(cross-posted from my blog, Facing Abuse)

I read the Wayback Machine column again in the San Francisco Chronicle today. There were two stunning pieces from their archives, one from twenty-five years ago and one seventy-five years old:


      June 4: A controversial ordinance restricting smoking
      in San Francisco workplaces was signed into law by Mayor
      Dianne Feinstein, who used a pen shaped like a match. (There
      is a picture of her looking at the pen as if it is the drollest thing
      in the world right here. "Oh ho ho! I have a clever pen!" God help
      us all.) The law states that if a compromise cannot be reached,
      employers must ban smoking in the workplace. "Up to now, there
      has been a kind of tyranny of the smoker. They smoke. They
      don't care what effect it has on a desk mate," Feinstein said,
      noting that while nonsmokers can leave a bar that is full of smoke,
      they are unable to leave work. Anne Browder, speaking for the
      Tobacco Institute, said, "We feel that 1984 has arrived early in San
      Francisco, as Big Brother has issued an edict in the workplace. We
      feel it's regrettable that a city government which has long sought to
      accommodate various lifestyles would now impose an authoritarian
      form of segregation and outright discrimination against those who
      choose to smoke."

Ammie rightly pointed out that Feinstein's comment about nonsmokers not being able to leave work is part of what got smoking banned from bars around here much more recently - because the bar employees can't leave their workplaces no matter how filled with smoke they become. This piece is such a blast from the past. I get this mental image of a room full of desks with random people smoking RIGHT AT THEIR DESKS that just seems so retro to me. Like watching an old movie from the 1950s when they could still advertise cigarettes as if they were some sort of health food item.

I especially love what classic addict behavior they describe here. Let's check out that list of characteristics of addiction (aka effects of abuse) again....

Self-centeredness: As addicts, we become increasingly focused on our fix. We can’t hear what others are saying to us; all we can hear is whether they are supporting our addictive behavior or not. In abuse survivor terms, we become increasingly focused on whatever we are using to avoid the feelings and memories of abuse - spiraling into addiction until we are willing to risk living in the reality where we were abused.

I think that dazzling self-centeredness is often an ingredient in second-hand smoke. Of course, there was more ignorance then of smoking's effects - but not that much more. I grew up in the eighties and we were already being taught, in elementary school, about the various dangers of smoking. I don't know when exactly they proved that second-hand smoke is actually worse for you than whatever you suck in from the actual cigarette, but even if the first-hand smoke was what everyone was getting, it would have been pretty bad. And I am pretty sure Nicotine Anonymous existed back then....

There's also fabulous arrogance and control issues showing up there. My favorite part is when she tries to piggyback on gay rights. It's beautiful - first she sort of tries to praise them for being such a liberated place to live, then she calls that "accommodating various lifestyles", then she tries to hop on there and get "accommodated" too.

Like we don't know what she means by "lifestyles." I would have loved to see her go stand in the Castro and tell them that they should support smoking in the workplace because it's just another lifestyle like theirs, and they want the city to accept their lifestyle, don't they? And just see how that goes over.

And then once she's positioned anti-smoking laws as some form of discrimination, she gets to go nuts about it. It's authoritarian! It's segregation! (Go stand in Bayview-Hunter's Point and tell them that it's segregation.) It's OUTRIGHT DISCRIMINATION! Against those who choose to smoke - which is exactly who it's not against. Because the people who still think of it as choosing to smoke are the people who don't have to smoke at their desks. If you're so invested in smoking that you are upset that you can't smoke up shared public space, you've passed choice and gone straight on into addiction. (Not to mention, of course, that the law allowed for workplaces to come up with their own "compromises", like having a place for smoking or having everyone agree that smoking anywhere is fine with them.)

It's fascist! It's Big Brother! It's stinking thinking: the kind of fast-moving, circular justifications we make to ourselves to excuse behavior we know is wrong or harmful.... the experience of being a person, or a system, with "confused, alcoholic thinking… dishonesty, self-centeredness, dependency, and need for control at its core.”

The piece from seventy-five years ago wasn't funny, but it was a really fascinating look into what people thought about Hitler in the early days:


      June 2: "It would be better for the 600,000 Jews in Germany if the Hitlerites would perpetrate a massacre of 1,000 Jews." This was the opinion of Judge Julian Mack, now presiding over the Circuit Court of Appeals, who addressed the San Francisco Center June 1 on conditions in Germany. The judge spoke not only as a Jew of German descent but also as one who had done his university work in Germany and learned to admire German culture and civilization. "Such an event as a massacre would shock the whole world into understanding what is going on in Germany," he said. "I have direct cables from there, dated May 22, to show that the situation is just as bad as it was in March, despite clever propaganda to make it appear otherwise. Hitler may be a Mussolini, a Lenin or a Napoleon. I don't believe he is, but will grant the possibility. But he won his place getting most of the German people behind him. These people were not an unrestrained mob. Hitler had the power to restrain them. But after preaching for several years what would be gained if he assumed power, he had to give over the Jews, the communists and the liberals to the pack of wolves he himself had raised in order to keep his government safe."
And you know it was meant to be shocking that he might turn out to be a Mussolini. A Mussolini! Mussolini was freaking small potatoes compared to this guy. And a massacre of 1,000 people - when they had already built all these concentration camps. I'm sure everyone was like, "Oh, they're just work camps. It's not THAT bad. Now, if they were KILLING people...."

For historical context, here are some of the things that were going on in Germany in 1933, courtesy of The History Place:

  • Feb 27, 1933 - Nazis burn Reichstag building to create crisis atmosphere.
  • Feb 28, 1933 - Emergency powers granted to Hitler as a result of the Reichstag fire.
  • March 22, 1933 - Nazis open Dachau concentration camp near Munich, to be followed by Buchenwald near Weimar in central Germany, Sachsenhausen near Berlin in northern Germany, and Ravensbrück for women.
  • March 24, 1933 - German Parliament passes Enabling Act giving Hitler dictatorial powers.
  • April 1, 1933 - Nazis stage boycott of Jewish shops and businesses.
  • April 26, 1933 - The Gestapo is born, created by Hermann Göring in the German state of Prussia.
  • "May 10, 1933 - An event unseen since the Middle Ages occurs as German students from universities formerly regarded as among the finest in the world, gather in Berlin and other German cities to burn books with 'unGerman' ideas. Books by Freud, Einstein, Thomas Mann, Jack London, H.G. Wells and many others go up in flames as they give the Nazi salute.... Over a hundred years earlier, the German-Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine, had stated, 'Where books are burned, human beings are destined to be burned too.'"

    (Normally I would have bolded the dates. But in this case, I thought that the events needed the emphasis.)

    Doesn't it blow your mind that there was a time when the Nazis were called "Hitlerites"? It makes them sound like such rookies. And yet they were still doing evil monster shit even then! And people were talking openly about it in the media, here and elsewhere? And yet it snowballed so fast? Of course, back then the world wasn't watching. Which doesn't mean that genocide and fascism don't still occur today - just that people know about it more. And, I think, try sooner to help.

    Fun fact: Nov 24, 1933 - Nazis pass a Law against Habitual and Dangerous Criminals, which allows beggars, the homeless, alcoholics and the unemployed to be sent to concentration camps.

    Ahh. The ultimate abusers trying to sweep the effects of abuse under the rug....