The Inexpressible

I’m always puzzled that, in the public discourse of important matters, nobody ever mentions smoking bans. It’s not just that they never get mentioned on BBC or ITV or Channel 4, but they never get mentioned by anyone else either. Alex Jones doesn’t talk about smoking bans. Michael Savage doesn’t talk about smoking bans. Jordan Peterson never talks about smoking bans. Thomas Sowell doesn’t talk about smoking bans. Victor Davis Hanson doesn’t talk about smoking bans. Roger Scruton doesn’t talk about smoking bans. The list goes on and on and on. Nobody talks about them.

There are of course occasional exceptions. Nigel Farage has campaigned against smoking bans, most notably in Stony Stratford. But he has very little to say about them. I’ve never seen him talk at length about them in the same way that he will speak at great length about the EU or Brexit and the like.

But I wake up every day thinking about smoking bans. For to me the UK public smoking ban of 1 July 2007 was, I now think, the most significant event in my life. It was the day on which I was “exiled to the outdoors”, the day on which I was expelled from society. So I’m always trying to explore that deep injury, like probing a bullet hole in my chest with a  finger.

And yesterday, by chance, I was watching a documentary about Ludwig Wittgenstein (a philosopher in whom I’m not much interested), at the end of which the last words in his Tractatus were shown:

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

And, recalling these words this morning, I thought that they might explain why nobody talks about smoking bans: they can’t speak about them, and so perforce they remain silent.

It’s my opinion that the mounting wave of populism in Europe is driven in part by resentful smokers from all over Europe, because there are now smoking bans nearly everywhere in Europe. But none of the populists ever say this, even if their leaders are very often smokers (Farage, Le Pen, Salvini). They invariably talk about something else instead.

So the cause of the French Gilets Jaunes protests is given as fuel tax hikes by Emmanuel Macron’s government. Is that really all it is? The Gilets Jaunes seem to all share a deep hatred of Macron himself. Why is that? They say he is “arrogant.” But is mere arrogance sufficient cause to wish to overthrow him? Might it not also be that Macron happens to be a virulent antismoker who is trying to make the French people stop smoking? Might that not be a small part of French animosity against him?

If you cut my finger, I can show you the blood trickling down it. If you rob me, I can show you my empty wallet.  But to what can I point when you expel me from society? For the deepest injuries are the least apparent: there’s no bullet hole. So the Gilets Jaunes instead point to what is visible: the fuel taxes and Macron’s arrogance. They leave out all the invisible injuries they have suffered, because they have no words to describe them.

In this era of smoking bans, what smokers suffer is something inexpressible. And that’s why they never talk about it. Or that’s why they fall silent whenever smoking bans get mentioned. And why smoking bans are unmentionable.

And we leave it to musicians and singers to try to express the inexpressible. They alone can sing about heartbreak and loneliness and desire.

Nobody may talk about them, but I think that the smoking bans that have swept the world, exiling smokers to the outdoor nearly everywhere, will yet prove to have been a social and political catastrophe of the first magnitude. It will be an apocalypse: the unmentionable and unspeakable smoking bans may for now be something hidden from sight, but they will in time break surface, and get talked about, like some shipwreck whose treasures are eventually recovered.

In the mean time, I will continue to wake every day thinking about smoking bans, and will continue trying to put into words just what it is about them that is so terrible, and will continue to fail to ever manage to do that, for reasons that Wittgenstein perhaps saw.

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10 Responses to The Inexpressible

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I think they avoid speaking about the smoking bans to avoid backlash from the righteous and having their careers ruined. Scruton took a shameful beating a few years ago. They don’t “come out” of their closets because the cost of persecution for them is too great. Us ordinary people don’t have that problem. That makes us powerless….already many people are closet smokers.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Dammit, I mean to write even so. “even so many people are closet smokers”….

  3. Roobeedoo2 says:

    Happy New Year, Frank et al :D

    According to Native American legend, utarmur-wayeh is the breath of Great Mother and through it her spirit speaks…

    ‘“Burn this up and smoke it. It is sacred. It will clear your minds, help your prayers, and gladden your hearts.”

