SUNDAY LIFE..the next thrilling instalment.....|
Saturday, 08-Aug-98 19:17:14
Weed is Good
In the second of his pontifications on smoking, Paul McDermott this week writes for the defence
Shakespeare once wrote in praise of tobacco: "Thou weed, who art so lovely fair and smellst so sweet'. Over the centuries great poets, writers and artists have been inspired by "sublime tobacco', but these days there is a perception that smoking is not merely misguided but evil. At the risk of being savaged by the politically correct, the surgeon general and conscientious families, I intend to defend the right to smoke. It is important we understand smoking in its historical context and not just as a product subjected to years of hyperbole and discrimination.
There is little doubt that smoking has had a chequered career; it has been loathed and despised as equally as it has been loved. From the moment humanity conquered fire and someone thought, 'That looks dangerous, I wonder if I could suck it into my body' smoking has been a contentious issue. It has dominated politics, been incorporated into religious ceremonies, featured in great literature and art, and it was the peace pipe that made smoking the embodiment of an ideal. The peace pipe - a symbolic gesture of unity and fellowship - has echoes of many cultures, although it is attributed primarily to the Native American.
We have only to look at the work of the Rolling Stones to see how attitudes have changed over the years. In Satisfaction, Mick Jagger sings: 'He can't be a man cos he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me'. Forty years after this track was recorded, the most recent Stones album, Pshing it Uphill, features a heavy handed anti-smoking message. On the track Don't Smoke It's Bad For You', Mr Jagger coughs his way through three verses of propaganda, while Jerry asks Keith to put it out when the kids are around.
There was a time when the humble cigarette was our friend, before it became the prime suspect in the big hunt for the 'big C'. It was on a hookah that the caterpillar puffed as he spoke to Alice and thus an endearing children's character was born. In these more enlightened times, would we ever allow Dipsy or Po to reach for a Longbeach? Will the Bananas ever light up?
Until recently films featured good men and women with the filthy habit; these fine troubadours, many now riddled with cancer, championed the cause of the cigarette. Once cowboys wore white hats and blew smoke rings as they saved the innocent; detectives savoured the flavour while solving hideous crimes and lovers shared a post-coital moment with a puff. These days no decent human being on the big or small screen smokes, you're only permitted to draw back if you're a killer, a thief or poorly educated.
Anyone with political aspirations understands that smoking is taboo and being caught with a fag can destroy your career. If these attitudes prevailed 50 years ago, the world could be a very different place today. Winston Churchill, the cigar-chomping hero of World War II, wouldnm't have lasted two minutes on the political stage before being pulled down by well-meaning, socially aware, smoke-intolerant lobbyists. No amount of support from the tobacco industry would have saved him from the indignation of the populace, and the world would have lost a powerful leader. During these years of war young heros would huddle together prior to a moment of truth. In those precious moments before going 'over the top' to certain death, those brave lads were unified by the chemical wonder of the American tobacco industry.
What does the future hold? There'll be no more wheezing politicians, no more loveable children's characters with bad habits, no more poets and playwrights composing odes to the ashtray. And in the event of a terrible war, there'll be a last glass of milk before you go over the top - and let's face it, that just doesn't cut it. We live in a society fractured by divisions; can we allow another to exist between smokers and non-smokers? Has the time come for all of us to sit down and smoke the pipe of peace?
Cue 'Opus of Peace' to play right now! Oh well, I guess that answers the debate of whether these have any relevance at all to whether the author smokes....
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