Why they won’t stop the war on drugs

I read a headline in the Metro last week. “The war on drugs ‘just isn’t working’.” Apparently the Global Commission on Drug Policy has called for the legalisation of drugs. Noted elders argue that “the war on drugs has failed to cut drug usage.” Adding that it has filled jails. Cost millions. Fuelled organised crime. And caused thousands of deaths. Despite evidence from Portugal. That problematic drug use and drug related deaths fall when drugs are decriminalize. They decriminalized drugs in 2001. A Home Office spokesman said they were going to ignore the report. “We have no intention of liberalising our drugs laws. Drugs are illegal because they are harmful. They destroy lives.” I am not surprised by the Home Office’s attitude. It’s the patronising parental attitude always displayed. The blinkered vision that completely ignores the reality of drug use in the country. DrugScope.  The UK’s leading independent centre of expertise on drugs. “Estimated that over 11 million people aged 16 to 59 in England and Wales have used illicit drugs in their lifetime.” That’s about 6% of the population. They estimate there 6408 drug related deaths between 2000 and 2004. In that same period there were anywhere between 25,000 and 200,000 alcohol related deaths. The “drugs are harmful” mantra is repeated at infinitum. As if repeating it. Makes it more true. It doesn’t. And not because drugs can’t cause harm. They plainly can. It’s because the “drugs are harmful” mantra masks the real reason drugs are illegal. Drug prohibition isn’t about public health. Drug prohibition is about public control. I’ll say it again. It’s not about public health. It’s about public control. Think back to the first world war. The government imposed closing times on the public houses. So munitions workers would go back to work in the afternoon. The government imposed limited prohibition to control its workers. Not because of fears for their health. But to get them back to work. What’s the difference between that? And the laws that stop people dropping an “E” at the weekend? Ecstasy is a Class A drug. Because dropping an “E” at the weekend might interfere with your work on Monday. If prohibition was about public health. They would ban tobacco. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man. Its use causes no end of health problems. From heart disease. To strokes. Lung cancer. To tumours. Ash. The anti-smoking charity. Estimate there are 12 million smokers in the UK. That’s about 7% of the population. DrugScope estimate “that each year in the UK around 114,000 people die from tobacco-related diseases.” Yet you can walk into any corner shop. Buy a packet. Light up. And get high. Cigarettes are proof. If proof were needed. That prohibition is not about public health. It’s about public control. Prohibition is a panacea of public control for governments around the world. It is a device nations use to endo-colonize their population. Endo-colonization is a term coined by French cultural theorist Paul Virilio. In the text of Pure War he describes the general militarization of society. In which economies. Unable to expand by colonizing other countries. Start to colonize their own population. The state. In the form of a civilian military. That’s the police. Have “come to settle among and establish political control over (the indigenous people of an area).” Drugs is not a public health issue. Drugs is a civil liberties issue. And we should demand our freedom to take drugs if we so wish. I say legalise the lot. Regulate drugs the way we regulate cigarettes. From cocaine. To tobacco. You should be able to walk into a chemist. Order your desired brand of drug. At your preferred strength. And go enjoy yourself for a few hours. Without fear of retribution from the state. The war on drugs is a war on freedom. And should be condemned as antithetical to an individual’s human rights.

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It’s ‘cause you’re psychopaths!

I see the MiddleClass as psychopaths. When you say the word psychopath. Images of axe wielding homicidal maniacs come to mind. But the truth is considerably less histrionic. And comes in the form of the compulsive liar who always gets what they want. The social butterfly who leaves a whirlwind of destruction in their wake. Or the “interspecies predator” who controls others to satisfy their own selfish needs.

I have always been suspicious of the MiddleClass. Never really able to understand their demeanor. But when I came across Dr. Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. While researching on my first screenplay. It all fell into place.

The checklist is the psycho-diagnostic tool most commonly used to assess psychopaths. It is a clinical rating scale of twenty items.

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioural control
  • Promiscuous sexual behaviour
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Early behaviour problems
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Criminal versatility

When completed. The test subject is scored anywhere between “0” and “40”. The prototypical psychopath scores the maximum “40”. A score above “30” diagnoses the subject as psychopathic. I see scores above “30” manifest all the time in the attitudes and behavior of the MiddleClass. Individual members may not be psychopathic. But as a class it’s a different story. Take that core member of the MiddleClass. Bankers. I’d score their behavior as follows.

  • Glibness/superficial charm (2)
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth (2)
  • Pathological lying (2)
  • Cunning/manipulative (2)
  • Lack of remorse or guilt (2)
  • Shallow affect (2)
  • Callous/lack of empathy (2)
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions (2)
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom (2)
  • Parasitic lifestyle (2)
  • Poor behavioural control (2)
  • Promiscuous sexual behaviour (2)
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals (2)
  • Impulsivity (2)
  • Irresponsibility (2)
  • Juvenile delinquency (1)
  • Early behaviour problems (1)
  • Revocation of conditional release (2)
  • Many short-term marital relationships (0)
  • Criminal versatility (2)

That’s a Checklist score of “36”. They should be banged up. But they’re not. They’re allowed go about their business. In the name of the free market. And a profit.

