There are few joys in life that compare to drinking wine while smoking. The inhalant can be any tobacco-stuffed conduit, whether cigar or cigarette. The wine is best when deep, dark, and red – the kind which leaves you slightly light-headed after the full first glass. The excursion is all the better when enjoyed outside, under the sun in cool air. Conversation can revolve around the smallest of cultural issues or even the theological nature of the universe – it does not matter. It’s a simple pleasure, but one that feels as old and as natural as time.
This refined enjoyment will soon be lost to patrons of L’Atelier d’Argentine, a distinguished restaurant in the city of Montreal. The thieving do-gooders on Quebec’s liquor-licensing board recently prohibited the eatery from serving wine on its adjoining sidewalk because of a nearby rehab clinic. The reasoning behind the board’s decision is the same regurgitated excuse every state body evokes when clamping down on plebs: the public interest. That mere phrase has been the justification for all forms of government debauchery for as long as the nation-state began its tyranny over man. Stalin’s gulags were also erected on the fulcrum of the public interest.
The greater good can be a fickle thing depending on the perspective. Individuals think and act based on their own subjectivity – the moral and objective good notwithstanding. While the Golden Rule is generally a good ethos to live by, it’s not universal. Masochists and sociopaths surely have different standards of preferred bodily treatment. In the case of alcoholic sensitivity, the ban on wine at L’Atelier d’Argentine is being done for the benefit of those sobering up. There is certainly some decency in encouraging others to beat back their demons, but righteous intent has a tendency to cross a line, where it devolves into a pestering cry for perfection. The impossibility of pleasing absolutely everyone is a truth not recognized by the state’s actors.
It’s hard not to scoff at the idea of forcing wine sippers into a dimly-lit restaurant simply because someone who used to down two fifths of bottom-shelf whiskey a day may catch a glimpse of glass of pinot noir. There is treating the sickly with respect, and then there is handling them so gingerly that you undermine their capacity to be honorable persons. The progressive mentality – which holds that man can control his destiny to the point of creating a perfectly just society – is so concerned with sensitivity, it is willing to steamroll the masses in favor of a crippled minority. Whatever harried thought produced in this state of mind is never evenly balanced. For the shysters on the Quebec liquor-tyranny board, the plight of keeping teetotalers on the wagon was too heavy of a counterweight to just allowing the rehab clinic to put drapes over its windows.
In a free society, this kind of dispute could be worked out in a number of ways that do not necessitate compulsion. The restaurant offered to set-up umbrellas to shield patrons from onlookers – but the proposition was declined in favor of state intervention. There could be some kind of agreement worked out between the owners of L’Atelier d’Argentine and managers of the clinic where spirits are served only during specific hours of the day. Perhaps those rooms of the clinic that face out to the restaurant patio could be used for storage or as housing for nurses. Or maybe it could be accepted that exposing a recovering alcoholic to the sight of wine will not cause the seas to part and sky to fall. Presumably they won’t live in a bubble upon leaving rehabilitation. Witnessing everyday folks enjoying beer and cocktails will be a regular occurrence. Better to get used to it now, rather than later.
The very idea that outside spaces can be regulated for appearance evolves only from the state. There is no inherent right to control the look of that which is not owned. Since monopoly government sees itself as the final arbiter of all disputes, it also envisions itself the guarantor of a pristine community, long as its predations don’t accumulate too suddenly and wreck the joint.
Shoving around a bunch of wine drinkers to placate the families of alcoholics creates conflict where there need not be any – the very definition of bleeding heart government. When the notion of “helping” a small, ignored sect of the population infiltrates a pol’s mind, there are few other forces greater and more dangerous. As C.S. Lewis opined, it is not tyranny of the despicable to fear the most but “those who torment us for our own good” as they “will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” When one is forever on the lookout for instances of seeming injustice, their fury is an unstoppable storm.
Ultimately, issues such as what is and is not permitted on any given sidewalk are distractions. They only serve as obfuscation devices for injustices of a far greater degree. By giving the guise of active representation, the political class hides its more egregious practices. If you are concerned over who is allowed permission to use one sliver of public or private space, taxation no longer appears as the shakedown it is. Wars are far-off adventures that do not leave thousands dead. The continual money printing, debasement of the currency, and distortion of the economy just seem normal.
Trivialities are one of the state’s finest weapons. Keeping the masses inoculated with ire over small issues takes away from larger crimes carried out. Currently, the United States military is making war preparations for an attack on Syrian forces. Housing prices in Canada appear to be on shakier ground than just a few years ago, perhaps signifying the near-ending of a debt-fueled bubble. Median incomes continue to stagnate, with most earning less than when the 2008 financial crisis was at its peak. The National Security Agency, with full permission of its allies across the globe, is sucking up the private communication data of non-criminals. In a pathetic effort to establish some accountability for the otherwise invisible agency, an “independent” review panel has been put in place that is conveniently filled with President Obama’s lapdogs. One of these loyal retrievers is former apparatchik Cass Sunstein who once co-authored a paper on the efficacy of government infiltration of alleged hate-speech outlets.
Actual outrages that threaten liberty and economic well-being go along with little notice. The state-incestuous media would rather focus on paltry concerns such as the high school record of a famed government leaker and whether socialist medicine covers sex changes. I do not mean to downplay the violation of property the owners of L’Atelier d’Argentine are facing. It is a wrongdoing that should be rectified. But the incident is another outcome of unfettered statism. Focusing too hard on the indiscretion misses the real conflict at hand.
Impulsive misgivings will always cloud the more important topics of consideration. Life and death; aggression versus volunteerism; the governing law of man; how to live a good life, these are all issues of the extreme importance – the kind best discussed over a glass of cabernet sauvignon.