On Tuesday, Joe wrote Joe a letter. The recipient was Joe Bageant, author of Deer Hunting with Jesus. The writer was an anonymous Joe whose wisdom and insight will never rise to the surface of our media swamp.
The writer was concerned about the rabidity of the antismoking campaign that first raised its head in the nineties. He saw it as a process of “denormalizing” of an act that had, up until then, been socially acceptable. A friend of his called it the “largest social engineering project in the history of the world.”
The bottom line is that social engineering has no place in a democracy. It is an exercise in social fastidiousness, and fastidiousness is the midwife of oppression.
As a member of a community, it is a given that I will see things I don’t want to see, hear things I don’t want to hear and smell things I don’t want to smell. If I scrub my life clean of these unpleasant things, I no long have a community; I have a sterile and gated place in which I live in dread of some impurity invading the sanctity of my isolation.
Now I hear the cry, “But, smoking kills!” Sorry folks, but the leading cause of death is birth. It is incorrect to say that the antismoking movement saves lives. It doesn’t! It simply delays the inevitable. For that matter, getting behind the wheel kills, but there is no movement to ban the automobile. The same is true of mountain climbing and skydiving.
The truth is that the most sacred thing we do is die, and it’s so goddamn sacred that we want nothing to do with it. But then, that’s true of everything that is sacred.
There are some historical factors behind the antismoking movement. Cigarette smoking has always been looked on as smacking of sin. In the twenties Lucky Strike cigarettes created a stir when it urged women to, “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” Cigars and pipes were okay, capitalists and professors smoked them, but, as Joe pointed out, cigarettes were associated with loose women and the lower classes.
When prohibition went bust, the Puritans doffed their clerical robes and slipped into a white lab coat. Yesterday’s sin became today’s health problem.
A corporatized state seeks to condition its subjects. That is the purpose of social engineering. It normalizes behavior the state approves of and denormalizes behavior it doesn’t. The behavior isn’t important; the conditioning is. In time, its subjects become use to being conditioned; they even feel uncomfortable if they are forced to think for themselves.
If a free society a free citizen has the right to choose his or her death, whether it’s lighting up or packing a parachute.
There are two spurious arguments trotted out by the antismoking crowd. One is that smoking increases the cost of healthcare. Hell, life is expensive; dying is expensive. There’s no getting around that fact. If cigarettes don’t kill us, something else will. If the health care costs were a real concern, we’d ban the automobile.
Then there’s the second-hand smoke canard. Yea, if someone is locked in a sealed with a smoker eight hours a day, seven days a week, it could be an individual’s health. However, incidental exposure is unlikely to be a problem.
If the state wants its subjects to live in a state of constant anxiety, it needs real and imagined threats, and second-hand smoke works will do as well as anyother.
Freedom involves the acceptance of risk. If we make a fetish of avoiding it we are no longer free.