stories

The Last of The Smoker - Chapter 1 - page 5

In the towns, tobacco stores had been ostracized from their neighbourhoods. The stores near our house had gone out of business one by one and I was having to travel some distance to buy my cigarettes. Finally only one shop remained.

"You're not going to close down too, are you?" I asked the old man who ran the shop. "If you do, then bring all the cigarettes you have in stock to my house."

That night the old man brought his complete stock to my house. It seemed he had been waiting for an opportunity to close down and had jumped at my offer.

Discrimination against smokers was worsening rapidly. The countries of Europe and America had already managed to ban smoking entirely. Of course, Japan being a backward country, cigarettes were still on sale and people were still smoking. People said that Japan ought to be ashamed of such a situation. Consequently, smokers were treated like scum and people who lit up in public were often beaten up.

There is a theory that natural human intelligence prevents us from behaving excessively stupidly. I am opposed to this theory. I can't be sure what level of stupidity could be classed as excessive, but you do n't have to look that deeply into history to find plenty of cases when human stupidity has resulted in executions and mass murders. Discrimination against smokers soon grew to the level of a witch-hunt; since the anti-smokers did not believe that they were acting irrationally, the whole situation was out of control. People are never more cruel than when they are convinced of the righteousness of their cause, be it religion, goodness, justice or whatever. On the basis of this new religion which held that discrimination against smokers was healthy, people brandished their notions of justice and goodness, and the anti-smoking hysteria produced its first murder. A man known as the heaviest smoker in his town, who had refused to quit no matter how much people tried to persuade him, was butchered to death on the street in broad daylight by two police officers and a hysterical group of eighteen housewives who were out shopping. It was said that when he died, nicotine and tar spewed out of the holes in his body left by the bullets and bread knives.

When Tokyo was hit by a major earthquake causing fires in densely populated urban areas, wild rumours circulated blaming the damage on smokers. Roadblocks were set up and all refugees with gravelly voices wer e executed as smokers. It would appear that those who discriminate sink on a sub-conscious level from guilt into paranoia.