Saturday, 21 April 2012

Unholy Smoker

It probably says something about contemporary Britain that I had to find one of the wittiest defences of old school English ‘live and let live’ values I have read in a while in the Daily Mail, not the Guardian, and only after a tip-off from an American libertarian website.
On reflection, it may not be surprising that I cannot read it in the Guardian. As recently as 2010, they would still print Hockney’s comments on such topics. These days there is more chance of finding them in the Methodist Recorder than Britain’s greyest neo-puritan newspaper, which seems to have reduced itself to a mouthpiece for sundry anoraks, wet blankets, drabs and curtain twitchers – even if they do live in Hampstead.
David Hockney comments: “I am sick of the constant negativity in Britain, the utter meanness of spirit (possibly not good for the health) that seems to have taken over everywhere.”
Coming from Hockney, this is interesting, because way back in the days when Beatlemania first hit the US Hockney moved there to further his career. His reasoning (at least as outlined by the film-maker Derek Jarman) was that in Wilson’s Britain – on the surface modern and meritocratic, under it as hopelessly class, race, gender and otherwise prejudiced as in Empire days - there was no place for a working class queer artist with a thick Bradford accent. It wasn’t just the weather that was cold and miserable; it was the thick, talentless elite who ran the gaff, and the majority population who let them.
Having settled back in Britain (oddly enough because, as he says, even Manhattan is now as conformist as the American Midwest talented artists used to go to Greenwich Village to escape), his latest gripe is the escalation of UK health nazi madness and the new rulings that make it all but impossible for stores to admit that they have cigarettes for sale, or to tell potential customers what brands they have.
While I am not (and never have been) a smoker, the rapidly snowballing efforts by bansturbators to stop grown-ups taking basic decisions over their lives and health are important to monitor. As close observers are noting, any junk science scare story or tactic used by superannuated puritans to stop smoking today will be (and already is being) used to restrict or illegalise other grown-up pleasures under the thin excuse of ‘protecting’ public health.
The campaigns, the ethics, the methodology and the arguments are stupid, anti-democratic, and highly offensive. So, just as much as hedonists with a small ‘h’ need to speak out against religious fanatics who want us to all to be miserable and compliant, we also need to speak out against the quasi-religious, pseudo-scientific and cod-moralistic quacks running the New Church of the Empty Head. Vinegar-titted miserablists who would deprive us of any small pleasure still to be found in the 21st century madhouse.
As Hockney says elsewhere in the piece (see for more): “I say to the Health Secretary: we all die. It’s what you do in between birth and death that’s the concern of most people.”
He goes on to say: “I was told by an anti-smoking fanatic (and I know about them as my father was one, although my smoking elder brother has now lived longer than he did, as I will this year) that tobacco ‘killed’ one hundred million people in the 20th Century.
I pointed out one hundred million people were killed in the 20th Century for political reasons and their deaths were very unpleasant indeed. You cannot use a word such as ‘killed’ with smokers.”
Hockney complains: “The low-grade, low-intellect people now ruling us seem to have no vision at all.”
He concludes: “Mr Lansley, Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband, Mr Clegg: Keep out of my life. I don’t want your dreary view of life infecting me. It’s not good for my health, or others around me.”
Exactly the same story (be it on a smaller, duller parochial level) is unfolding on the Isle of Man. So, to those rumpled grey suits and minds that are the Manx versions of Cameron & Co, I would echo Hockney’s message.
Just look at yourselves in a mirror some time, you drab nonentities, then go away and die of the boredom you want to inflict on everyone else.
(hat tip to Lew Rockwell)

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