I’ll Remain a Proud Social Pariah

Author Naomi Klein (No Logo) talking recently (35:00 minutes in) about stopping smoking:

“I used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and I didn’t stop smoking because I suddenly realised it was bad for me. I knew it was bad for me. I stopped when my government passed enough laws that I was turned into a social pariah. I live in a cold climate, and I had been banished from restaurants and bars and I was shivering outside… because we had regulatory answers to the epidemic of cancer, and I decided, well, this really isn’t worth it any more and I’m freezing alone outside smoking and I don’t want to do that anymore. So yeah we can make those changes, but we need regulations that make it easier for people to do that.”

I’ve had the exact same experience, of course. I also was turned into a social pariah. I too was shivering outside. But that’s as far as our two experiences overlap.

For while she decided to do what was being demanded of her, and stop smoking, cease to be a pariah and stay warm, I refused to give in to the bullying bastards, carried on smoking out in the cold, and have remained a social pariah for the past 12 years.

I think Naomi Klein just gave in to the bullies. And I don’t think there’s anything admirable about that. I think it’s just plain weak. I admire people who will stand up to bullies, not give in to them.

But the way she describes it, it was an enlightened government that enacted regulations that “made it easier for people” to do what government asked. She regards the government as benignly helping her to make the right choice. I regard the same government as tyrannical.

And now, with the “climate crisis” she wants government to be equally benign, and “make it easier for people” to make the right choices about carbon dioxide emissions.

That’s the difference between the authoritarian Left and the libertarian Right. The Left regards government as essentially benign (and so we need more of it). And the Right regards government as essentially tyrannical (and we need as little as possible of it)

It reminds me of a friend of mine who, shortly before the UK smoking ban came into force on 1 July 2007, told me that he was looking forward to the ban, because he hoped it would make him stop smoking. I was appalled that he wanted the government to help give him the strength to do something he couldn’t do himself. He too wanted the government to “make it easier for people” like him to stop smoking. It marked the point at which our friendship began to cool. (I might add that he never did stop smoking, despite the assistance of the benign British government in making him a social pariah, and exiling him to the outdoors.)

I’m never going to do what he and Naomi Klein did. I’m never going to come knocking at the door, saying that I’ve stopped smoking, and asking to be let back in. I’m going to carry on being a pariah. And I’m going to be proud to be a social pariah. For now I don’t want to belong to their bullying bastard world anyway.

About Frank Davis

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12 Responses to I’ll Remain a Proud Social Pariah

  1. Timothy Goodacre says:

    I am totally in agreement with you Frank. I wouldn’t have any respect for myself if i gave in to the bullying bastards.

  2. Ripper says:

    “For while she decided to do what was being demanded of her, and stop smoking, cease to be a pariah and stay warm, I refused to give in to the bullying bastards, carried on smoking out in the cold, and have remained a social pariah for the past 12 years.”

    There’s more than one way of looking at this point, and to me it seems there is little difference between the two of you. Yes, you have the rebel inside where she rolled over regarding the actual smoking, but both of you did what you were told in complying with the rules of the ban. Another way to look at it, is that you didn’t want to give up smoking and she did, in which case you both did what you wanted to do. I’ve been here before, got a job once where there was no smoking on the premises, which meant I had to get in my car and drive it off the car park to smoke in it. I told them to shove it because I don’t work for companies like them. This was around 2003, way before the ban.

    Earlier this year the present company I work for decided to become ‘smoke free’. It would coincide with no smoking day. There would be no smoking on the premises, on the car park or in your car, but there is a public footpath running alongside the firm, between the factory and car park which we were told we could use as it doesn’t belong to the company. So we complied – one of my work colleagues borrowed his brother’s blue badge, reversed into a disabled space next to the gates and we sat in the boot, with the tail gate up for shelter, and our feet on the footpath. He even bought half a dozen of those fold-up camping chairs for the other guys. Security came around and could do nothing. In fact they were terrified, given some of the threatening reactions from 200+ workers, one of the security guys said he was a smoker himself, and got the reply “what are you doing around here then? F**k off and pester someone else”. 3 days later and everyone was doing the same. The ban lasted less than a week because that wasn’t the image the company wanted to project to the public.

    “But the way she describes it, it was an enlightened government that enacted regulations that “made it easier for people” to do what government asked. She regards the government as benignly helping her to make the right choice. I regard the same government as tyrannical.”

    Now this, I can agree with 100%, but at the end of the day, whether she needed ‘help’ or not, it was her choice alone to give up. I read it as, she wanted to give up in the first place, and decided to let a bad situation do something for her.

  3. Algernon Struthers says:

    A self-important ideologue being interviewed by a man who’s afraid of the dark on the UK’s no. 2 fake news network. They are cancer.

  4. Clicky says:

  5. Tony Hand says:

    Why do you use the descriptions of Authoritarian left and Libertarian right? Equally they could be Authoritarian right and Libertarian left as authoritarian/libertarian have nothing to do with political leanings. I actually regard the right wing as being more inclined towards authoritarianism because by their own identifying name…Conservative…they tend to want things to carry on as they always have done. Traditionally that then puts them firmly in the category of authoritarian. You only have to look back in history to find the truth of that…the Victorian era etc…

    • Frank Davis says:

      Why do you use the descriptions of Authoritarian left and Libertarian right?

      Because right now that seems to be how it is. Victorian era may well have been different.