I see scores above “30” in the well dressed politician who demonstrates a complete lack of empathy by admonishing the long term unemployed. There in the grandiose sense of self-worth innate in parents who set up a school for their children. And there in the bankers who fail to accept responsibility for the whirlwind of destruction they left in their wake.

I have no idea what to do with this insight. But there is some small satisfaction in being able to j’accuse. “It’s ‘cause you’re psychopaths!”

Infantilizing the political system

I can’t help thinking the royal wedding. No to the alternative voting system. And today’s release of “THE KING’S SPEECH“. Are linked in some way. The royal wedding was marketed as a national event we could all unite behind. The resounding no to the alternative vote was affirmation of “business as usual” for the political class. And today’s film release is the icing on the cake of the heroic triumph over adversity myth that surrounds the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The truth is I think the cycle of recent events provides a bloody nose to those of us who would like to see this country as a republic. Because it does what the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha always does. They distract us from the real and lasting political change needed in this country. When I tell people I think we should elect our head of state. They look at me like I’m demented. “You want a president (insert the name of the politician you hate the most)?” I would actually like to elect every person who represents me. Because if I elect them. I can un-elect them. Make them accountable for what they do in my name. But that doesn’t seem to be enough reason for most monarchists. As if wielding my franchise is some how a silly idea. And I should know better. When I ask them what exactly the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha does for us. All they seem able to come up with is tourism. As if having big houses for commoners to visit is justification for infantilizing the political system in this country. Because ultimately that is what the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha does. Its presence treats the people of this country as a “child or in a way that denies their maturity in age or experience”. I wish we could grow out of it. The way I grew out of crazy hair cuts. But as long as the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha remains in place. We are doomed to suckle on their breast. Treated as children unable to emancipate.

The illusion of choice

I use one of those postal DVD rental services. Last weekend I was really disappointed by the collection of DVD’s that were delivered. They sent me three films all of a similar ilk. Individually it might have been okay. But all together. It was like having three courses of same dish for dinner. What annoys me most about my DVD rental service. Is the imposition of their will. Over mine. And my willingness to let that happen. Think about it. These services are all the same. You can’t actually pick the films you want to watch. You can state a preference. I usually have twenty DVD’s listed at any one time. But if the monkey at the other end decides to send you all the horror films on your list. There’s shite all you can do about it. What these companies have done. Is come up with a way to offer a poorer service. And get away with it. They deliver to the door. But you run the gauntlet of sub standard postal delivery. It’s cheaper. But here are no late fees. The offer the hundreds of thousands of titles. But send you what convenient for them. Ultimately I end up feeling cheated. And out of pocket. Should I keep giving them my money? Probably not. But I do. I wish I could vote with my feet? And go back to the High Street? But because everyone is using these post based rental services. The choice of rental places on the High Street has dwindled to nothing. Ultimately the illusion of choice has short changed us.

Psychopath class

When you say the word “psychopath” images of an axe wielding homicidal maniacs come to mind. Norman Bates dragging a knife into Marion Crane’s shower. Mark Lewis skewering women so he can capture their fear with his father’s cine-camera. But those are metaphorical psychopaths who inhabit our imagination. And manifest in the films of “Psycho” or “Peeping Tom”. The truth is considerably less histrionic. A whole lot more mundane. And come in the form of the compulsive liars who always get what they want. The social butterflies able to evade responsibility for the whirlwind of destruction they leave in their wake. And the “intraspecies predators” who control others to satisfy their own selfish needs.

While researching on my first screenplay I came across Dr. Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. The checklist is the psycho-diagnostic tool most commonly used to assess psychopaths. It is a clinical rating scale of twenty items. Each item is scored between “0” and “2”. A value of “0” is given to any item that does not apply. A value of “1” is given to any item that applies somewhat. A value of “2” is assigned to any item that applies fully. The twenty items are.

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioural control
  • Promiscuous sexual behaviour
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Early behaviour problems
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Criminal versatility

When properly completed by a qualified professional the test subject is scored anywhere between “0” and “40”. The prototypical psychopath would score the maximum “40”. While someone who has no psychopathic tendencies would score the minimum “0”. A score above “30” diagnoses the subject as psychopathic.

I am not a qualified professional. But I know at least two individuals who would score above “30” on Dr. Hare’s Checklist. More worryingly I look around and see it manifest in an entire class of people. Whose actions. Attitudes. And behaviour. If taken as a whole. Would score “30” or more. I know I’m throwing boulders into the water. But I am pointing a finger. And saying it. The Middle Classes are psychopaths.

