Thursday, November 3, 2011

On Public Relations

In the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan, a Japanese government official has declared the water around the plant 'safe' and 'proved' this by drinking some. In front of flashing cameras, the 'nervous' looking cabinet spokesman, Yasuhiro Sonoda, downed a glass of water said to be from the 'decontaminated' stock of water that has been biulding up around the reactors in the plant. All of course, to try and reassure the Japanese public that all is well and there is nothing to see here.

The cameras didn't record what they weren't meant to. They won't have recorded the medical team that no doubt flushed Yasuhiro Sonoda with before and after he drank the water. Nor were they on had to see the water being taken from the plant. All that mattered was the spokesman being seen to drink the water and look nervous as well.

This ladies and gentleman, is the wonderful world of Public Relations, where the truth is exactly what you want it to be! Sonoda-San*, the Japanese spokesman, is what we call a spin doctor, a master of spin. Spin is the art of manipulating the facts for the public so that the public sees what you want them to see. And most of the time it's not really telling lies, just shining the truth in a different way. It's probably been happening ever since humans learned to speak to each other, but we are seeing it on a massive scale in the present day.

The art of 'spin' has greatly evolved in the past decades. Before, rulers could simply rely on people's in ability to gain 'information' simply becuase there wasn't the medium for someone to get the information. However new mediums have been growing with the invention of the movable type printing press, which allowed books and newspapers to be created cheaply since someone didn't have to sit and write out every copy. These mediums have been growing with gathering momentum, expanding from the printed word to radio, then television and now the giant beast that is the internet. With these new mediums of information rapidly spreading, and the ability to access them also growing rapidly, various groups feel the need to manipulate what people are reading to present the message they want.

So enters the spin doctor, or as they prefer to be called, 'Public Relations Officers' or 'Spokespersons'. If your government is pushing forward an unpopular tax, let them . You're factory smog seems to be making people ill? Don't worry, we'll get a guy in a lab coat to tell everyone it's all OK. I remember recently here in Malaysia when there was a front page spread about how the transport minister, in response to complaints about how bad the trains are getting, took the train to work once to show how good the system was. It was in the newspaper after all!

No, he didn't take the train to work. His train didn't break down while he was crammed like a sardine in a leaky carriage with the air conditioning broken. Nor was his train delayed becuase 'a goods train is passing through' (lots of these invisible goods trains about!) meaning he had to kick about on the platform for an indeterminate amount of time. He didn't have the joy of using a station toilet either, or the fun of having to wait for a crowded bus to take you to and from the station. That's riding the train!

What he did was get out of his convoy, step into a specially prepared train with all his aids and hangers on, ride a few stops and then get back in his convoy so he could go roaring down the road, sirens blaring, for another day of moving paper around a big desk. There is a sizable difference.**

But what do the public see of this? Nothing, just a smiling guy (they are taught to smile) in a train, looking happy and definitely riding it. All is well in the world.

This happens a lot, more than we could possibly believe. Everyone it seems has a Public Relations firm on hand these days. So what are we to do? Simple really, just pay attention. A lot of 'stuff' is slipped past us these days under the gaze of spin. Look at how long we let the bankers run amok before the whole thing exploded

Yes, it's hard to be informed today, but it's not impossible. It's a simple matter of asking questions.

Remember BP? Their dodgy, unsafe oil platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico not long ago, causing the biggest oil spill in history. They said we're very sorry and spent $90 million on Public Relations in the first three months alone to show off how they were all cleaning up the mess and then blame a contractor for the actual explosion. They also showed lots of pictures of their shiny equipment that was meant to clean up the mess, said they were spending $13 billion cleaning up their mess.

Lots of people bought it, but lots of people asked questions. And guess what? The Public Relations picture fell apart. People noticed the faked photographs that BP was releasing. Others questioned how shiny and effective BP's equipment actually was (not very it turned out). They uncovered evidence that the spill was far worse and bigger than anyone was letting out.

