Slow Motion

I was reading yesterday about the SS Norge. In June 1903 it hit a rock near Rockall in the north Atlantic. It sank in 12 minutes, with a loss of about 700 lives.  And during those 12 minutes…

…The sobs of old ladies filled the air. Screams added to the sense of panic. Women and children clung to each other. 240 Russians got down on their knees and prayed. Men wrung their hands. Little children cried.

What else was to be expected? In such circumstances, everyone will behave in much the same way.

Not all catastrophes happen quite so quickly. These days I think that 1 July 2007 was a catastrophic day in British history. And on that day all of us smokers behaved in much the same way. We didn’t weep or pray. We all stood around rather dumbfounded outside the pubs that had been our second homes. A complete stranger came up to me and said, “It’s not a free country any more.”

But it didn’t take just 12 minutes for pubs all over England to be bankrupted. It took a lot longer. And many of them survived, usually by becoming pub-restaurants.

And I didn’t stop voting Lib Dem on 1 July 2007. I stopped voting for them when I found out that 95% of Lib Dem MPs in Parliament had voted for the illiberal and undemocratic UK smoking ban. I started voting for UKIP’s smoking, drinking Nigel Farage instead, and I started voting for him because he unashamedly drank and smoked, and no other reason.

And I didn’t turn against the EU on 1 July 2007 either. It took another 3 years for that to happen, when I found out that the EU parliament had voted for a European smoking ban, and I realised that the EU wished to exert control over the most intimate and personal details of the lives of everyone in Europe, and not just the trading arrangements between its various member states.

And I didn’t start writing my blog on 1 July 2007. It was another two years before I started doing that. But that also was a consequence of the smoking ban.

Nor did I lose all my friends on 1 July 2007. That took another 10 years, as the divisions between smokers and antismokers deepened, and there was nowhere to meet them any more anyway. And it took 10 years before I started to find unlikely new friends among the smokers scattered all over the world.

I used to think that the biggest social upheaval I’d ever lived through had been the “Swinging Sixties” in Britain. There were a lot of changes that took place then. But now I think that the smoking ban of 1 July 2007 inaugurated a far more profound set of changes. For pretty much every country in the world has now enacted smoking bans. And they did so at more or less the same time. And I think that the response of smokers everywhere in the world has probably been the same, because they are all going through pretty much the same experience, whether it’s in Britain or America or Russia or Australia. They’ve all been exiled to the outdoors. They’ve all become exiles in their own countries.

And I think what we’re now seeing happening politically in the world is a reflection of that. I’m not an American, but if I had been I would have voted for Donald Trump, and I would have done so because he’s so wonderfully and unashamedly politically incorrect. And smoking bans are arguably the prime example of political correctness in action. So I think that American smokers made up a great many of the “deplorables” who voted him into office.

And I think that my revulsion at the EU is most likely the same revulsion that smokers all over Europe feel towards it. And I think it’s Europe’s smokers who are one social group who have been driving the rise of populist political parties all over Europe.

Nobody needed to organise European or American smokers to change their voting habits. Because they were anyway looking for someone else to vote for other than the mainstream political parties who had betrayed and abandoned them. People like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage and Beppe Grillo are people who sense that there’s change in the air, that people are changing their minds. They’re not so much political ‘leaders’ as political followers.

And my thought this morning is that, despite all the talk about how smokers need to get organised, smokers already are being organised. For these smoking bans all over the world are actually acting to organise them. Events organise people. And they organise them in innumerable ways. For everything I have just described as having happened in my life wouldn’t have happened but for the UK smoking ban of 1 July 2007. But for that, I would still be voting Lib Dem, still be pro-EU, and still have a wide circle of smoking and non-smoking friends, and still be doing countless things that I used to do which I no longer do. It just takes a long time for these consequences to work themselves out.

And given the expulsion from society, all over the world, of hundreds of millions of smokers like me, I think we’re on the brink of something like a global uprising, as all these people start behaving differently. I think that the old order in America and Europe is in process of being toppled. I think that the established political classes are about to be swept away. And I don’t think that those political classes understand what’s happening. They don’t understand why people like me have stopped voting Lib Dem. And they don’t understand that because they don’t understand what the smoking bans (that they’re so proud of) did to me, and to countless millions of other people.

If all the pubs in Britain had declared bankruptcy on 2 July 2007, it would have been obvious to everyone why that had happened, and the smoking ban would probably have been lifted on 3 July 2007. But when there weren’t riots in the streets, the politicians thought that they’d scored a great success. They weren’t aware that the consequences were going to follow years later, in slow motion. And they still aren’t aware. They remain completely oblivious. And probably will always remain oblivious.

