Because I Got High


‘Weed, dude…’ The dope-head said to my friend, after he’d lost his train of thought for the umpteenth time, ‘It messes with your short-term… your short-term… um…’ and trailed off. ‘Your short-term memory?’ My friend asked, and the marijuana-smoker replied in the affirmative. True story. The ‘weed’ he was referring to was, of course, cannabis, and I was reminded of the exchange last week as I listened to news of the row between the government and their chief scientific advisor on drugs.

Over the last few years, the government has pretty much ignored the scientific advice on drugs. From deciding on its policy on Ecstasy without waiting for the findings of its scientific advisers, to reclassifying cannabis from a Class C to a Class B drug, the government has demonstrated time and again that its objections to drugs are more social and ‘moral’ than scientific. This was borne out last week when Home Secretary Alan Johnson sacked Professor David Nutt, head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, because Professor Nutt had publicly criticized the government for ignoring the ACMD’s advice.

‘Ah!’ you say, ‘It all makes sense now! The pinko-liberal politics, the hippie attitudes to the environment and war, the beard… Jonathan Langley is clearly on drugs. And that’s why he’s about to defend their use, probably on the basis of hemp making good rope, just like a typical degenerate drug-addict.’

Well, sorry to disappoint, but, I’m not a fan of drugs. I’ve tried cannabis a few times, and it’s just not my cup of (green) tea. I am, as my editor never tires of telling me, relatively paranoid when on nothing stronger than coffee. Smoking illegal herbage (while at university), nearly scared me to death. In fact, in my experience, most of the illegal drugs my friends have used have made them vacant, shallow, insincere and, well, stupid. Of course, that goes for many of the legal drugs, too. But if you asked me, I’d advise you to keep away from drugs.

drugs are bad, mkay?


And that means absolutely nothing. Why? Because I’m not a scientist. I can recognise that my opinion on a subject I know little about is not very important. But, apparently, successive Home Secretaries cannot. Some of them may genuinely believe cannabis is dangerous (though this seems unlikely considering how many of our top politicians have admitted smoking pot earlier in life and going on to fruitful lives). More likely is that they are afraid of the social backlash against them if they take a reasonable, measured, scientific approach to all recreational drugs (including alcohol). A backlash from people like us.

Because, for Christians, this is not an issue where we can dispassionately criticize the government. We are one of the reasons the government ignores scientists when they try to say that some drugs are not as dangerous as others, that mental-health fears with certain drugs are nothing more than scare-tactics. We, people in churches, members of campaigning groups, ‘the silent moral majority’ that tabloids make so much noise about, are the ones who, directly or indirectly, demand that the government take a ‘hard line’ on drugs, for many different reasons of vastly disparate validity.

But if we really want, for whatever moral, spiritual or other reason, to discourage people from taking drugs, perhaps we should try telling the truth about drugs and basing our laws consistently on that truth. I know that sounds crazy. It’s probably just the booze talking.

Here’s an amusing anti-drug advert (I’d love to post the old Dennis LEary MTV one, but the only rip of it contains some of his other opinions, most of which are, well, stupid.):

Frankly pwned (I wish I’d said that)

The video above is of a gay, Jewish American Congressman called Barney Frank, being accused of being part of a group of people who are pretty close to being Nazis. What heinous crimes against humanity are they plotting? To bring more and cheaper access to medical care for the poor.

Leaving aside the obvious ‘but he’s gay and Jewish, you moron!’ point, the fact is that many ordinary Americans seem to have been duped by this sort of ridiculous rhetoric. The sad thing for me is that many of those duped are Christians.

Yes, I know. It’s not like Christians have an amazing record for not being pulled in by the frankly dubious logic of various political movements (“Apartheid is God’s will, honest!”; “Hunting witches is perfectly compatible with loving our neighbours!”; “Don’t worry about the Inquisition! Nobody is ever going to remember this stuff and hold it against us!” ; “The KKK did not take your baby away.” etc). But gosh-flipping-darn-it-all-to-heck (please excuse my strong language, but it does upset me), when are we going to wise up?