Granted, a lot of this happened because President Obama's administration, which is heavily reliant on oil companies to stay in office via campaign donations, weighed in. But it happened non the less. Public questioning forced both the US President and other oil companies pulling the strings to act. Obama had to bee seen to do something, other oil companies, in their usual corporate solidarity, quickly asked him to help stab BP in the back.

See? It does work. Of course, everyone quickly forgot about this all and BP went on to make billions in profits months after the spill, but that's life.

Keep your eyes open


* My knowledge of Japanese naming conventions is not that great, but to my best knowledge -San is more polite than 'Mr'. Correct me if I'm wrong.

** OK, rail transport in Malaysia is actually pretty good when compared to other countries. It's cheap, it works a lot of the time and it get's you where you need to go. I'm just making a point!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to not 'defend' Islam [EDITED]

So... reading the news today and it turns out that some 'satirical' French magazine decided to print a newspaper where they pretended to ask the Prophet Muhammad to be their editor. It was full of the usual junk and, while clearly trying to capitalize on 'anti-Islamic' feeling in France*, it's the same rubbish, different day.

Then some misguided fool firebombed the newspaper's offices, destroying everything. Sadly, I knew this would probably happen. We have no idea who did this crime, and yes it's a crime, but it was probably some Muslim. Thoroughly predictable, thoroughly wrong, and thoroughly stupid.

Why, I ask myself, must these self declared 'defenders' of my faith stoop so low as to commit violence? What gives them the right to harm or damage another person or their property? Islam does not give them this right! They act out of misplaced anger and are utterly wrong.

I condemn their violent actions unconditionally. My suspicions is that it was a bunch of young hot heads, fueled by the idiocy on certain web forums, who did it. Their actions have hurt us all and they should be ashamed of what they did. I hope they are caught and the appropriate sentence is handed to them.

The thing is, these 'defenders' do more harm than good. When the newspaper decided to do it's publication, I saw the story on the BBC website. A few lines, a statement from the paper, and that was it. The moment the firebombing was reported, it shot up to the number one read article in a matter of hours. Some small newspaper being firebombed made a giant splash around the world.

This on the BBC, a news organization committed to balanced and fair reporting, that steadfastly stays away from any dramatization in its news to the extent that the site can be about as fun to read as a cereal packet. I've not even bothered to open some of the other news sites or check the anti-Islam blogs, but I expect that it will be huge there as well. Such stories are hotly demanded in this day and age.

So, what have these defenders actually achieved? Nothing. The idiocy of these youngsters has merely provoked the issue further, bringing more attention to it. If they really wanted to defend it, a letter to the editor would suffice, perhaps a phone call. Especially in Europe, where free speech is guaranteed even when it is an attack on someone else. Muslims must respect the laws of the land they live in, Islam demands it, and use proper channels to state their views.

If one is to defend Islam, one must absolve oneself from anger, emotion and personal feelings. You should take a step back, a deep breath and always remember that violence solves nothing. Words and education change minds and hearts, violence turns people away. The 'defenders' were really quite selfish in doing what they did, acting without thought or reasoning, to commit violence.

In cases like this, where the whole point is merely to provoke a reaction, it's best to ignore the stupidity. Had this newspaper been ignored, nothing would have happened. It would have published it's silly little articles and that would have been that. By a handful of people committing violence, 1.57 billion Muslims have been stained. This little episode won't die now, we'll be hearing of it, having it used to judge us all, for a long time.

So much for defending


*EDIT 1: It was pointed out to me on Facebook that the magazine wasn't really doing anything or picking on Islam. Christianity is 'attacked' just as much if not more in France; thus it is wrong for me to say the magazine was riding on the anti-Islam wave. A statement from the magazine, to the effect that they state they are not provoking, supports this. No one denies that anti-Islam feelings are alive and kicking in France and Europe in general in a way that anti-Christianity feelings are not. However it's a stretch to say they caused this.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Congratulations on your 7 billionth child

Dear Mother Earth

Today, we are told your 7 billionth living child will be born somewhere in your abode of wonders. 7 billion of your children will now be living, breathing and enjoying the home you maintain for them.

