A comment by Tony yesterday, the first comment of the day, stuck in mind, and so I’ll reproduce it in its entirety:
Hitting people hard will drive some to fight back but others will be beaten into submission. Particularly if they see no way to fight.
In my experience, many smokers hate the ban and the persecution in general. If they even think about it, let alone talk about it, some become overwhelmed with a fury that can take hours or even days to subside.
When pressed to discuss the issue, a few literally turned crimson and shouted at me:
“There’s nothing you can do about it so shut the f***k up”.
Fortunately most are more civil but are still reluctant as they know it will make them angry or depressed. Maintaining a ‘stiff upper lip’ allows them to retain control.
God help the anti-smokers when the tide finally turns.
This morning he added a second thought:
I reworded my comment above a few times. Unfortunately I left it as “many smokers hate the ban”, which should really have read “virtually all smokers hate the ban” it’s just that some hate it more than others.
And I wondered: Have some smokers – maybe even most smokers – been “beaten into submission”? Is that really what happened to them?
Is that why some people are activists and most aren’t? Because most were beaten into submission, and only a few weren’t?
I can still vividly remember 1 July 2007, when the UK public smoking ban came into force. It was for me a day of great confusion, going from one pub to the next to see what was happening. And it was a bit like being aboard a ship that had just been torpedoed, and was sinking fast. It wasn’t just me who was confused: everyone was confused that day. It was only when I got home that day that the rage – the blazing anger – erupted in me. And kept erupting for day after day after that, until I started worrying that I’d burst a blood vessel in an apoplectic fit of rage. Over 10 years later the anger is still there. But I use it rather more effectively than I knew how to do back then.
But to go back to the question: were we all being beaten into submission that day?
That’s not how I remember it. I certainly wasn’t beaten into submission. And I don’t think anyone else was either.
The truth of the matter was that we had all submitted already, myself included. And we had submitted when we accepted that smoking in pubs and restaurants and other public places was going to be banned that day, 1 July 2007. We knew it was going to happen in February 2006, when about two-thirds of the MPs in Parliament voted for it.
We’d all known for about 18 months what was going to happen. Except in my case I didn’t know what would happen. I didn’t know how people would respond on 1 July 2007. I didn’t know how I would respond myself. I had to wait to find out.
I actually spent quite a lot of time during those 18 months asking people in pubs what they thought would happen. And they were almost all upbeat and optimistic about it. They all looked on the bright side. Quite a few said things like, “It might help me to cut down a bit on smoking.” And others said, “It’ll be no bother. You’ll just have to slip out for a quick smoke outside now and then. Apart from that it’ll be just the same as before.” It was all something that people would take in their stride.
I wasn’t so optimistic. I was worried. And that was why I kept asking people. I was worried, but they weren’t.
Their attitudes were all quite different the day after 1 July 2007. They pretty rapidly hardened into not wanting to talk about it. And when I did talk about it, they’d tell me that nothing could be done about it. And they’d get angry if I suggested there were things they could do about it. Simple things like writing to their MP. Things that I did, but they didn’t.
Their attitude was fatalistic. It was what God wished, and if it was God’s wish that smoking be banned, then there was nothing that could be done about. They didn’t actually say that, but it was what they meant.
It reminded me of something my father once said to a Brazilian employee of the company he worked for, who had responded to some proposal of his by saying: “Se deus quiser.” – “If God wishes.” And my father had replied by saying: “It’s not a matter of whether God wishes it: it’s a matter of whether you wish it!!”
But that is the attitude of a great many people to the circumstances they find themselves in: “Se deus quiser.” They see themselves as caught up in overwhelming circumstances, about which they are utterly powerless to do anything at all.
And this isn’t something that applies only to things like smoking bans: it applies to everything. And the only proper response to anything that happens is to accept it, whatever it is. Accept it, and get over it. If you don’t, you’ll just be beating your head against a brick wall.
And in many ways, it actually is an appropriate response. We are all caught up in living in a world in which huge forces toss us about, and spin us around, and turn us upside down, and there actually is nothing we can do about it. We are battered by winds, and tossed by waves, and buried in snow, and burned by sunlight. And we can’t stop the wind blowing, or the waves breaking, or the snow falling, or the sun shining. There’s absolutely nothing we can do about those things.
But we are not completely powerless. Titanic forces may be being unleashed all around us every day, but we can still walk to shelter, or dig up a bit of the snow, or make hats to shade our heads from the burning sun. We have a little bit of freedom of action.
And also, if you wait long enough, the wind always dies down, and the sea becomes calm, and the snow melts away, and the sun sets. More or less everything that happens in our world is cyclical in nature, because we live in a cyclical universe. Its cyclicity is reflected in our clocks, whose hands return daily to the same position, again and again and again. The cycles are often very complex, but they remain cyclical for all that.
And smoking bans are also cyclical events as well. They come and go. The smoking ban of 1 July 2007 wasn’t the first such ban. And it probably won’t be the last. One might say that any ban on anything will be followed, sooner or later, by the ban being lifted.
It’s been one of the most successful pieces of Tobacco Control’s propaganda, in many ways, to convince almost everybody that the smoking bans that are being rolled out all over the world will be in place in perpetuity, and they will never be revoked, because they are irrevocable. And because so many people think that they are irrevocable, they think nothing can be done about them, and there’s no point trying. If you try, you’ll just be pissing into the wind.
So I don’t think anyone has been beaten into submission. I see smokers every day, sitting or standing outside pubs, and they’re not in the least bit submissive. They just think there’s nothing that they can do about smoking bans, just like they can do nothing about whether it’s raining or the sun is shining. For them smoking bans are just another fact of life, like the seasons or the year.
The spell that they are under is a spell that almost everybody is under: the belief that nothing can be done. And it applies to many, many more things than smoking bans. In fact, it applies to almost everything.
But if you can break the spell, they’ll change their minds.
How do you break the spell?
P.S. I’ve add a Peter Koo image in the right margin. Clicking on it (at the moment) will take you to a list of links provided by Audrey Silk