There’s Nothing Like Personal Experience

I wrote yesterday that I thought that mandatory restrictions on the size of food portions would trigger a social uprising of a kind that didn’t happen with smoking restrictions and smoking bans. And this was because, while smoking bans only affect 20% or less of the population, food restrictions will affect everybody.

Some commenters disagreed, including Brigitte, who wrote:

“Chances are that the public will do nothing.”

And Jax agreed with her, adding that if people couldn’t see what had been dome to smokers, they wouldn’t see what was about to happen to them:

“Nobody likes to have to admit, even to themselves, that they’ve been outsmarted or brainwashed…”

But I think there’s a big difference when something happens to you rather than to someone else. Earlier this week I’d been writing about the tsunami in Java a week back. I wasn’t there. It was something that happened to somebody else. And in many ways it’s impossible to know what it’s like when a big wave comes rushing in and sweeps everything away. You have to be there, and live it, to know what it’s like.

I think it’s the same with smoking bans. You have to live them and experience them to know what they’re like, what effects they have. Non-smokers don’t know, and can’t know, what life is like for smokers these days. And they don’t know in the exact same way that I don’t know, and can’t know, what it’s like to be sitting in a house which is suddenly hit by a big wave that arrives in the night. I can perhaps begin to imagine what it’s like, but I’m not sure that my imagination is up to the task of fully imagining what it’s like.

So when Jax wrote,

“…in order to get their heads around what’s coming their way, they [non-smokers] have to get their heads around what’s already happened to smokers..”

I think she’s asking the non-smokers to do the impossible, because it’s something that’s way beyond their experience, and way beyond their imagination.

It’ll only when it starts happening to them that they’ll experience what it’s like, and live it themselves, when they go into a restaurant one day, order a plate of sausages and mash, and are presented with a single diminutive sausage with a dab of mashed potato next to it, perhaps with a health warning saying “Sausages Kill” emblazoned on the plate beneath (and perhaps also have to take it outside to eat it).

I think that when that happens, they’ll undergo a profound and life-changing experience. And there’s nothing like personal experience. Of course, like smokers, they may not be able to do anything about it, and will just have to get used to the new cocktail sausages and mini-sachets of mash, but they will be experiencing the rage and humiliation that smokers experienced many years before them. And instead of just a few smokers being angry, everyone will be angry. Smokers were just the advance guard.

But in addition to this, I think that the brainwashing capabilities of Public Health England (and the state) are now far less powerful than they used to be. For when the antismoking campaigns kicked off in earnest 60 or 70 years ago, more or less everyone read newspapers or listened to the radio or watched television, and it was relatively easy for these broadcast media to be kept “on message” by a few overseers. But now, with the arrival of the internet, those days have gone. And it’s now possible for lots of new and heretical ideas to be put about by countless numbers of bloggers and vloggers and tweeters and woofers. You’re reading one of those new blogs right now.

It’s getting more and more difficult for the Powers That Be in Public Health England (and in fact in government in general) to get their message across to anyone at all. Their voices are being drowned out by countless new voices. They’re losing control. They’re increasingly unable to shape public opinion in the way they used to. How do you shape the opinions and beliefs of someone like me, who doesn’t read newspapers, or listen to the radio, or watch TV?

So just when Public Health England are gearing up to start controlling what people eat, they’re losing control over the hearts and minds of the intended recipients of their strictures.

And this loss of control is what underlies the populist revolt that’s now sweeping Europe. In the UK, David Cameron’s government believed that the British people would vote to stay in the EU, because they’d been telling them for several decades how wonderful the EU was, and they were profoundly shocked when the British people didn’t behave as expected. And I imagine that the French government was also deeply shocked by the recent behaviour of French people in response to fuel taxes rises intended to penalise the use of fossil fuels. The British government has lost control of the British people, and the French government has lost control of the French people, and pretty much every other government in Europe is about to experience the same thing with their own peoples.

And what’s now happening is beyond the experience of the political classes in Europe. They don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know why trust and belief in them has drained away so rapidly. They’re carrying on as if nothing has changed – which is one reason why Public Health England are planning their mad food restrictions. But everything is changing, and changing very rapidly.

And my guess is that we’re about to see more or less every government in Europe swept away, and we’re about to see Public Health England swept away as well – and very likely Tobacco Control and the WHO and the BMA and the RCP as well.

But it’s just a guess. It may just be wishful thinking. Maybe nothing will happen at all. Maybe they’ll just close down the internet, and make people listen to radios instead. Or just ban anyone who writes anything that isn’t in line with government policy.

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8 Responses to There’s Nothing Like Personal Experience

  1. Clicky says:

  2. Clicky says:

  3. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    The ‘lived experience’ is clearly more personal, although some have at least a little ability to empathize with the experience of others (e.g. non smokers who agree tax and ban tobacco hyperregulation is significant state overreach). Food restrictions may well anger the entire citizenry, but will that result in effective resistance to the prodnose dictators? No need to make any New Year resolutions: the government has already decided for you (easier than personal autonomy).

  4. Clicky says:

  5. waltc says:

    Tho this food thing may cause more people to turn away from Big Nanny Government and lead to a small boycott of restaurants and pre-packaged meals, or a renaissance in home cooking, I see no analogy to the smoking bans. Only if people who wanted pasta al fredo and pie a la mode were propagandized against as subhuman addicts whose burps killed the innocent and were forced to eat their smelly meals outdoors, 25 feet from the entrance to their apartments, would the analogy hold. These food restrictions hit everyone equally and isolate no one. . And, speaking of brainwashed, too many righteous and self-righteous citizens will instantly applaud this health-promoting measure, talk snidely about the rabble of gluttonous fatties and how they’re breaking the Health Service and costing them money.

  6. smokingscot says:

    By sheer coincidence here’s an article where the people who actually live in the polar regions are sick fed up of being told by climate change scientists, who by and large live in academia, that polar bear numbers are declining because all us naughty people have made the ice melt by our emissions.

    The natives say that’s total crap and there are lots more of the beasts who are no longer scared of humans. In fact they are quite comfortable eating us.

    Who do I believe. Always… Every time… It’s the locals.

  7. Joe L. says:

    OT: Some Healthists are trying hard to turn meat-eaters into the New Smokers:

    Stop adding cancer-causing chemicals to our bacon, experts tell meat industry

    The reputation of the meat industry will sink to that of big tobacco unless it removes cancer-causing chemicals from processed products such as bacon and ham, a coalition of experts and politicians warn today.

    • They’ve been parading that idea around for a while. The real irony is that sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate occur in many other places naturally; human saliva, Celery, Spinach…

      I worked at a butcher shop for a while and have studied some food science. The common work around for people making “uncured” meats is to add celery powder or celery juice. What’s comical about this approach is that there really isnt a good way of measuring the amount of the nitrate in it, so it’s likely that those “healthier” uncured meats have even more nitrates than cured meats…

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