My Politically Incorrect Habits (pt 2)
What does personal freedom entail? Most people I think, with the possible exception of some anarchists, would probably agree it includes the freedom (though not the requirement) to do that which is supportive of both society and its government. What else might it entail? Again, I think most people would argue that except in extreme circumstances, freedom does not extend to doing things detrimental to a society or its government. The difficulties, of course, are this: at what point might people claim to be in those extreme circumstances and what actions are truly detrimental to a society or government? I don’t propose to answer such questions today. I want to explore freedom from a slightly different perspective.
Do freedom and liberty include the right to violate the freedoms and liberties of others? Again, the answer from most people, at least in the modern West, is “no.” We are not free, in the view of most, to violate another’s rights or to endanger another, in the exercise of our own freedoms, except perhaps in the most extreme of circumstances. Again, we are faced with two difficult questions. Is the circumstance in which I find myself truly extreme enough to justify infringing upon another person’s rights? Are the actions I’m taking truly likely to do so?
The temptation is to declare those freedoms, or the way some might exercise them, a threat to the freedoms/liberties/rights of others. Declaring them so does not make them such. It merely suggests they might be such a threat. The fact is, any effort to exercise a freedom or right might impinge upon the rights of others. We don’t want such a thing to happen, of course, but we don’t prevent real impingement upon the rights of others by categorically limiting the rights of people to do things we might find reprehensible or undesirable. All that accomplishes, in many cases, is limiting freedom in the name of our preferences. Before we declare something illegal, before we tell people they can’t do something, we should have a real indication we are justified in such a limitation of freedom. Thus, we say murder is illegal because it deprives another person of life. Yet, we recognize that not all homicide is murder, though in most cases it is at least distasteful.
Let’s go further. What about suicide? Should it be illegal? Should it be legal? Are there any circumstances in which it is or should be permissible for a person to take her own life? Are there any in which it should be illegal? Should we require that to avoid intervention by the state, a person must be in his “right mind” before he is allowed to kill himself? Going even further, are there circumstances in which a sane person desiring to take his own life will somehow infringe upon the rights of others if he does so? Is the arguable mental anguish to be suffered by his friends and family sufficient cause for the state to intervene?
I would argue that the impact of a person’s actions upon others must be so clearly a violation of their freedoms/liberties/rights that regard for their freedoms demands the person’s actions be limited. Possible or supposed violations of the rights of others, or violations that “might occur” are not sufficient reason to limit the rights of people, even people who do things we might find repugnant. Thus, while I am repulsed by the idea of suicide, I am not willing for the state to intervene to prevent a sane person from taking his or her own life. Might it cause heartache and anguish for survivors? Absolutely. In fact, I think it is almost guaranteed to do so. Still, freedom from heartache and anguish are not guaranteed by the Constitution.
This brings me to the politically incorrect habit for this post. Please understand that what follows is not an endorsement of or encouragement to tobacco use. I smoke tobacco pipes, on occasion. Why? The simple answer is that the act helps me relax (I’m both a nurse and a hypnotist so I understand it is the act that aids relaxation. Tobacco itself has never helped anyone relax). Currently, the use of tobacco in any form is frowned upon and is becoming increasingly restricted, in spite of a rather significant lack of good research suggesting secondhand smoke is the problem it is portrayed as being. Regardless, I don’t smoke in public simply because others find it unpleasant. Politeness, then, suggests I not do such a thing. For similar reasons I do not smoke in our house. I know that stale tobacco smoke is an unpleasant smell and I don’t want my family or our guests to be subjected to that unpleasant smell, so I don’t do it. So, for me, secondhand smoke is not an issue at all.
Is smoking good for me? No, of course not. While smoking a pipe does help me relax, there are other ways to relax that are at least as effective and arguably more so. Further, they do so without the attendant health risks associated with tobacco use. Tobacco use is not, in any way, shape or form, risk free. I’m very aware of the risks its use entails and choose to engage in such use. It is something in which I engage only when I am either away from other people, at my home, or in the presence of those who do not object to me doing so. And yet, there are those who would and have told me that my right to occasionally smoke a pipe, in other words to engage in a legal activity, within the confines of my own property should be curtailed or even eliminated even in the absence of any hint that it infringes upon the rights of others. To put it yet another way, it is said the activity is somehow so inherently dangerous as to necessitate its restriction. Nonsense. Secondhand smoke may be dangerous to other people, though the research is less than impressive. Besides, no one is exposed to secondhand smoke by me except by their consent. This attitude or belief, that society can and should limit freedoms solely on the basis of the popularity of a point of view, is inimical to freedom. Now, as to my political incorrectness…
A Christmas Gift
This is the pipe my wife gave me for Christmas. You can’t read the writing on the pouch, but it is a Peterson. They are handcrafted and, like every Peterson I’ve smoked, this one smokes very cool and easily.
A Bad Habit Collection
Given that I have almost one pipe for each day of the week, and that I don’t smoke every day, I may have enough of them, yes? By the way, the corn cob pipe on the bottom left is made by Missouri Meerschaum, whose pipes were smoked by people as different as Mark Twain and Douglas MacArthur. One advantage they have, even over traditional briar pipes of Peterson quality, is that they require no break in period. The other advantage is that they are much less expensive. Breaking a quality briar is a cause for tears. Breaking a corn cob pipe, on the other hand, is an inconvenience. Oh, and the lighter is a Zippo.