Wellness Über Alles

A new battlefront in the war to erase politically incorrect civil liberties is taking place across corporate America under the innocuous-sounding banner of "Wellness."  Wellness certainly sounds nice; what kind of person is against wellness?  That sounds as crazy as being anti-hope, or standing in the way of change. 

Obviously we all want to be well, but now it appears you won't have much choice in the matter.  Be well or face consequences beyond the state of one's health. But always remember: We're doing this for your own good.

The latest thing that's in our best interest is a renewed focus on quitting smoking, or as they say in more sophisticated circles, smoking cessation.  And I'll take a brief time out to recognize that, indeed, quitting smoking is in a smoker's best interest, however, what's different this time around are the tactics employed. 

Before we discuss them, let's do a review of liberal social engineering programs from inception to execution.  These steps should prove generally predictive of smoking cessation efforts currently underway. 

  • A group of individuals anoints themselves as better-informed than the rest of us. They base this largely on the fact that they listen to the same programs on NPR and consistently vote Democrat.
  • The self-defined elite group comes to an agreement that the rest of us are not as enlightened as they. This is expressed in many ways, usually involving code words such as "clinging", "mean-spirited", or "greedy". If you hear these words being applied to you or your associates, this is a clear indication that you are not one of the elites.
  • The elites begin to develop a sense of responsibility for their lessers. This is often expressed in statements like, "It's just makes me so sad to see them like that. I wish there were something we could do to..."
  • The elites form a plan. The plan generally involves making everyone else behave like them. As enthusiasm rises, what were once "differences" become "problems" and finally metamorphose into a "crisis". When the word "crisis" appears, this usually signals the end of planning phase. The Plan predictably contains the following elements: coercion, moral superiority, lack of debate and voting, and a succession of "experts" who testify on its behalf.
  • The plan is imposed. If the legislative branch refuses, the judiciary is prevailed upon to conjure up a constitutional justification.
  • The plan begins to fail. This step is usually followed by demands for more resources to "properly implement the plan", (see the War on Poverty), and angry accusations at non-elite groups for their mean spirited, clingy refusal to change.
  • The plan fails.
  • The elites meet to form a new, better plan.

The smoking cessation plan seeks to turn recalcitrant smokers -- those so far unaffected by health education, high taxation and appeals to self-interest -- into non-smokers through the imposition of a "smoke free campus".  What this means essentially is that no one is allowed to smoke anywhere on company property.  Not content with banning smoking indoors and segregating it outdoors, it is now banished entirely like some wayward cleric in 13th century Europe, (or in the case of Islam - 21st century Europe).  In many cases, these smoke free campus programs make it a company offense to even retire to your own vehicle and smoke a cigarette with the windows rolled up.  The justification: your car is parked on our property and we don't approve of smoking! 

What are your options if you still stubbornly wish to assert your right to smoke?  Put on your walking shoes; you're going on a hike. 

Keep in mind that many corporate headquarters sit on multi-acre sites, and you realize that the afternoon smoke break is turned into something resembling the Boston Marathon.  Harried smokers trekking across vast empty lawns to stand across the street, puffing furiously to make up for the ten minutes wasted traversing the tobacco-free DMZ.  We may as well take this to its logical conclusion and hang a scarlet "S" around their necks while we're at it.

At this point you may well question my motivation for this cynical diatribe against change. Chalk it up to my basic lack of hope.  Let me go on record as stating that although I did smoke as a younger man, I have not engaged in this self-destructive habit since New Years Eve 1994.  I do not write this from the point of view of a disgruntled smoker forced to tint his car windows or purchase ergonomic walking shoes in order to continue the habit.  I have no dog in this fight.

Instead I use these corporate anti-smoking campaigns as an example of the stark differences between liberal and conservative ideology.  As a conservative I don't see it as my job, much less my right, to make other people do things that are "in their best interest".  As a conservative, my assumptions are:

  • I have no idea what someone else's "best interest" is;
  • Other people's "best interest", by definition, is none of my business.

It's a little concept called liberty.  And by the way, it's the cornerstone of the Enlightenment, and a document known as the U.S. Constitution.  The Founding Fathers were very fond of liberty and fought a couple of wars with England on the very subject.  Ditto a whole lot of civil rights workers in the 50's and 60's.

Freedom is the right of emancipated adults to make choices for themselves and accept the responsibility for the consequences.  Don't think that the good intentions of the elites stop at the point of preventing you from putting smoke in your mouth. There are all those bad choices people make about what to eat just begging for correction.

The exercise of personal liberty, for all its flaws and imperfections, is far superior to the alternative, which for all my searching to avoid an over-used, often cliché term, is best defined as fascism.  Not the jack boot, kick your door in at 3AM variety.  But the more insidious, smiley-face variety described admirably by Jonah Goldberg as Liberal Fascism

So the next time some well meaning do-gooder comes along and tries to take away your freedom of choice remember to mention John Locke and George Washington.  Point out that you're not monitoring their "lifestyle choices" and would appreciate it if they returned the favor.  Instruct them that freedom is a messy proposition and doesn't come with the right to make other people's decisions for them.

Tell them to put that in their pipe and smoke it  (metaphorically of course, because we all know smoking's bad for you).

The author has requested anonymity for career reasons.
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