Yesterday there were a few news articles published regarding teenage drinking and violence, after a weekend operation by police in Australia and New Zealand. Apparently more than 1,200 people were arrested in Aus. Not bad for a population of 22,000,000 really. A few papers were sold because of it and some television news time advertisers preserved their audience.
It’s all pretty good dog bites man stuff from the jack boot wearers in Australia and money was made. So ordinary that it isn’t mentioned as an election issue and your average wage slave doesn’t turn a hair. But this is the blogosphere so we’re not going to let them off that easily. Since the media seem disinterested in productive handling of election issues, citizens might examine this law and order thing further, independently. Hat tip for the “Laura Norder” tag goes to Wicksie from aus.politics, back in the day.
We live in a country where there is an epidemic of stress and depression, where millions of people self-medicate with alcohol, pain killers and other drugs, not to mention billions of dollars worth of prescription drugs. At the same time governments use tough law and order platforms to get themselves re-elected. The media publish hysterical, shallow rubbish about teenagers and violence, for example, screeching for new zero tolerance laws. There’s little airtime given to the deeper issues at work here or the fact that zero tolerance generally results in high prison populations without addressing problems. Then they write about the results of such knee jerk legislation and profit from that too.
Now that Australia has privately run prisons, business has a greater interest in all this particular cyclic regurgitation of double-think.
Yesterday’s blog addressed the alcoholism and violence police actions over the weekend with reference to mental health issues that are often associated with drug and alcohol use. Today that is extended to consider drug laws and enforcement.
Last Wednesday there was a drug raid in Bankstown during which a 26 year old trainee detective was shot and later died in hospital. Several men were charged over the incident and named in media reporting.
This morning, it turns out, the officer was killed by a bullet from another officer’s gun. Oops.
The tweets at the time centred around “drug laws turn self-medication into murder” though it did seem odd that the type of drugs involved in this instance had not been mentioned at all. “Cop shot in meth lab shoot out” was conspicuously absent. As it turns out there were no drugs. Good thing these three Bankstown residents have Middle Eastern and Vietnamese names and someone found an unregistered weapon, or there would be nowhere for the press to go with this whole keystone cops affair.
Where normally the purveyors of overlearned stereotypes would have a field day with allegations and inuendo about bikers, gangs, crime networks and drug labs, there’s simply an apology from the police involved. Though not to the three men whose home they invaded.
There is seemingly no end to the list of headlines about so-called meth labs and the raiding thereof in this country. It’s always interesting to note the mention of dangerous and illegal chemicals being used in the manufacture of these drugs, yet when Big Pharma makes the same drugs and dumps the byproducts down drains and in waterways, the mainstream media is silent. That’s only one small part of the hypocrisy surrounding this issue.
Methamphetamines, or ice, is so dangerous no one should ever use it ever. This is why we put people in gaol for making the stuff. In fact, amphetamines are so dangerous you can’t get pseudoephedrine from a chemist without a license and interrogation. (This is a major PITA for anyone suffering from chronic otitis media.)
We can only give it to fighter pilots in Iraq and pre-school children because it sends people psychotic. A family friend of mine was misdiagnosed with ADD and force fed dexamphetamine from the age of 4. Apparently that’s not uncommon.
Heroin and other opiates are another good example of inappropriate legislation and policing of a drug that is also used medically. Humans have used opium in one form or another for thousands of years. Opiates work very effectively as painkillers because the chemical structure is so similar to that of humans’ natural endorphins. Despite all the research and money thrown into drug development these days, morphine is still the gold standard in quick, cheap, effective pain relief. Heroin is a more refined form of morphine and was developed in the 19th century, when it was used in everything from cough syrup to baby teething medicines. In Britain it’s use was not strictly regulated until 1960.
Geoffrey Robertson QC did some absolutely brilliant hypotheticals illustrating the lunacy in anti-drug legislation. One of the best was included in the book “Does Dracula have AIDS?” called what’s your poison? This, among other commentaries, drew attention to the fact that the side effects of regular heroin use are less debilitating or dangerous than that of alcohol. Oh Geoffrey, where are you now?
Marijuana is another drug restricted by legislation that seems driven by nonsensical media over-reactions and lack of relevant, accurate information. The misrepresentation and selective reporting of research into marijuana use alone should have seen teh Evil Overlord and sundry minions of Murdochistan indicted for fraud.
From protective effects against cancer and drinking to chronic pain relief and anti-depressant, dope is safer than alcohol and tobbacco. Alternet has two articles on this, here and here. Why are we spending millions of taxpayers dollars to criminalise and incarcerate users and growers of marijuana when we know it is safer than many legal drugs? Advertising is already a tax dodge and private prisons are subsidised, so it’s not as if we need more excuses for corporate welfare in addition to the huge profits gained from prohibition.
The US banned alcohol in 1920, which resulted in more alcohol being consumed, particularly by children, and gangs forming to take advantage of illegal production and transport of moonshine. After realising they’d made a huge mistake, the US learned it’s lesson. No, wait… Then they tried exactly the same thing with other drugs. With pretty much the same results. In the interests of pharmaceutical dollars, lazy election campaigns and scaring the wage slaves, Australia followed suit.
As research and harm minimisation programs the world over have demonstrated, most of the problems caused by illegal drugs are not the drugs themselves but the illegality of their use.
While we’re considering whom to vote for perhaps we ought to consider the problems brought about by knee-jerk legislation motivated by media profiteering and manipulation, that results not in solutions but more problems. The issues surrounding drug laws, enforcement and incarceration are only one aspect of this unholy alliance but while people are dying or being criminalised and spending years of their lives in prison, it is an important one.
What we need is a rational review of drug laws and a complete overhaul of the health and mental health systems. What we seem to get is a never ending merry-go-round of sound bytes and profiteering.
There are a couple of grass roots activist campaigns running in Australia at the moment, regarding issues of legislation and justice. The Justice Project deals mainly with Human Rights. Justice Action deals with legislation, media and government accountability.