      These days the Authoritarian left are usually the authors of things like smoking bans, which is the exertion of top down, authoritarian state control on people. The modern Libertarian right usually doesn’t want to do this sort of thing. In the case of the UK smoking ban 90% of Labour MPs were in favour of it, but only 35% of Conservative MPs. Clearly the Labour party of Blair and Brown was authoritarian, and the Conservatives were not.

  6. waltc says:

    Then, too, the opposite applies. Since the govt, by bullying force, is trying to make me quit, they’ve taken a free decision out of my hands and turned even the remote possibility of quitting into a slavish brow-beaten surrender rather than a personal choice. I’d bet a lot of smokers feel that way. And here’s John Stuart Mill in the subject (though he was talking about alcohol:

    “If there be among those whom it is attempted to coerce into prudence or temperance any of the material of which vigorous or independent characters are made they will infallibly rebel against the yoke. No such person will ever feel that others have the right to control him in his concerns…and it easily comes to be considered a mark of spirit and courage to do with ostentation the exact opposite of what it enjoins..”

  7. Joe L. says:

    … because we had regulatory answers to the epidemic of cancer

    There’s that “E” word again. *sigh*

    Really? Regulations have “answered” the “epidemic” of cancer? Then please explain why people are still being diagnosed with cancer. I’m sorry, Mrs. Klein, but you need to examine the data a bit closer. Lung cancer incidence rates have not fallen in response to the decrease in smoking rates. Lung cancer incidence rates have pretty much remained constant, and in fact, are actually increasing among young never-smokers. And that’s not to mention all the other types of cancer which clearly haven’t been “answered” by regulations (or even medicine, for that matter).

  8. jaxthefirst says:

    I don’t want to belong to their bullying bastard world anyway.

    That’s just the way I feel about it. Why should I want to be “re-included” to groups, societies and communities who have made it so clear that their “acceptance” of me is conditional upon my “behaving myself” in a certain way? How insulting is that? I don’t see them excluding others from those groups because they drink too much and get boring or embarrassing, or because they are argumentative types, or dominant types who take over the whole evening, or because they wear too much perfume (or not enough!), or because they look like mutton dressed up as lamb, or because they tend not to pay their way – and in my circle of friends there are examples of all of these. No, people may not like those things, but they don’t exclude them from their social groups because of them. They “make allowances” and tolerate them because they basically like those people, despite their particular little foibles. No, it’s only me and my smoking that they think it’s reasonable to be intolerant of.

    In fairness, none of my friends are actually vehement anti-smokers (they wouldn’t be friends any more if they were), but they do all seem to have adopted that “don’t mention ze war” attitude so common amongst non-smokers these days, almost as if they are too embarrassed to comment on it. Like a sort of unspoken shame. I guess it’s easier to pretend that “it’s not an issue” and that “smokers don’t mind any more” than it is to admit that they themselves, by their passivity and small-mindedness, have played a pretty essential part in making our society so much less tolerant.

    I have to say that in many ways, now that I’ve decided that the new non-smoking community isn’t one that I’m personally that bothered about being a member of any more, it does feel like something of a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. There was a sense of loss at the sudden withdrawal of situations and events that I used to enjoy, but in many ways it was no more and no less of a sense of loss than when I realised that I had grown too old to enjoy nightclubs any more. I used to love clubbing with a group of friends until the early hours of the morning but, as I got older, I simply didn’t find it as enjoyable as I used to. It was just age, of course – I simply grew out of wanting to stay out all night dancing to thumping loud music, and at first I did used to look back on those days with a hint of nostalgia, and even continued to go clubbing for a while before finally realising that the best times for clubbing were, for me, over. Would I want them back? No – those times were good, but I’ve moved on now and don’t need them any more. And the smoking ban did the same thing for me in terms of lots of other things that I used to enjoy. The reason for the change was, of course, different – a process of legislation rather than just time, but nonetheless the result was the same – I didn’t enjoy them any more. And at first, yes, I did miss them and, like the clubbing, I tried for a while to continue them. But for me the life had gone out of them. Something vital was missing – not just the smoking, but the relaxed friendliness inherent amongst all groups who were smoker-accepting. And that was sad. But now I regard them in much the same way as I regard nightclubbing – something that was good, but that’s now in the past and isn’t likely to come back.

    And, after 12 years of finding other enjoyable things to do, I’m not sure I’d bother to try and get them back even if the smoking ban was repealed tomorrow, to be perfectly frank. Why not? Well because I don’t think that venues today will ever be able to recapture that old spirit they used to have and in any case, why should I now want to socialise with a bunch of people who, for 12 years, proved by their sheer inaction that they were happy to see me bullied, persecuted and insulted. Why would I want to re-start spending any of my money in businesses who were happy, when given the chance, to make me feel unwelcome and to treat me like a second-class customer (whilst still charging the same prices, of course!). Any relaxation of the ban would do nothing to eliminate the nasty memories of most non-smokers’ true colours, when given official sanction to show them. I guess in that respect I’d be no different from any other previously-persecuted minority group now newly-acknowledged – mealy-mouthed legislative sticking-plasters simply can’t heal the deep cuts which are memory of how disloyally and self-centredly other people have behaved.

  9. Lepercolonist says:

    Frank, you are my favorite social pariah.

  10. Supergran says:

    Jax, an absolutely AMAZING piece. It couldn’t mirror my feelings more if I’d written it myself. Marvellous

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