by: Marceline Donaldson
I am old enough to remember and to have been through the campaigns against smoking.
When it was discovered that smoking caused cancer and even second hand smoke could damage the health of the person inhaling another persons’ cigarette smoke, it was quite a brawl. Sort of like the one we are having with masks or going without a mask. The arguments are the same and the people I have encountered without a mask are the same people who refused to give up blowing smoke into the environment of those who don’t smoke.
What is also amazing is that these are the same people who refuse to give up their identity as “better than.”
Your identity is basic to your being. To have been raised with an identity which claims you are “better than” and experience that as comfortable and that by which you live and move and have your being and by defining others as “less than”, as people who owe you their agreement to stay in “their place” and not disturb the outer, better, larger environment where the “better than” thrive, is a soul destroying thing.
Once upon a time, many years ago, I was on the National Board of NOW. At that time, the law suits and one push was on stopping people (actually men) – (actually white men) from smoking cigars on airplanes because the exhaust and replenish system on the airlines could not effectively remove all of the smoke and other pollutants which such smoking put into the air. Only one or two people were needed to smoke cigars on the plane in which you were traveling to cause problems for everyone else. That, according to the science coming out, not only caused health issues with everyone, but created an extremely uncomfortable environment for those flying.
It was a pitched battle. Finally, after many resources spent – time, money, etc. – the airlines decided to eliminate cigar smoking on planes. That was an incredible victory.
Later, the battle began to eliminate cigarette smoking as the scientific papers were published about the damage cigarettes could do to the human body. That battle was worse than the one around cigars. The cigar smokers just started smoking cigarettes on planes instead of their beloved and deadly instruments of disease.
Gradually, the fight was and still is being won as people today have to deal with even apartment buildings which now say if you live in that particular apartment building and are a smoker you have to agree to smoke outside and not in your own apartment building for which you pay substantial amounts of rent.
Restaurants were another place where the battle against smoking inside the restaurant raged. It was won and people started moving to eat in the “bar” side of the restaurant so they could smoke while eating. The war against smoking found them and today even those in bars can’t smoke inside the bar, but must go outside for their favorite bit of poison.
When that fight was raging I was at IBM. They had a thing where you had to go to Atlanta, GA. for six weeks of training before you could sell those wonderful machines. In the training classes people, of course, could smoke. Light up anytime and foul the air for those in the class who found that a horribly filthy and very uncomfortable habit.
We fought that in many ways. During my class time, success was not gained, but in subsequent classes smoking was outlawed in the classroom. One had to go outside to smoke. So progress does happen. It happens excruciatingly slow and people lose their lives and health in the process, but it happens.
One action we took, as an aside, was to also challenge IBM’s inviolable “dress for success” class and rules. On one of the last days of class we arrived (females, of which there were almost none), in MuMu’s, hair in large curlers, no make-up and slippers. The men arrived (not all, but many) with their jockey shorts over their dress pants and cut off t-shirts over their dress shirts. It was hysterical and great fun, but produced no change in IBM’s dress rules or the necessity of taking such a class.
What is it about human beings and the human spirit that everything must be as we are and everyone must live according to how we live and want life to be. We change facts to accommodate our comfort zone and claim we have the “right” in this country to jeopardize the health of and make uncomfortable and even denigrate and destroy those who aren’t like us?
Those who don’t live our lifestyle? Those who insist on refusing to change when the growing body of science shows us problems which we could address and make better with some simple changes of our lifestyle? We prefer to demand our “rights” to do things harmful to others while totally overlooking the other persons’ “right” to be safe and more. Doesn’t that come from our basic need to be “better than”? The belief system, culture and more that many would rather died for than give up and change.
If we are “better than” our neighbors, friends and all others then we can go about without a mask because we find wearing a mask uncomfortable, not pretty or stylish and all the other reasons we have thrown up. We do not want to become comfortable wearing a mask because it is our “right” to go around without one. Isn’t it interesting how we can demand what we consider our rights, even when those rights that we claim jeopardize the health and well being of others?
It is no mistake that we elected a man who exemplifies all of that and demands his rights over all other human beings? The man who demands to be top of the heap and all others are under him accepting what he doles out to them and for which they are grateful. How come we do all of that? What is there in the human spirit which thinks that is great. We join wild groups because they reinforce the identity we are on the verge of losing – “better than”.
That “better than” need is more lethal than the most terminal and painful of cancers. Yet we insist on living through that kind of culture and that kind of life.
That “better than” need led our ancestors to euthanize attempt to exterminate American Indians. It allowed and encouraged us to use slavery to build these United States. Used the Chinese in a slavery kind of structure to build our railroads – and all through we use denial so we don’t have to acknowledge what we have done and are doing to the detriment of ourselves and others.
To care for others. To be concerned about those with whom we live on this planet doesn’t take much.
An example from my IBM experience shows the difference. I lived in Ambassador Andrew Young’s house while I was in training at IBM. I could not live in the townhouse apartments right next to the classes during that time because I had two young children with me. They had me and I had them and wherever I went they went for all the years of their growing up.
It was difficult driving the 30 to 45 minus to class each day instead of walking a short distance to the classes. It was horrendous trying to figure out and find ways of making sure they were taken care of during the day. That would have been simple had I been able to live in the housing provided by IBM, It took a lot away from my time and ability to really get into the training – although I did a respectable job of it.
No one at IBM cared about the situation I was trying to handle. Men were the main people in those training classes. Men had wives at home who stayed there and took care of the children and anything else that needed to be taken care of because society looked at that as the job of women.
Towards the end of my time in training at IBM, I had caused such an upheaval that a couple people turned their attention to seeing what they could do to make things right.
My girls were learning horse back riding during that period of time so the IBM people found a camp not far away which had young people – about the ages of mine – who lived at the camp and followed their program of learning to ride, show and jump horses. That was a near miracle. I picked up the girls on the weekends and we went ‘home’ and were able to do touristy things satisfying to all.
How wonderful if IBM had put together a few people who gathered such possibilities for people in my situation so my time during training could have been more productively spent. It didn’t take a lot, just caring. Their response, at the time, was to eliminate people like me because it was too much to include us and much better to carry forth the “better than” attitude.
The caring that is missing amongst the people who refused to smoke outside; who wanted to smoke while in class; and so much more.
There were only two or three people in those classes who smoked. They, however, made the room unbelievably uncomfortable and dangerous to the health of the rest of us. The same attitude prevails among people who refuse to wear masks. One would think that past ones time as a rebellious teenager, the need to “prove” things would have abated.
All of those folks have something in common – their identity, which contains the strong belief that they are “better than” the rest of us and why should they accommodate. What a wonderful change in this world when and if they are able to do show some kind of caring for others where there is no payback that they can see for themselves.
“Better than” is a vicious philosophy by which to live. It is incredibly destructive of the human soul as it takes hold of ones personality, character, lifestyle and makes them so incredibly ugly to the rest of society. “Better than” so blinds us as humans that we can’t even see how negative is the way such people are seen by others.
May God forgive your sins against one another and give you the ability to open your hearts in a caring, healing, wonderful way to experience this life as it was intended to be experienced, not to experience it within the confines of a lifestyle with ways of living and choices which lead to a life of denial which leads to a life of lying, cheating, etc. etc.