews from other countries.
        Fact is:

  4. beobrigitte says:

    And we came together because we all felt we were being underpaid.
    This does remind me of the time when our night payment was changed to what we called “buttons”.
    I left a note on my boss’ desk:
    “For as long as my employer pretends to pay me properly I pretend to work properly.”

    So I’ll leave the question open: what should a Smokers’ Army be called?
    Do we need a name? Do we need to be organised?
    I don’t think so. All we need to do is stick together. It is so much harder to anticipate the next step of a huge bunch of loose canons…

  5. Timothy Goodacre says:

    I like Phoenix ! We didn’t go away and now we are coming back, more vociferous and certainly more determined to take on these tobacco control bullies !!

  6. Vlad says:

    Was reading this article and under the ‘What is meningitis’ heading you can find this part: ##People exposed to passive smoking or with suppressed immune systems, such as patients undergoing chemotherapy, are also more at risk.## Source: Meningitis Now
    I checked the charity’s site, and indeed, it says there that exposure to passive smoking increases one’s risk of catching meningitis. I was like…wtf..didn’t see this one coming. I mean, you expect this shenanigans from the likes of CRUK, but a Meningitis charity?! Imagine if that mother reads and believes this shit and then remembers some friend or acquaintance who smoked near her now dead child. This thing creates hate, resentment, destroys relationships…all based on the BS spouted by this charity.

    Lesson: be very very careful to whom you donate your money.

    • Joe L. says:

      I mean, you expect this shenanigans from the likes of CRUK, but a Meningitis charity?!

      All you need to do is follow the money. I bet you’d find a large chunk of their donations come from Antismoking individuals/organizations. The all-too-common quid pro quo.

      This thing creates hate, resentment, destroys relationships…all based on the BS spouted by this charity.

      Lies like these make my blood boil. Tobacco Control must be destroyed.

    • beobrigitte says:

      I checked the charity’s site, and indeed, it says there that exposure to passive smoking increases one’s risk of catching meningitis.
      Whoa!! I do require some details about this… The mechanism to begin with. Then, which meningitis was addressed by this statement. After I receive the answers the REAL questions start.

      Lesson: be very very careful to whom you donate your money.
      Vlad, good point. I take by nature any short cut I can find. These days NO CHARITY gets my money; I give it to the increasing amount of elderly homeless in person. That way I know I do someone a favour without financing a new Mercedes for a charity’s 5 – 6 figure salary employed CEO, or the charity employing agencies to wrangle money out of average citizen.

    • nisakiman says:

      This thing creates hate, resentment, destroys relationships…all based on the BS spouted by this charity.

      I seem to remember that the US charity that supports and researches SIDS told TC to stop repeating the lie that SIDS was a result of exposure to SHS; (a) because there was absolutely no evidence linking the two, and (b) because it imposed an unacceptable burden of guilt on parents of babies who died of SIDS if they happened to smoke.

      Of course, as far as TC was concerned, putting those parents through a heavy guilt trip was the intention, TC being totally amoral and devoid of any compassion whatsoever. Destroying people’s lives is what they do. If it furthers the agenda, regardless of the consequences, in their eyes it’s justified.

      As far as I know, TC are still peddling the lie that SIDS and SHS are connected, despite being told to desist by the SIDS specialists.

  7. Philip Neal says:

    Control G was a brilliant choice for the same reason as Alt Right, because it is a meme. Armies, legions and campaigns can be ridiculed as the People’s Front for the Liberation of Judea, acronyms and lofty words can be given comic explanations but memes catch on. Control G is enigmatic and menacing. It sounds as if it is everywhere. What is Control G? Why is it called Control G? Who is in Control G? Can Control G be stopped? As the meme trips off one tongue it spreads to another.

    Perhaps Flick Drag. “Frank Davis, the shadowy Flick Drag blogger…” “FOREST has denied that it is a Flick Drag organisation…” “ASH calls for action against Flick Drag activity on Facebook…” “Is Putin’s Russia behind Flick Drag propaganda?” “Is James Delingpole Flick Drag?”

