#50 Blowing Smoke
Submitted by Ross. A smoker of local brands, but only on deployment….
You know the drill. You walk into the over-priced café at the local hotel operated for NGOs workers and exorbitantly paid host country government officials. You order the imported coffee in a French press while you anxiously scan the room for others you’ve met at previous cocktail parties or drunken nights at the expat bar. And then you light it up.
The fact we EAWs smoke at all is completely ironic. Even though many of us work in the healthcare fields or have at least attended several redundant training sessions focusing on improving the health indicators of some country’s population, most EAWs operate under the same philosophy: the locals shouldn’t smoke because it’s terrible for their health, and they shouldn’t be spending their small (maybe even non-existent) disposable incomes on cigs, but we’ve bigger fish to fry and worrying about the ills of cigarettes isn’t one of them.
In the States, most of us would not be caught dead smoking because it’s crude, unbecoming, and frankly, it’s what poor people do. To our friends tied to the humdrum rituals and daily routines of living in the West, we complain about how people in the West don’t take proper care of themselves, what with obesity running rampant, physical activity limited to brief walks between cars and buildings, and drug abuse rates much too high for a developed country. We lecture to anyone within earshot about the dangers of second-hand smoke, the media’s positive portrayal of people smoking, and why cigarettes should be taxed even more than they already are. We even wax poetic about using those additional tax revenues to launch anti-smoking campaigns and promote better public health awareness. And of course we’d be the ones writing the grants to secure those funds to create the said health campaigns. We’re always concerned about our next project to ensure our job security.
But once we leave the confines of the West and settled back into our expat enclaves, cigarettes are not as evil as we espouse them to be when sojourning in the developed world. For us, smoking cigarettes is a sign that we are world-weary and stressed. We’ve lived through so much and still we’re here. Why be bothered to worry about possible lung cancer thirty years down the road when the dangers of being kidnapped, mugged, and/or shot at exist outside our gated compounds? Why should we be bothered about the image we’re portraying towards the locals: smoking is something the elite can do, but shame on you for doing it as well. We know what’s best for others, but why heed our own advice?
And how can we not love the statements cigarettes make to our friends visiting from the States: We have more important concerns on our mind and quite frankly, the bourgeois rules back home certainly do not apply here.
So light one up for hypocrisy, and enjoy it with that delicious French-pressed brew.