I love the Tobacco Act. I was against the darned script but now I see the wisdom. Now I see the blue skies for the dark clouds. Now I see the method in the madness. Now I see the ingenuity of the director – such vision!
Please do not accuse me of flip-flopping; I’m but a mere man trying to make sense of what has been a nonsensical ride since the enaction of that complicated act, which now sounds very simple.
If people do not listen to what is good for them, then well, like spoilt brats, you got to spank them, until they learn to obey, especially in matters that concern their own interests as per the will of the majority.
Now I feel like a kid, a boy all over again. A friend of mine, a public servant, echoed similar sentiments, after the government issued the ban on Facebook and other social networking sites during office hours.
He’d been in the same moral conundrum, protesting the authoritarian notification and had come to the resolution that he was wrong. That it had to be done for the greater purpose of spending time doing productive GNH-inspired work. We complemented each other, which was good, as there was a lot of emotion that demanded to be skinned. So we headed to a general shop cum bar, seeing that alcohol was perhaps the best antidote to what was a heart-weary moment.
I stuck to my Highland, straight, and he ordered a warm bottle of Hit.
We recalled the beginning of the act, and here it must be mentioned that he has been against the act, says its too much stress; that its an unnecessary piece of legislation that has traumatized the shit out of a lot people; turned the pandokan, the most visible small business enterprise that feeds tens of hundreds of families, and of course, the issue of criminalizing people who are otherwise regular law-abiding citizens that happen to smoke, sniff or do the chew.
As much as I hated doing it, I had to break his eggs.
I told him that we were the minority minus the report. That the government was simply implementing the will of the majority, who are apparently against the tobacco leaf in all its manifestations and find the stuff deploring, and insulting, to the sacred words of Guru Rinpoche - one of which was “No Smoking.”
Since we are a democracy, we agreed the majority’s wishes must be respected, and if that means sending people from poor backgrounds to jail to set an example, it made absolute sense. People of affluence are by nature busy bees essential to nation building, plus the common sense of saving millions by sacrificing a few names that don’t really mean anything in the larger context was foolproof.
Who the heck is going to miss the monk? The pandokandar women? The men with anonymous faces? Even the RBA Captain and the Drukair Engineer? Perhaps their families and friends might but that’s a private affair, and privacy is something we must learn to respect, as personified by the government’s stance that you do your social networking at home.
The stance has been taken and before it became a law, our reps had done the homework: gone to the hamlets to enlighten our country folks about the finer points of such a law, like the non-bailable felony of the fourth degree. The villagers listened in rapt attention, as one rep after another made their respective visits to their constituencies and bought forth the subject of the evil cigarette and other forms of the tobacco leaf.
The fields had spoken back, in a chorus of unity and harmony, calling for the bill to be enacted. “That is the story I’ve been told and really, what do I gain from suspecting any foul play?” I told my mate, now on his second Hit. Furthermore they said it wasn’t for the possibility of being reelected, that it was rather done fast and furiously to calm down the passionate outbursts and give the majority what they’d wanted – a Total Act people would obey, and not the one that was on display in Bumthang several years ago, when the tobacco was smoked-out, at the behest of Bumtaps, and the environ of a pious and sacred valley blessed by the awakened ones kept sacrosanct.
Thus it came to the house of bills, where it was objected to by four votes out of a total of sixty-three.
Sixty-three to four is a huge margin. Had it been a football match, the pro-act team scored a goal every 1.4285714286 seconds. The anti-act team took 22.5 seconds to respond. That’s long enough to make an omelet, and scramble it if you change your mind.
In terms of the populace, roughly six hundred and eighty thousand said YES. That leaves crudely about a hundred thousand who said NO. This makes the group on Facebook lobbying for an amendment in the act look like jealous lovers posing as impartial partisans.
“Jesus! I need a cigarette!” I said and left the bar.
He ordered another Hit and said he’d work at home on Facebook. With that, our conversation fell flat.
There really was no point pursuing a pointless discussion, we both concurred and called it a day.