Smokingscot disagrees with me:
“But to fight back, you have to get nasty. And most people don’t want to be nasty. Most smokers are very nice, friendly, kind, thoughtful people. And so they won’t fight back.”
I really can’t let that one pass Frank. First off I don’t think it’s possible for us to “fight back”; we’re the consumer of a product and our beef is with the smoking ban.
It’s not possible for us to fight back, because we’re just consumers?
I suppose that in many ways we are just consumers. Or – same thing – customers.
We are perhaps no different from customers at a restaurant. We’ve been going there for years, and every time we go we order our same favourite dish – beef and vodka escalopes. And then one day we arrive and find that the restaurant has changed hands, and it no longer serves our favourite dish. Instead it now only offers a variety of crêpes and quiches. Even the old wooden chairs and tables have gone, and been replaced by metal ones. And the new proprietor only speaks French. What can one do?
There’s at least one thing you can do: you can stop going to that restaurant. Just because it’s all completely changed, it doesn’t mean you have to carry on going there and eating whatever’s on the new menu. With luck the old proprietor has simply moved to a newer, larger restaurant, with the same menu as the original restaurant, and maybe the same tables.
Or, if you’re rich enough, you can buy the old restaurant, and the old chairs and tables, and hire the old chef and waitresses, and thereby recreate the old restaurant.
Our circumstance precludes this last possibility, because it’s not just that the restaurant has changed hands, but the laws governing restaurants have been changed: beef and vodka escalopes have been banned. And so have wooden chairs and tables. They’ve all been “de-normalised” by people who are trying to change norms. They’re people who think that they can change society simply by legislating the old society out of existence, and legislating a new one into existence.
But you can protest against the new society simply by refusing to engage with it: you can stop going to the “beef-free” and “vodka-free” restaurants.
But you can do more than that. You can write letters of protest to your local newspaper, or to your local councillor. You can put up wall posters and stickers that say Bring Back The Old Restaurants. Or you can write books about how good the old restaurants used to be. Or you can form a Society For The Restoration Of The Old Restaurants With Proper Wooden Tables. Or found a political party with that aim. And if you’re angry enough, you can deface the new restaurants, or even burn them down.
There are in fact an infinite number of things you can do in order to fight back. And in whatever way you fight back, you exert influence to some greater or lesser extent.
We are all able to exert influence. We exert influence whenever we open our mouths and speak. Or whenever we write a letter or an essay or a book. Or whenever we paint a picture, or sing a song, or write an equation. We even exert influence by not doing things: not buying new products, not frequenting new restaurants, not wearing new clothes.
We seem to be living in a time when some people have decided that we must all live in a different way than that to which we are accustomed. They think they know better than we do what’s good for us. I don’t know where they all came from. But somehow or other they seem to control all our governments, and all our broadcast media, and all our professions, and all our courts. They’re trying to control what we think, and what we say, in the most minute detail. And they act on a global scale. They have instigated a global revolution, in which every country in the world, every culture, every belief system, is to be swept away.
But we can resist. We can refuse to do as they demand. And we can exert influence on them, and on each other.
Over the past few months, by writing to my MP in protest against prison smoking bans, I’ve been exerting a tiny influence on the British government. And the government has noticed me. They may not have changed their minds about prison smoking bans, but they have at least noticed me. For all these tiny influences add up, just like the tiny forces of gravity or flows of heat in my computer simulation models all add up to cause planets to follow elliptical orbits and ice sheets to melt.
It’s only a tiny little drop in the ocean, but the oceans consist entirely of millions upon millions of such tiny little droplets of water.
It was 17.4 million tiny droplets of paper that caused the earth-shaking Brexit vote. And in the USA in November 2016, 62,984,828 Americans voted for Donald Trump, with the result that he’s now their President. It may be that Theresa May isn’t going to implement Brexit (she’s showing very little sign of doing anything about it), and maybe Donald Trump will lose the next election, or be impeached, but all those tiny votes have added up to produce two shock results. I’m sure that there will be many more such shocks.
For all of human history is the exertion of tiny influences in one direction or other. Even if we’re soldiers in armies, holding rifles, we are still only exerting tiny influences. The swords and arrows and bullets never go very far. And all our battles are really just loud shouting matches.
We are much, much more powerful than we think we are. If we want to, we can move mountains. And we regularly do move mountains, when we act in concert.
Nope Frank I won’t fight a tsunami, it’s too big, too powerful and it’s way beyond the ability of even the tobacco companies to take them on head on.
It’s not them who’s the tsunami: it’s us. Tobacco Control consists of a few thousand people scattered around the world, while there are hundreds of millions of us. We are far, far more powerful than they are. We hardly need to even lift a finger to sweep them all away.
And we are going to sweep them all away.