Very few people have heard of an international smoker’s conference in Moscow way back in autumn of 2014. Maybe it’s because its results were weak, even though representation was strong.
Represented were 21 international organizations, defending smoker’s rights, mostly from Europe. Absent were the Brits (they could not get their visas in time) and Americans. Present were several South Americans and one very vocal Indonesian. The Russian Movement for Smoker’s Rights was the host; the hotel was Kempinski, the ambiance perfect.
There has never been such an event before [there were TICAP conferences in 2009 and 2010, though; ed.], and nobody tried to repeat it after 2014. Let me offer some of my personal ideas on what was wrong about that conference, and how could we make it better next time. Oh, yes, there has to be a next time, and a next time after that, since the absolute global evil of Tobacco Control can only be defeated by a global movement. While resistance movements can hold conferences via video, the real ones should be preferred.
That conference was in a way very much like our beloved Smokingbandits, meaning that it boiled down to fiery speeches to each other, showing us that we thought alike and were very happy to listen to like-minded people. (And who isn’t?) Conferences are good at developing common ideologies, and also at sharing experiences, but they are bad if you leave them, grumbling “so, what comes next?”. Thing is, you do have to know what comes next when you leave, or else the time spent with wonderful like-minded people would be wasted.
I mean, you have to agree to a common plan of action, which in itself transforms people attending the conference into an organization. And you also need to agree to something like a common ideology of such organization, which proclaims its ultimate and nearest goals. Ideologies and plans are of use only when they go hand in hand. An ideology is something that you spread everywhere, looking for more like-minded people. You do it through all kind of media, as in publicity. But that already means some organized action, with plans agreed upon and people willingly undertaking some responsibilities.
So what did our conference do in these regards? Oh, it has passed a resolution, of course – conferences always do that. Essentially, that noble document said that our common goal was (and still is, by the way) developing tolerance between smokers and non-smokers in each and every society.
Tolerance against intolerance, respectful debate versus brainwashing – who says it’s a wrong approach? But the problem is, even if the media present there, at the conference, reported that admirable fact, I don’t see any impact it made. If you want your voice to be heard, you have to know exactly how to make people listen. I strongly suspect that the printouts with that tolerance idea got themselves into wastepaper baskets on the same day.
To think of it, the Smokingbandits is presently doing something very similar – trying to forge a common ideology, hoping that it will reach global audiences kind of by itself. But it won’t. It will stay inside our charmed circle of stubborn fighters, unless we have a concrete plan of further actions and find the people to implement it. By the way, if that Moscow conference had decided to create an international blog like Smokingbandits, and followed it through, it would have been a good result of the gathering. But it didn’t do even that.
I’d like to remind, very humbly, that in my previous posts I’ve tried to offer to us all an outline of our common ideology – or at least the set of slogans passing as such. Total destruction of Tobacco Control as our goal seems to be the slogan #1. Tolerance may only come after that. You tolerate your smoking or non-smoking neighbors, not the well-paid screaming zealots.
But there is, so far, no elected or unelected international body to accept and promote that ideology, or to throw it away and produce something better. And there is still no organized effort to make that ideology public. We still go on speaking to each other, enjoying the process.
Now, let us try to list the things that we might, or should, do together, as an international movement, and outline the problems we need to solve. The list seems to be formidable, but it would have been very dull if it was short and simple.
- We need to find a couple of simple and achievable goals, and attain them – as in making some local or national governments cancel some particularly idiotic smoking bans. Or at least we need to try it, and make it known, and to see our own strengths and weaknesses in the process. And then we need to try again and again.
- We need to attack (verbally or legally) some particularly vile TC personalities, so as at the very least not to let such people think that they will go away with impunity all the time.
- We need, in the process, to create that “we” formally – as an organization, with a name and spokespeople.
- We need to start promoting our ideas beyond our narrow circle, and to start working with other media, mainstream or of other kind.
- We need to find the money to make a good start, and then more money to go on. And something tells me it won’t be the tobacco companies that will give that money. In fact, if the first stages of our struggle taught us anything, it’s that the tobacco companies have their own priorities, and you should not expect them to finance smoker’s movements. They didn’t do it before, and they won’t do it now.
- We also need to find celebrities to speak on our behalf, or create such celebrities. Not to mention courting the political parties or similar organizations.
- And we need to raise up enough of young people to participate, which is an interesting challenge. I’d hate to see us as a gathering of old people, exchanging memories of a kind, reasonable and comfortable world before the TC came along.
I’ll try to elaborate on some of these ideas in my next posts. While now it’s time to conclude with a simple warning: if the Smokingbandits just goes on like it does now, it’ll soon become something like that Moscow conference of 2014. Namely, a good start that fizzled out all too soon.