The End Of Privacy

Hat tip to Joe L for copying and pasting this:

Dozens of buildings caught up in the zeitgeist of green buildings and healthy living have voted to ban smoking even behind the doors of individual privately owned apartments in the last few months, co-op and condo lawyers say.

At the Century Condominium, a 1931 art deco tower on Central Park West, the ban on smoking in the 410 apartments there went into effect in March after a year-long campaign to gather two-thirds vote of owners needed to change the rules. It passed despite the opposition of some long-time smokers in the building.

Clifford Eisler, a finance executive and board president said the vote would reduce the conflicts that occasionally arise between neighbors living side by side and give the building a tool to deal with future complaints about smoke seeping through walls and hallways.

He said he expected little action against people who smoke—cigarettes, cigars, pipes or marijuana—in their apartments as long as there aren’t complaints.

“We are not going to have smoke-detecting dogs,” he said. “If someone is smoking in their apartment and no one notices, it is kind of like a tree falling in the woods.”

It all sounds very democratic, doesn’t it, having people vote on whether people can smoke or not in their apartments? But doesn’t that mean that privacy has vanished, and there’s nothing “apart” about the apartments. They may as well all be living in one big room.

And if you can vote to stop people smoking in their own apartments, you’ve opened the door to voting to stop them doing more or less anything else as well. Don’t like the smell of frying bacon or onions or garlic? Ban it. Don’t like the smell of roast beef or newly baked bread? Ban it.

And if cigarette smoke can’t actually penetrate walls, sound most certainly can. And in an age of amplifiers and loudspeakers, it increasingly does. So people play blaring music, or watch TV with the volume at maximum, and shout to each other over the din of it all. It all gets louder and louder. And since loud noises deafen people, people get deafer and deafer. Which in turn means the volume has to be turned up even higher.

Cities like New York were probably pretty quiet places a century or two ago. The loudest thing was probably the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on the streets, and even that would have been muffled on dirt roads. And if the horses just walked rather than trotted or cantered or galloped, you wouldn’t have even heard that. And saloon bars wouldn’t have had juke boxes playing, or pinball machines clattering. But when the trams and the railways arrived, they brought with them the click-clack and the klaxons of the trains, and cars brought revving engines and horns and squealing tyres. New York has probably been getting louder and louder for the past century, with more and more new sounds being added every year – e.g. telephones, flush toilets, knocking plumbing, whistling kettles, gunshots, jackhammers, piledrivers, ambulance and police sirens, low-flying jets and helicopters. And when people are all living on top of each other, there’s also footsteps overhead, furniture being dragged, objects being dropped, balls being bounced. And as the sound levels ratchet up, people talk more loudly, because that’s the only way they can get heard. And maybe they also have to walk faster, and talk faster, and type faster, and eat faster. Maybe what underlies the need to keep fit is simply a generally increasing pace of life, in almost every respect. Undisturbed privacy or solitude is probably almost unobtainable in NYC (an acronym that is itself the product of an ever-more-frenetic existence). If you want to live a contemplative life, move to Montana. Or buy yourself an uninhabited atoll in the Pacific or somewhere (like Marlon Brando or Johnny Depp).

It reminds me that when I lived in a shared flat, which could be quite noisy, I used to shut out the sound by listening to music playing repeat (I once listened to Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode that way for 13 hours straight). After a while the music becomes a mantra that you no longer hear. But it also stops you hearing anything else either. But it has to fill the whole aural bandwidth, from low bass to high treble, if you want to stop any other sound sneaking in. And only electric music with fuzz guitars can do that. Classic orchestral music is too thin. If you want to make a piano fill a room, you have to hit it with a hammer, set all the strings vibrating. The “wall of sound” was exactly what it said it was: a wall.

Maybe what’s happening in places like New York is that absolutely everything is getting more and more intrusive. The apartments are no longer as apart as they used to be, and people are all increasingly occupying the same big room from which the walls and floors have vanished (or may as well have vanished). And so you increasingly notice the smoke and incense and aftershave and frying onions, and you hear all the voices and music and kettles and hammers, and you see all the skirts and and the skin-tight jeans and bras and wigs and lipstick, and you listen all day to people talking about this and that and the other, most of which you don’t want to know about. And that’s when you start wanting to ban smoking and cars and free speech and climate change denial, and you start dreaming of “safe spaces” and living on Walden Pond like Thoreau.

Something that Junican wrote a day or two back:

I think that no one could actually BELIEVE that the smoking ban would actually happen.

I didn’t. I had some sort of ‘mental blockage’ which refused to accept the idea that I could not go the the pub, order a pint and have a cig at the bar with an ashtray to hand, and chat, or not, to other people, smokers or not. Perhaps people who are condemned to death suffer similar blockages. They cannot actually accept, in their minds, that tomorrow, they will have a loop in a rope placed around their necks and be dropped through a trapdoor.

I think he’s right. I had a mental blockage too. But a slightly different one: I couldn’t imagine what it was going to be like. Other people that I knew weren’t bothered about the prospect. They’d say things like: “It’ll be no problem. You’ll just slip outside now and then.” But I didn’t think it was going to be that simple. I thought it was going to be a profound change. But I couldn’t see in what ways it might be. And my premonition was pretty accurate. If anything, I actually under-estimated the impact. Ten years later I’m still picking up the pieces.

He goes further:

It reasonably follows that Blair et al did not fully realise what they were doing.