It is quite an achievement, one worthy of respect. Only 13 years ago your 6 billionth living child was born. In fact, it is even more worthy of respect since while 7 billion of your children live now, over 80 billion have lived before. All of them nurtured and looked after by you, unquestioningly and in good faith. Indeed, we have prospered under your care, as the numbers show.

Sadly, we your children don't give the respect that you earned. We are a rebellious bunch and are extremely arrogant. While many of us sit here eating our way through your generous provisions, we pay little attention to where it comes from, who it goes to or what we'll do when your ample store runs out.

Indeed, we now fight over this generous gift and have done for generations! Hording, stealing and trampling over each other in our pursuit of your gifts. How angry you rightfully must be. This gift is for all, given without prejudice, yet we think we own it and have the right to say who get's what.

We even dig out all of the nasty stuff you had hidden away in your deepest darkest cupboards underground, safe from our inexperienced hands, and burn it in our orgy we call 'progress'. But this progress greatly hurts you, it chokes you, starves you. In our arrogance we hurt the very mother that looks after us.

You've tried to tell us, 'climate change' we call it as we ignore it's effects as we carry on with our 'progress'. Ignore as we slaughter some of your other children to extinction; the rhino, the tiger, the whale, all victims of our 'progress'. Ignore you despite your warnings, the storms, the floods, the earthquakes.

I feel you grow weary of nurturing us dear mother, I don't blame you. We, your children, cannot keep living like this in your home. One of us will reach breaking point. In your time, you have seen many of your children die out. Don't let us go the same way because of our stupidity.


Jack Cope

Child 80,418,626,841

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dawa and why I don't 'do it'

EDIT: I am aware that you can spell 'Dawa' as 'Dawah'. I spell it the former way, not sure which is more 'correct' but you know what I'm talking about anyway.

I thought I'd give you two posts to make up for having a week off. I like to pair my 'Islam' articles with something different so everyone get's something to read, even if they are not a religious sort. I'm nice like that. For the non-Muslims here, Dawa is the act of 'calling people to Islam', evangelicalism if you like. Let us begin...

I often get asked 'why don't you do Dawa'? I'm told how good I'd be at it given my apparent 'skill' at writing and talking (this raised my eyebrows). I'm told how wonderful it feels to welcome new brothers and sisters into the faith. And I'm told how it is every Muslims 'duty' to do this.

Frankly I've always been slightly repulsed by the thought of going up to someone and shoving my faith in their face. We've all had the people knocking at our door trying to spread the 'good news' and I've yet to know anyone who has 'converted' because of it. By and large, Muslims don't go knocking doors, not that I know anyway, but similar tactics of 'approaching' people exist.

Again, this makes me feel odd. Why should I mess with someone's choice of faith? What concern of mine is it? None I feel. But I'm told how wrong I am and how I should be shoving it in their faces.

But here's the thing, Dawa, as in 'evangelicalism', isn't really Dawa. I know plenty of 'converts' from these evangelical activities. Most of them aren't 'Muslim' any more. The other thing is that, yes, one of a Muslim's 'duty' is Dawa. But again Dawa isn't evangelicalism.

It's not how many 'souls you can save'. There is no thing in Islam over 'saving souls' and indeed, the actions of others are not taken into account when a person is judged for their life. A person's actions are all that matters. Granted, causing someone to sin means that the 'cost' of the sin is born by yourself as well but the same goes for causing someone to do something good. However, 'converting' someone never falls in anywhere.

Because Dawa is living as a good Muslim. I always say that every Muslim is an ambassador for their faith. Most of the 'converts' I was talking about cease to be 'Muslims' because we aren't 'Muslims' ourselves. We show them how Islam is and should be and then act in a completely different way and thus, they drop the faith that they 'converted' to. I don't blame them.

