cigarette pack Buying immortality and a cushy afterlife.
Michael Rubens Bloomberg.
cigarette pack

It seems the early Egyptian pharaohs invested a lot of their resources in constructing a monument to house their earthly remains, with each King trying to build a bigger, better, grander structure than his predecessors. They believed they were very special people, deities really, and they not only wanted monumental structures, they wanted their wives, animals, pets, favourite servants and even some of their youngest children to accompany them into the afterlife.

Mostly a few dozen were granted the great honour of serving their pharaoh in perpetuity however one chap, who went by the name of King Djer, seems to have been an emotional black hole. He insisted about 570 retainers and such keep him company in the afterlife (1)!

That's pretty impressive - and rather selfish. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that not every single one of them was clamouring to do their duty to their king. I suspect a fair number of them needed a firm "nudge" to drink the poison that heralded the start of their journey into the afterlife.

There's speculation that this arrangement was put into place to ensure the king wasn't topped by anyone close to him. However I have my doubts about that because a good many pharaohs died in battle or of illnesses that had nothing to do with their servants.

Knowing a little about human nature I suspect there were other reasons why so many were chosen to accompany the pharaoh - and one would be their attitude toward the person who became the next king. So they had to be fanatically loyal to their master, but also brown-nose anyone even remotely down the line of succession. Then there's the grief element to contend with. The new guy may have decided he'd show how upset he was at the death of his predecessor, so he'd hike the numbers just to show how much he missed the old fellow and to make sure he had his every whim taken care of. Of course there's always the old "face doesn't fit" reason - and that's just the luck of the draw.

At least they genuinely believed there was an afterlife. That sentiment is close to universal, and most recognised religions make a very big issue about it. It doesn't matter if you're a prince or pauper; seemingly everyone leaves this plane and enters into another plane where you get judged on what you did during your life, then you either go to some place nice, or you go to some place that's very unpleasant.

I did a quick search of the Web and came up with a figure for the number of people who die throughout the world every year. 56,239,200! That's based on 107 people dying every minute of every day. This poses a logistical problem during the "review" process. I know there's no physical presence that goes forth to meet its maker and there's no arguing allowed, yet I find it remarkable that people actually believe they'll die, then stand before some panel that'll add up the pluses and subtract the negatives, then explain it all to you, before you enter the nice place, or suddenly disappear into the terrible smoke filled depths of the underworld.

Even at a paltry 15 minutes per interview, we're talking about tens of thousands of entities engaged in judging the worth or otherwise of each dead person. However there's another problem associated with these vast numbers. The Boss Man can't do all this by himself, so he'd have to delegate and, as anyone who has experience of working in any organisation will know, subordinates must be trained, tried, tested and monitored. Maybe there's a pyramid structure for all the various religions, with tens of thousands of angels or their equivalents doing the dirty, smelly, front end work, with reams of supervisors checking and monitoring they all have the same standards of training and are all capable of drawing exactly the same conclusions with each and every dead person that comes their way.

Then there are the almighty cock-ups. Wars, Tsunami, volcanoes and things like that must place enormous demands on these angel types. It must have been dreadfully intimidating to suddenly discover the extra 225,000 who died in the 2004 tsunami off Indonesia. And there's no such thing as a shortcut when this happens. The mind boggles as to how all these religions can cope minute by minute - and get it spot on every single time.

But lots of people go through their lives genuinely believing they'll have have a fair hearing by thoroughly incorruptible professionals, who'll have details from how many wings you pulled off how many flies when you were a tyke, to real big things like if you harboured a secret fantasy over your best friends' wife. Even worse, if you acted on that fantasy.

But religion is no big thing to most people. For sure our politicians and even some of the anti-smoking activists do claim to be good Christians or Muslims or Buddhists or whatever. They even use the correct phraseology, however when you look at them up close and personal, they're not really guided by their so called beliefs. Certainly the expense account scandal showed that when it comes to money, whether it's to line their pockets, or grant funding, the whole lot of them are not in the least concerned about theft, embezzlement, breach of trust or just plain old lying.

But that's no big deal to them. Not really. Sure it's useful to drag out the occasional phrase when it suits, but Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays are not always put aside to go to the mosque or synagogue or church. Heck there's so much temptation out there and all those things that were used to reinforce our beliefs, well they've all gone. No more of the heavy stuff like being branded a heretic, or a blasphemer and you won't be excommunicated. Now the church has very little power over it's congregation and we have to put up with a bunch of straw hypocrites who prattle on about their religious values only when it suits.

And this business of three score year and ten being a good life span, well that's been blown into the weeds. While the global figure is still way down on that, those of us who live in the developed nations are assailed virtually every month with some study that shows we're living longer and longer. That's the problem with the Bible, it states absolutes and our medics and the media are keen to point out the exceptions. It was subliminal, it's not now, making it a real problem to try to defend religious teachings - and that leads to people making up their own rules as they go along. Some want to defy death forever.