    Tea Pot Dome. Tea Pot Dome. Tea Pot Dome. President Harding? Tea Pot Dome. Tea Pot Dome. Tea Pot Dome. It needs to be like that.

    • Barry Homan says:

      That was my point yesterday. Control G does sound menacing, better than a cutesy acronym. And though I like Phoenix, it’s true that if you google that, you’ll get piles of other stuff.

      I don’t much like army or front, or for that matter, league or legion.

      Who remembers the pop group The Left Banke? A name like that sounds good.

  8. smokingscot says:

    Took a look at websites that may be available with the word phoenix in it.

    Pretty well all variants are taken, including group, associates and such.

    Also the headline ones for control g.

    So it’ll need to be more than just a word. Something all inclusive because as we’ve seen here on Frank’s as well as most others of type, more than just smokers visit and I think may be prepared to join, maybe even pay subs.

    To help answer a question raised, one thing the phoenix community can do is withdraw votes from political parties and transfer them to parties, or even individuals standing for local election who pledge to roll back restrictions on us lot.

    And if the collaboration gains traction with a paid up membership, then having a slush fund to assist those who we favour, then you’ll have real clout.

    Haven’t begun to imagine all the possibilities, but something dark and threatening, with local info from all corners of the planet is possible! Oh and if it could be a registered charity, well that’d be one helluva boot in their gonads! If not, then for sure some form of legal entity that’s not taxable.

    • Lepercolonist says:

      Well stated, smokingscot. Our local politician, Joe Schiavoni( Ohio State House Rep.) introduced a bill that would relax Ohio’s draconian smoking ban. Schiavoni got my vote.

      He is now running for Governor of Ohio but is underfunded and faces long odds. I’m praying he gets the nomination.

  9. Joe L. says:

    I believe an enigmatic name is imperitive, and I also believe the name shouldn’t be too smoker-centric. Our organization should be a place for people of all walks of life to feel welcome to join when their personal pleasures are denormalized and they are outcast from society, even those who turned a blind eye to smokers when we were persecuted.

    So far, I think “Phoenix” is the best suggestion which accomplishes this, as it doesn’t scream “smoking,” yet it still conjures imagery of fire, smoke and ash (and rebirth, which is fantastic). Smokers were the first group to be targeted, and smokers will be the group which leads the rebellion!

    • beobrigitte says:

      and I also believe the name shouldn’t be too smoker-centric. Our organization should be a place for people of all walks of life to feel welcome to join when their personal pleasures are denormalized and they are outcast from society, even those who turned a blind eye to smokers when we were persecuted.
      All we need to do is the highlight that the anti-smokers’ propaganda worked so well that it became the blueprint for everything else.
      My friend’s daughter lost her life to that health-no-fatties propaganda. On 13.3. this year she would have celebrated her 29th birthday.

      It is high time for common sense to prevail.

  10. Control S?

    It should be something which comes up on Google early. That won’t happen with Phoenix.

    • smokingscot says:




      (With attitude)

    • Joe L. says:

      Yesterday I also thought of “Control-S.” In modern computing it is the keyboard shortcut for “save,” and thought that could be associated with saving our freedoms, or saving humanity from the current insanity sweeping it. And, of course, the ‘S’ could be interpreted as standing for “smokers.”

      However, I decided against it because it could also be interpreted as “Control Smokers,” which is exactly what we’re trying to fight.

    • nisakiman says:

      Unless you preface ‘Phoenix’ with something. Perhaps something like Alt35, which, when the numeric keypad is used, gives us the hashtag ‘#’, which could be quite handy for Twitter etc – Alt35Phoenix = #phoenix.

  11. beobrigitte says:

    Smokers Sticking Together? [quote Frank]
    Simple, effective and truthful.
    Every resistance group succeeded by sticking together. For quite a number of years we here have been sticking together, there is no reason this can’t be expanded. The smokydrinky bar is one example. Last Saturday morning I went to bed at 2:30 am. I had a long, entertaining night in the bar and was ready to keel over. At that very time the people from the south side of the globe thought that they better get the rest of their Saturday afternoon going….
    Fact is, we can stick together via blogs and even have our own bar (Frank) or interviews (Emily) etc,
    After all, we are still alive and kicking.