A friend of mine is studying in the Middle East right now. She told me how rude the 'Muslims' are, how they don't care for others, how the behave badly. She is, might I add, and Asian Muslim so this behavior is new to her. Indeed, a lot of Muslims go to the Middle East and expect it to be and Islamic paradise for some odd reason! How mistaken they are, in fact I must say of all the 'Islamic' places on earth, the Middle East is way towards the bottom of the list. Not to say there aren't good Muslims there, but the attitude in general is all wrong. They are not good ambassadors by far.

The other issue is with the evangelical Dawa givers themselves. They are all seem to be happy to 'convert' dozens of people, but they seem to skimp on the actual important bit of looking after other new Muslims and making sure they are secure in their faith. There is more to Islam than repeating the Shahadah with meaning you know. I'm ofter suspicious of these 'great' Dawa givers who convert people after a lecture or on their doorstep. What sort of person learns all there is to know about Islam in a few hours?! And what happens to them after this 'conversion'? There seems to be stress in getting people through the door and not caring what happens to them after. That is not Dawa.

We simply, as Muslims on the whole, don't behave correctly. If you really want to give Dawa then start with yourself. Start behaving 'Islamicly'. That doesn't mean you dress in a certain way and spend all your time in a Mosque. It means having manners, respect for others and behaving politely. It's really all about being a better human as well.

It means that you treat others as Islam says you should, it means kindness, compassion and charity to all of mankind. It means becoming a better Muslim. It means you go that extra bit to help others. It doesn't mean you go around feeling good at the dozen 'new Muslims' you 'created'.

You should never aim to be 'converting' people, rather you should make 'conversion' a by product of your life. If someone looks at you and feels they want to find out more about your faith then isn't that better than shoving it in their face? If they want help with this then by all means give it, but you shouldn't make it your goal.

That is the best Dawa you can ever give and it is what will actually 'convert' people. Be an ambassador, not an evangelical.


Reflecting on a week without internet (plus a little note on 'donations')

Once again my blog has been silent. This time it's not because I didn't want to write, it because I've not had a stable internet connection as I didn't pay my bill, or rather couldn't afford to. This week in internet pergotary has led to me reflecting on how much we use it and how much our lives, and mankind's future, will depend on it.

The internet is far more than the sum total of it's parts. It is far more than an ingenious way to connect multiple computers together, one that evolved from a US scheme to ensure it's ICBM network stayed intact in the event of the USSR going postal and launching a nuclear strike. That in itself is interesting, necessity is the mother of inventions as they say, but the fact that something that was designed to help survive the end of the world ended up creating a new one just goes to show how unpredictable history can be.

The internet is, in effect, the world. On it, you'll find pretty much everything and anything that ever existed and/or that mankind knows about. Granted, some of these bits are locked away in highly secure networks like the Pentagon's [insert name here] system, but it's still there and the countless attacks on supposedly secure systems shows that it can be read.

It's also very much alive and changing. I believe that it will become some sort of Artificial Intelligence at some point in the near future and that will be interesting/scary/probably a bad thing. We keep feeding this beast of copper wire* information and ideas, somethings going to happen sometime. And it's a witches brew of 'stuff' in this beast. It knows your telephone number, your bank details, your hospital records, it probably knows you better than you do yourself. Worrying? Yes, probably.

But what for the future? I think we have now come to the stage where we simply can't live properly without an internet connection. Our world revolves around cyberspace now, if it were to die tomorrow then there would be chaos. Pretty much everything you do in your life is connected to the beast somewhere. And as I found out last week, living without it is hard.

Our society will develop as the internet develops and because of it. I remember Matt Ridley, who's book I reviewed, called it 'where ideas have sex'. Crude but true. On the internet, two completely unrelated ideas can meet in ways unimagined before. The struggling biochemist in Germany can bump into the confused industrialist in India and find their ideas and needs mesh. Before, the biochemist would be stuck in her shed up to her eyes in chemicals and the industrialist would be staring at his unproductive factory because they would never have met. Neither would have got anywhere.

