So last week, my liberal metropolitan elitist co-editor Max threw down a rhetorical gauntlet. After graciously acknowledging how he has come around to my more enlightened point-of-view on most policy issues, he made a point of stubbornly sticking to one of his more bizarre, niche obsessions.
There are many unpleasant and immoral acts which are currently illegal under criminal law. Murder, soliciting prostitution, taping something of the telly and keeping it. Most of these laws carry with them the agreement and obedience of all but a tiny minority of the population. For reasons beyond my borderline-aspergic comprehension, drugs are the exception to this. While most people are quite happy to accept the long-standing illegality of such substances; for a tiny but disproportionately vocal subculture this issue is a scab they will not desist from picking.
I have never used illegal drugs. I really don’t see the point. We already have caffeine, and we have alcohol. One speeds your brain up, the other slows it down. To me, that’s all the mood-altering bases covered. Fast-forward, rewind; all the buttons you need on the VCR of life. Illegal drug use is actually at a historic low across the UK, which probably explains why drug policy has never been ranked in the regular YouGov issues tracker. In my experience its quite possible to get f***ed up enough on caffeine if you have enough of it – 2 litres of Pepsi, or the equivalent in energy drink and I’m usually all the way. As for alcohol – it goes without saying that anything strong enough to make an otherwise rational human being consume “food” from the recently burned-down Avian Death Camp “Rooster House”, has to be pretty damn potent.
Illegal drugs are the obsession of a fashionable and over-represented middle class clique. Blissfully ignorant and untouched by the everyday real issues that face ordinary people, they engage in intellectual masturbation about substances that were, no doubt, the source of “Top Bants” during their days at university. Let Tarquin or Jocasta “experiment”. Maybe it’ll help them forget how pretentious and tedious they are while they adopt “leftist” causes for a couple of years before moving seamlessly into a career in media. Or finance.
Seriously, i’m getting old now. I’ve been at too many house parties listening to too many “streetwise” mockney-speaking 19-year olds brag about what pointless substances they’ve ingested in lieu of developing a personality. I’d sooner die than see public policy dictated by the moral compasses of hipsters.
At this point I should probably rebuff some of Max’s deceptively reasonable points.
Well first there’s the old “Alcohol is bad, therefore other bad things should be legalised” line of argument. This one is so familiar its beyond tedious; it even has the bonus of bringing on-side those who, while not giving a much of a s*** about cannabis, are for their own ulterior motives outright anti-alcohol. Thing A is bad and legal. Thing B is bad and illegal. Therefore Thing B should also be legal. That’s just bad logic. If human civilisation was starting from a clean slate then yes, perhaps for the sake of consistency both A and B would be kept illegal – but as things currently stand living in the world as it is, not as some would have it be, there is no sense in making more harmful substances available to more people. What’s more, alcohol in modest quantities is harmless, even beneficial, as the liver naturally regenerates. Smoking cannabis on the other hand contributes irreversibly towards the development of lung cancer. That’s in addition to turning dull posh kids into pretentious w***ers.
At present alcohol causes more deaths and illnesses than most illegal substances – but that’s because several orders of magnitude more people use it. More people die from toasters than from sharks. Probably. Beans-on-Shark isn’t very tasty in any case. And where alcohol is more harmful than crack or heroin, that is only the case for comparing worst case against worse case. Statistically a very questionable methodology. Compare your median drinker who had two or three pints at the weekend with your median junkie shooting up in a Glasgow public toilet and you grasp the absurdity of the comparison.
Legalise it, control it. Yeah, okay. Ignore the obvious implication that in being illegal something is already pretty damn controlled. The UK’s drug policy is for the most part effective – most people are non-users, and disincentives for use are firmly in place. Were it not for people like Max muddying the waters with their dissent, telling impressionable younger people that drug use is OK or cool, then use would probably be much lower. In no other criminal activity would a proposed solution be legalisation – for murder or burglary it would be unimaginable. Appeasement towards criminals. Surrender.
Now that’s the kind of Britain Max wants. One of potheads and hipsters. One where the rule of law is gradually eroded as laws become optional and non-compliance is accepted as deterministic and self-evident proof that they were “unworkable” to begin with. Of course, Max won’t accept this – at present he’s unwilling to countenance the idea that he might just be wrong. Only a few months ago I turned him away from a policy of putting all modern art in a big pile and burning it. There’s a precedent for behaviour like that. Who would you trust?
For the avoidance of doubt it should be made quiet clear that I wrote this piece while off my tits on caffeine.