- Collective Madness 2
- By Frank Davis
The most excellent Christopher Snowdon, of whose book I am a proud possessor, was prompted by my post on Collective Madness to write:
It was an inevitable and intended consequence of denormalisation that nonsmokers would become less tolerant of smokers. Less anticipated, perhaps, was the fact that this would also work in reverse. The result has been the creation of another little pocket of hate in the world.
Well, this is quite true. I now have a ferocious hatred of antismokers. It borders on homicidal.
But in my post I was pointing to general decline on my part in tolerance for a whole range of people, many of whom may not be particularly antismoking at all. In trying to describe who they were, I ended up classing them all as 'irrational'. I might equally have ended up simply calling them the 'post-war generation', of which culture I have been a member for most of my life, and with which I have become progressively disenchanted, most notably over the past couple of years.
I don't hate them. I am instead simply thoroughly disenchanted and disappointed with them. I complain about the Lib Dems not being liberal, but I could equally make the same complaint about far too many people I know. Like that friend of mine who declared some years ago that he was glad that there was to be a smoking ban, because it would help him give up smoking (it didn't). Or that other friend who said last Christmas that he wasn't bothered about the effect of the smoking ban on smokers, because a ban was what he wanted. That's just two people for whom my esteem has plummeted.
This is not just a incipient war between smokers and antismokers, but the appearance of a patina of cracks and rifts and divisions across the whole of society.
Of course, anyone is free to point out that I am universalising my personal experience in suggesting this, and that this is illegitimate. And that's true. I am in many ways a fringe member of society, living entirely alone in the depths of the Devon countryside, a hundred miles from most of my friends. The principal effect of the smoking ban upon me has been to evict me from my local Devon pub, and have me sitting beside the river that flows nearby. That's not a catastrophe. What alarms me is the extraordinary and progressive effect that the ban is having on my whole sense of connectedness to this society, and to those many friends I have built up over several decades. There is, it seems to me, to be a hideous divisive logic to it. And it is a logic to which I cannot see anyone can be immune. First tiny cracks appear, then slight rifts, and finally widening chasms. And it seems to me that the same must be happening, with greater or less rapidity, across the whole of Britain. And, worse still, is happening wherever smoking bans are imposed, and smokers denormalised.
Human societies are fragile things. Throughout history, previously peaceful societies have regularly erupted into civil war, neighbour murdering neighbour, friend killing friend. We still have the example of Nazi Germany fresh in memory, where what was arguably the most advanced country in Europe, replete with great scientists and artists and philosophers, turned into a hideous murder machine. And which began to do so by setting out to marginalise and exclude some of its most productive members, using a distorted racial pseudo-science. The parallels with the present denormalisation and deepening exclusion of smokers is obvious to anyone who cares to look. But who does look? Hardly anybody. We suppose ourselves to far too 'civilised' to ever permit such a thing to happen here. And yet it is happening in front of our noses.
I genuinely fear that we are all sleepwalking towards the most hideous convulsion. And one that will engulf not just Britain, but the whole world, because it is across the whole world that the antismokers have been stalking, and setting up their divisive bans, setting people against each other.
I would almost like to believe that the global war on smoking that has been launched by the well-organised and well-funded forces of antismoking is being run by people who know exactly what they are doing, and are fully aware of the hideous forces that they are unleashing. But there is precious little sign of it. The antismokers are, it seems, without exception blinkered zealots whose sole aim is to coerce people into stopping smoking, and who demonstrate not the faintest awareness of the effects of their campaign upon individuals, and upon the nexus of relationships that goes to make up a human society. They don't appear to know what they are doing.
I can almost hear the chorus of voices of the lost friends that I am losing, as they say; "It's only a smoking ban. It's a tiny, tiny new regulation. It's not that big a deal. You're making a mountain out a molehill." I wish they were right. But unfortunately I do not believe that they are.
500 years ago, here in Devon, an army of Cornishmen came marching up the Fosse Way that passes barely a mile from where I live. A mile or two down that road, they fought the first bloody battle in a short but brutal civil war. What were they so outraged about? They'd been forbidden by the English crown from attending the ancient Latin Catholic mass, which had been replaced by the new rites of the Book of Common Prayer. I don't have a shadow of doubt that, back then, their uncomprehending friends were also telling them, "It's only a tiny new regulation. It's no big deal. You're making a mountain out of a molehill." Yet the divide between Catholics and Protestants in British society that arose in that time endures to this very day.
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