These days my attention in mostly focused on smoking bans around the world, and particularly in the UK. But I also pay a lot of attention to the global warming thing too, in large part because it's so similar to the secondhand smoke business ("Trace amounts of gas pose dire threat", scientists say). And I pay rather less attention to the EU, in large part because the only thing I know it's proposing is an EU-wide smoking ban.
I don't believe that any of these are conspiracies. Or if they are conspiracies, they've been conspiracies in plain sight for many decades. No, to me they all look like examples of idealism, 'building a better world' and all that. A smoke-free world is (some people's idea of) an ideal world. A green world, devoid of cars and machines and factories, is another ideal world. And the EU state, into which all the countries of Europe have been dissolved, never to fight wars with each other ever again, is yet another ideal world. Who could possibly object to a green, smoke-free, war-free world?
But to me it all looks exactly like what was happening in Russia 100 years ago, when Bolshevik revolutionaries set out to overthrow the tsar and the old scheme of things, and build a heroic new Worker State, where everyone would be, y'know, ... equal. It very rapidly turned into a complete dystopia, with a gulag archipelago of labour camps. It turned into something far, far worse than anything that preceded it.
And I think that the same is likely to happen with the latest utopian dream of a green, smoke-free, war-free world. It'll just turn into another awful dystopia. It's already happening. The smoking ban is trumpeted as a great success, but it's only a success if the downsides of it are ignored (and of course they are ignored) in terms of fractured communities, bankrupt pubs, large scale smuggling, not to mention the falls in productivity and inventiveness as people stop smoking and get 30% dumber.
With global warming and 'green' energy, the result is whole countries carpeted with useless windmills, and dimbulbs in every home. Pretty soon we'll probably start having prolonged power cuts, as one by one the old power stations stop working.
As for the EU, the cracks are already beginning to show, in Ireland and Greece and most likely next Spain and Portugal and Italy. The EU, as best I can see, is an institution which generates thousands of restrictive rules and regulations which simply make life more difficult for everyone everywhere.
None of this surprises me particularly. There was a time, 30 or 40 years ago, when I would have thoroughly supported all these things. I've said before that I used to be a bit left wing (i.e. a bit of an idealist). I also used to be a bit of an environmentalist. I was all in favour of 'progressive' measures of every kind. Furthermore, a lot of the people I knew gradually gave up smoking over that period. And quite a few became 'environmentally aware'. And some bought into the idea of Europe, whatever the idea was. Only reactionary know-nothing stick-in-the-muds objected. There's a lot of soft support out there for smoking bans, green technology, European integration, and all that jazz.
But while a lot of the people I knew were going in that direction, I was slowly walking away. It perhaps began a few weeks after I'd walked into the Department of the Environment in London, some time around 1971, and told them that they should make people build houses with 6 inches of insulation in the walls. They listened to me kindly. But a few weeks later I woke up in the middle of the night, remembering the faint suggestion by one of them that it was perhaps a tad fascistic to require people to do things like that. That night, I realised that it was indeed fascistic. Who was I to tell people to fill their walls with insulation? It was up to them to make their own choices, wasn't it? Just because I'd written a computer programme that showed what savings could be made, did that make me an expert or something?
The end maybe came a few years later when I was a university researcher in building heat flow, and a young man (younger than me, anyway) came around and unfurled the plan of an eco-friendly, self-sufficient farm he wanted to build in Somerset, complete with solar collectors and all sorts of environmental gizmoes, and even a duck pond, and after studying it for a while I asked him how it was going to earn any money to buy stuff like seeds and new solar collector panels.
"Oh," he said. "We'll earn money from the tourists."
So there it was. He was going to build a 'self-sufficient', show eco-farm which was supposed to be funded by all the tourists who'd want to pay to visit it, and buy T-shirts and mugs and stuff.
It was completely barmy. After that, I began to see environmentalists as rather barmy. Just like I've always seen anti-smokers as rather barmy (there were hardly any of them 40 years ago). And vegetarianism.
Looking back at that time, I think that most of what I thought, and what everyone I knew thought, was all rather barmy. It hadn't been properly thought through. And it was all driven by idealism of one sort or other. But as I was retreating from it all, lots of other latecomers were piling in.
I suppose I've come to distrust idealism of any sort. And I've also come to distrust the idea of state planning. All these things look very captivating on the surface. But none of it has been fully thought through. Because the ideals can never be attained, and the planning always goes wrong. Because nobody really knows what they're doing. And nobody is smart enough.
I suppose that the way that I see the world these days, it's as a place of toil and suffering, some of which can be slightly alleviated here and there. For this is what the world has always been like, and very likely always will be like, only slightly better, or slightly worse. And rather than trying to make the world a better place, I'm more interested in stopping it becoming a worse place than it already is.
You are, I think, doing well if you are moderately prosperous, and have a circle of friends, and can simply go down to a pub in the evening and drink a few beers and smoke a few cigarettes and shoot a few games of pool.
But the antismoking idealists and the health zealots and the environmentalists and the EU technocrats - all busy making the world a 'better' place, all busy working for that green, smoke-free, war-free, ideal world - have already managed to remove even this simple pleasure. And that's before they've really got started with all their other grand plans for everyone.
It'll be a disaster, of course. It always is. The plans never work out. I just wonder how bad it'll be this time. I wonder how many people will tortured and locked up and shot and gassed and bayoneted when it all goes wrong, and they start looking round for 'wreckers' to blame for this latest failure of theirs to create their latest ideal world. Because none of them really have any idea what they're doing. None of them have really thought any of it through. None of them are that smart. No, not even the bankers and the Bilderbergers and the Masons and the Illuminati.
And when it all comes apart, there'll be a call to return to the world the way it was before, whatever's left of it. And the pubs will re-open, and you'll be able to drink and smoke as much as you like, if there's any beer to drink or tobacco to smoke. And they'll burn one or two lumps of real coal in the hearth. And there'll be a sovereign parliament in Westminster, with 30 or 40 MPs who can afford the horses to ride there. And nobody will want to hear any talk of any ideal world, shimmering like a holy grail on the horizon. And nobody will want to hear anybody's plans for anything either. They'll have had enough.
This brief respite won't last long, of course. Pretty soon, the idealists and the planners will be back again, with some new utopian goal in mind. Perhaps one in which dogs walk on their hind legs. Or parrots write books. Or everyone has a tricycle with a silver bell on it. Or whatever.