Yesterday, a quite hep guy crashed his expensive automobile (a Skoda Superb) close to my place. At the speed he was going, he could have killed someone (including himself). He badly misjudged the turn and crashed against an electricity pole. He had a flat tire, and the front of his bonnet was smashed and badly damaged. However, the engine was fine. A group of people naturally gathered around the damaged vehicle and helped remove some rather large rocks from beneath the car so that it could move again.
Also, the flat tire was all ripped from the wheel and the rubber had to be pulled out to enable the car to move. As soon as the car was able to move, however, the hep guy drove off, with the flat tire still taking the weight of the car, without so much as a word spoken to the people who had helped get his car moving. It should be noted that people were being uniformly concerned, nobody was angry at the guy.
However, he looked ashamed. Not guilty for damaging what must be his dad's car, not apologetic at having potentially endangered someone's life, not thankful for the help he received, but ashamed. He was willing to get his car damaged further (driving with a flat tire) than to be present for a moment longer amongst people who saw his ineptitude and the hollowness of his "hepness".
To understand this anecdote, this contextual quote from an article about Narcissism is required:
The psychopath is utilitarian: I needed a burger, you had it, so I stabbed you in the throat. Whatever.A narcissist is so concerned about his/her noble persona that he cannot simply admit that he/she is callous or cruel or selfish or a smoker who is harming his own body or a net junkie or a... He/she has to endlessly defend himself to himself and to others in order to maintain his self image.
As bad as that sounds, here's the narcissist's discourse on the same crime: I needed a burger, you had it, so I stabbed you in the throat. But wait, that's not the whole story, listen, what I did was justified because...
Now the "anecdote"...
RESPONDENT: There is something I am curious about Richard. You say that you are a flesh and blood body only which I agree with. I was wondering why you smoke when you know the facts about the harm that smoking does to the flesh and blood body?
Richard: And just what are the ‘facts’ that you are referring to? As far as I can ascertain there has never been a scientific study done – random sampling, control group, double-blind testing and so on – and that all the furore (sometimes reminiscent of a witch-hunt) depends upon somewhat skewed statistical evidence. I say ‘skewed’ because if I were to die tomorrow my death would be added to the statistics irregardless of the actual cause (in case you have not noticed that people no longer die of ‘old age’ anymore). Neither am I saying that smoking is good thing ... just that it is not as bad as it is made out to be. Incidentally, when tobacco was first introduced into Europe the Church demonised it (calling it the Devil’s Weed) just as the early coffee-houses were vilified.
I mention this because some 12-13 years ago I availed myself of the statistics published by various anti-smoking groups and did the necessary sums. The result showed that 1.2% of all smokers in any given year (at that time) died of what is called ‘smoking-related diseases’ ... which means that 98.8% did not. There is also some preliminary indications that only certain people are genetically prone to developing carcinomas from smoke inhalation ... rather than it be a blanket death warrant per se. For an example, Mr. Pablo Picasso (who smoked most of his life) died at a similar age to Mr. Jiddu Krishnamurti (who did not smoke at all).
I also say ‘witch-hunt’ (as in ‘scape-goat’) because there is some evidence that the internal combustion engine could very well be causing far more illnesses among people – estimates vary between 42-48% of what is called ‘green houses gases’ are coming from exhaust fumes – and yet car ownership is on the increase and I am yet to see obligatory ‘driving kills’ warnings affixed to all vehicles. Curiously enough, in the last hundred years or so the average life expectancy in the West has risen from 50-55 years of age to 75-80 years of age (speaking from memory).
I could go on and bring in examples of factoids masquerading as facts in other areas (the HIV-AIDS controversy, the cholesterol dispute, the monosodium glutamate debacle, the on again off again eggs/butter/sugar/etc. furphies) but maybe it will suffice to say that (a) I do not own or drive a car by choice ... and (b) I live in the country and not the city for obvious health reasons ... and (c) I am a teetotaller in all other respects (not even caffeine these days) ... and (d) I do not experience any stress or tension whatsoever (and I would hazard a guess that the last point is the most relevant point of all when it comes to a resilient immune-system).
Most of what I have written here is opinion-only, of course. (Richard, circa 2002)
Although I often not just jokingly say I would like to out-live the oldest-on-record human being ... a woman in France who died at 122 after a lifetime of wine, cigarettes and chocolate (Richard, circa 2009)
Similarly, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes tobacco use as "the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries and an important cause of premature death worldwide."