I can sort of understand a wholesale rejection of one of the few systems of government that has ever sought, in theory at least, to take seriously the Sermon on the Mount and the Prophets’ concern for the poor and the needy on the basis that it was also aggressively atheist. And given the way that philosophy (just so we’re clear: I’m talking about Communism, my reformed/fundamentalist chum, not the Church of Rome) was interpreted by the state that claimed to believe in it, that was probably a good call.

But to reject something just because it carries a similar name? Seriously? You fear Socialism on such a strong point of principle that you cannot see that this outwroking of it would be an expression of mercy and love?

You value your own wealth so much, Christian socialised-healthcare-skeptic, that you would choose holding onto it rather than easing the suffering of another human being? Are you familiar with the name ‘Mammon’?

You believe, ideologically capitalist Christian, that if we see someone suffering, we should help them ourselves, but you balk, kick and scream at the idea of that money being administered by a state who may see more of the need than you yourself can? Why? You seem perfectly willing to let the government (who you claim represents the people and is gloriously democratic) act on your behalf to kill people in other countries through your armed forces and use lethal force to protect you at home through the police. Why are you suddenly so uncomfortable at the idea of it doing kind things in your name (and using your money) as well?

Do you really care about the politics, the economics, the principles? I like to think you’re just reacting out of habit. The alternative is that you really care more for yourself than others and you refuse to submit to any suggestion that you should not do that.

And I have to say: if you are uncomfortable submitting to that sort of command, you’re probably in the wrong religion.

Personally, I think those Christians (and, dash-it-all, the non-Christians too) who are trying to bring what is, let’s face it, not exactly radical change to American healthcare, need our prayers. They are being opposed with many lies. And these lies are aimed specifically at preventing grace and mercy in favour of a malthusian ‘survival of the fittest’ doctrine (it’s odd to me how many Christians currently spouting this sort of language about society find it repugnant when discussing evolution).

Lies aimed at opposing grace are, more than others to my mind, satanic (sorry if that’s a bit, well, Christian).

We should pray against them. And we should applaud people like Barney Frank for combating them in a more fleshly, but very funny way.

Fame. Fortune. Glory. Baptist groupies.

The title above refers to what must ultimately be my destiny, now that Associated Baptist Press (ABP) have kindly picked up my column about the ‘American Dream’ and Health Care, in the context of a Christian’s allegiance to something other than national identity. It’s a done deal, really.

You can read the ABP version here.

Or highlights picked up by a Baptist blog here.

OR you could simply wait for me to get off my lazy buttocks and post it on this very blog!

Blue Screen of (Literal) Death

blue-screen-of-deathOh. My. Goodness. WTF.

I just caught up with this story.

My excuse for being late is that I’ve had Swine Flu, apparently (who knows? The lady on the phone thought I did).

In short, this is how the Tories want to outsource our medical records. No biggie there. The Conservative Party, for all it’s recent nice-guy posing, still seems to have that particular brand of capitalist faith in markets that will not rest until we have pay-as-you-investigate policing and top-up fire and rescue services.

But it’s who they want to re-place the NHS with the medical histories that mean diabetics are not prescribed lengthy courses of sugar-pills that is troubling.It’s Microsoft.

Microsoft! Seriously.



Without wishing to sound like a form-over-substance-ooh-look-it-has-pretty-colours-and-decides-how-I-want-it-to-run-because-it’s-SO-INTUITIVE-Steve-Jobs-Worshiping-Apple-Slave, Seriously? Microsoft?

Have you heard of the blue screen of death?

We are all going to die. I’m telling you.

And, for slightly more serious reasons (even ones that involve Google, who, with their record in China, would in no way pass the files of Muslim patients to MI5 for the coming biological war. Nossirree Bob) other people think it’s a bad idea too.

