The millions of lives lost (and still being lost) prematurely to smoking, due to the criminally irresponsible actions of the "tobacco racketeers", as they are called in an editorial in last Sunday's NYT, will not have been completely in vain if we learn the following, very important lesson from it.
Namely, that it is not just the tobacco industry which consistently puts its financial interests before everything else, including the health and well-being, even the lives, of fellow human beings (millions of them their own countrymen, women and children), but other interested parties as well, especially in the media and advertising industries, politicians, lawyers, those receiving sponsorship, etc., and not forgetting the less visible but no less responsible investors. They ALL put their own financial interests first, above everything else, despite the terrible human cost. I do not think it inappropriate to compare this behaviour by so many "respectable" Americans with the behaviour of many, equally "respectable", Germans in the 1930's. Not that I think people in other so-called "civilized" countries behave any better.
This abysmal lack of moral responsibility, it seems, is typical of "civilized" human behaviour (perhaps of human behaviour in general), and there must be a way of explaining it, other than by throwing one's hands in the air in self-righteous moral indignation and putting it down to innate human wickedness.
There is - and it is vitally important that we understand it, because this very same behaviour is driving us and our whole civilization towards catastrophe.
The difficulty is in recognizing our own moral blindness. It is far, far easier to see it in others. What makes us morally blind are our own narrow self-interests. For those with no vested interest in the tobacco industry or its willingness to promote its deadly products, it was relatively easy to recognise its immorality, but not so for those with vested interests (principally, as a source of income), who never tired of rationalizing the irrational and justifying the unjustifiable (or paid lawyers to do it for them, who are now living very comfortably and "respectably" from their, perfectly legal but immoral earnings, and perhaps moralizing themselves about someone else's immoral behaviour).
Students and young people generally find it easy to criticize society, because they have yet to acquire, or recognise, their own vested interests in the status quo. It is a blindness, or partial blindness, that we are ALL subject to. Added to which, it is very difficult to recognise anything that is "normal" as being anything other than, well, "normal" - if you see what I mean (if not, take a look at the following essay, Uncommon Sense vs the Insanities of Normality, which seeks to explain it).
To be continued . . . .