Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cui Bono

Our man is blogging from Miami, so he's clearly keeping up with the politics of this damp little island over teh interwebs. I'm not surprised at his position on smoking, and I've added a comment (which has passed the moderation process), but I'd like to say some more.

The things Dave and I agree are: smoking is an accepted health risk by medical authorities the world over now; others' smoke and smoky environments are unpleasant; equal opportunities in major religions would be a good thing. The things we disagree about are: everything else.
The smoking decision has the same kind of feeling about it as the hunting business. Despite the obvious and predictable stuff about nanny governments (ironic, since this wasn't a decision that the government originally wanted), it is something else -- another consequence of social change.

It is a consquence of social change, though I think that bears much more examination. (I think Kristallnacht could be described as a consequence of social change. Many things are consequences of social change.) Dave is on holiday, so it's only fair to assume that he knocked this out quickly, between exercise sessions and seminars. In other circumstances, I'd find "... nanny governments (ironic, since this wasn't a decision that the government ..." lazy and perhaps intentionally obtuse. The usual term, I believe, is ""nanny state" (732,000 Google results) not "nanny government" (18,300). The first use of 'government' means "the state, laws, etc." the second use of 'government' means "Tony Blair and company". No irony involved.
In a way it is astonishing that it has taken this long for smoking to be banned in restaurants; there are still places so foul from the stench and that make your eyes water so much, that I only have to enter the bloody door to know that this is not the joint for me.

Well, exactly, and not the joint (was that a pune, or play on words?) for me either. I share Tim Ireland's reflexive distaste for The Sun: it's not the paper for me. But lots of other people like it, and its existence means that its readers don't write letters to the ones I do buy and their shopping habits don't influence the ads I see. The problem with the cartoon affair, IMO, was that Muslims in Syria and Saudi Arabia took it upon themselves to get upset at events in a far away country of which they knew little and published in a paper with a small circulation. Life is altogether much easier if one minds one's own business.
Someone else should comment on the third paragraph -- it's over my head. The last is either confused, as I tried to suggest in the comments, or deeply disingenuous. I'm really not sure which.
Now the ban is here, though, I find it hard to regret it. Seat belts, crash helmets, bike lights -- all this is stuff that we have decided to impose on others for their own (and their families' good), and it hasn't made Swiss out of us yet. Just so long as we unban something at the same time -- like permitting women bishops or gay imams.

Banning smoking wasn't the government's plan -- it wasn't in the manifesto in this form (see Michael White; the Labour Manifesto actually says, "We will legislate to ensure that all enclosed public places and workplaces other than licensed premises will be smoke-free" (p66). Who is this "we" whom Dave refers to?) I believe that Dave's logic comes down to "We'll tell one minority [smokers] what to do and this will be fair if we tell other minorities [the C of E, Muslims] what to do as well."
Just because I share his prejudices does not mean that I endorse his reasoning.


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