Saturday, December 11, 2004

This week some campaigners have been in overdrive trying to get violent video games banned. Last week a friend lent me Manhunt for the wondrous Playstation 2. I found out subsequently that the game has been held responsible for inspiring the recent murder of a British schoolboy. Manhunt offers little in the way of depth other than that presented by the range of deaths one can inflict upon a victim. And as my friend handed over the game he advertised it proudly, “this was banned in New Zealand”.

“Cool.” I replied.

Why would I, and doubtless also most of my peers in the same situation, be so positive about such news? I’m not a bloodthirsty loner desperate to gain a thrill by enacting gory simulated murders. I cannot say I’ve ever experienced any sort of adrenaline increase when executing a computer-generated character. But rather that when I get hold of such a game I want to play it because I’m curious to see what the fuss is all about. By playing such a game I am exploring societies tolerances and measuring myself against them. I don’t think I would have turned the game on had it not been banned. And actually it’s pretty dull but I’m playing it still, curious to see how far it goes…

Banning Stuff Encourages Its Use Shock!

Which is why Dutch locals don’t really bother with drugs. Why Brits with their strict drinking rules binge drink. Why Catholic priests are renowned, unfairly or not, for kiddie fiddling. And also why American teenagers - strictly denied any sort of narcotic, legal or otherwise - go completely and utterly over the top when off on their ridiculous “frat” parties.

Of course age restrictions should be properly enforced. I don’t think 6 year-olds should be free to play games in which they can get a satisfying pop from the head of a pedestrian using the sniper rifle they had to murder three Yardie Gangsters to obtain. But I do think adults should be free to do so if they wish. The basic principle is: if it hurts or affects nobody else, I should be free to do what the hell I like. As a loyal existentialist I would defend such a basic right to the end.


Which is why all drugs should be legalised for adults. It’s both controversial and staggeringly obvious. Anyone not exposed to the incessant media-induced morality and with half a brain would deduce nothing else without a doubt. No, I don’t think people mainlining crack is a good idea. But I am an adult; if I want to fuck up my body I have every right. Recently suicide was legalised, so how is this any different?

The current state of affairs is this: Any anthropologist worth their salt would be forced to admit that narcotics use is a constant that every human civilisation has always partaken in throughout all of history.

A sizeable proportion of intelligent and reasonable (as well as unintelligent and unreasonable) people take both legal and illegal drugs responsibly (and irresponsibly).

Any intelligent legislative thinker would openly admit that good law making must always follow society and its trends.

Users of illegal drugs, in order to obtain said substances, are forced to turn to a black market that is driven by people who use the money for criminal activities or, worse still, to fund organised crime, gang violence, and even terrorism. The principle, remember, is that we should be able to do anything as long as it doesn’t affect others.

Sorry to patronise here but DO YOU SEE?

Drugs legal: nobody else affected.

Drugs illegal: people take drugs anyway. Other people affected via black market criminality and hooked drug users thieving and begging to fund their dealers.

Drugs, it seems, more adversely affect the general public whilst they remain illegal than they would do if they were to be legalised.

How unbelievably simple does this logic have to be?

Let us explore other ridiculously obvious arguments that even a ten year old could grasp (maybe not the statements themselves but the deductive and inductive processes without a doubt):

Drugs legal: people have the choice to take all narcotics, all admittedly damaging, some less than the current legal ones; others more.

Drugs illegal: tens millions of Britons choose to consume the two major narcotics that are really quite damaging. Any other uses of major narcotics are often those that those dealers would like you to take, which - shock of shocks! – are the drugs that are the most addictive!

Drugs legal: People would feel much more open about asking questions to the right people such as a doctor, allowing young adults to make better decisions. Think how well informed we all are about nicotine and alcohol compared with heroin and cocaine.

Drugs illegal: Dissemination of the facts about drugs the realm of the drug dealer, the peer pressuring friend, stereotypes, cultural pressures, campaigning groups battling against sensationalist headlines and school lectures by police which although may be largely true is usually distrusted due to the blatant inconsistencies in drug laws which everyone down to the most innocent 12 year old is aware of.

Drugs legal: Police and judiciary time and finance freed to concentrate on burglars, rapists, murderers, terrorists and, er, nowadays, motorists.

Drugs illegal: police, politicians and judiciary expending huge amounts of effort, money and manpower on maintaining a war against drugs and, oh yes, the massive numbers of related problems exacerbated by this, let’s face it, culturally central phenomenon’s illegality.

Drugs legal: Drugs sold pure, manufactured by companies operating within safety guidelines and with all tax from profits going to the treasury. Industry and jobs created. More tax. Drug prices not inflated meaning addicts not encouraged to steal to pay for unneccesarily expensive habit.

Drugs illegal: Drugs laced with rat poison, baking powder, bleach, random chemicals and other horribly dangerous substances that drug cartels and unscrupulous amateur manufacturers use to heighten their profits. Leah Betts mum is a leading campaigner for a zero tolerance against drugs. Most people free of emotion and with the facts to hand should see the irony in this: had her daughter taken a legally produced ecstasy tablet, she would have almost certainly had a good time and gone home safely. Although still illegally: she would have been underage. So maybe she still would have used the black market, but more probably would have obtained legal ones illegally.

'Drugs are bad. M'kay?'

The change itself would probably lead to an increase in the number of users. Change always does. But it’s not the process of change that is important but the situation that needs to be bought about. Once the change has become the norm the numbers of drugs users would probably, using the common laws of anthropology and psychology as a guide, drop from today’s levels. And after all they could hardly rise.

What sane person, in possession of the facts, would voluntarily decide to start injecting him or herself with heroin? Many still would no doubt; and a black market would still inevitably remain for all the drugs – like it does for cigarettes and alcohol. But the problem would be massively reduced without a question. And inevitably fewer people would take the highly addictive, depressant, anti-social, car wrecking, vastly toxic, and violence inducing alcohol – and frankly that can only be a good thing for everybody. (Here’s a question: why is an alcohol comedown, arguably one of the very worst of all the drugs, given a friendlier name?)

Any politician who searched his or her own mind must know all of this, but who can blame them for valuing their careers? Such a move would never enjoy even a decently sized marginal support in today’s world. But it would be one hell of a brave move and I bet, if explained properly and despite all the inevitable headlines and follow up stories designed to dispute the facts we’d see splashed across the Express and the Mail for weeks on end, would get at least the respect of the public for being a genuine attempt to do something meaningful.

Meanwhile video games won’t be banned. Although I wouldn’t support such a ban it would probably be easily enforced. Hardcore video games would be genuinely difficult to get even with the minimum policing. Drugs’ trafficking on the other hand is policed like a bastard and yet the flow is bountiful. Could it be that our society is intrinsically linked with drugs? Well, durr…

“We are losing the war on drugs” politicians say. When only one side bothers fighting a war and still loses it really should be prepared to consider that the war is a fundamentally misplaced one. As the late great Bill Hicks once said: "Well you know what that implies? There's a war going on, and people on drugs are winning it! Well what does that tell you about drugs? Some smart, creative motherfuckers on that side."

Just for the record and in case you’re thinking I’m trying to justify some habit of mine I am not a great illegal drug taker nor am I the only person? who thinks this. I have not tried most drugs and probably never will, although my existentialist duty forced me to experience one or two. When you realise how pathetic some of these are to alcohol in particular you have to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Until you really think about it using basic cold logic.


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