Thursday, February 5, 2009

Miranda Devine, the war on drugs, oi oi oi and binge drinking

Over at The Sydney Morning Herald, Miranda the Devine has pronounced, with a certainty completely devoid of insight, that The war on drugs is being won.

For a start, there's the sloppy stupidity of maintaining that silly name, the 'war on drugs'. What is it with neo cons and such like that they always have to have a war on something. The war on terror, the war on pornography, the war on fashion elites, the war on bleeding heart do gooders, the cultural wars, the history wars, the war on pinkos, the war on Pink?

Is it because most of them never leave their armchairs or their computer keyboards but want to imagine themselves as warriors getting down and dirty? 

The immediate cause for Devine's column is an unseemly squabble over a girl who swallowed three ecstasy tablets to avoid police sniffer dogs at a Big Day Out concert, and promptly died.

The cops and the sniffer dogs copped some criticism, and the Devine nobly goes out in the street in support of random sniffer dog searches. (Having been randomly sniffed in Newtown square and at the railway station, but never once experienced this kind of thing in Bondi Junction, is my random sampling sufficient to suggest the cops are working to standard cultural stereotypes?)

Anyhoo, it always amuses me when fierce libertarians suddenly desire to introduce the nanny state, courtesy of sniffer dogs, so that we have street level supervision and intrusion worthy of a Stalinist state.

These sniffer dogs regularly walk past a couple of hotels near Newtown station notorious for young people going in sober, and walking out so pissed as parrots they can barely stand. In fact all the hotels along King street are a haven for binge drinking, though we in the inner west usually don't see the ructions of a Manly, perhaps because the binge drinkers here are polite left leaning EMOs, goths, university students, and musos who can't be fucked with flag waving.

But given we're in what people tell us is a binge drinking crisis, involving a legal drug, how are we winning the war on drugs?

Well it seems all is well because new guidelines to be issued later this month by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council state there is no safe alcohol consumption if you are under 18, and it is particularly dangerous if you are under 15.

Oh well that's alright then, everyone under 18, just stop drinking and we've won the war on drugs. As for all you poxy, grog addicted people over 18, just limit it to one standard drink of alcohol a day would you (and can the smoking while you're at it) and we'll have won the war on drugs.

Now what all this has to do with sniffer dogs escapes me, as the best drugs are freely and legally available, as anybody whose spent time in Alice Springs would know, and where the best drug control device they've discovered to date is a feeble attempt to limit the sale of casks to certain hours (and didn't that cause the whites to howl, in the same way they howled when they introduced petrol designed to defeat petrol sniffing. Such a caring mob).

Sniffer dogs are in fact a random, inept and inefficient display of state power, and they do bugger all to stop drug use (as a random sweep of King street on a Friday or Saturday night would surely show). The chances of being caught, versus any desire to use drugs, are so disproportionate as to ensure sniffer dogs only work on the most feeble minded and fearful.

But never mind, the Devine, like so many on the right, loves the war on drugs, loves cops and sniffer dogs in the streets, and loves the idea that we're winning the war on drugs through tough, tough love.

Myself, I have a soft spot for dobermanns and alsatians and rottweilers, but maybe that's the German genes showing. Do I think they'd do much on the street, except enhance the look of my full length black leather coat? Not really.

Fortunately none of this canine capering, Kommissar Rex style, had to be deployed in reducing our addiction to nicotine. It just had to be banished from pubs and workplaces and restaurants, and its users treated like social pariahs, taxed to high heaven, California style (funny how this produced shrieks and howls from libertarians who wanted the right to keep smoking anywhere anytime for their own vile and selfish purposes).

And funnily enough when the Federal government suggested taxing new drinks targeted at young people, it was the industry itself (those noble capitalists deeply concerned about their customers' health) and libertarians who again howled that this was a blunt instrument. Just leave it to the barmaids to kick them out when they get totally pissed.

Well it's true that marijuana usage has declined, that meth use has declined, that cocaine and non-medical uses of tranquilisers and sleeping pills are the only drugs to have seen an increase in usage in recent times.

And it's also true that peer groups and family are more likely to have an influence on drug use than random societal displays like sniffer dogs (not that I've seen any lately except at the airport).

But to suggest that society has won, or is winning the war on drugs, when the most used and abused drug is freely available and freely indulged and now is ritually abused on a regular level (not just Australia Day) suggests Devine should get out into the streets more. (In 2004-05 in the general population over 18, 48% of males and 30% of females engaged in binge drinking at least once a year, with 12% and 4% doing so at least once a week. Among 18-24 year olds, 19% of males and 11% of females did so at least once a week, source National Health Survey).

Then she might start urging the government to tax alcho pops out of existence, and to take sterner measures regarding hotel trading hours, and hotel regulation of drinking, which admittedly is like asking the poacher to tend to the needs of the rabbits.

And for god's sake stop using the term 'war on drugs'. Last time I passed my local pub I didn't see it sandbagged and under assault from mortar and grenade attack as it sold its legal, brain munching, life reducing drugs to its customers. 

What we're dealing with here isn't a war, it's a lifestyle choice Miranda. I leave it to you to go vegan, go reborn revitalised hippie, give up all drugs, cleanse your body of toxic poisons, restore your healthy bodily fluids, be at one with yourself and worship your body in the same way that you worship the heavenly Gaia. 

I can even recommend several cults in India dedicated to reforming neo cons at war with themselves and society. Oops, sorry, I will not use the word 'war' again, except when writing about an actual war, promise.

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