In my 2013 smokers’ survey report, I created an image which still seems to capture the situation well. It was of something like an asteroid impact on a planet, which had blown huge amounts of material into space. When such things happen, it takes a long time for things to settle down again. The ejected material does not fall back into the place it left. It instead orbits the parent planet in a ring, or as a new moon. Some of it reaches escape velocity, and vanishes deep into space, never to return. And smoking bans that expel people from society have the same effect. It’s going to take many years for a new stability to emerge. And during that period of slow motion transition we are going to see sweeping changes everywhere.

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12 Responses to Slow Motion

  1. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    Exiled, confined to smoking ghettos aka DOSAs (designated outdoor smoking areas, not the tasty Indian pancake), taxation at 800% ad valorem, or the obscenely punitive rate of £555/kg, bans everywhere anyone might like to smoke, relentless taxpayer-funded anti smoking propaganda, insulting the free choice and autonomy of adults, interfering in the market, and obliterating the branding of legal businesses, are all evidence of government waging war against a significant minority of their own citizens.

    This is Orwellian tyranny of the politically correct majority. Australia, the World Leader in Tobacco Control TM (thanks to C Snowdon) is more accurately described as the World Leader in Nannying and Bullying.

    Scab pigdog Feral Gummint (federal government) fails to even employ sufficient Customs officers for efficient collection of exorbitant import taxes by those seeking to consume less debased tobacco products.

    It’s unfortunate but true that New Zealand, in many other respects a model polity, is also infected with lifestyle controller and tobacco prohibitionist meddling, with even higher relative tobacco taxes as a share of household income.

    The latest Australian tobacco tax increases mean a 20 per day smoker on the euphemistically named Newstart Allowance aka the dole would spend 68% on cigarettes. For sanctimonious anti-tobacco zealots to claim that is ‘helping’ anyone is yet more Orwellian doublespeak. Hie them all to a nunnery, preferably a ruin without roof or walls. 👨‍🏫

  2. smokingscot says:

    IMO the only reason Cameron felt obliged to offer the EU referendum was because of UKIP. It’s impossible and futile anyway to say how many of the 4 million who voted for UKIP are smokers. All that matters IMO is the result. Not the result I had hoped for – a clean break – however it does appear that we’ll be out in March next year.

    The ramifications of UK’s actions is a play yet to be written; one I enjoy in part because I assisted via comments and my little site.

    I’ve mentioned events in Sweden where the “far right” managed to get 62 seats out of 553 in their parliament. All the established parties have vowed to shun them, yet they’ve help unseat the Prime Minister in a no confidence vote!

    Now they’ll spend weeks, if not months, trying to patch together a workable government. What they’ve done is very similar to what happened in Germany; a coalition that exists only to marginalise the AfD.

    In Germany that’s INCREASED support for AfD and they can’t risk another election for fear the “far right” will come out of it stronger.

    Of course it’s equally futile trying to explain any of this on regular forums. Only some of us lot can understand that we genuinely don’t give a flying fart about your establishment, institutions nor your forms of “progressive government”.

  3. garyk30 says:

    Funny, as the World slowly changes, you have become ‘counter-culture’ again.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Exactly that thought has crossed my mind too.

    • waltc says:

      Ah, mine too, Gary. Funny tho, how the culture of the late sixties became the counter culture–mainstreaming its music, mores, political thought–and then how the once-prevailing culture struck back with a violent swing of the pendulum, even as it’s now swinging back to the sexual puritanism of the 1950s. Live long enough, you see everything (and with luck and longevity maybe you get to see everything twice).

      Tangential observation: if everyone on that ship died, what journalist survived to report what went on in the last 12 minutes?. I suggest that description (tho not unlikely) was imagined after the fact.

      • Frank Davis says:

        Not everyone died. They got a few boats away, and I think there were about 50 or 70 survivors, all of whom would have had vivid memories of the event. I don’t doubt the validity of the accounts at all (except maybe the 240 Russians (how did they know there were 240? Did they count them?)..

        Aside from that, I quite often get the feeling I used to have watching movies in cinemas: Hey, isn’t this where I came in?

  4. EG says:

    I’m way younger then you. Most of my friends have little children and believe that smoking is deadly. But they also believe that other people are responsible for their children. So they want to eliminate any “bad” behavior from public space so it doesn’t influence their kids. Smoking is number one.
    I think it has something to do with having less kids and reading too many scary so called news.

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