I went to the Chinese takeaway earlier on to get me dinner, and came back incandescent with rage. Not because of the food, but because the nice lady who runs it asked me if I wanted a newspaper to read while waiting, and I said yes. So, she gave me the Sunday Times (Northampton is one of the more highbrow chavtowns) and down at the bottom of page 1 was a little story with a headline something like, “Pssst, Can I Have Some You-Know-What Please?” about the fact that our glorious government has decided enforce plain tobacco packaging. Here it is in the Daily Mail.
There are times when I take some leave from the blogosphere and pretty much stop looking at the news, because it just makes me angry and I need a break from the stress. Because, for me, pretty much everything that happens at the social and political level is something I don’t want to happen. The tide is eternally flowing in the opposite direction to that in which I wish it were flowing. I cannot think of a single new law, or new initiative, or economic policy, which I have approved of in more years than I care to remember. I feel as if I am living in a nation of aliens; or rather, that I am alone alien teleported into 21st century Britain and trying to understand and survive it. I increasingly feel like I’ve nothing in common with everyone around me. How can I be so out of step with public opinion? Is everyone else mad, or is it me?
My anger at this latest announcement is beyond my ability to describe. The English language does not have sufficiently extreme adjectives. “Incandescent” seems far too mild. I feel like, if I met one of the Righteous, perhaps on the way back from the Chinese, I would be unable to restrain myself from violence against them. I feel that way because I know they hate me, and thus to hate them in turn is a normal reaction. They hate me with the same intensity that Nazis hated the Jews, Communists hated the kulaks, the Ku Klux Klan hated blacks. They want to do me harm; they lie awake nights figuring out how to do me harm.
I feel scared.
I wonder how far this puritan phase will run for before it runs out of steam, or there is a backlash. We know who the next targets are already, and the run-up against them is already underway; drinkers of course, and fat people. And meat eaters. Oh, and off-message Christians, caught in the crossfire of progressivist groups emulating the religious struggle in the USA. Maybe ten years from now, Bibles will have to be sold in a plain cover, like pornography.
So anyway. Why does this matter so much? Who cares about packaging anyway? Well, it matters because it is another step forward for the Enemy, in general terms. But it is a remarkable step forward. According to the Times and the Mail, tobacco will be sold “without branding”. No brands.
Think about that for a moment. If it is being reported correctly, they are taking a step never taken before in western economic history, which is to ban the identification of particular products. The reports say there will be nothing on the packets except a picture of a dead baby with its guts torn out and “a smoker did this” as a caption (or, a health warning as it is politely called).
How do you order a product when it has no name? Will it be like the pop singer Prince, and we’ll have to ask for “25g of the product formerly known as Golden Virginia”? And if the packet is blank, how can you know what the shopkeeper has given you? It could be anything. It probably will be. It seems that there will be nothing sold but generic “tobacco”. If this goes ahead, presumably a few years down the road you will only be able to buy blank bottles of generic “beer” and “wine”. No Bombardier or 6X or Spitfire, no Merlot or Beaujolais. Just generics. Probably just stamped “alcohol- deadly poison”.
To remove branding is to remove the possibility of choice, that most glorious consequence of free market capitalism. Branding is the most wonderful thing, because it is a manifestation of the reality that products are not fungible. We don’t just buy “bread”. We buy Warburtons Soft White Farmhouse or Hovis Brown or what have you. A brand identifies the manufacturer; it allows you to make market judgements like “that was good last time, I’ll have that type again”. Without it, you cannot exert your will in the marketplace.
Which of course is what those evil people, the Progressives, want.
They can often be found eulogising the good old days before brands, and advertising. When you went to a local shop for local people instead of a nasty supermarket, and got “eggs” and “flour” and “cheese” and there was one type of each and that was that, and it might be different each time. You had no idea. Branding changed all that. Once shops were selling different manufacturers’ products, and consumers had choice, brands appeared. It became, Macdougall’s Flour and Farmer Brown’s Eggs. So removing branding is an essential part of the Proggies’ desperate, stupid urge to fling us all back to the pre-industrial era; to end “consumerism”.
I feel scared.
I can see the world I grew up in being dismantled, bit by bit. There are times I wish they’d just get it over with. In a sense, it is the gradualism that is unbearable. There are times I wish they’d just ban everything- baccy and beer, burgers and bangers, and all the rest- once and for all. Instead, they creep forward one apparently tiny step at a time. It’s like being executed with a bacon slicer.
Sometimes I think, this cannot go on. There will be a reaction. There will be a great rebellion and they will be cast out of the high places, these evil priests of puritanism. But days like today, I feel totally hopeless. This law will pass without complaint and a year from now I will be buying a pack of something-or-other from an apologetic newsagent, and we’ll grumble and put up with it. We are excluded from the public discourse. We can blog, but ministers don’t read blogs. They have meetings with ASH and Alcohol Concern and Mothers Against This That And The Other, and blogger after blogger writes impressive articles and is ignored, while the guardianista front called Mumsnet decide to do a “campaign” on the first thing that enters their tiny chattering class minds, and it gets in the papers. I want to do something. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if there is anything I even possibly can do.
I am a libertarian. I am as is well known more than happy to spend hours in intense arguments about anarcho-capitalism or the Land Value Tax or the value of a PPE degree. But the bottom line is, I just want to be left alone. That is my grand political ideology. Nothing more. I’d like to just be left alone to go about my life, quietly and peacefully. It does not seem like too much to ask; but my nation (and it seems, all others) is full of these hateful people who just will not leave me alone; whose sole purpose in life is to not leave me alone. I want to grab them by the lapels and shout, “Why are you doing this to me?!”
But I know what they would say, and it fills me with sadness, and with anger. They would just say, with a smug, patronising smile, “Because we can. Because you can’t stop us. Because it makes us feel good. That’s why.”