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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Unity rebuts

The drugs debate continues. Some will say that I have misunderstood the thrust, the tendency of the original 15,000-word salvo; others may say that some subsequent participants did not thoroughly read or understand Theodore Dalrymple's 1997 contribution (he does tend to over-write, I grant you).

Misunderstanding is an important factor. I remember the confused glee of a group of 15-year-olds when cannabis was reclassified as a Class C drug - they were part of a project I was involved with, rehabilitating youngsters for college and work (lovely kids, essentially). They didn't understand the rubric, but they thought they understood the message that dear hip Tony Blair was sending. Though the message was not aimed directly at them, of course, but to their middle-class fellows. Who gives a damn about pasty, ill-nourished white trash, self-protectively aggressive black thuglets-in-training, and Muslim kids for whom only born-again Islam is the way off bud? They don't vote, much less contribute to Party funds.

And when cannabis was re-elevated to the minor peerage, it was ostensibly for the benefit of young people, but perhaps also - perhaps more - for the readers of the Daily Mail.

Though it may be step-by-step rather than in a single bound, crossing the Rubicon is a momentous decision. Though it may be slice by slice, the salami will get eaten. Policy-makers, policy-proposers, note that you may be more sensitive to the faults of present arrangements than to the defects of the alterations you propose; and a process may be easier to start than halt.


Anonymous said...

The phyiscal harm that might be caused by taking a philosophically rational approach to an issue should not ever be reason for not taking that action. If that was ever an exceptable exuse for denying people freedom we would still be appeasing Hitler.

Sackerson said...

Sorry, I don't follow. Dalrymple gives reasonable grounds for suspecting that liberalisation would lead to more widespread use and abuse and more addicts, so it's an estimate of probable consequences, not arid philosophy. And I don't see where the boo-puppet Hitler comes in.

Anonymous said...

The point is that millions of people died in WWII because Britain decided to stand against him as a matter of principle to preserve our own freedom. We could of said "OK, we value human liufe over freedom, so come right in". But we didn't. So if we are the kind of nation that is prepared to take heavy losses for a matter of principle regarding our own personal freedom then - why not over a matter of principle regarding our own government and its willingness to restrict our personal freedom on a matter of its own opinion? Since we are not prepared to fight for freedom as a matter of principle, we can be sure that successive governments of right and left will each take small chunks of it away until there is no freedom left.

I don't like drugs either, but I fear if we are not prepared to fight for the freedom to take drugs, or eat meat, or hunt foxes or have sex with people of the samne sex or become Mormons or whatever, then each of these will be taken away from us. You see, the majority will not fight for any one of these things, so if they will not fight they will be taken away - and eventually your own personal freedoms will be taken away. The authoritarians will divide to conquer. So I say lets stand together and fight for the principle of personal liberty, because it is better to be free to do "bad things" to ourselves than not to be free at all.

Sackerson said...

Fair comment, Anon. My Dad did as much as anyone to fight the Fascists in WW2 - Desert Rat, Sicily, mainland Italy.

But freedom is more complex than it seems at first sight, especially when mingled with "issues around" inequalities of opportunity. Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite - a circle never squared.

And there is also a debate to be had (which few seem to wish to undertake here) about our own internal freedom - how free and rational are we? Addiction puts this question into sharp focus. And when does chilkdhood end and full autonomy begin - or is there an intermediate stage, like the P or green L on cars driven by recently-qualified drivers?