MINISTRY OF CULTURE
LESSON 17: SMOKING
Cough, cough! Wheeze. Hacccccccccc. Spthoooo! Argh. That's got him. Sorry about that. Bit of a problem with the old bellows there. But welcome, my privileged hordes, to this month's heart-warming column. Instead of pompously lecturing you about the intricate minutiae of modern 20th Century culture, this month I'm just going to loosen my cravat, unwind, and suck back a few dozen Marlboro. Hack! Hack! Ahhh! That's better.
So, What is smoking?
Smoking is suicide, plain and simple. Thus it follows that smoking is the acceptable face of existentialism. No - come back! It's a great concept. As erstwhile Algerian goalkeeper, Albert Camus postulated, life is absurd. And boy was he right. Life is as absurd as seven horses on a lilypad playing canasta. And then some.
Consider: every harrowing day on this turgid, spinning rock is fundamentally pointless. This inane world turns and turns, like a grinning dolt on a swivel chair, and we humans accomplish nothing. As a race, our greatest and most lasting testament to our existence has been the destruction of the entire natural vivacity and beauty of the globe, only to replace it with grey concrete shrines to commerce and fatuous status.
Anyone for a smoke?
How Did Smoking Start?
Until October 15, 1492, few people smoked. Only really groovy tribesmen were privy to the herb, and being Native Americans they enjoyed a crafty smoke, albeit solemnly for 6000 years, until us Europeans came and civilised them (genocide). Smoking etiquette has changed very little over the last 500 years, so naturally when Christopher Columbus arrived, they splashed the ash. He sparked up, sucked back a hefty lungful, and puked all over his buckskin.
It was 200 itchy-brained years before the mighty baccy made it to these jabbering shores, though. Until then Europeans had to develop their own anti-social habits such as power-belching and jabbing needles into infants. Yes, the populace was bored and listless; they wanted danger and pointless expense and neither smoking nor the space project had been invented; so they made do with jousting.
Luckily for those without access to either a lance or a horse, Sir Walter Raleigh a young explorer, poet and bicycle repair-man, skipped merrily into the court of Queen Elizabeth the first with a pack of 20 and enough potatoes for a dozen bags of chips. Huzzah!
The Queen was delighted and immediately made him a "Sir" like Paul McCartney. Only not such a dickhead, obviously.
How to Start Smoking
It's not easy. It requires dedication, and in the later stages, medication. It hurts, makes you cough and feel sick. You have to stick at it, and you never really get to like it, but you miss it when it's not around. Like Happy Days, then. Only funnier.
STEP 1: BUY SOME CIGARETTES
You can, of course, steal some from your father, but he will find out and in time-honoured tradition, will force you to smoke the remaining 10 in the packet in rapid succession. This is an attempt to nauseate you, but if your father really wants to do that the best thing to do is to talk about oral sex with your mother. However, this may make you smoke more. And drink.
STEP 2: LIGHT UP
Be bold. Sitting there with it dangling in your mouth unlit is like taking a dead dog for a walk or trying to play guitar while it's in the case or, OK OK OK, I think you've got it.
STEP 3: INHALE
There are two ways to inhale.
One is like sucking on a straw, keeping the smoke in your mouth, puffing your pathetic virginal hamster cheeks and letting it slip daintily out through your nose, convincing no-one. This shabby lie is intended to create the impression that you are from Paris, and you write poetry and what's more, you smoke all the time. Be warned: it fools no one. A blind chimp can see it for the pseudo-intellectual posturing it is. This is what Billy Clinton did with the big fat joint full of DRUGS that was passed to him at university. Don't be like him. EVER. Suck the creamy carcinogens deep into the furthermost reaches of your pink little lungs. Turn them into aching brown paper bags of tar. You know it makes sense.
STEP 4: EXHALATION
Real smokers don't exhale. They hold that puff right back there until it seeps out through their pores.
STEP 5: ENCORE
Wait a few minutes, perhaps mix a double bloody Mary with a sherry in the top, and then start all over again. Splendid. Told you it was fun, didn't I?
MODERN SOCIETY'S ATTITUDE TO SMOKING
This breaks down into subsets: do-gooders, idiots and hypocrites.
THE SHOELACE PATROL
These people have your interest at heart. They want you to quit, they want you to wear a seat-belt, and they would love to impose a fine for having your shoelace undone. They want to punish you for harming yourself. They are sick. Ignore them, and if you can't - destroy them.
THE PANIC BRIGADE
"Waaaaah!" they squawk like the mewling infants they so desperately want to protect, "Waaaaah! Your smoke may harm me." Fact: passive driving (being run over) is responsible for far more deaths than passive smoking, but they ignore this. What they are really shouting is "Waaaaah! You are breaking the rules and that scares me."
THE PEOPLE BEHIND IT ALL ARE SOULLESS MERCENARIES
Or "Fuck 'em." This is generally the governmental stance. Under the caring pre-text of providing an incentive to quit, they drive the price up yearly - and pocket the difference. Kerching! Their commitment to our health is so great that they spend the money made on nuclear fuel and weaponry. Makes you feel all warm inside, doesn't it? Well, no it doesn't, but SMOKING does. And thank Satan for that, say the tobacco companies in the comfort of their impenetrable fortresses in Virginia. It's big money, and for managing to sell us a product we neither need nor want, they deserve it.
Why Is Smoking Cool then?
Aside from the bearded existential qualities of this stinking, finger-browning habit, there is undeniably something pleasing about the way it looks and forces one's gestures. It is (akin to taking ones glasses off) a fantastic prop with which to emphasise powerful dramatic silences. Take this excerpt from a recent Broadway smash:
MARY: Doug, don't leave me.
DOUG: Mary, it's like this (TAKES CIGARETTE FROM PACKET. LIGHTS IT. LOOKS AT MARY) I hate you.
A powerful piece of drama, made even more powerfuller by its prudent use of the humble cigarette.
But lastly, and perhaps most pertinently, it is the last form of rebellion in a civilisation so apathetic and straight that at the recent Woodstock II no-one took LSD at all (although, seemingly everyone had a bad trip.)
Yes, smoking is defiance. It is revelling in stupidity. It is akin to walking around with a stick of dynamite up your arse, and how cool is that? Hang on a minute.
Hang on a minute
Hang on a minute. You're right, it's stupid. I wish I had never started. My carcass gets more polluted by the second and some bloke in Virginia is a millionaire? I'm being exploited. Right, I'm quitting.
After this next pack.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT?
We used to talk our problems over with cigarettes and coffee. Now our problems ARE cigarettes and coffee
Four sailors in a boat and they all want to smoke, but no-one has a match. How do they do it? They throw one sailor overboard and make the boat a cigarette lighter.
They have secretly developed cigarettes that do your body no harm at all, not many people know about them. They're called bananas.
Until next time
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