Thursday, November 15

Where There's Smoke, There's Apathy it Seems

When I wrote this the U.K. had just put into affect a smoking ban in all public spaces, I decided to not post this because it was seemed too angry. Now viewed months later it seems just as angry but I'm not sure that that makes it any less honest.


Before Japan and when I was living with my mother I had come home one morning after a heavy night on the tiles and on the precipices of a ecstasy come down, to find my mum awake and suffering from shortness of breath and chest pains. I had never become so sober so quickly and as soon as I did I called an ambulance, called my mum’s boyfriend and waited by her side and attended to her. I wasn’t scared at the time, that was not the overwhelming emotion, I was angry.

In front of me was a woman who has had health scare after health scare but still ate in excess. In front of me was a woman who would smoke cigarette after cigarette in front of her son and long after a friend of hers, a 40 a day friend, suffered from a stroke and was crippled by it. Despite the health warnings, my constant nagging and pleading and common sense and she never stopped smoking.

I sat in front of her and was angry because what I foresaw, as clearly as I can see my hand before of my face, what I foresaw was day upon day of me attending to her as she slowly faded away. Both of us too young to lose our lives but both of us losing our lives anyway. And it occurred to me how selfish her addiction was, how careless and unthinking she was to poison her self slowly and neglect herself totally leaving me to pick up the pieces.

My Mum is ‘healthy’ now, well, as healthy as she has ever been because despite the hospital scare she hasn’t stopped smoking and despite working a high-demand job she never exercises. It’s only a matter of time before I walk in on her again and she’s clutching her chest in pain.

So, why am I thinking about this now? Well recently in the UK a smoking ban was put in place. No smoking in public places is the basic rule, so that means bus shelters, nightclubs, pubs. And I’m delighted!

Smokers seem to have no semblance of social etiquette, they will happily pollute a persons space, air and lungs for their fix without as much as a ‘do you mind’ or an apology. And if they can’t be trusted to employ the social graces their selves then why shouldn’t the law step in and tell them “no, poisoning people with second hand smoke isn’t on. Making other people smell with your pollution is thoughtless and inconsiderate don’t do it”. Only an addict can be told not to be thoughtless and inconsiderate and then find a way to justify doing just that.

And the latest justification: The U.K. is becoming a nanny-state and our freedoms (like the freedom to be unmindful and insensitive) are being stripped from us.

Wrong! We have always had the choice of whether we would poison ourselves costing the NHS millions of pounds for extra care for those who have senselessly inflicted their selves with diseases or otherwise irrevocably affected their health. And we have the same choice when it comes to other people and whether we choose to poison them as well.

Let’s not worry about the U.K. becoming a nanny state, let’s worry about the type of culture where we expect to be able to be able to harm ourselves, to damage our own bodies despite warning and advice and then when we need fixing we put our hand out to the welfare state and cough meekly, ‘please make me well enough to smoke 40 a day again’. Fuck you! Die! It was no accident that got you in this condition, no momentary lapse in concentration, it was the constant and slow attrition of carcinogenic materials that you happily ingested everyday.

And what makes me angrier about the sudden call to arms against our oppressors, those that choose to turn our ‘liberal’ U.K. into George Orwells dystopia by removing one freedom at a time, starting with the small victory of cigarettes; what angers me is that these, our liberators of such oppression were nowhere to be seen when our real freedoms were being impinged upon. Trident, new anti-terrorist laws, Brazilians being gunned down in the street, all of these things were accepted with a sharp intake of breath and a long smoking sigh.

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