Another Modest Proposal - With a Nod to Jonathan Swift



In this world of algorithm - induced echo chambers and thought bubbles, cancel culture, shaming, and tribalism, where we seem to have lost the art of debate and the importance hearing multiple perspectives on a given topic, as a key tenant of learning, satire is much needed. This episode, #AnotherModestProposal is dedicated to Johnathan Swift.

Jonathan Swift was born on November 30th, 1667 in Dublin, in the kingdom of Ireland. Swift is considered to be the most important satirist in English literature. He used biting satire to tap into the Zeitgeist of 17th century, British society and critique economic and social conditions, and political policies of the day, employing satire to avoid being censored by the ruling party.

Another Modest Proposal

Here's an idea worthy of consideration. Let's bring back smoking in bars.

Who doesn't remember smoking in bars. The blue tinted haze you had to walk through when you entered your favourite drinking establishment or the nightclubs you frequented to see live music. The way the coloured lights from the stage pierced the swirling smoke illuminating the ghost - like figures on the stage as they warmed up for their performance. It was vaguely reminiscent of that scene from Apocalypse Now where Robert Duvall walked through the smoke-filled landscape in Vietnam, following the American napalm attack. How beautiful was that?

The great thing about when people could smoke in bars is that you had strong memories that would stay with you for days. Every time you wore those articles of clothing from that special night on the town, you would have a visceral reminder of the great time that was had by all. Reflecting on those times, I think we should consider bringing back smoking in hospitals, in schools, and of course, on airplanes.

I fondly remember sitting in a university lecture halls as the clouds of smoke dance playfully in the light of the overhead projectors. The way the professors' faces and notes on the board were distorted and obscured by the shifting clouds of smoke. It was indeed magical. And if you found your mind wandering during these lectures, you could simply put down your pen and paper and light up, take a swig of coffee (of.course, nothing accompanies a smoke, quite like a good cup of Joe) and reflect on the ideas from the lecture.

Who could forget the unbridled joy of lighting up on airplanes( in the designated smoking seats so as not to interfere with the rights of the non-smokers)

As I think back on those good old days of smoking, I believe we should also bring back smoking in hospitals. We can hardly expect addicts to have to walk outside to a designated smoking area to light up. They could simply sift through their personal belongings at their bedside (being careful not to jab or cut themselves in the process), and grab their smokes and lighter and light up right there. It's absolutely inconceivable. We don't allow this. Things need to change.

We have to remove the stigma around smoking. Smokers are addicts and need our help. In the post-apocalyptic pandemic world, we need bold ideas from our leaders. All the rationale for our current laws around smoking the data, the research needs to be dismissed. After all the world has changed and policies need to reflect this new reality. We need to create new contexts. Ignore the science and outdated ideas from the past. We need to imagine different outcomes, not restricted by old ways of thinking (even if they worked)

What if we re-imagined a world where smokers' rights were pervasive? Now picture this. We could provide smokers with a safe supply of tobacco and build dispensaries and hire some capable, compassionate people with advanced degrees, to hand out cigarettes at every bar …. for free! (instead of spending unnecessary public funds on programs and facilities to actually help people quit) Now, this “could” result in less people smoking. It “could” result in fewer smoking related deaths and illnesses.

We could have safe smoking sites throughout our cities, where smokers could huddle together in those cold winter months, engulfed by clouds of smoke and light creating that sense of warmth and belonging, that only comes with being part of a tribe. And in order to prolong this feeling of togetherness and comraderie, we can allow people to camp outside!... Now imagine this magical imagery everywhere throughout our cities. The pride we would feel as visitors from other parts of the world, marvel and bask in the glow of what we've accomplished. They would return to their homes in nearby places like Portland and San Francisco, regaling their citizens (and smokers) with tales of the promised land. where smoking is pervasive,  and smokes are free! Imagine how many smokers would come to experience this wonder. Think of all the colorful characters visitors would encounter on our streets on their way to dinner with their families. Groups of people young and old, sparking up in front of the local 7/11 or Circle K convenience stores, united on ground sprinkled with tiny white objects, reminiscent of snow,  light reflecting off the mounds of tinfoil, sparkling in the moonlight.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's not forget that our overall objective here is to help people quit smoking. We could use this as an opportunity to create low income jobs to add to our burgeoning social services and debt. We could hire people to circulate through throngs of smokers on the street, handing out cigarettes, providing maps to locations where they could obtain a safe supply of tobacco. These folks could serve as educators decrying the dangers of smoking, and hand-out useful pamphlets with sage advice about how to quit.

I hear tell they've tried this in other cities and other countries, and while it hasn't quite worked out as hoped …(Well, in fact, there's been a bit of an increase in the number of smokers out in about, and maybe a few thousand more tobacco related deaths and an increase in garbage on our streets) But hey, you can make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

Regardless of the evidence to the contrary, we believe that it could work. We just need to persevere. Now, I know it might necessitate raising taxes in order to support this noble effort. And people might need to tighten their belts, maybe delay the purchase of their new home (And if things got too expensive, they could, of course moved to another part of the country), but we believe citizens want this, regardless of the cost. (So we didn't feel the need to consult them)

We believe they're willing to forgo personal safety and urban aesthetics, and a slight uptick in crime, in order to create a more compassionate society for smokers. After all, we all know smokers. Smokers are people's sons and daughters.

In order to make this vision a reality, we need leaders who are bold and self-righteous in their convictions and who remain steadfast in their policies. Leaders who will ignore the naysayers (and the research) and forge ahead with their ideological convictions.

And where should we begin to test this grand design? We should look for a place where the stunning beauty of the natural surroundings is only eclipsed by the high cost of living. A place where personal income taxes, housing, gas, and food prices are some of the highest in the land. A place where wages are much lower compared to similar jobs in other parts of the country.

The rationale for this is, these citizens are accustomed to paying more and wouldn't mind further increases if it meant protecting the rights of smokers. And here's the kicker. We can raise the taxes on cigarettes! …For what it's worth. 

Link to the Podcast






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