Friday, 3 August 2012

The Mass Psychology of Fashion or There's No Smoke Without Ire.

Why are smokers folk-devils? Why has an understandable concern about smoking become so personal?

It's one thing to disapprove of smoking. I do myself. I dislike the smell, I wouldn't date a smoker or live with one, and I’d do my best, without being impolite, to get out of accepting a lift from one. I'd hate my kids to take it up . And I admit that my Sunday morning hangover, incurred after consuming large amounts of what, if it were discovered or invented tomorrow, would be designated a Class A drug, is a little more bearable these days because my hair and clothes don't reek of smoke from the pub last night.

But it’s quite another thing for people to jog along behind moralistic state-sponsored banning-and-ostracising campaigns and call it civic virtue while being indifferent or celebratory about God-knows how many human activities that aren’t under the selective gaze of public opprobrium right now.

I know, I know: the passive smoking argument.  But careful: don't take it too far unless you're prepared to allow the state to legislate that any private home with dependant children should be a smoke-free zone. It's curious how people who happily tell adults how to to behave in places where they and others can choose not to go are indifferent to the very people who can't. So what'll it be?

Tolerance requires dislike or disapproval (which is why so many supposedly liberal and ostentatiously non-judgmental people, er, dislike it).  But it allows for the exercise of discrimination, for debate and for compromise. And it doesn't - because it can't - require laws to make it real and active.

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