1950 - 2009
In the greatly varied world of public activism, the people who really stand out can often be qualified as either Champions or as Heroes. Champions are people who choose their causes, and apply their considerable skills and abilities to trying to bring about change, to improve a situation, to fight an injustice and ultimately, to create in the world a better place.
Heroes are those who, when confronted by adversity, stand up for themselves and for their fellows, particularly in cases where most people would not dare speak up or challenge that which affronts them. Often at great risk, or great cost, or both, Heroes have the courage to defy even seemingly unsurmountable powers, to draw a line in the sand and to stand by their principles no matter how daunting the challenge may seem.
Gian Turci was both a Hero and Champion for causes no less important than those of individual liberty, truth, integrity, and fundamental justice. One of the many things that made Gian such a great man was that he was able to see both the forest and the trees. He understood that the assault on smoker’s rights was an assault on people’s rights, and he saw the dangers of allowing well-funded interest groups and overly-powerful governments run rampant with the weapons of junk science, absolute healthism, and sycophantic media.
Gian’s specific involvement in smoker’s rights began when he was living in Canada and his children came home complaining that at school, all of the students had been made to line up while a health official proceeded to smell each of them in search of the tell-tale odour of tobacco. Students guilty of having the smell of cigarettes on their clothes were taken aside and interrogated, and notices were eventually sent to the parents. Where most modern parents would have bowed their heads in shame and accepted the dogma that they should feel guilty for smoking around their children, or for having failed to prevent their children from becoming smokers, Gian reacted in righteous outrage over this grossly insulting treatment, and he decided to react rather than allow himself and his family to be walked upon.
With over a decade of activism in the name of personal liberties, Gian was a central figure in FORCES International, and more recently, The International Coalition Against Prohibition – possibly the world’s two most important movements in the fight against health-totalitarianism. What Gian hated the most in his opponents was dishonesty and hypocrisy, two unendearing characteristics that were manifested most clearly in the “anti” movement’s heavy dependence upon junk science to justify their outrageous assertions. What Gian tolerated the least among his own allies was the self-delusional belief that the battle against health-totalitarianism could be won without concerted, unified, dedicated commitment to a sound strategy and an effective long-term plan. He spoke up clearly, strongly and consistently to broadcast both of these messages in a coherent and intelligent manner that few can match and that all with any integrity had no choice but to respect.
What made Gian a Hero was that he fought against what he understood to be a very hypocritical attack on his rights to do with his body as he pleased, to enjoy life in the manner of his choice, to raise his children according to his best judgment, and to live free of state-sponsored and corporate-financed attacks on his lifestyle. What made him a Champion was that he remained committed to his cause, shared his vision, and taught what he had learned to those around him with an enormous generosity of time and effort. What will make us miss him so much was that he was also an enormously warm and passionate individual who truly understood the meaning of integrity and of friendship.
With Gian’s passing, we who knew him and had the pleasure of working and interacting with him suffer a great loss. We who did not know him personally suffer an even greater loss – that of never having the opportunity to meet the man and feel the passion that drove him to such great efforts and such endurance in the face of a world-wide bureaucratic juggernaut.
None of us were ready to carry on the fight without him .... not now, not yet! But we all know that there is absolutely nothing in the world Gian Turci would want more than for us to do exactly that – to continue. And as we do exactly that, as we continue to fight the good fight, we can all be thankful for the legacy of well reasoned argument and analysis that Gian has left behind, for the innumerable networks and contacts that were brought together by him, for the solid foundations he helped lay beneath our arguments and self-doubts, and for the role model of integrity and passionate dedication that he was to his cause – to our cause.
May each of us carry a little bit of Gian Turci in our hearts as we too raise our heads and refuse to bow down when confronted by lies, insults and ridicule. May each of us successfully emulate him in blending pride, passion, dedication, integrity, intelligence and reason as we speak up to claim and reclaim our own rights, and to defend the rights of others.