I read somewhere recently that people go mad collectively, and come to their senses one by one.
Couldn’t it equally be the other way round? Couldn’t it be that people go mad one by one, and then come to their senses collectively?
After all, in my experience, the people I knew became antismokers one by one. It was an infectious disease that they caught. But they could equally have said that smokers like me were the ones who had caught a disease, and they were the ones who’d recovered.
The war on smoking is a war on something that many people see as a disease, but which I don’t. I get up every morning and the first thing I want isn’t a cigarette: it’s a cup of tea. I want the first cigarette of the day after I’ve had my first few sips of tea. And then I spend the rest of the day drinking tea and smoking cigarettes. The two go hand in hand.
And tea is a far more powerful drug than tobacco. It’s what wakes me up in the morning. A cup of tea can wake me up in minutes. And the tea throughout the rest of the day keeps me awake.
Cigarettes are what I use to concentrate my thoughts. If I’m thinking hard about something, I’ll chain-smoke. And if I’m not, I won’t.
What needs all that concentration? Writing computer programs requires concentration. You have to keep a whole bunch of things in your head at the same time. You have to run the program in your own mind. And quite often I can’t concentrate enough, like on days when I never really quite woke up completely. I can’t write computer programs on such days.
Us smokers are supposed to be addicts. But if I’m addicted to smoking, and then I’m just as addicted to tea. So why isn’t there a war on tea like there’s a war on tobacco?
And what does it mean to be “addicted” or “hooked”? And is it that I’m addicted to specifically to nicotine? Is that really the active ingredient in cigarettes?
If I’m hooked on tea and cigarettes, I’m also hooked on computers. To be specific, I’m hooked on writing computer programs. As soon as I figured out how to write computer programs, I was hooked. But there’s no “active ingredient” to computing. I’ve been writing computer programs since about 1972. Much of the time I was being hired to write them, but when I wasn’t being hired I’d write them anyway. I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of computer programs.
I write simulation models. And currently I’m hooked on writing a climate simulation model. I’ve been hooked for the past 18 months. I’ve got hooked on global warming, or rather disbelief in global warming. I’m fascinated by ice ages.
I get hooked on ideas. I get hooked on one idea after another.
In fact, I get hooked on everything. I get hooked on women. I get hooked on music. In popular music there’s even something that’s called the “hook”, which is usually a catchy few notes. You want to listen to it over and over again. I once copied Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode onto an endless tape loop and listened to it for about 16 hours straight. I was addicted. A hit piece of music is quite literally a “hit”. Bob Marley:
“One good thing about music. When it hits you feel no pain.”
So why isn’t there a war on music?
And aren’t political and religious beliefs another form of addiction. Aren’t communists just people who’re as hooked on Marx as I am hooked tea and cigarettes and computers and all the rest?
And aren’t philosophers just people who are addicted to ideas? And mathematicians just people who are addicted to numbers? Aren’t astronomers hooked on stars? Aren’t chess grandmasters hooked on chess?
Why am I not hooked on Marx? Why am I not hooked on opium? There are far more things that I’m not hooked on than I’m hooked on.
Why is it that that some of these habits are approved, and some disapproved? Why do antismokers so disapprove of smoking? Why is it that they give the nasty name of “addiction” to my cigarettes, but not to my mugs of tea?
I suppose that if there are Marx-addicted communists, there are also anti-communists. I suppose that people like some ideas, and don’t like others. And at any one time there are always about as many people who like some idea as dislike it.
Trump supporters are hooked on Donald Trump, and a lot of other people can’t stand him. It’s no different from some people liking Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and other people (like me) intensely disliking it. Some people like cigarettes, and some people don’t. It’s true of absolutely everything else in life. You’re always either on one side, or you’re on the other.
So you’re either a global warming alarmist or you’re a sceptic. Or you’re a Remainer or a Brexiter. Or you’re a smoker or an antismoker. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but from time to time the likes and dislikes become intense, and people start fighting each other about it. And then you get wars.
I think that what happens is that the more that some people like something, the more that other people start disliking it. I think that the antismokers only began to appear when lots of people started smoking everywhere (like during WW1 and WW2). And it’s become a ding-dong battle. Because smokers like me have come to hate antismokers as much as antismokers hate me.
And these wars feed into each other. I’m anti-EU largely because the EU is antismoking. I was anti-Hillary Clinton because Hillary Clinton is an antismoker.
Maybe WW2 was just a war between antismokers (Hitler and Mussolini) and smokers (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin). Was Hirohito an antismoker?
WW1 and WW2 always look to me like acts of collective madness. But perhaps they were simply wars between people who were hooked on different ideas. Quite what their ideas were, I do not know. And probably they didn’t know either.