Can you imagine the number of ideas that never developed in the past because the bits of jigsaw never met? In this day and age the amount of development that happens purely because groups of people across the globe can 'meet' in cyberspace is huge. But more on that and our interconnected world another time I think.

In Africa two of the top things that development organizations are pushing these days are a) cheap computers and b) high speed internet. For a impoverished farmer and internet connection can be both a window to new techniques and a marketplace for his or her product. It's also a way to allow people to learn for a low cost. You no longer have to build a school, a $100 laptop and a 3G dongle is all a student needs to be linked into some cyber classroom and for the teacher to revive two dozen identical sets of homework all cut and pasted off Wikipedia. Don't lie, we've all done it and we've all been caught out. But with all this information at our fingertips and the ability to communicate ideas means that as a society we evolve faster than ever before.

The copper beast toppled the regimes in the Middle East as well. The old regimes had, on the whole, weathered decades of constant revolt but one thing changed this time. One thing meant that a bankrupt Tunisian student setting himself on fire as a protest over his food stall being closed down caused a tidal wave that touched every corner of the globe.

Expect for North Korea. Because they aren't allowed the internet. Never will they know the pain of searching through your Facebook 'friends' to see who unfreinded you. Never will they get the buzz from winning an Ebay auction. Never will they spend hours on Wikipedia looking up incredibly stupid stuff and somehow feeling fulfilled having done it. And never will those poor souls who live on grass overthrow their incredibly short and goofy looking 'Dear Leader' if they can't organize like the people of the Middle East did online.

Not all is good of course. I already stated how the beast knows more about you than you could possibly imagine. If it knows, anyone with a computer and a few skills can also know. And what about all the time that is 'wasted' on the internet? All the countless hours refreshing the Facebook newsfeed and the Twitter page, waiting for some inconsequential bit of 'news' about someone somewhere. I recall a study finding that companies lose hours of productivity per worker because of this timewasting.

Or the fact that some of the material online is 'undesirable'. Yes, free speech advocates love it but how do you feel that anyone can pick up the Anarchist's Cookbook or browse the forums of Neo-Nazi groups? Or the fact that organized crime makes trillions out of dealings on the net? Not all information is 'good' information.

But even with these blips I think it is for the better. As I said, the internet changed our world and continues to shape it. Because the internet really is the future. Whatever happens then, the internet will play a role, most probably a large one. If we fall back into the dark ages or enter a new dawn of civilization, it'll be because of what happens in the beast of copper wire. You read it here first.

Now, donations. After hearing of my internet woes one or two of you did offer to pay my internet bill. I'm touched, but I really don't like taking money off people. Especially for this blog, which I feel is nothing much to shout about and something I bash out in my spare time. Someone reading this blog and enjoying it is all the payment I need.

However, one of you was very persistent so I've written a 'help me' page with details of how you can help. Most of it is nothing to do with money and I'd like to keep it that way. However, if you must send me something then there is a PayPal button thingy there or you can email me and I'll sort something out. And if you donate in any way then please, let me have your address and I'll see if I can send a freebie.

Thanks for reading


* Yes, we don't use copper wire so much any more, but 'beast of fiber optic cable, up links, relays, satellites and other assorted bits of technical wizardry' doesn't have a ring to it. Sorry, but you must grant me artistic license.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

National borders; the lines in the sand and the minds

Watching the news recently I've seen that once again Indonesia and Malaysia have been having a little spat over their national border. As expected, it's quite funny and makes you die a little inside of embarrassment.

This time, some Indonesian MPs (read; people with low support looking to capitalize on fax nationalism for the upcoming elections) have accused Malaysia of moving the border markers from their designated positions and thus 'stealing' thousands of hectares of Indonesian land. Upon hearing this I had visions of Malaysian commandos sneaking out at the dead of night with tape measures instead of rifles and launching daring raids to claim another six inches of jungle.