The seriously rich can get themselves frozen once they're dead and their body will remain that way until such time as technology allows them to be defrosted and brought back to life. This lot, the Alcor Foundation (2) are one of many that claim to be able to do that at $200,000 for a complete body. Some of them do heads only, for less money.

From what I can gather all their customers are delivered stone cold dead and the technology that may allow a withered, but rich, old fart to be reborn again will involve some sort of clone. Something grown in a laboratory that'll be used when it's in its late teens. Face it, there's no point in going through the whole dependent childhood routine again, so just pop back into the system once you're through the acne and horny-as-a-toad phase. A quick refresh at university, then carry on where you left off, on the assumption your investment managers have been doing their job and you're still seriously rich.

Much research is pouring into this and I have no doubt that within the next 100 years there will be a system in place that will allow the super rich to avoid all the hassles associated with the ageing process. At a time of their choosing, they'll have their memories downloaded into the clone (that they'll have had grown to their specifications, so expect drop dead gorgeous, no glasses, no balding) and - the supreme irony - they'll have the satisfaction of watching their old self die and be able to attend the cremation. How wonderful, a never ending supply of horribly rich retreads, as well as dictators, politicians, pop stars and drug dealers - forever. Yuck!!

However it seems that Michael Bloomberg is at least a pragmatist. He knows perfectly well that he can't be cryogenically preserved at the moment, there are far too many risks in that. Who would look after his investments for hundreds of years? How would he function without all the contacts he depends upon in this life and, more to the point, how could his executors afford to have bodyguards keep watch over his carcass 24/7/365 for such a long time because, if they don't, there's an army of people who will defrost him and dispose of the remains.

Bloomberg accepts the fact that there's no cheating death, but he has demanded enormous - involuntary - sacrifices during the course of his life. And he has the smarts to cover himself, just in case there is a God. Thus, based on his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation Mike feels:

"...if there is a God, when I get to heaven I'm not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven." (3).

I have no problem with the sheer arrogance of his statement, rather his reason why he should be given priority privileges "I have earned my place in heaven." To understand where Mike's coming from, one has to take a look at the Torah, and Wiki has a section about the way they do things:

"Jews give Tzedakah, which means 'righteousness' and 'justice'. When the Jew contributes his money, time and resources to the needy, he is not being benevolent, generous or 'charitable.' The person is doing what is right as commanded within the Torah. The Torah requires that 10% of a Jew's income be allotted to righteous deeds or causes, regardless if the receiving party is rich or poor." Quote lifted from the foot of this page (4).

That differs considerably from standard Christian practice where we're supposed to give to God what belongs to God and, to compound matters, it's supposed to be 10% of our income net of taxes. That's the bit from Matthew 22.21 where he's quoted as saying Christians should "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God."

British charitable donors don't get off the hook because our government gives 0.7% of all of our taxes to overseas aid and a huge amount to fake charities as well as "NGOs". Nope, we've got to put up with that and still give our 10%. Oh, and we're encouraged to do our good deeds quietly and not make a big song and dance about it.

People who are guided by the Torah don't have those restrictions; they can make as much noise as they like about their donations to righteous deeds and causes. Bloomberg set up "Bloomberg Philanthropy" that accounts for a sizable chunk of his gifts to charities and worthy causes (5). It's through this that Mike's been able to get a building at Harvard Business School named in honour of his father and get the family name slapped on to their south facing entrance (6). Seems similar to the pharaohs, who had stacks of public buildings named after themselves or those Gods they thought should be honoured. Neat touch though; no need to buy the land, nor get involved personally, just give the final cash injection and hey presto the family name's immortalised!

However Mike's gone one step further with John Hopkins. That's been renamed John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and there you'll find his name slapped on lots of buildings (7). He gave them $1.1 billion, though much of that was clawed back through tax write offs. And Mike's got a real big thing about health, so what better than sling a whole bunch of cash at his old alma mater. They get piles of new buildings and Mike gets to write off stacks of tax bills by giving to a worthy cause - and he gets to be immortalised in the process. How pharaohesque!

However the Torah doesn't define a righteous cause. That's left to the individual to decide and, knowing that, it seems the whole war on smoking thing has been tailored to appeal to people like our Mike. Rich, vain, dictatorial, officious, control freaks. And because Mike surrounds himself with employees as well as beneficiaries of his largesse, he's humoured, patronised, and milked for all he's worth.

Let's face it, the guy gets invited to stacks of black-tie dinners, receptions and such because he's very generous with his money. I can imagine his phone will be red hot for most of the day with his personal assistants screening and prioritising callers. Same with his snail-mail as well as e-mail, and at Holy days and holidays he'll get mountains of cards and messages. He'll set the criteria, the flunkies ensure it's done as directed - and there'll be no criticism about anything, because he's stinking rich. In their eyes Mike's a deity.