  12. beobrigitte says:

    I have a problem with “Phoenix”. It’s been used to often.

  13. Barry Homan says:

    Here’s a suggestion: On Guard

    Not good google-wise, but carries a nice threatening ring to it.

  14. Rose says:

    Hoteliers want city to tweak patio smoking ban
    March 6, 2018

    “A city-wide smoking ban on patios at Winnipeg restaurants and bars is one step away from becoming a realization this spring.
    The city’s Standing Policy Committee for Protection, Community Services and Parks voted 2-to-1 in favour of the ban, which is slated to come into effect on April 1 if all goes well at a March 22 city council meeting.”

    “Meanwhile, the president and chief executive officer of the Manitoba Hotels Association wants a small change to the by-law he feels would make a big difference for his operators.”

    “Jocelyn told the committee he would like to see allowance for his operators to allow for a “smoking corral,” a fenced-in area void of food and beverage.”
    “I’m tasked with answering calls from a multitude of operators trying to do the right thing,” Jocelyn said.”

    if that’s what they think of their customers I wouldn’t give them a penny.
    What is wrong with people, have they no pride?

  15. melinoerealm says:

    There were the ‘Tobaccologist College’ societies, until late 19-th cent, in Britain and France. They were literary and artistic circles (Tennyson was a member}, associated with a mysterious Pythagorean fraternity called Frateli Oscuri.

  16. Pingback: Blood Phoenix | Frank Davis

  17. Laurie says:

    Smoking is just one thing. Our enemies are inflicting their insane puritan agenda on all aspects of our lives. This really isn’t just about smoking any more, it’s about liberty/freedom full stop.

    I note today Public Health England are assuring us of the negligible risk of nerve agent in Salisbury, while yesterday they introduced a plan to reduce calories in nearly every food group by 20%. Which is basically only going to cause poor people to get thinner, everyone else will simply experience a 20% increase in food costs. How dumb are these fuckers?

    PHE are the ENEMY. They and councils get 3-4 billion pounds of our money every year primarily to foist this dumb agenda on our lungs and stomachs.

    People think that us smokers and obese people cost money, when we know that’s bollocks. If we could prove to government that we save them money then they could no longer justify PHE doing that side of what they do.

  18. Pingback: Some Strengths and Weaknesses of Tobacco Control | Frank Davis

  19. RdM says:

    After (insert adverb) this for a few days, I think, not being into armies or comic book superhero nemesis ideas, and yet considering Frank’s idea of just wanting tobacco users (OK, smokers if you will, but remember snus!) to ally and be in contact, how about something like


    Tobacco Lovers Association

      • RdM says:

        After thinking (insert adverb) about this for a few days, I think …

        [I still have the LP version of this, this the cover!]

        Riki Tiki Tavi by Donovan …

        [Verse 1]
        Better get into what you gotta get into
        Better get into it now, no slacking please
        United Nations ain’t really united
        And the organisations ain’t really organised

        Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
        Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
        Won’t be coming around for to kill your snakes no more, my love
        Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone

        [Verse 2]
        Everybody who read the Jungle Book knows that Riki tiki tavi’s a mongoose who kills snakes
        When I was a young man I was led to believe there were organisations to kill my snakes for me
        Ie the church ie the government ie school
        But when I got a little older, I learned I had to kill them myself

        (I said) Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
        Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone
        Won’t be coming around for to kill your snakes no more, my love
        Riki tiki tavi mongoose is gone

        [16 bars instrumental]

        It’s over to us, as Tobacco Lovers, to Associate . . .

        Make associations, affiliations, affectionate tribes, but also anti-anti-tobacco arguments.

        Authors, activism, attacks, accounting, appreciations, alternate expressions, actual change … how can it all be accomplished?

        Immediately, or in time… on time.


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