I’m not the first to look at an entire institution and conclude if it were an individual it would be diagnosed as a psychopath. Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar’s 2003 documentary The Corporation did exactly that. They applied Dr. Hare’s Checklist to the corporation. And concluded that if it were an individual. It would be a clinically-diagnosed psychopath.

The individual members of the Middle Class may not be psychopathic on their own. But as a whole. With a set of clearly defined values. They score “30” or above. Take that core member of the middle class. Bankers. I’d score their personality and case history as follows.

  • Glibness/superficial charm (2)
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth (2)
  • Pathological lying (2)
  • Cunning/manipulative (2)
  • Lack of remorse or guilt (2)
  • Shallow affect (2)
  • Callous/lack of empathy (2)
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions (2)
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom (2)
  • Parasitic lifestyle (2)
  • Poor behavioural control (2)
  • Promiscuous sexual behaviour (2)
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals (2)
  • Impulsivity (2)
  • Irresponsibility (2)
  • Juvenile delinquency (1)
  • Early behaviour problems (1)
  • Revocation of conditional release (2)
  • Many short-term marital relationships (0)
  • Criminal versatility (2)

By my gorilla maths that gives them a Checklist score of “36”. They should be on a psychiatric hold. Receiving treatment. A danger to themselves and others. But they’re not. They’re allowed to go about their business. In the name of the free market. And a profit.

I have absolutely no idea how to deal with it in any meaningful way. But the next time you see some banker on television failing to accept responsibility for their action by asserting their right to a bonus. Or some well dressed politician demonstrating a callous lack of empathy by admonishing the long term unemployed. Or you see the grandiose sense of self-worth innate in parents who set up a school for their children. Take a look at the checklist. And see how they score. When I do it. They are always Middle Class. And they always score “30” or above.

All that glitters is not gold

I heard something on the radio yesterday. The average age of a first time buyer, not supported by the bank of mum and dad, is thirty-seven. Thirty-seven years old before you have enough financial history to leap the hurdle of deposit and get a mortgage. Mid-life before you can start to buy a house of your own. And things are only going to get worse.

As the ramifications of the recent financial collapse continue to unfold. It is not inconceivable that the average age of a first time buyer will push beyond forty. This delayed ability to join the fraternity of home owners will have a devastating effect on any buyer’s ability to repay a mortgage before retirement. That’s a lot of people who will never be able to get a mortgage. Never be able to buy a house.

Some might look at the current situation and argue we are going through a “natural” period of correction. Reduced numbers of first time buyers will force down the inflated price of housing. Thus allowing more first time buyer’s to enter the market. Perhaps that is true. What is more likely is that those who already have equity will be able buy up cheap property and build their portfolio. Fuelling the ever increasing rise in prices. Pushing the average age of first time buyer’s up even higher. The truth is. A lot of people will never be able to buy. And will be forced to rent for their entire life.

The usual argument against renting is that it is a waste of money. You give away all that money. And have nothing to show for it. But renting is only an issue if you look at your life as the accumulation of wealth. If you look at rent as the cost of living. It becomes less of an issue.

So why are we so obsessed with owning property in this country? Margaret Thatcher made it the cornerstone of her monetarist agenda by selling off our stock of council housing in the eighties. She sold the family silver to socially engineer the reduction of the welfare state. She made property a pension. Ask yourself. What happens to all this house wealth in the end? It is rarely passed on to the next generation. More often than not. It is levied to pay for the home owner’s retirement. Or worse still. Sold to pay the cost of residential care.

So what’s going to happen to the increasing number of people who will never be able to buy? They won’t have the cash-cow of a property to fund their retirement. What does the future hold for them? Will they have to continue working well beyond the statutory age of retirement? Or will they be abandoned, forced to live in abject poverty? That won’t happen. The state will step in and help. What state? The current government stated aim is the reduction of the state. Less state. Less help. So private companies will come to the rescue and fill the gap. What sort of care will those who don’t have property to levy actually get? The answer. Not very good care. The state will pay them? I don’t think so. Charity then? Charity will step in to help the venerable. How very progressive. It’s that kind of thinking that consolidated the need for the labour movement in the nineteenth century.

Perhaps that’s where the future lies. The rise of a genuine labour movement in this country. Will people’s inability to buy actually change people’s understanding of the world? Perhaps the coming privations will galvanise enough of us to finally force real and lasting social change for the better. Perhaps it will reawaken left-wing politics in this country.

The sceptic in me doubts it. I would love to be wrong. But I think the vast majority of us have been blinded by the glitter of wealth for it’s own sake. We’re in love with the big screen televisions that stream advertisement for the cult of celebrity like “The X Factor” and the soon to be gone “Big Brother”. We’ve had these bright lights for too long. Perhaps so long. The glare has blinded us. Made it hard to see. All that glitters is not gold.

