Sunday, 16 February 2014

Through the balustrade.

I find it hard to understand how any of us "own" anything. But we do. We own homes, cars, Xboxes and underpants. They're ours. We worked and paid for them. We cherish them. We don't (for the most part) help ourselves to our neighbour's silverware and most of us would never dream of rubbing another man's rhubarb.

But how are they ours? When it comes down to it someone, at some point, laid claim to a bit of the Earth on which we all dwell. He put a fence up and kept others out. He didn't pay for it, he took it. Later he, or a descendant of his, sold it. Or found the fossilised remains of prehistoric great lizards beneath it. Or used it to manufacture consumables using ingredients purchased from another man who had laid claim to his own piece of this Earth and on which he had found some valuable commodity or other. "Property is theft". But we've pretty much evolved a status quo from which there is no return. And even if it were all to be undone, we'd just start killing each other to put our own fences up. Let's not rock the boat, eh?

There is, however, one exception to this rule. Us. We own us. You own you and I own me. If I want to force a ring through my ear or use hot, steel, needles to deliver ink deep into my skin I can. I don't need planning permission, a licence or a note from my mother and I can't be taxed on it. Yet. (Details correct at time of going to press.) It's all mine. And yours is all yours.

I don't drink often these days, but if I like I can purchase a bottle of poison, or "alcohol", and pour it into my body, allowing it to destroy brain cells as it diminishes my inhibitions and dishevels my dignity. It could lead to bad decision making and a delusion that convinces me I am invincible, witty and charming. I have a bit of a blow out now and again. Why not? It's my body and my money and perfectly legal. 

You can have sex with anyone you choose, the one caveat being they have to choose to have sex with you, no matter how ill judged. We can even get pissed and have sex, with ANYONE. It's ours, we can do what we like with it.

You're not allowed to kill yourself. Fair enough. Generally this is one of those rules that have very little impact on us. If I want to do it, I'll just do it. Sue me, incarcerate my corpse, give me fifty lashes. Bring it on. 

Whether or not we choose to inhale tobacco smoke, all the while knowing it's killing us, is our choice to make. Swimming with sharks, hang gliding or putting your tongue on a 9v battery are all fine, though potentially lethal. Even bungee jumping. No problem. 

(On a personal note, you'd never catch me bungee jumping. It was a dodgy piece of rubber brought me into this world, I'll be damned if I let one send me back out again.)

So, to sum up this first section, we don't really own our shit, but it's ours, leave it alone. If I want to get pissed and have a tattoo I can and we've all done the 9v battery thing.

Drugs are bad. We don't do drugs. We just say "no" to drugs. We understand they'd feel good, that's the whole point, but we're not allowed to put them into our bodies. We might die. We might become criminals to feed our habit. So we don't do it. Drugs are bad. We don't do drugs. Well, most drugs. 

I was, as some of you are aware, brought up in a back street pub in Salford. Surrounded by inebriated miscreants and ne'er do wells I managed to navigate my way from being a small child to having a small child of my own. As a child I saw and experienced things a child shouldn't see or experience. Sat at the top of the sweeping staircase that led from private to public house I would peep through the balustrade and watch. I saw policemen, bankers, vicars and gangsters all under the influence of the legal drug alcohol. People I should have been learning to respect, or fear, behaving in ways that made respect, or fear, very difficult. The local vicar swearing whilst attempting to ride his squeaky bike along the pavements and home. The policeman that visited our school regularly, to warn us about the illegalities of riding your bike on the pavement or hanging around the precinct, stripped to his waist and blindfolded whilst his fortieth birthday surprise, a kiss-a-gram, caressed his pasty flesh with a bull whip. One of my teachers being punched in the teeth by an irate parent who'd just learned he'd been having an affair with his sixteen year old daughter, an ex-pupil. 

All these things and more played out on the rich tapestry my upbringing wove before me. Night after night people would pay my mother and father for a drug which occasionally would turn one or more of them into a completely different individual. The meek became mouthy, the strong became sensitive. Respectable women would flash their knickers on the car-park and happily married husbands would experience an epiphany which temporarily revealed to them the delusion that there was no real harm in what they wanted to do with the barmaid/local bike/woman from the supermarket before acting on their most primitive of urges. 

Occasionally the effects of the alcohol would be positive on those imbibing it. Wall-flowers would find the confidence to get up on Karaoke night and reveal to their peers the beautiful singing voice they'd kept hidden for fear of the attention it would bring. Sometimes the lonely, old, man in the corner would get up and dance like no one was watching, raising good spirited laughter around him and engaging with more people in one evening than visited his dingy flat in a year. Most people would leave my dad's pub with a smile, some cheekily attempting to hide a pint pot, still three quarters full, inside their coat and away from his beady eye. Occasionally two people, strangers at the beginning of the night, would leave hand in hand with the person they would one day marry.

