Thursday, May 22, 2008

Some welcome backchat

Sean Penn isn't someone I spend much time thinking about, but The Bovina Bloviator posted a heartwarming story of him delivering a little well-deserved defiance to the bossyboots anti-smoking Nazis at the Cannes Festival:
US actor and director Sean Penn lit up and led a minor revolt at the Cannes film festival against France's draconian new anti-smoking laws.

Penn, the head of the jury that will pick the best films, pulled out a cigarette and puffed on it at a press conference with fellow jury members, in defiance of laws in place since January that ban smoking in public enclosed spaces.
Good for him! My aunts in Victoria are frequently berated in public by impudent, unembarrassed little power-trippers who think that two old ladies who want to smoke a cigarette outside are suitable targets for pushing around. They've been insulted and driven away from bus shelters, open squares, terraces, anywhere a self-righteous nobody gets the urge to risk-free bullying. (Not quite risk-free; Auntie May got into a screaming match with one of these snotnoses once.)

I complain about Ottawa, but I have to be honest and admit that Victoria is A LOT worse in terms of the amount of bossy, nosy, nannyish harrassment people have to put up with. It's practically European in its mania for proscription and "for your own good" bullying.

But just when I'm thinking that Sean Penn is OK, one of my favourite bloggers, Arts & Ammo, digs up this piece of brilliance. On the whole, I think Chesterton would count his instinct for freedom as more important than his confused approach to politics, so he comes out slightly ahead on points this week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny...I don't find harming one's health and that of those around you to be particularly "heartwarming."

6:09 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Well I guess we're even - I don't consider bullying self-aggrandizement heartwarming either, no matter what the reason.

8:32 am  
Blogger Priscilla said...

I love your blog. You are nearly always "right on" as they say. But today, I do have to take exception with your liberal (in the true sense of the word) stance on bad behavior. (I bet you knew this was coming)
Perhaps you have never experienced any of the health-related inconveniences produced by the stench of choking fumes surrounding someone engaged in the disgusting activity of breathing in noxious smoke from smoldering dried leaves and paper. Perhaps you have never had to sit in your sweltering, un-air conditioned apartment with the doors and windows shut against the smoke invading your home, from the balcony below.
If the people in question had the decency to do this activity in private, those of us who are affected wouldn't have to request that they desist.
Keep on Blogging!

9:23 am  
Blogger Daniel Muller said...

I was dismayed to see this at the Bovina Web log, but since I do not attract much attention as a Web log commentator, I thought that I should let it go. But now here it is at another of my favorite places to read.

I am against the idea of the nanny state -- so glad I do not live in Canada, where the fatter you are the more you get in welfare cheques -- and I reject contemporary society's bizarre idea that smoking is more important an issue than, for example, abortion; it is one of the few "sins" recognized by the politically correct. And, speaking of the politically correct, yes, self-righteousness is annoying.

Sed contra:

1. Maybe Brooke Shields only gets smelly hair, but some of us are not half so lucky. (Hello, Priscilla!) I have had pseudoasthmatic attacks from time to time and numerous headaches from just a whiff of cigarette smoke. Now, after three weeks, I am only just recovering from a nasty bout of sinusitis that ruined half my vacation. There were several factors that contributed -- dust, smoke, ashes, smog -- but what pushed me over the edge and literally laid me flat on my back was a friend's chain smoking. I went so far as to protest, but even after I got sick, my friend, like most smokers, just did not get it. How can they? Their lungs are permaclogged.

2. Sean Penn was in a foreign country. I think that he should respect its prissy little laws. It is up to the natives to change them, especially in what is ostensibly a democracy.

3. On the other hand, I kind of like Sean Penn's quote on Obama. The English is so bad, it's good. I doubt that Obama realizes how small his feet are and how impossible his task will be if elected. Certainly, I cannot see his being reelected.

9:21 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

It's not that I have any sentimental attraction to smoking (although it sure did photograph beautifully in black-and-white movies). I've never smoked myself; someone handed me a cigarette in university, and I tried to smoke it, but I couldn't. I literally could not inhale - couldn't make myself do it, because I knew it would hurt. It was like deliberately trying to breathe underwater. And I'm nearly 50 - when I entered the work force, people could still smoke at their desks! I had a co-worker who did, and it was deeply annoying when lungfuls of smoke came rolling across the desk toward me. But I wasn't helpless, just cowardly - I could have asked her to stop, and then TOLD her to stop, and then complained to my boss, and then quit, but I didn't. Most of those options are available to other people too, so I don't see why the police should be given another field in which to boss people around.

Mostly, I'm opposed to the cheap virtue that comes from ostentatiously bullying smokers. All the real health concerns (such as they are, and I think they're grossly exaggerated) have been taken care of - people can't smoke in offices, elevators, buses, planes, and any enclosed place with poor air circulation. We're now talking about kicking people around when they're smoking in the open air, and I think that's ridiculous. People drinking coffee on open-air terraces are about 10 feet away from cars and buses; that sort of air pollution is not even remarked upon, but they act as if a single cigarette is as dangerous as a piece of radioactive waste. It's stupid.

Mostly, I remember C.S. Lewis writing that the Devil is perfectly happy to let us be virtuous in some small way, if we can simultaneously indulge in a bigger sin. Promoting a healthy body at the expense of charity is not a good bargain.

8:33 pm  

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