Outside of his self-made enclosure he's not at all comfortable. He's not the kind of guy to spend an evening at a pub, he doesn't meander the aisles at supermarkets and he probably hasn't a clue about the cost of a loaf of bread. Nope, Mike's a self-styled mover and shaker with hugely important issues like smokers and fat people and those with guns uppermost in the his mind. They're his passport to heaven!

Of course he didn't go for a fourth term as Mayor of NYC; even he knew his third term was a wishy washy affair. He was stale, screwed up dreadfully in the snow storm, over reacted to the non-hurricane, brought sod all that's new to the job and the 99% / Occupy Wall Street people made a mockery of him. One reaction was a scorched earth policy and - as usual - it was directed against smokers. Hiking the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 just days before he left office ensured his successor was landed with the ruling.

He needed sacrifices and he's done that through his war on smoking by ruining businesses, livelihoods and people. No he didn't go outside and tear things down, nor did he pull any trigger. He did that using a legal system that's founded on lies, exaggerations and falsehoods, all produced by sociopaths, misanthropes and megalomaniacs who run rampant under the cover of "Tobacco Control".

However an interpretation of the Torah on tolerance is "to be tolerant of other people and to deal with others favourably, rather than getting upset over every little thing that one may find disturbing" (8). The way I see things, taxing the living daylights out of them, making them go outdoors - even if the owner is happy to accommodate them - and generally bad mouthing smokers at every turn ain't exactly dealing with others "favourably". More like narrow minded bigotry, intolerance and abuse of power; all of which are big no-no's, according to the Torah.

For folk who follow the teachings in the Bible, Romans 16.17 states "watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles" - and that pretty well sums up Mike, his mates and of course the whole of Tobacco Control. And by default every single politician who, in voting for the smoking ban, did exactly that. Caused divisions and created obstacles.

Either way, Mike's got an awful lot of explaining to do when he does pop his clogs. Certain groups believe you'll spend about a third of the time you were alive doing nothing but seeing yourself through the eyes of others, so close to 25 years for Mike, to see and feel the impact his actions had on others. Maybe that'll include having to read every single thing written about him!

I have never donated to any charity, cause, entity or person that didn't ask for money and had an immediate use for it. I research each and every charity I give to and make sure my money gets to the people who need it. Smokers don't need help, it's being forced upon them and the excuse, that it's for our own good or to save children from a life enslaved by tobacco, is facile. Many people enjoy smoking and all Mike and TC are doing is trying to impose their dogma on us and future generations, while reducing choice, encouraging intolerance and ruining the livelihoods of many, including subsistence growers in some of the poorest nations in the world. Not much of a worthwhile cause. In fact it's something to be ashamed of.

I've got an open mind on the whole business of an afterlife. Humans were around long before religion and, even to this day, stacks of people do not belong to any religion, or have changed their religion at some point during their lives, sometimes more than once. I know that heaven, or paradise, or whatever is supposed to be the preserve of believers of that faith. However both the Bible and the Torah (and possibly others) state that anyone can be considered for admission if they followed the rules of that faith, so I suppose everyone needs to have some basic knowledge of what may befall them if they're reasonably responsible, law abiding atheists. Seems they may end up being stuffed into the queue with any number of religions, wittingly or not!

Yet they're not done with you, no matter how long you've been dead. The Mormons have been baptising the dead for quite some time and it seems they're not in the least fussed about whether you were an ersatz Christian or a total pain in the butt (9). They'll baptise you anyway, so your spirit doesn't continue to wander around aimlessly in some sort of vacuum. Your spirit has the choice of refusal, which is awfully nice to know because I've reason to believe that some spirits are perfectly happy just the way they are. To understand that, you'll have to accept there is such a thing as the "paranormal", which is a fact of life to many.

Nevertheless I am vaguely inclined toward the concept that it's not what you've done, rather the way you've affected others that determines what will happen when we die, or are reborn. We carry these things around with us at all times; it's a part of our psyche, so there's no reception committee nor judgment day. It's predetermined at the time of your passing and, for most of us, it's simply a return to a state we started from.

It's not that simple for people in positions of power who affected many during their lifetime. They're scrutinised very carefully and, unless their motives were pure, they're given very few options in the afterlife, or their re-birth. One way of sussing that out is in the immediate aftermath of their death and, if that's the case, then things don't look at all good for Mike. He's got a whole stack of ill feelings, if not utter loathing and contempt from tens, possibly hundreds of millions of people. They'll probably rejoice, or at least heave a sigh of relief when he does kick the bucket! Yet he hasn't got a lot of people who will genuinely regret his passing, even fewer who'll miss him - and only a handful who'll pray for him voluntarily. Those who do are likely to have a similar profile to Mike; dictatorial, officious control freaks. They may well have dozens of buildings and stacks of companies with their names on them, but - as individuals - they're corrupt, manipulative and devoid of merit. Even worse they corrupted others. But self indulgent rich gits don't amount to much more than a smelly fart in the overall scheme of things. Indeed they're likely to join Mike in a place that's known to most religions - and the boss is a guy we call Lucifer.

Smoking Scot
August 2014