My dad's pub was a nice pub. Mostly. Of course there was the occasional fight, but these were almost exclusively on the car-park rather than inside (unless you'd discovered your daughter's paedophile lover) and always "fair". The customers liked their local and policed it accordingly. Anyone could visit and enjoy their evening. Strangers would be smiled at, talked to and included. Arguments were few and far between, and those that couldn't take their ale would be gently persuaded to leave, or thrown through the doors if the gentle persuasion proved unsuccessful. 

I ran a few pubs and bars myself when I was young. I even briefly ran the pub I'd grown up in after my fathers departure and the brewery's lengthy period of failing to find anyone daft enough to take on a pub in Salford in the late 1990s. It wasn't the same. Our attitude toward alcohol and licensed establishments had changed significantly. People entered the pub with their partners or a few friends, spent the evening in the company of the people they'd arrived with, complained about the people they hadn't arrived with and left in a taxi with the same circle. There are still good, friendly, inclusive pubs all over Manchester and Salford, but they're becoming rarer by the day.

I once, and in hindsight regrettably, became involved with a woman who worked as a bouncer on student venues in Manchester during the heady days of Madchester. She would work at a variety of places, sometimes a band would be playing, or just a DJ. Sometimes there would be a bar selling under-priced alcohol, sometimes the venue would be dry. On the nights the students of Manchester were consuming copious amounts of Stella Artois, WKD or Dry Blackthorn the lady in question would return with tales of blood and gore, shock and awe, police involvement, missing teeth, crying girls and vomit. Of arguments with revelers as they were stubbornly refusing to leave. Then there were the dry nights.

Dry nights meant no alcohol. The bar would serve only water and soft drinks. Students being students, and Manchester being Manchester, other, less legal, drugs would be consumed instead. Some smoked, some sniffed and some swallowed. The tales that followed these nights were far less exciting, but far more pleasant. Dancing and singing, no boys in blue, toothy smiles, laughing girls and vomit. Revelers filing happily past the door staff into the dawn chorus, telling said door staff they loved them and giving them their phone numbers before wandering home, via the cafe.

Of course, this example doesn't give a true picture of drug users. It's very one sided. Certainly, the results of drug usage can be stomach churning. I know two brothers who became addicted to heroin whilst still at school. Before either were twenty, one had wandered onto a train track after shooting up by the line. He had then been unfortunate enough to touch the live rail and now resembles a pork scratching. His older brother injected whilst sat against a big, old fashioned, radiator in a school he had broken into. Whilst unconscious the timer had turned the boiler on and the radiator became hot. His neck was against the lip of one of the super heated, cast iron, edges. The edge burnt through his flesh and into his spinal chord. He is now, and will always be, paralysed from the neck down.

Both those examples should be enough to win the argument against the legalisation of drugs. And if you need more, how about the brother of these two unfortunates. Hacked to death in the street by drug dealers after having run up a massive debt. 

What if heroin hadn't been illegal? Why would the first brother be hiding in a cold, dank, shed by a dangerous railway line if he could've been sat at home, smoking his drug of choice as his father sipped a whiskey and mum did the ironing off her tits on Ecstacy? The second wouldn't have felt the need to break into a school. Lastly, Tesco, for all it's faults and to the best of my knowledge, doesn't give it's security guards machetes and doesn't execute anyone at the till without a valid method of payment for the basket full of tasty narcotics they've popped in for.

But what about the prostitutes, hooked on drugs and selling their favours to scrape together enough money for their next hit?

Aren't there also alcoholic prostitutes? Believe it or not, some prostitutes aren't even addicts. Some are, but some addicts are also working in your local sun-bed shop, bakery and police station. Sometimes alongside an alcoholic or two.

So why is it okay for us to be drunk but not to be high? To ingest one poisonous substance but not another? It's not a safety concern, or booze would've been banned long ago. People get addicted. So why do we allow tobacco sales? 

It destroys families. As does alcohol, debt, illness and war. 

It encourages crime. After all, one hundred percent of the users of illegal drugs are, by definition, criminals. But this figure quite obviously drops significantly if you remove from the crime statistics those that wouldn't be criminals if their drug of choice was alcohol.

