We never seem to be quite satisfied.
Most readers will know that my wife suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and has done so for some four decades. She has been fortunate in that the form of MS which she suffers from is slow-acting, unlike some other people. There was a famous female cellist, whose name I cannot recall, who died not many years after being diagnosed with MS. The ‘condition’ (I absolutely refuse to call it a ‘disease’) takes many forms.
Last week, I had a break. I took a week’s holiday in Mallorca. My daughters looked after my wife while I was away. One of the problems with MS is that you never know what might happen next – either in the next hour, or the next day, or the next week, etc. You cannot see inside the body and know what might be happening. Only the symptoms are visible, such as the useless legs and inability to urinate, the rashes, etc.
Looking after such a person is not difficult. What needs to be done is not hard; it does not hurt; it does not take a long time. It is an accumulation of little things, day after day. BUT, one of the major problems is uncertainty. As I said, you cannot see inside the body. The inability to see inside the body means that you have to take decisions based upon very uncertain information.
But, surely, you might ask, there are ‘experts’ who can help you. I am sure that there are, but they do not reside ‘chez nous’. They too cannot see inside the body. The only way that they could do so would be in hospital where there are Xray machines and such. Something that I have learnt over the last several years has been the limitations of such ‘experts’. They may know somewhat more than you and I, but they have no more idea what to do, day by day, than you or I.
I think about things. My days are occupied HAVING TO do things. Not hard things, not painful things, not time-consuming things. Just a multiplicity of little things. Also, there are many little decisions to be made. Just how long should she sit on the loo? Things like that. Who can say how long she should sit on the loo? How do you decide?
A critical part of my holiday, is to spend a week not HAVING TO do anything. Nor do I want to HAVE TO take decisions. Of course, if you want breakfast, then you have to get out of bed and go to the dining room within the set times for breakfast, but those sort of decisions are purely personal in just the same way that the having a pee or a poo are. If you are peckish, then you will go to eat. There is no real rational decision involved.
So I went on my holiday with those principles in mind. And that it the crux.
After a couple of days, I became a little dissatisfied. I wanted to do something. Do you see what I mean? I wanted to MAKE A DECISION! I wanted to HAVE TO do something! I had to remind myself not to FORCE myself.
It seems to me that human nature demands a challenge. For example, a person might spend his working day doing routine tasks, but, after his working day is over, he might go and join his friends at the pub to be part of a darts team. As part of the team, he ‘takes on’ a member of the opposing team and wins or loses. He puts himself into a fraught situation (in a small way). He makes a decision to risk his self-respect and the ignominy of his fellow team members should he lose.
But what happens in the minds of people who spend the working lives in such fraught situations? How do they cope? I am not talking about footballers or golfers and such. Those activities have their pressures, but there are no real losers. I am talking about tobacco controllers and such.
You see, I cannot see anything other than a missionary zeal, or personal aggrandisement. I do not see how the two can be combined. I remember a video of a ‘conference’ of tobacco control employees in the UK. A speaker ended her speech, to much applause, with the words, “WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!”
What does the phrase ‘make a difference’ actually mean? At first sight, one might be forgiven for thinking that the phrase is just ‘noise’, but I do not agree. I think that it means, “WE CAN WIN!” In other words, it is an appeal to Zealotry. In the case of tobacco control, it means, “We can defeat tobacco companies”.
It amazes me that tobacco companies have never helped their customers and the consumers of the products. For example, they could have financed a top level legal team to defend Nick Hogan when he was accused of defying the smoking ban. They did not do so and let him stew. Other individuals have also suffered the full might of the State for ‘permitting’ when they have done nothing wrong themselves.
The previous considerations have produced a poisonous atmosphere. No one knows what is right or wrong, good or evil. I suppose that the MPs who voted for the smoking ban nodded wisely when told that they must vote for it. I suppose that they nodded wisely when told that PP is a good thing. They will nod wisely when they are told to demonise ecigs. If there was ever an innocuous substance to inhale, it must be ecig vapour. It has been tested to the extreme for toxicity and none has been found.
It seems to me that tobacco control in the UK has peaked. But, as my heading states, “We always want more”. I applied that idea to my own personal situation and described how I had to resist the appeal of ‘wanting more’. No such reluctance applies to ASH ET AL. They always want more.
It is a pity that Emperor Blair (for he was ‘The Emperor’ for a time) could not resist the idea of ‘making a difference’. He personally banished smokers to the outdoors. He personally was a weakling in the face of a group of self-appointed ‘experts’. He could have solved the problem at a stroke. Defund them. Fund only the actual works that they do. I have in mind a local charity which tries to help homeless people. It is small beer, but is ‘on the ground’. It accepts non-perishable foods like biscuits, sundry clothing, etc. But I do not know if it accepts donations of cigarettes. Such an offering might throw the cat among the pigeons.
Individuals tend to realise when ‘wanting more’ has gone further than is possible and reasonable. A person who can afford an annual holiday for a week in a seaside caravan might hanker after a cruise, but would recognise that he cannot afford it.
No such considerations apply to tobacco control. It can afford anything. There is a saying: “Doing nothing is not an option”. That can only be true if the cost of doing something is less than doing nothing. Generally speaking, doing nothing is the least costly alternative.
But we have a huge population which can be loosely described as ‘politicians’. I include the likes of Arnott in that group. The word ‘politician’ might describe anyone who receives payment for suggesting, formulating, promoting and enabling legislation.
And it is in their nature to ‘Always Want More’.