Monday, 11 June 2007

Puff of Hot Air

Idealism is supposed to be a wonderful thing - a vision of how the world could be a better place, if only everyone would [insert pointless and unpopular sacrifice here]. In my experience, though, Idealists tend to be single minded zealots with Views about Issues that they can't resist ramming down your throat; after all, in their opinion, it's for your own good!

In fact, there isn't much difference between an Idealist and a Tyrant - they both want to impose their views on an unwilling populace, it's just that the Tyrant is honest enough to admit it's for his own benefit while the Idealist likes to tell us we're all beneficiaries. And there seem to be so many of these tediously boring, self-righteous proponents of arrant nonsense these days!

Oh, sure, there have always been smaller or larger groups of extremists who hold strong views on Issues that most folks don't know and / or don't care about. Remember Greenham Common? Save the Wales (not heard that phrase on the news for years!)? CND (still going, but not very newswothy now)? All of these sideline causes came along, attracted a little media attention, and went on their merry way without making any major impact on everyday life beyond the odd derisive snigger.

Today, things are different. The lunatics are running the asylum, and people who would once have been fringe-dwelling cranks are now in positions of power - or, at least, of influence, which is almost the same thing. Take the anti-smoking lobby, for example. For years they've been banging on about how bad smoking is for us. Do they think smokers don't know? It's printed in damn big letters on the side of every packet of cigarettes, for God's sake! Smokers know perfectly well, thank you very much, but they choose to exercise their freedom of choice in pursuit of an activity they enjoy.

Sadly, the Health Fascists have gained so much influence that, as of July 1, 2007, it will be illegal to smoke in enclosed public places. And, just to discourage you from nipping outside for a quick ciggy, there will be an £80 fine for dropping dimps outside.

Despite this very serious infringement of a smoker's right to self determination, it's unlikely that hordes of angry smokers will be storming Whitehall in the near future. Instead, with typical British stoicism in the face of adversity, countermeasures are being devised to sidestep this ridiculous legislation.

One such effort has seen 1000s of pubs investing in patio heaters, so that smokers can enjoy their habit outside in the beer garden even in the chilliest British weather. You see, being outside the building keeps these fugitives from the Health Fascists inside the law, and beyond the reach of marauding SS-style inspectors who will be visiting pubs and clubs incognito in the near future. It's a great idea, and deserves 10 out of 10 for effort. Unfortunately, and, to my mind, hilariously, it has a flaw.

You see, Health Fascists are not the only Idealists riding roughshod over common sense right now; the environmentalist lobby has also managed to gain some degree of influence. Gone are the grubby, socially stunted, tree hugging activists of 20 years ago, and, in their place, smooth talking, besuited types preach earnestly about the threat of global warming, carbon emissions and the need to bug your wheelie bin. Give me the tree-huggers any day - at least you knew where you stood with them, and their BO made them relatively easy to identify and avoid.

Anyhow, it turns out that the patio heaters intended to sidestep the draconian new anti-smoking laws are, allegedly, really, really bad for the environment. A report from British Gas suggests that the total number of heaters expected to come into use after July 1 will, collectively produce as much pollution as a small city.

What to make of this finding? I'm not sure, yet. In my most deeply cynical moments I wonder whether this is a further assault on smokers, perhaps using peer pressure and much-hyped "social responsibility" in the (presumably temporary) absence of legislation. So far, I have dismissed this notion as being too cynical, even for me, although I'm open to persuasion on this point.

For the moment, however, I'm more inclined to view this entertaining twist as a conflict of Ideals. Single-minded obsession is a defining characteristic of the typical Idealist, leading to a sort of moral tunnel vision; for all their undoubted knowledge in their chosen sphere, they seem incapable of predicting the likely impact of their proposed new world order on other aspects of life.

In this case, the Health Fascists have failed to fully appreciate that most smokers do so because they want to, or to grasp the implications thereof. Throughout human history, any attempt to stop people from doing something they enjoy and actively want to do has met with resistance - sometimes, bloody, violent resistance. People will always find ways around any prohibition, using methods of getting their own way that the fuzzy-minded Idealists couldn't have anticipated and can't prevent.

This time out, smokers have found a loophole in the law, and an ingenious, easy, legal, way to make it workable. As a direct consequence, the Environmental Zealots have suffered collateral damage to one of their most cherished objectives. Shame.

Do you think the EZs will take this lying down? No, of course not. This is the 21st century, and everyone knows that, when something doesn't quite suit your liking, the most important thing to do is find someone to blame. Your coffee was too hot? Blame the restraunt! You tripped in the street? Blame the council! Patio heaters are causing pollution? Blame... erm, who, exactly? The smokers? Well, naturally, everyone blames them for everything. But what about the heater manufacturers? Aren't they to blame, too? And the HFs, without whom this sudden demand for dubiously emitting heaters wouldn't exist?

The entire scenario has the potential to become a fascinating, dirty (not just in terms of alleged pollution!) and highly entertaining multi-way slanging match, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next round. But, when the dust settles, so to speak, the primary protagonists will inevitably be the EZs and the HFs - two bunches of Idealists who, having gained the power to make their dreams come true, have suddenly found that life is not as simple as they thought.

Welcome to the REAL world, guys.

Billy Seggars

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great, keep writting. I enjoyed it very much. Daniel