By this point in time, unless you're blind, you should have realised the war on drugs isn't winnable. A huge folly. It's like King Canute and the waves. (For those that can't remember, King Canute and the waves was the original line up of Katrina and the Waves, Katrina later replacing lead singer King Canute after he choked to death on a peanut. Dangerous things, those peanuts. Someone should do something about that.) A huge waste of money. Money that the country could certainly spend on many, more useful, projects. Tying up our police officers with the issuing of tickets to kids with gormless grins and pockets full of ganja while Mr Hudson from round the corner is driving home, pissed, from the pub. Allowing the vilest members of society to get rich on feeding drugs to children instead of having street cafes with a strict under-18s policy providing a pleasant environment where friends can get high. Wasting the opportunity to tax a massively popular industry whilst allowing shady individuals to earn a tax-free and very lucrative living. 

We allow people to be drunk, but throw a load of rules into the right. Don't drive, don't do it in the street, don't operate machinery, don't cause a nuisance. Surely laws like these, when applied to other intoxicants, are easier, and therefore cheaper, to police than fighting a war? A war we cannot win? 

I can be trusted to make the right decisions in a world of decriminalisation and I'd put money on it that you can be trusted too. Almost all of us will be able to handle it. Not all, but almost all. There would still, unfortunately, be those that struggled. Those weak individuals that fester at the arse of society. But we've got those now. They've always been there, and they will always remain there. They're as much as a part of our universe as we are, an integral ingredient in the rich soup of life.

People will overdose now and again. Some will die. People die. It's a fact of life. The single, largest, direct cause of death in the world is being born. One hundred percent of sufferers of this condition go on to die. We're all going to die of something and for some of us that something will be avoidable, heartbreaking, selfish or stupid. People are currently dying because of the necnomination craze. Completely legal and even celebrated by certain sectors of society. Stupidity in the extreme. Moronic and pointless, even if you win you're still a loser and yet the craze has swept throughout the Western world. As I've mentioned in some of my previous posts, we're all fucking idiots.

But is our predilection toward foolishness reason enough to need legislation protecting us from the evils of drug use? I use "use" rather than "abuse" intentionally to make another point, drug use is not necessarily bad. Drug ABUSE is different. Any abuse is bad, quite plainly, whether it physical, sexual, racist, homophobic, alcoholic or narcotic. 

Another exception to prove a rule, self abuse is lovely.

We own our own bodies in the true sense. Our parents had a hand in getting the whole project off the ground, but from that point on that impressive, chiseled, rock hard body of yours that the world admires so much and that cutting wit of yours is all your own work. Advice may have been given, some good and some bad, and that advice might have been followed but, for whatever reason, you and you alone decided to follow it. The results, good or bad, are all your own work. 

Congratulations, by the way, you're GREAT.

But still, even knowing deep down that our friends, family members and neighbours are probably just as good at being human as ourselves and can therefore be trusted to look after themselves, we insist on telling our fellow man what he can and can't do with his one and only possession. It honestly confuses me. I can see no winner in the war on drugs. Surely the money saved if we waved the white flag would be so much better spent on education. Education in the truth about drugs with the aim of each child making the right, informed, decision and then trusting them to do so. I'm sure there would be a few quid left over after bringing this onto the syllabus to spend on a couple of physics teachers and a new, indoor, 5-a-side football pitch or two as well. Oh, and some books. I like books.

Then, decisions made and adult life underway, we could go about our business and enjoy our spare time however we desired. Just enjoying ourselves without upsetting anyone else. If you're a prick when you drink you could smoke weed instead. If you're a bore on weed try an E. Different strokes for different folks, folks. 

And all the while paying taxes. 

Some people will abuse the alcohol/THC/MDMA et al and cause problems, but most won't. Most drinkers/smokers/sniffers/swallowers will dislike the actions of the minority in their ranks just as much as those that abstain will. It's happening anyway, struggling against it just demonstrates the ultimate impotence of the system in this matter.

Give us drugs, let us use or not use them. Punish us if we abuse them or if we abuse others as a result of our intoxication. Tell us honestly what they do and what to expect. Tax them fairly. Spend the proceeds wisely. Get a bit of perspective. 

A good rule of thumb to follow when deciding what is and what isn't acceptable behaviour in life is to wonder how you would look to an eight year old child, peeping through a balustrade and learning how to be a grown up. If you saw him looking, how would you feel? Embarrassed? Stop doing it. But if the kid is smiling and you laughed and winked at him then get on with it, you're doing no harm. 

If you yourself don't want to take drugs then you yourself must, under no circumstances, take drugs. Don't allow myself, or others, to influence you. I'm not condoning or encouraging drug use or criminality in any way. 

After all, It's great when you're straight, yeah? 

I'm just rambling. 

Probably stoned.


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