For the past few months I’ve been thinking how the Earth’s climate alternates between ice ages and interglacials, between cold and warmth. And, somewhat in parallel with that, I was thinking yesterday about how human societies alternate between war and peace, and how the entire structure of society changes in the transition from one to the other.
In peacetime civil society, all are equals, at least in the sense that no-one can command anyone else to do anything. But in wartime military society, the whole of society becomes a hierarchy, with everyone assigned a rank of some sort, and either commanding or being commanded to do one thing or another. It’s almost akin to the change of state of water to ice, from liquid to solid. All the characteristics of society change completely, right down to what people wear and what people eat, and maybe even what they value and what they think.
And I was also thinking that Tobacco Control is a military command structure, issuing orders to smokers to stop smoking. And it has companion control structures, Alcohol Control, Fat Control, Sugar Control, Salt Control, Chocolate Control, and (my favourite, even if it is yet to exist) Custard Control. No Smoking signs command people: they command them not to smoke. Our roads of full of similar commanding signs: Keep Left, Stop, No Parking, etc, etc. We are all being ordered around all the time, everywhere.
And Tobacco Control’s military goal is to rid society of unnecessary luxuries. People don’t need to smoke. They don’t need to drink. They don’t need to eat meat. They don’t need sugar and salt and chocolate and custard. These things are all luxuries. And in wartime luxuries vanish. Everything gets stripped down to the barest essentials. Public Health is really all about readying people for war. That’s why they want people to keep fit, lose weight, run marathons, visit gyms. You can’t have armies of fat people waddling off to war, can you?
It would all make perfect sense, but for the inconvenient fact that Britain is not actually at war. We don’t have conscription or rationing or air raid shelters. We’re not all wearing uniforms. We’ve not all been assigned various different ranks within a military hierarchy. But Tobacco Control acts as if any day now a state of emergency will be declared, and the transformation from civilian to military society will take place, quite possibly overnight – because wars usually begin and end at one particular time on one particular day. It might also be what Common Purpose was all about: it was to provide leadership, and when the call came the graduate leaders of Common Purpose would step forward to provide the leadership they had been trained to supply. But such leadership is only required in a time of war, when everyone does indeed have a shared common purpose in defeating some enemy. In the absence of an enemy, and in the absence of war, organisations like Common Purpose are nonsensical – and so also is Tobacco Control. In fact, Common Purpose and Tobacco Control have become the enemy that it should be our common purpose to defeat. Tobacco Control must be destroyed because it is a wholly unnecessary control structure. We don’t need it. We’d all be much, much better off without it.
Peace is a time of idleness and luxury, and war is a time of busyness and bare necessity. But peace is also a time of justice and transparency and honesty, while war is a time of injustice and secrecy and lies. War is wholesale mass murder of kind that would be unconscionable in a time of peace. It’s a time of secrecy because Loose Lips Sink Ships. And it’s a time of lies because enemies must be deceived, outwitted, fooled into making mistakes. And one’s own populations also need to be fooled into thinking that they’re winning, even if it so happens that they’re losing. Defeats need to be made to look like victories: the British Army was comprehensively defeated in 1940, and could have been made captive, but instead managed to escape from the beaches of Dunkirk back to Britain on a fleet of little ships: Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!
And of course Tobacco Control is also unjust and secretive and dishonest. Smoking bans are essentially unjust because they discriminate against smokers, and against nobody else. So also is the punitive taxation of tobacco equally unjust and discriminatory. And Tobacco Control conducts its conferences in complete secrecy, with the public and press excluded. And Tobacco Control lies all the time about tobacco. Everything – absolutely everything – they say is a barefaced lie. But, hey, that’s what you do in wartime: you tell lies all the time, to everyone.
So if Britain is currently at peace, why are there organisations like Tobacco Control which behave as if Britain was at war? Perhaps it’s that the warriors in Tobacco Control see themselves as being at war with Big Tobacco, and conducting a War on Smoking. In their own minds (and in nobody else’s) they are engaged in a Darwinian life-and-death Struggle for Existence. For them it’s the Survival of the Fittest.
Or maybe it’s simply that the Tobacco Controllers are people who have carried forward from the last great war – WW2 – the common purpose that once bound people together in an army. They are people with a military mentality who have found themselves becalmed in a civilian society, which they try to rouse to share their war mentality.
Richard Doll was a doctor during WW2. He served aboard hospital ships. And my Dr W was also a doctor, in North Africa, during that war. He mentioned it to me once in passing. And perhaps both of them (and maybe George Godber, who was missing one eye, as well) had deeply and profoundly shocking experiences during that war. I always felt of Dr W that he had been through some terrible experience that had left him a psychological cripple, unable to smile. I had imagined that it had been some childhood experience, but it could equally well have been something that happened when he was a young man. I suppose that soldiers must see death and destruction every day, but doctors in field hospitals must see dying and injured and screaming and moaning men every single day. And that must leave some of them – maybe all of them – psychologically scarred for life.
Whatever the cause, the psychological deficiency of the zealots in Tobacco Control would seem to be that they regard themselves as fighting a war, while actually living in a time of peace. And they see themselves as masters and commanders when they actually have no rank whatsoever. And they engage in all the injustices and secrecy and mendacity of war, precisely because they see themselves as fighting in a Struggle for Existence in which nothing is forbidden, and anything goes. And Big Tobacco is the wholly imaginary, satanic arch-enemy against which they have conjured up for themselves to fight, when it’s really just a benign company that sells dried and cured tobacco to people who enjoy smoking it.