Of course, it turned out to all be in the heads of these MPs and the Indonesian army went and confirmed that none of the border makers had moved. But not before these MPs had claimed their airtime and there had been the obligatory protest outside the Malaysian embassy. And it will happen again.

And again.

And again.

But why? Why do we as a people, I mean the world here, put so much emphasis on these lines we draw in the dirt? They don't exist in reality, I've accidentally crossed the UAE - Oman border enough times when I lived there to verify that, yet so much stress is put on them. And a lot of blood is spilled fighting over their positions.

I'm going to talk a little about the Malaysia - Indonesia issue for a while as I think it shows how farcical borders can be. Now, Malaysia and Indonesia are peas in the same pod. They both share basically the same language, largely the same faith, the same shared culture, traditions and so on. Heck, they often even dress the same and to the untrained eye there is little to tell them apart. This is because they are both of Austronesian ancestry, the so called 'Malay race', as are most people in the Philippines.

In fact, if we take a look at the ancestry of many in Asia then we find they are of the same orrigion. Going east from Madagascar, taking in the Malay Peninsular, most of what we call Indonesia and the Philippines, then going down around Australia to New Zealand and right the way across taking in all the islands of the Pacific up to the coast of the Americas. Here is a map from Wikipedia illustrating the distribution:

This grouping is in fact some of the first humans out of Africa and a lot of people can trace their ancestry to them. The so called 'Beachcomber Express' was the rapid migration of people from Africa along the coastlines of Asia (which were far more linked) before spreading north to populate much of Asia. In fact, it is theorized that even many Africans have ancestry from here as it is believed that the 'original' Africans were different to most humans, for example the 'pygmies'.

Interesting of course, but we are going off topic here. The point is that people of Indonesia and Malaysia have a lot in common, from race to language. But they fight! And often over very stupid things. For example there was another spat recently where Indonesia accused Malaysia of 'stealing' certain 'cultural icons' such as the Rasa Sayang song, the Barongan dance and various musical instruments in it's TV adverts promoting tourism in Malaysia.

It's not the first time a TV advert has done this either, in 2009 a Discovery Channel program on Malaysia incorrectly identified a certain dance as being of Malaysian origin when in fact they are from Bali. This lead to Malaysian flags being burned and Malaysian students at universities being egged, despite Malaysia issuing an apology.

Indeed, certain radical elements got very violent and set up roadblocks to 'search' for Malaysians, as well as a pretty amusing proposal to send 1500 Indonesians armed with sharpened bamboo staffs to 'invade' Malaysia. Seriously! Over a TV add! Mind you, at least they haven't had a full out war for a while. And to be honest on the whole most Indonesians and Malaysians don't engage in the sort of junk that the radicals do.

But why all this? Well of course a lot of this is just political point scoring, the more radical groups especially, but there is a deeper cause. It's becuase in 1824 the Dutch and the British drew a line on a map, creating two countries that had never exited before.

And that is the problem with borders, they are lines on the map, draw with little consideration for anything other than territorial gains, power and suchlike. Indeed most of our borders come from a time, the colonial era, where territory meant power and as such we have badly drawn ones! India and Pakistan is another example that springs to mind of a badly draw border causing strife.

Borders make people hate their fellow man, despite their common traits. Borders also cause us to think of people as defined by the bit of dirt they were born on, not the person they are. These are both very dangerous things and have caused a lot of fighting in the past. Why for instance from 1939-45 did young men with a lot in common shoot each other in massive numbers? Of course, borders weren't the only reason but they were a big one. One side in that conflict felt that it's borders had been drawn unfairly and were to small, the other side begged to differ. That's putting it mildly to say the least.

Could we live in a world without borders? Quite possibly, we never really had borders anyway until a few hundred years ago. Could it happen again, that in this imperfect world we live in that mankind could stop fighting over lines in the sand? Could see that really, there is only one nation, the nation that is Earth? And one race, Mankind? Who knows, I think the change comes from within as they say. Once humans realize their stupidity, then maybe we can move on.

