I’m a silent driver. I hardly ever use my car horn. I see people going too fast, or too slow, or cutting corners, but I never feel the need to express indignation about it – even if what they’ve just done has caused me to brake or stop or swerve. It takes a lot to get me to hit my horn.
As far as I’m concerned, these sorts of slight obstructions and infringements are just part and parcel of driving. The same is true of walking along a street. People suddenly stop, or change direction. Stuff happens.
I’m not very judgmental. But I’ll acknowledge other drivers when they give way to me. I’ll thank them with a smile or a wave of my hand or maybe just a lifted finger.
But some people are very judgmental. They’ll let you know when you’ve made a mistake, and they’ll let you know very loudly.
Some people even tell other people to start being more judgmental.
Like Maxine Waters, a US (California) Democratic Representative.
“Tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” she tells the crowd around her. She was talking about people in Trump’s cabinet or Trump’s administration, in respect of Trump’s internment of the children of illegal immigrants.
I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of Trump’s internment policy. What interests me is the approach Maxine Waters takes to a policy she disapproves of: she’s asking people to personally “push back” against people in Trump’s administration,”tell them that they’re not welcome.”
In a subsequent MSNBC interview (1:08), she said that they should be “absolutely harassed until they decide (to change their minds).”
And I immediately thought that this was what was being done to smokers as well. “Tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” pretty much summarises the policy towards smokers these days. They are to be absolutely harassed until they change their behaviour, and stop smoking.
Is that the way to get people to change their minds, change their behaviour? Harass them and bully them until they give in? As a smoker who has been subjected to a decade or more of harassment and bullying, all I can say is that it’s only made me all the more determined to never give up smoking.
Can you change anyone’s mind about anything that way? You might be able to change the way they behave, but can you change the way they think? Smoking bans have certainly changed the way I behave: I no longer smoke in pubs. But the bans haven’t stopped me wanting to smoke in pubs. They haven’t changed my mind at all.
I think that if you want to change people’s minds, you have to provide them with good reasons for changing their minds. And people will change their minds if they’re presented with good reasons for doing so. And if you can’t change someone’s mind, it’ll most likely be because you didn’t present them with good enough reasons to change their minds.
Smoking bans can change behaviour, but they can’t change hearts and minds. But maybe behaviour was all that Tobacco Control ever wanted to change? Maybe they couldn’t give a hang about what people thought, and only about what they did?
Aside from smoking, it seems that the Maxine Waters of the world are telling people to protest at injustice, and to protest very loudly, and protest very forcefully. She’s telling them to hit their car horns every time they see someone break any rule of the road. And she’s very far from being alone. There are a lot of people like her around these days. They won’t let anything pass. Nothing’s too trivial for them. Not even tobacco smoke.