Of course, the NHS is no doubt all based on Windows and there is nothing particularly wrong with Microsoft prodcuts that isn’t wrong with others (in theory). But what is wrong is handing more and more of our public services over to a seemingly insatiable corporate sector that is motivated by profits for shareholders, not the public good, and which keeps on encouraging lazy, apathetic semi-citizens to’vote with your feet.’

Screw my feet. I want to vote with my vote. But I am old-fashioned and believe in Democracy. I also believe that for that democracy to mean anything it should certainly not be mediated by organisations who only care for those who can afford to matter to them. But, then, I am a Christian. And if I am scared of ‘big government’ and the totalitarian nightmare that phrase seems to suggest to some people (‘Honestly, mate. First step: free health-care. Next step: Stalin’), I am at least as scared of where the worship of Mammon will take us.

Ha. Listen to me talking like it hasn’t already happened.

Hamasteopaths? Medical-Qaeda?

‘Doctor, doctor! I think I’m a sheep!’

‘Really? That’s baaaad…’

Ah, doctor-doctor jokes. They’re just not going to be the same after last week’s revelations of suspected bomb-plotters being on the NHS payroll. Now it will all be: ‘Doctor, doctor! I’m a wig-wam, I’m a teepee!’ ‘Your problem is you’re too tense. Take three gas-canisters and two thousand nails, go to Glasgow airport and call me in the morning. Allahu Achbar!’ (Two tents, geddit?)

And that is, I think you will agree, less funny than the original. What is kinda funny is a BUPA study that last week showed NHS consultants get private treatment themselves—and that was before we started worrying that all our nice young foreign doctors are potential Jihadis. Yes, BUPA, of all people, saying that the NHS is not up to scratch. What possible motivation could they have for saying that? The point is that last week’s news was full of shock and horror that doctors could have been involved in the recent failed bomb-attacks.

BBC Radio 4 had one of its reporters talking in tones of horror about how foreign doctors working in the UK are only screened and checked in terms of their qualifications and medical skills. Now I am all for letting more of the single, pretty ones in, but that is not what she meant at all. She went on to complain that currently there are no procedures in place to check on foreign doctors’ political sympathies. Because that would be relevant to saving lives, apparently. And acceptable in a society where freedom of conscience is protected.

How, asked other commentators, could people who had sworn to save lives end up trying to take lives? Did their Hippocratic oaths mean nothing to them? I am inclined to agree. Yet, if I have no fundamental problem with a trained British doctor joining the military, not in his professional capacity but to become a fighting soldier, should I ask the same questions of him? No. because, as the old saying goes: ‘there are no anaesthetists in foxholes.’

Much comment also revolved around the fact that this plot challenged the popular profile of a terrorist as an uneducated disaffected youth, easily manipulated and with nothing to live for. Another BBC commentator made the startling discovery that terrorists could be ‘intelligent, well-educated professionals’ and sounded perplexed. And if you see terrorists as madmen or dupes, then perplexing it must be. If you see them as people with a combination of deep (if, in my opinion misguided) religious faith and political determination, backed into a corner by a sense of powerlessness and overwhelming injustice at world events, it doesn’t seem so crazy. Just terrible.

Because killing innocent people, no matter what your cause, is terrible. And if we say that, then we cannot dismiss as ‘terrorist rantings’ their feeling that in Iraq and Afghanistan our own society has similarly erred. As Christians we cannot and must not support their methods, even if we sympathise with their frustration. But equally we have a duty to listen to and try to understand the reasons why decent, educated people would do this. As people of another absolute faith, who subscribe to higher standards than this society’s humanism and materialism and who also take martyrs as heroes, we are also extremists. But because we are called to love and forgiveness, we have a duty to help our secular society understand better where those less loving extremists are coming from, so that the violence can be stopped. Trying to censor political thought or continuing in the illusion that people must be mad or stupid to hate us will at best get us nowhere and at worst get us killed.