New & Better Worlds

From the comments yesterday:

Can we have 1983 back?.. How I wish we could Brigitte, but those times have gone I’m afraid. Oh, to be 21 again…

I feel the same. But I would take any date prior to 1 July 2007, the date of the UK smoking ban. The world became an ugly place that day. And it’s stayed ugly ever since.

I think that maybe people become conservatives when they start seeing the past as having been better than the present, never mind the future. And in that sense I’ve become a conservative.

And maybe you’re a progressive if you think that the future will be better than the present or the past.

But I’m not sure if I was ever a progressive before I became a conservative. And I’m not sure that most “progressives” believe that the future will be better than the past. After all, it’s the “progressives” who worry about global warming, and foresee a future where we’re all going to be slowly boiled alive. I don’t worry about global warming. Recently I’ve started to worry about global cooling instead. I think there’s more likely to be a new ice age in which we all freeze than a future in which we all boil. And even then the next ice age looks like it could be hundreds or even thousands of years in the future, so not worth worrying about right now.

And here’s a change that has taken place over the past century. A century ago, progressives really did believe that the future was going to be better than the past. They believed that the world could be re-made as a better place for everyone. People like Lenin and Trotsky and so on really did believe (as far as I can tell) that the world would be a much better place, Come The Revolution.

But 50 years later, after two world wars, Auschwitz and Hiroshima, the optimism had largely vanished. I grew up in a post-war world where we were all wondering what the Next Terrible Thing was going to be. We were filled with dread. Or at least I was. And we had people like Paul Ehrlich cataloguing all the terrible things that were likely to happen (he still is). I used to have a copy of a book called The Limits To Growth, which explained how we were going to run out of oil (and more or less everything else as well) by 1990, and if not by then, most definitely by 2000. Now, of course, it’s Global Warming that’s the newest Terrible Thing that’s about to happen to us.

I think it was only in about 1990, when none of the prophecies of imminent doom materialised, that I started to think that maybe it wasn’t going to be quite so bad after all, and stopped worrying about everything, and began to even be slightly optimistic.

Whichever way, I’ve never been someone who believed that utopia was just round the corner, if only we could Overthrow Capitalism or something.

“This could be heaven,” a friend confided to me back in about 1980.

“No, it can’t,” I replied to her immediately. Because I simply don’t believe that the world can become a heaven today or tomorrow or any time in the foreseeable future. We live in a fallen world, and by that I don’t mean any religious idea of the Fall of Man, but instead the mere fact that we have to work hard simply to stay alive, and no idea of mine of heaven ever included hard work. No, the very best we can hope for is to make life slightly easier for ourselves. And keep an eye out for events like Global Warming or Ice Ages which will result in us all working very much harder than we do now.

Anyway, it was a memorable exchange (almost as memorable as the time another equally dear friend told me that lions wouldn’t eat gazelles “if they knew better”). They both saw the world as perfectible, and I didn’t.

And all the revolutionaries, like Lenin and Stalin and Mao, were also people who saw the world as perfectible, and set out to perfect it as rapidly as possible, unconcerned if a few eggs would have to be broken in order to make their perfect omelette. And they all failed, of course, and left behind them a world that was far worse than it was before.

And the antismoking “progressives” in Tobacco Control are also out to perfect the world. They think the world would be a much better place without tobacco, and have set out to inaugurate that new world using smoking bans and the hyper-taxation of tobacco. In the UK, their new world came into effect on 1 July 2007, and it’s naturally been a nightmare ever since.

But if these nasty, bullying antismokers retain the moral upper hand, it seems to be because they see themselves as Doing Good by Creating A New & Better World. What nobler a cause can there be than Creating A Better World? Conservatives are at a moral disadvantage here, because they aren’t trying to create a better world, but merely trying to retain or conserve what is good in the existing world. The progressives are always offering a New & Improved Formula to replace your existing brand, and it seems faintly impolite to tell them you’d rather stick with what you’ve got. It’s why progressives are always “holier than thou.” They have the very best of intentions (creating a new heaven), next to which the more humdrum aims of conservatives look rather drab. The best architects are those who build the biggest and brightest and shiniest new buildings: Nobody remembers the architects who simply worked to preserve and repair the work of previous architects.

I think that one day the nasty, bullying antismokers in Tobacco Control are going to lose the moral high ground on which they’re standing. But it’ll only happen when it emerges that their New & Better World is actually a much worse one than the one they swept away. And that will only happen when some new Solzhenitsyn writes a new Gulag Archipelago which catalogues all the disasters that came with the tidal wave of smoking bans that have swept over the world in recent years.

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5 Responses to New & Better Worlds

  1. Any time before 1997 for me. The smoking ban was part of a whole shit storm brought down on the country when Labour came to power

  2. margo says:

    1973 for me. That was when ‘the 1960s’ arrived in my town.

  3. Smoking Lamp says:

    For me three dates: 1998 for the California bar smoking ban, 2003 for the New York smoking ban, and 2007 for the Washington, DC and UK smoking ban… From there it has been a downhill cascade as the antismokers seek universal prohibition. I used to enjoy travel; now even outdoor smoking patios — which made the bans tolerable — are being attacked…

  4. Charles Burns says:

    Start writing your Gulag, Mr. Davis. You are the one destined to write the great book that will put progressivism away for good.

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