One person at a time huh?


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ethics: Would you save the life of a smoker?

I know a fair few medics and as a quasi-trained medic myself I was reflecting on this question. Fairly recently the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK said that it would not provide hip replacements to those that were obese under the NHS (they would have to pay for it themselves) and it got me thinking. Should a health service use it's time and resources dealing with 'self inflicted' conditions? I also am aware that all medics take an oath, but we are going to pretend that the oath doesn't apply here purely for the debate.

The debate is really thus:

- Smokers inflict harm on themselves by smoking, in full knowledge that it will cause them massive harm in later life yet they still keep going

- Public knowledge of this is great and there are even government sponsored schemes in many countries to get people off cigarettes

- Smokers tie up beds and other scarce resources in hospitals that could be used by others, especially in government hospitals

- If a smoker were to come in to A&E (Accident and Emergency, for Americans that is ER) for a smoking related condition then they are still eligible for emergency treatment even if there are other 'genuinely' injured patients there

- Most if not all smokers will end up in hospital over a smoking related illness at some point, often a government hospital which again ties up resources from 'genuinely' injured people

I must say that I lose a lot of respect for someone once I find they smoke and a I'm quite up front in telling them how stupid I think they are (I often point out that jumping off a bridge is cheaper if they really want to commit suicide). In my opinion there is absolutely no reason why someone should smoke and it's a sign of weakness. That said I am also very quick to offer my support if they want to quit. Thus in this debate I am heavily biased towards not treating smokers for conditions they have 'inflicted' upon themselves.

That is really the crux of it for me. Why should an over stressed, massively over worked government paid surgeon have to spend his or her time operating on someone who is only really on his or her operating table becuase of stupidity? Especially if said smoker is likely to go out and smoke again. Let me add however I have great friends who do smoke and I'd probably be devastated if they were to die.

I'm really for the overall banning of cigarettes and smoking. My argument is that there is no reason for them to be here. If they were invented yesterday do you think that they would be allowed on the market?! For me the issue of 'right to chose' doesn't come into this. If someone has a right to chose to smoke, shouldn't the health service have a 'right to chose' not to treat them for their self inflicted injury?

The other argument often called against me is that smokers put a lot of tax revenue into the treasury. This, for me, is really the only reason smoking still exists and governments don't have the guts to ban it; a strong tobacco lobby and cash in the coffers. But really, how much do they put in? And then how much is taken out again to have to pay for their treatments?

We're sliding away from the topic at hand here, we are not talking about banning smoking. We are talking about treating self inflicted conditions and here is where it get's a bit messy. Becuase there are other self inflicted conditions.

For example, if a drunk driver crashes his car because he is drunk should he be treated? After all, his drunkenness caused the accident. What about a woman that threw herself off a bridge? Again, she did it to herself.

I think it is fair to say that in both of these cases most would say they should be treated. But why? Is it any different to the smoker? They caused their situations didn't they? Again, it's messy but I do think there is a difference. Because in both cases they are really 'one time' instances, not brought on by years of self abuse.

This is especially true of the woman who jumped off a bridge as it is highly likely that she did it for a reason such as depression. And depression, by and large, isn't a self inflicted condition or one that you pick up on purpose. This I feel is the difference when compared to smoking. She made a mistake in all probability, shouldn't she be given another chance? I feel that she should.

But what about a smoker? Shouldn't they get another chance? Actually, I feel they have already don't you? It tends to take years before smoking will end with you in a hospital, so a smoker had years of chances to alleviate their condition.

In the end however, I feel that most doctors will, quite rightly, feel strongly against not saving a life if they can. Even me, with my loathing of smoking, would probably feel the same in the situation. But it's a tough topic and one that in a world where health budgets are being slashed will surely come up. We'll be back on this topic with certainty.

Share your views