Accusations of cynicism

Yesterday someone accuses me of being cynical. I don’t think of myself as a cynic. I think of myself as someone who has a very clear understanding of the world I live in. And a willingness to share that insight. Does my inability to wear rose tinted spectacles make me a cynic?

The Cynics as I understand it were an ancient school of Greek philosophers. They believed that the purpose of life is to live a life of virtue in agreement with nature. They rejected all conventional desire for wealth, power and fame by living a simple life free from all possessions. They believed that the world belonged equally to everyone. That suffering was caused by false judgments of what was valuable. And by the worthless customs which surrounded society.

None of that really explains the negative connotation the word cynical currently has. Half a second on the internet and Dictionary.com will tell you”cynical” is…

  • Believing or showing the belief that people are motivated chiefly by base or selfish concerns; sceptical of the motives of others: a cynical dismissal of the politician’s promise to reform the campaign finance system.
  • Selfishly or callously calculating: showed a cynical disregard for the safety of his troops in his efforts to advance his reputation.
  • Negative or pessimistic, as from world-weariness: a cynical view of the average voter’s intelligence.
  • Expressing jaded or scornful scepticism or negativity: cynical laughter.

Could the negative emphasis the word cynic now has be a response the Cynics themselves? The ideal Cynic would evangelize. They saw themselves as the watchdog of humanity? It was their job to hound people about the error of their ways. They would dig-up and expose the pretensions which lay at the root of everyday conventions. Those who were unable to answer the Cynics criticisms simply shot the messenger? But that explanation presupposes the criticism is delivered by a true Cynic; someone who lives a life of virtue in agreement with nature. The negative connotation that hangs with the word hints that the criticisms were in fact delivered by the less virtuous. It could be the negative connotation is actually an accusation of hypocrisy.

I’m no hairshirt wearing evangelist. But neither do I think of myself as a hypocrite. I do think the world we have created is too materialistic. Then again I have no real desire to shed the material comforts. I like electricity as much as the next person. I think relatively cheap, readily available food is a good thing. I like being able to get in the car and drive wherever I want. But I can also see untold amounts of suffering caused by the worthless customs and conventions which surround society. I see marriage as a mechanism designed to enslave women. I look at our obsession with celebrity as an anesthetic. And I have a real problem with the way in which the progeny of rich are routinely given the opportunity to do their ten thousand hours before anyone else.

As I say in my profile “I am by nature a deconstructor.” So I naturally find myself trying to dig-up and expose the pretensions which lay at the root of everyday conventions. I don’t see such endeavors as hypocritical. But the irony of living in a materialist world and being a deconstructor is not lost on me. I must therefore accept that an inability to wear rose tinted spectacles does in fact make me a cynic.

Class on my shoulder

I bumped into someone yesterday who damaged me both personally and professionally. I hadn’t seen him in almost ten years. And met him quite by chance in a confined situation. My gut reaction was to vent. Punch him in the face. Make him pay for the things he’d done. But I didn’t. I put my hands in my pockets. Bit my tongue. And let him walk.

My father. In his youth. Would’ve punched his lights out. At least one of my cousins would’ve taken a baseball bat to his shins. But I put my hands in my pockets. Bit my tongue. And let him walk away. My lack of visceral action no doubt leaves me on the moral high ground. But there is still a part of me that thinks. I should have taken him outside. And damaged him. Physically. That’s what you’re supposed to do where I come from. Stand up for yourself. Physically.

This kind of behaviour is portrayed in the media as a symptom of social decline. A disease with no cure. The subtext to all that hyperbole is fear. Fear of the countless people who fall out of the pub on a Friday night. And respond to an insult with physical action. Put simply it is fear of the working class.

It is the working class who respond to insults with physical action. It’s all they have. The thing of it is. The thing I have come to realise. The person I am talking about. His behaviour was no less violent. No less damaging than the fist thrown in a street brawl. But he did it in the name of a profit. With a smile. And a sense of entitlement I only ever come across in the middle class. The thing I’m struggling to articulate is this. The middle class façade of polite behaviour. Is just that. A façade.

I have had something of an education. Not as much as I would like. But enough to move in middle class circles. And survive. Almost. I say almost because no amount of education will ever make me one of them. I will always be on the outside looking in. I lack the ruthless sensibility that is innate in these people. The cold selfishness that is their birth right. I come from, dare I say it, more honest stock. They might punch you in the face when you cross them. But they would never betray you for thirty pieces of silver.

Fortunately there will always be a part of me that remains working class. A part of me that still lives on a council estate in the North East of England. A part of me that wants to take duplicitous scum outside. And damage them. Physically. A part that keeps me honest. I suppose that’s why they say. You can take the boy out of the council estate. But you can’t take the council estate out of the boy.