  4. Brian Truscott says:

    ” It’s my opinion that the mounting wave of populism in Europe is driven in part by resentful smokers from all over Europe, because there are now smoking bans nearly everywhere in Europe.”
    Frank a useful way to test your theory would be to examine political unrest in the European countries with the least restrictive smoking laws. A good example being Austria.
    ” In December 2017, after a change in government,an already passed bill banning smoking in all restaurants,bars,discos and pubs from May 2018 was repealed “

  5. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    I noticed this news item in the Daily Nicotine bulletin –
    The NZ Herald invites readers to tell them about their New Year’s bid to quit smoking, “encouraged” aka bullied by the all knowing government.
    I replied as below, probably not what they expected, but someone has to take up the cudgels! Doubt my missive will get airtime with the zealots, as smokers have no voice.
    Merry fuming, in more ways than one, in 2019. 😉
    ——– Original message ——–
    From: Mark Jarratt
    Date: 2/1/19 10:19 (GMT+10:00)
    Subject: Hard Coercive Paternalism

    Dear NZ Herald,

    Government lacks standing or moral authority to dictate personal behaviour and lifestyle choices through tobacco prohibitionist tax and ban policies, uncritically accepting the Quit or Die propaganda of illiberal intolerant lifestyle control fanatics.

    Tobacco hyperregulation creates a deadweight enforcement burden, treats adult consumers as second class citizens, and fuels the black market.

    Smokers are denied any voice in policies which directly adversely affect them daily.
    Tobacco tax rates at over 800% and widespread bans are obscenely punitive and deeply paternalistic.

    Such puritanical meddling in personal lifestyle choice has no place in liberal democracies like New Zealand, in many other respects a model global polity of tolerance.

    Tax and ban tobacco hyperregulation is socially divisive, doing more harm than good.
    The relentless bullying of adults who choose to smoke must stop.

    Government should respect choice and personal autonomy, cease pandering to lifestyle bullies, and butt out.

    Mark Jarratt
    Weston ACT 2611

  6. Bones says:

    My opinion is that governments are in awe of psychiatry and ‘mind control’. Anti-smoking is a great big experiment on how people can be programmed into a particular way of thinking. The experiment has been successful, so much so that it is now being rolled out in anti-plastic, anti-sugar, climate change etc. The people who either still smoke or don’t smoke but resist the programming are free thinkers and marked as those that cannot be controlled.
    However, Gilets Jaunes is a sign that governments are overplaying their hand. They need to control the internet as the media was the part of the programming. Watch out for more control until “freedom is just nothing left to lose”.

    • Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

      Agreed, accurate observations Bones. The Wide Wide World of Web is unable to be effectively censored and controlled by totalitarian regimes (although I recall reports that the paranoid Arab Republic of Egypt shut down all connections some years ago, a spectacular “own goal”). Emperors with no clothes, wisdom, or talent everywhere are anxious about being held accountable for acting in their own interests, not those of the citizenry they claim to serve. The tail wags the dog. It’s ruff. 🐶

      • ianl says:

        >”The Wide Wide World of Web is unable to be effectively censored and controlled by totalitarian regimes …”

        Unhappily, that is now not true.

        Google, Facebook, Tweetiepie – all are now censoring content they deem “hateful” and whose composition they alone define as hateful or not. Somehow, as if by magic, these definitions seem to fit with Governmental wishes, and also by magic onerous regulation of their commercial activities just fades away. Seems awfully like a quid pro quo somehow, doesn’t it ?

        You don’t use these private platforms (to use their description) ? Well, nor do I, but that is not sufficient to avoid being outcast. Visa, Mastercard and other credit suppliers are now denying use (and cancelling existing use) to those deemed “hateful” … tracked across the internet, of course.

  7. Supergran says:

    Hear Hear Bones. I have watched probably over the last 50 years, an insidious slowly slowly brainwashing of almost the WHOLE WORLD and the fucking anti’s and zealots were always anti’s and zealots and don’t deserve my wasted breath BUT many – what I would call “ordinary” people, have also been brainwashed. Thing is, with these brainwashed zombies, you can’t make them hear you, because they believe wholeheartedly (as the brainwashing was meant to do – it worked)!
    I have a few intelligent colleagues who ABSOLUTELY without a shadow of a doubt believe all the stuff about smoking, because unless they are over about 35 or 40, it’s all they’ve ever heard or been taught growing up. It’s sad because I, like Frank have suffered really badly since being “thrown out of society” and I fear that as us older die-hard smokers snuff it (pardon the pun!), there will be a whole generation who wont ever know what they have done to us, and I guess the zealots would say “it can’t come soon enough” for them. I bet they “get off” on hoping that over the next 20 years or so, all the smokers will be dead (due to old age – not smoking) and then WHERE WILL THEY GET THEIR FILTHY MONEY??????? But they’ll be ok, because slowly slowly – and insidiously they are working on sugar, fat, global warming etc, so they’ll never run out of ways to tax the bleedin tax payers.
    Fed up and back at work January :o)

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