Tony Blair of course being the Prime Minister who introduced the UK smoking ban – although I always thought it was somehow significant that he left office on 27 June, 3 days before it came into force.

And of course he didn’t know what he was doing. I believe he had strong reservations about doing it. But it was immediately declared to be a great success. And probably lots of people still think it was a great success.

But I think it was a disaster. And still is a slowly deepening disaster. I’m just wondering how long it’s going to take before the political class realises how great a disaster it really was.

About Frank Davis

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8 Responses to The End Of Privacy

  1. petesquiz says:

    This might seem to be O/T at first but bear with me. I came across this video about Philip A Payton – He was a black real estate agent in New York whose aim was to provide places where black people could live without problems. So he bought buildings and let them solely to black people which ultimately resulted in the rise of Harlem becoming a hub for black culture.

    Could a rich (or just entrepreneurial) smoker do something similar today? Buy apartment blocks and let them only to smokers – perhaps creating a smoker’s ‘Harlem’? Imagine, if you could create a predominantly smoking neighbourhood, you might then have the ‘power’ to start flouting some of the rules and create smoking ‘speakeasies’.

    • Frank Davis says:

      That’s interesting. The same logic applies to smokers as with blacks, gays, etc. I didn’t know that Harlem was the creation of a black entrepreneur back in 1900.

  2. Frank Davis says:

    A new smoker’s blog I’ve just noticed.

  3. Vlad says:

    This is 100% BS article…what I like about it though is that they used the photo of a very attractive young lady smoking.

  4. waltc says:

    Fyi: there are noise laws in NYC. in that if your neighbor is blaring music, hammering together his Do it yourself Ikea bookshelf, having a loud party or beating his wife after 11 pm, it’s against the law and you can call the cops. Apartment walls are thin, though, and I can hear some of my next door or upstairs neighbors conversations, sneezes, toilet flushes, high-heeled footsteps and, when they’re getting lucky, bedspring creaks. Just part of apartment living. But –advent of the last few years–the 20-somethings, who’ll be stone deaf by the time they’re 40, blare rap at enough decibels to drown out a jet at any hour of the day.

    As for smoker ghettos (and Harlem was a ghetto), and smokers’ self- accepted segregation, yes, it’s technically possible unless or until the city passes a law that makes smoking in all apartments illegal as has been done in many places in California and Alaska. Nor would I bet against the people in the nearby buildings complaining that it wafts thru exterior walls and windows, is killing their The Children™ , their puppies and guppies and ruining their drapes and therefore agitating for just such a law.

  5. smokingscot says:

    “I’m just wondering how long it’s going to take before the political class realises how great a disaster it really was.”

    Myself, but only up to a point.

    In the meantime, I derive great satisfaction that Labour was booted out of running Scotland, then out of England. Then we had that horrid coalition in Westminster, so bad that people saw Mr. Farage as a pretty desirable chap – and started voting for UKIP. (Remember that crap about revoking laws, until Cleggy made it obvious the whole idea was a complete balls-up when top of the pops was bring back hanging and boot the smoking ban)

    UKIP and Farage scared the willies out of poor wee Dave, so tried to repeat his success with the Scottish referendum and did the in/out EU. So confident he was that he’d win, he did sod all about plan B. Ruined his career, or what passed for one, so then we got May.

    Now we’ve got a whole bunch of people who are righteously pissed at the elite of the elite. The House of Lords as well as the Mandarins and there’s a real wish to see the H of L abolished. That’s something I want to see, but for other reasons, namely those rancid old crocks are the ones who assist aid and abet ASH by taking on all manner of things to bills.

    Long term I can see this sort of thing repeated in many countries within the EU. It’ll take time, but the H of L will be changed, quite how I don’t know, but some high profile individuals will have to be dealt with. Partly because they don’t have to declare conflicting interests, mostly because they’re washed up ex- politicians, or were useful to their party (Jack McConnell being one I so want to see hoofed).

    I know one reason why this was helped to come about, but it’s so outrageous that no one would ever l believe me. Well maybe not everyone, so I just yabber away to those who may have an understanding of what it’s like to not give a flying fart about their world, their establishment, their places of entertainment – and just like to chuck the whole lot up in the air and if that’s not good enough, then just keep on chucking!

    Until they listen? NO… it’s way past that stage. Until they’ve gone, the whole putrid, stinking edifice. And if we don’t like that, then we just carry on, until we do.

  6. Smoking Lamp says:

    The destruction of privacy is essentially the destruction if individual autonomy. Hence the attack on smokers was the first step in asserting control on individuals. Sadly, due to relentless propaganda exaggerating health risks, suppressing dissent, and campaigns to educate children (recall the Nazi Youth and Young Pioneers) the masses believed the lies and supported the persecution of smokers. Now the attacks shift to meat (the Vegan extremists), sugar and soft drinks, and alcohol. Meanwhile the attacks on smokers accelerate to all spaces and the surveillance state arises. The persecution of smokers was the first step in implementing this was the attack on smokers.

  7. Lepercolonist says:

    “We are not going to have smoke-detecting dogs,” he said. “If someone is smoking in their apartment and no one notices, it is kind of like a tree falling in the woods.”

    But what if someone does notice ? Sick the dogs on them. Sick thought. Dystopian.

    We have cadaver dogs and narcotics dogs so why not smoke dogs ? I can see it coming. Then it’s your word against the dog. You lose. Small fee added to your maintenance charge for the dogs.

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