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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Frank Davis - Man of the (smoking) people

As most of you may already know Frank Davis Is a blog writer of distinction amongst his fellow bloggers. His writings are erudite, heartfelt, heartwarming, mellow in parts but uplifting too.  He makes fellow smokers feel that little bit less disinfranchised.

I have asked Frank if he would allow me to add him as a Guest Author and and he said yes with a large dose of humility.

He has kindly let me repost his writings if I feel that they are of any value? They are more than that so I have reposted one of his pieces here, which will be in two parts, for the delectation of our readers.

Collective Madness
By Frank Davis
Part 1

I think that I've changed my mind about more things over the past couple of years than I did over the previous 20 years. And all because of the smoking ban. I'm beginning to think that there was the person that I used to be before the smoking ban, and the person I became after it.

Let's see. Before the ban I was a left-leaning liberal, and a Lib Dem voter. And I vaguely looked upon Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and the green movement and environmentalism in a friendly, approving sort of way. And although I didn't do it myself, I really wasn't bothered if friends of mine stopped smoking, and started eating organic vegetarian food and going to yoga classes and Buddhist retreats. I was tolerant to the point of super-tolerance. Lesbians, are you? Pleased to meet you.

That's all over now. It all ended around about 1 July 2007. After nearly all the Lib Dem MPs voted for a complete smoking ban, and I realised that they weren't really liberals at all, I could never vote for them again. I was quite astonished at the way my esteem for them simply fell through the floor. I feel rather ill when I see Nick Clegg these days.

But I've also changed my mind about Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and the green movement and environmentalism and organic food and yoga and Buddhism. I've shifted from being mildly approving or at least tolerant of them to detesting the whole damn lot of them. That's harder to explain. I think that a large part of it is that, now that smokers like me are no longer tolerated, I don't see why I should continue to be as tolerant as I used to be. You can only tolerate other people, I've learned, if you are yourself tolerated. It's a bit like buying rounds in a pub: people will only buy you rounds if you buy them rounds. It's a two-way thing. And once one partner pulls out of the tacit deal, the other one pulls out too.

And, when it all comes down to dust, I've never had any time at all for organic food or vegetarianism or yoga or Feng Shui or Buddhism or the latest health scare. Maybe there's something in Buddhism, but the rest of it is all baloney. It's all irrational nonsense from start to finish. And so is Gaia-worshipping, human-hating, tree-hugging, global-warming environmentalism. And the man-hating wimmin's movement. And astrology and homeopathy and crystals and Glastonbury and ley lines and Arthurian legends and UFOs and crop circles. I heard today that Andy Williams is going to top the bill at Glastonbury next year, and felt like writing to him to say: "Don't go!"

Now when I see people eating vegetarian food I see people who will, when there are enough of them, one day ban the consumption of meat in restaurants, and the next day ban it in people's own homes. They'll be the kind of people who want to be able to go into any restaurant anywhere in the world and not have to put up with the stench of roast beef and fried bacon. And they'll justify it on spurious health grounds which will barely conceal their real motivation. And they'll do it without a second thought. And without the slightest trace of compunction.

And, apart from the fact that they both voted for the smoking ban, one of the reasons I don't like Kerry McCarthy and Paul Flynn is because he's a druid and she's a vegan. And that means that they're both profoundly irrational people, who also happen to be MPs, unfortunately. They may as well be worshippers of Cybele or Osiris or some alien American god.

A few months ago I met up with one of my profoundly irrational vegan-type friends, and she started to tell me how she'd begun to think that Neil Armstrong had never actually walked on the moon, and it had all been shot on a movie set somewhere. And I was silently screaming Please Stop, I Don't Want to Hear. Nor do I want to hear any more 9/11 conspiracy theories. Or about the mystery shooter on the Grassy Knoll in Dealey Plaza. I'm tired of conspiracy theories. They're all profoundly irrational. They're all deeply insane.

I've actually been swimming steadily away from irrationality for a long time. Sometime back in the 1970s I got sick of New Age mysticism, and started to re-acquaint myself with physics and mathematics and cold reason. For the 1960s was a revolt against reason.  People get sick of cold disenchanted reason after a while. And the 1950s was a dull, disenchanted, measured, rational time. And there was nothing rational about the sex and drugs and rock'n'roll that followed. It's most enchanting. But I fairly rapidly got sick of the syrupy, foggy, idealistic mysticism that came with it. The multitudinous Indian gurus. The dawning of the Age of Aquarius. The weird little twisted cults that sprung up like weeds. L Ron Hubbard's dianetics. The Rev Jim Jones in Jonestown.

Back the 1960s, the mysticism was contained within a largely rational, liberal, secular society which had exorcised most of its demons. But these days, 40 years later, that mysticism has grown and burst the vessel that contained it, and has infected everything with its brand of magical thinking. We live in a new age of unreason, and all the bad news these days is about the advance of irrationality, as one mad law or other is enacted, or some new insult to reason articulated. In some ways, when Tony Blair became a Roman Catholic, it marked a point where mysticism and credulity and superstition captured the highest office in the land. Antismoking is a religion. Global warming is a religion. Europe is a religion.

It's said that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. And I got mugged. The smoking ban was a mugging that stripped me of an ancient freedom, the freedom to sit in a pub with my friends, and drink beer and smoke cigarettes. And it was my own government that mugged me, not some footpad on a dark road. Which makes it all the worse. Have I become a conservative? I have no idea.

It'll all swing back the other way one day. People will get as sick of mysticism as they once got sick of cold reason. When reason becomes intolerable, people turn towards madness. But sooner or later madness in turn becomes intolerable, and people turn back to reason. It's probably a regular 100-year cycle that swings from collective rationality to collective madness, and back again. And we're now somewhere near the height of collective madness, as windmills march across the land, and people sniff for tobacco smoke and carbon dioxide, and adults can't be left alone with children.


Anonymous said...

Always read Franks stuff, he has a way of describing exactly how i feel,his posts are very lucid and erudite and full of wisdom a great read.

BTS said...

Just a word in defence of vegetarians - we're not all like that. Some are, and I loathe them too, but not all.

So I say to all meat-eaters - help yourselves. Have a steak. Enjoy it. You have every right to it.

But I'll stick to my salad because I feel more comfortable with it. And because I make a good salad.

Just don't hate us all..


A. Vegetarian

Frank Davis said...

Well grabbed, TBY!

I got your email, BTW. But I'm glad to see you doing what I suggested.


Anonymous said...

Superb,as always a great voice of reason Frank.

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