“... everyone who comes into contact with a child is a teacher who incessantly describes the world to him, until the moment when the child is capable of perceiving the world as it is described. According to Don Juan, we have no memory of that portentous moment, simply because none of us could possibly have had any point of reference to compare it to anything else. From that moment on, however, the child is a member. He knows the description of the world; and his membership becomes full fledged, I suppose, when he is capable of making all the proper perceptual interpretations which, by conforming to that description, validate it ...”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

On Choice and Constraint

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An excerpt from Off Our Butts

“Now, in 2016, cigarette smoking in North America is indeed more common among people living in poverty. They smoke because they do not have the time or money to eat properly, because other, more respectable mind-altering drugs are not available to them, because it is something to enjoy. They do it because their jobs (when they still exist) are so boring and physically painful that they would rather die. Yet professionals in the wellness industry routinely describe their smoking social inferiors as “stupid” and “irrational” on the basis of their supposedly self-undermining lifestyle choices.

It’s by now an iron law that whenever the poor are discussed, so are their “bad life choices.” If professionals can’t do something properly or fast enough, they can readily avail themselves of a diagnosis of one or another “health problem”—even something as vague and generic as “stress” or “burnout.” These are conditions that are imagined to have stricken them randomly—as opposed to a malignant, self-inflicted malady tied to their lifestyle, upbringing, or that sketchy antidepressant they stupidly decided to take. Even though so many children of the professional class clearly have asthma due in part to the persistent bourgeois hygiene neurosis (the antibacterial hand gel all but mandated by this neurosis being a proven contributing factor), they and their germophobe parents deserve empathy, time off, and specific disability rights. By contrast, working-class smokers deserve only reproach and are asked to tiptoe around the expansive, socio-moral and self-induced sensitivities of the rich.

Once, at an Occupy Wall Street assembly, standing six feet beyond the last concentric circle in the parking lot, I lit up a cigarette. In short order, I was asked to leave. I insisted on Occupying.

Like them, we shall pursue our own desires for pleasure no matter how whimsical, and if our desire is to smoke, then offended professionals can just hold their breath for once—perhaps using this blessed interval of silence to meditate on their thieving class and its own grotesquely swollen “carbon footprint.” If state and capital are going to steal our precious energies and vast hours of our lives to line their pockets with profit, leaving us with poor sleep, insufficient rent money, and a diet of 7-Eleven specials as we provide the country’s most basic services, the very least we deserve is to enjoy our cigarettes in peace. So if anyone asks, it’s not that smoking should be permitted because cigarettes can be proved an absolute good, which they cannot, but simply because for the time being we happen to smoke them. We might call this giving professionals a taste of their own entitlement. Heaven forbid they choke on it.”

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