Thursday 9 July 2009

Follow the logic

From Life at the Bottom, talking about poverty, health and life expectancy:

By no means can the poor not afford health or a nourishing diet; nor do they live in overcrowded houses lacking proper sanitation... or work 14 backbreaking hours in the foul air of mines or mills. Epidemiologists estimate that higher cigarette consumption among the poor accounts for half the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest classes in England - and to smoke that much takes money.

Notoriously, too the infant mortality rate is twice as high the lowest social class as in the highest. But the infant mortality rate of illegitimate births is twice that of legitimate ones, and the illegitimacy rate rises steeply as you descend the social scale. So the decline of marriage almost to the vanishing point in the lowest social class might well be responsible for most of its excess infant mortality. It is a way of life, not poverty per se, that kills.

He's talking about the UK, but he could of course be talking about the wretchedness and squalor of any number of Aboriginal communities, which seem to disgorge nothing but appalling health indicators, mindless violence, nihilistic behaviour and early death.

We know that Aboriginal life expectancy is poor, and that "something must be done". I wonder if smoking could also account for up to half the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal life expectancy, and if so, what the government expects to do about it. Smoking seems to be amazingly prevalent in Aboriginal society - my brief encounters from time to time have found that almost everyone smokes from about the age of 10. Roll your own, unfiltered smokes seem to be the tar delivery mechanism of choice.

Smoking is of course a voluntary activity. I know that it is addictive to a degree, but I don't believe that it is as addictive as the nicotine-replacement industry likes to make out (being an ex-smoker myself). They have a vested interest in telling the smoker that it is not their fault that they smoke, that it is hard to quit, and that they need to spend lots of money on nicotine replacement patches in order to relinquish the filthy habit.

Again, the smoker is told that their "addiction" is not their fault. It is the fault of tobacco companies, luring them with irresistible advertising. It is the fault of their parents, who had the gall to smoke in the car with us when we were young. It's peer group pressure. It's always something else, and never the desire of the smoker to smoke because they enjoy the activity.

Anyway, who is going to be game to try and get between a blackfella and his smokes? Smoking in white society has been demonised to the point where smokers are seen as vaguely evil, worthy of punishment and morally decrepit. To be a smoker is a loser, and smoking in the wrong place at the wrong time can bring criminal charges. Smokers are the lowest of the low. They are bums, useless carbuncles on the backside of humanity, leeches who consume more than their fair share of health resources, weaklings who are unable to control their base cravings, knaves and fools for continuing to undertake an activity certain to hasten their demise, morally reprehensible for puffing away in the presence of children - an act almost likened to child abuse - financially stupid for being so idiotic as to fork out ever increasing amounts of cash for the cured leaf of an abominable plant.

Now, can we turn around and say that to blackfellas? Can a white man say that they are:

  • morally decrepit
  • a loser
  • a criminal
  • a bum, leech, carbuncle
  • weak, useless and unable to exert any self control
  • knaves, fools and financially irresponsible
  • child abusers
You can say these things to a whitefella, but woe betide anyone who dares to even think about saying any one of these things to a blackfella. The racist tar brush will be applied in the blink of an eye.

Such pussyfooting around might explain why so many Aboriginals continue to smoke, and why there has yet to be an effective campaign to get them to cut back. So we continue to tip-toe around the truth, and in the meantime, lots more Aboriginals die young. The soft headed do-gooders of course insist that Aboriginal health can be fixed with more money, more nurses, more clinics, more doctors and so on, but the greatest gain will probably come from weaning them off the legal weed. And the extra money in their pockets could then be spent on useful things, like house maintenance, better food and so on - things that will produce further health improvements.

Good luck with that.

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