I often compare antismoking to antisemitism.
What’s antisemitism? Hatred of Jews.
What are Jews? There seem to be two answers to this question. The first one is that Judaism is a religion, and Jews are hated for their beliefs. And the second one is that Jews are are a separate race of people, and are hated for that.
The two answers are not mutually exclusive. If people all share the same beliefs, then they’re likely to spend most of their time with each other, and to intermarry, and thereby to gradually form a distinct and separate race of people.
And if people are persecuted for being either Jewish by faith or Jewish by race, this persecution will only serve to bind them together even more tightly than before.
It seems to be one of the lessons of history that, if you want to unite any particular group of people, all you need do is persecute them.
So, for example, perhaps the main reason why Christianity became the state religion of Rome circa 330 AD was because Christians were subjected to intense persecution by Roman emperors like Nero and Diocletian. In fact, it may even have been the only reason why Christianity became the state religion of Rome. Throwing all those Christians to the lions more or less ensured it. Christianity was the persecuted religion of a persecuted and crucified prophet.
And if the Jewish/Israeli lobby in the USA is at present so powerful, it is because 80 years ago Jews were subjected to their most intense persecution ever, with the consequent (and perhaps inevitable) result that they acquired (or re-acquired) their own separate nation state of Israel.
I’m not sure, but I think that what’s now called “antisemitism” is actually an anti-Israeli (and often pro-Palestinian) sentiment. So if Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is being accused of antisemitism, I suspect he’s being accused of being anti-Israeli and/or pro-Palestinian.
Anyway, I think that the current global persecution of smokers is going to weld the world’s smokers into a powerful new political force. And it’s going to do that because that’s what persecution always does: it acts to unite people.
The persecution of smokers is not yet quite as intense as the persecution of Jews or Christians. Smokers aren’t being herded into gas chambers or thrown to the lions. But in some ways it is more intense because it is a global persecution in the way that the persecution of Jews or Christians never was. Smokers are now subject to persecution almost everywhere in the world.
It always surprises me that, in an era of identity politics, only a few identities (lesbians, gays, blacks, Jews, etc.) gain recognition, and some degree of protection. Smokers aren’t one of these protected minorities. But I think that they are shortly going to become one.
I think that in some 50 years time, smokers are going to be a newly-recognised persecuted minority, and maybe even have their own nation (Tobago?). And they’re going to be a very vocal and powerful and influential minority. And all entirely as a result of being persecuted.
And in this respect they might find themselves in the company of other newly-recognised persecuted minorities (global warming deniers?). For it may well be that once any persecuted minority gains recognition and protection, it then ceases to be a persecuted minority. So in 50 years time it may well be that gays and lesbians and Jews and blacks have ceased to be regarded as persecuted minorities, and have their places taken by smokers and global warm deniers and fat people and meat eaters.
And if you want to know who is next going to become a protected persecuted minority, you shouldn’t look back one hundred or two hundred years, but simply look around to see who is being persecuted right now. Because they’re the ones who are going to gain future recognition.
And recognition for smokers will come when non-smokers begin to realize that smokers are being persecuted. After all, most likely, when Nero started throwing Christians to the lions in ancient Rome, many non-Christian Romans began to sympathize with Christians in ways they never had before. Very likely there were non-Christian Romans who helped Christians to evade or escape Nero’s henchmen, much like many non-Jews helped Jews in Nazi Germany.
And it seems to take a lot for people to notice that other people are being persecuted. There seems to be blindness to what is happening until somebody or something draws their attention to it. They simply don’t see it. And in the case of smokers they simply don’t see the smokers huddled outside the pubs and restaurants in which they were once welcome. Nor do they see them huddled outside the gates of hospitals in which they are supposed to be cared for as patients.
What’s being done to smokers, almost everywhere in the world, is something truly terrible. But hardly anybody notices. Yet this is what always happens. Who noticed what began to happen to Jews in 1930’s Nazi Germany? Hardly anybody. It was only in 1945 that the whole world suddenly woke up to what had been happening. And perhaps that was because their attention was fixed on other pressing matters – like fighting a war -. Perhaps it was only in 1945, when the war ended, that it became possible to think about anything else. So also today. Attention is directed elsewhere. It’s directed towards Brexit and Trump and global warming, and nothing else matters.
It will not be always thus.