Because I Got High

from legaljuice.com

‘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?

from southparkstudios.co.uk

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.):

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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!

Equal pay for wombles?

The unthinkable has happened. As last week’s news will have informed you, Wimbledon has caved. Female athletes will now be paid as much as the men. The days of Richard Krajicek, who famously said that the difference in pay was because 80% of women playing in the big league were ‘fat lazy pigs’ are over. Krajicek of course backed down from that statement saying that only 75% were fat lazy pigs, a paradigm shift that I am sure warmed the heart of many a feminist.

The issue will no doubt be used in churches and private conversations (impossible in churches) to highlight the remaining inequalities between men and women in our society. And while I’m not sure I’m with tennis dinosaur Pat Cash who last week wrote a column in the Sunday Times arguing that male players work longer hours, I feel he has a point. The opposing argument that this is a spectator sport and therefore issues of money should obey market forces and relate to television audiences is also a good one, mainly because that might do away with boring men’s tennis altogether, as well as all female players who do not look like Anna Kournikova. At least that’s how it would work in my mind.

So does that mean I will do what so many Christian columnists must do when discussing controversial (or in fact any) issues, namely plonk my buttocks upon the nearest fence, resolving to see both sides? Hell no. When asked: ‘what do you think of women getting equal pay at Wimbledon?’ my short answer is a resounding ‘I don’t care.’ The long answer is: ‘how can I rejoice for female players getting paid more at Wimbledon when I already think that they, along with their male counterparts and all professional sportspeople everywhere are paid an obscene and unjustifiably extravagant amount of money already?’ Talk to me about real people doing real jobs and perhaps I’ll care more. Do I mind they are getting paid more? No. Would I care if the female players had their winnings docked and were forced to wear clothes ‘more becoming of their sex’ (I’m torn between bikinis and Victorian dresses—equally oppressive, equally funny)? In the words of Maria Sharapova and Alexander Volkov: ‘Nyet’. But honestly, even expressing that view is treating this ‘unthinkable’ news with more seriousness than it deserves.

Other, more relevant ‘unthinkables’ were in the news last week. One that’ll be a big hit with tabloids and knee-jerk conservatives (the ‘knee’ there is optional) is the proposal to give heroin on prescription to drug addicts. The pinko liberal proposing this was, predictably, a police chief. What? Yes, Ken Jones, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, last week voiced this not entirely new idea, which will no doubt be denounced and campaigned against if it ever had a shot of being implemented. Which is a shame, really, since it might actually break the power of the criminal syndicates that supply illicit narcotics (by taking away their most regular customers, since before the ink was dry on any law allowing it Pfizer would no doubt already be producing ‘Heroagra’ by the truckload) and make the streets safer by being free of desperate junkies. Women selling their bodies for their next hit of crack could rather just go to the doctor, choosing another soul-destroying way to earn their money, like call-centre work or accountancy.

Obviously there are issues and potential problems associated with such an approach, like not being able to look down on addicts quite as easily as we currently do since they will be less likely to nick our wallets, or doctors at your local NHS no longer saying ‘Hi’ because they get tired of hearing ‘not yet’. But it’s an idea, like so many others, that should be considered rather than being consigned to the realms of the unthinkable. Perhaps it will be, if we could only teach those junkies a useful trade. Like tennis.

Half-pints, alcopops and the well-matured

A new law made terms like “wrinklies” and “coffin-dodgers” potentially illegal when referring to the elderly last week, and I for one am pleased to hear it. Being 29 (or “almost 30”, as an unkind younger and more beautiful friend insists on putting it), and increasingly moving from being merely fat to “portly”, I think we old people need all the help we can get. Which is why it saddens me that this legislation might also outlaw my own beloved terms for youths, such as: “ankle-biter”, “half-pint” (which is extra useful because it’s good for short adults too), “beloved pet” and “the defendant”. Of course it’s unlikely it will apply to young people who are not jobseekers, so we may be able to call the yobs, hoodies and little thugs in our lives whatever we want for a good while longer. Huzzah!

It is odd, however, that in a week where the news was dominated by legislation that aims to eradicate ageism and even age-awareness, other news seemed to go in the opposite direction. ITV seem to have cancelled all their locally made children’s shows because imminent legislation might make it illegal to advertise junk food around them. The office of the Children’s Commissioner has even released a study saying that such bans on advertising are supported by children themselves. An advertising industry publication reporting on the study said: “Children are appealing for the government to impose restrictions on advertising to prevent food companies from licensing cartoons and films and targeting them with special offers and giveaways to endorse unhealthy products.” Really? Because when I venture into the screaming, crying, happy-meal strewn battlefield that is my local McDonalds, I hear them appealing for ice-cream. And chips. Possibly together.

While I fully accept that the mind-control of children through advertising and what cynical marketers call “the nag factor” is pure evil, I am frankly more interested in where they found these weird kids. Are they the ones I see down the grocer, shoplifting carrots? Or perhaps behind the bike-shed sharing that rite of passage, that symbol of rebellion and assumed maturity to so many young people: a stick of celery (low-tar, of course). Children eat badly because everyone eats badly. Go ahead, kill the junk food ads on tv (and while you’re at it, cull the toy ads too, including the feature-length productions by Disney and Pixar posing as family entertainment). But don’t pretend you’ll have healthier young’ns at the end of it.

Similar logic was applied last week to alcohol advertising. The adverts of a couple of alcopops (sweet, alcoholic soda-pops, essentially) were pulled from our screens because authorities decided they were deliberately appealing to children. The Advertising Standards Authority cited, as evidence, that the adverts featured young men engaged in “immature, adolescent or childish behaviour”. Perhaps the ASA are all teetotalers, but in my experience that describes exactly the effects alcohol is intended to produce. It’s the adverts showing drinkers talking seriously, playing a great game of chess or making wise life-decisions one should really worry about. Does anyone really believe advertising is what motivates young people to drink? Is that why you drink? A possible solution to underage drinking might be to ban alcopops altogether, removing all alcohol that tastes like soda-pop from the market. But then what would middle-class twentysomething women drink? Another alternative is, of course, to give young people something else to do. But that seems like too much hard work. I say we stick with blaming someone else. Anyway, all this ignores the most heinous new threat facing our young people: Kylie is writing a children’s book. The horror…