Following up from my last post: In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas

Almost perfectly following up from my last post I came across this article today which expands on what I was saying and looks specifically at the University side of things, and on our growing fear of upsetting people.

I think personal relationships require a lot more delicacy when it comes to offending – these people are your friends and you don’t want to hurt them. But when it comes to higher education, there really should be no question. Challenging ideas and confronting concepts should be part of the experience.

In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas

Probably best to just read the whole article, but here are a few of my thoughts on this:

“I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

Of all of the things to ‘get used to’, I would think that this would be one of the good ones.

We should not live in a society were we should grow accustomed to murder, or rape or the sight of starving people in the streets. We should rage against these things, and make them disappear entirely from our world experience so that everyone feels shocked and confronted by such sights.

But learning to deal with viewpoints which go against our dearly held beliefs… this is something we should be encouraging in everyone. Everyone needs to develop the coping mechanisms necessary to express and receive ideas which challenge their being.

And a few of my other favourite excerpts:

A junior named Adam Shapiro decided he didn’t want his room to be a safer space. He printed up his own flier calling it a dangerous space and had that, too, published in the Columbia Daily Spectator. “Kindness alone won’t allow us to gain more insight into truth,” he wrote. In an interview, Mr. Shapiro said, “If the point of a safe space is therapy for people who feel victimized by traumatization, that sounds like a great mission.” But a safe-space mentality has begun infiltrating classrooms, he said, making both professors and students loath to say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. “I don’t see how you can have a therapeutic space that’s also an intellectual space,” he said.

why are students so eager to self-infantilize?

And the conclusion:

A few days later, a guest editorialist in the student newspaper took Ms. El Rhazoui to task. She had failed to ensure “that others felt safe enough to express dissenting opinions.” Ms. El Rhazoui’s “relative position of power,” the writer continued, had granted her a “free pass to make condescending attacks on a member of the university.” In a letter to the editor, the president and the vice president of the University of Chicago French Club, which had sponsored the talk, shot back, saying, “El Rhazoui is an immigrant, a woman, Arab, a human-rights activist who has known exile, and a journalist living in very real fear of death. She was invited to speak precisely because her right to do so is, quite literally, under threat.”

You’d be hard-pressed to avoid the conclusion that the student and her defender had burrowed so deep inside their cocoons, were so overcome by their own fragility, that they couldn’t see that it was Ms. El Rhazoui who was in need of a safer space.

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Perception of Victimhood vs Reality

I’ve been struggling lately with the concept of allowing someone’s personal negative experience to give that person a free pass to interpret aspects of that experience however they wish, regardless of the factuality of those interpretations.

To provide a clear example, imagine a mother struggling with a severely autistic child, and blaming that autism on the MMR vaccine. The evidence is quite definite that MMR cannot cause autism, so the conclusion reached by the mother is simply false, but because the mother is in an emotionally difficult position, are we meant to placate her and say nothing? Are we meant to ignore that falsehood being perpetuated by her in order to not upset her already difficult life and emotional state?

Isn’t it condescending to think that someone can’t handle being corrected just because they are upset?

Of course, no one ever likes being corrected, and there seems to be a strong social trend towards NEVER UPSETTING ANYONE EVER, which seems problematic to me at the best of times. I mean, where is the emphasis on harm minimisation when we don’t dare correct someone who is spreading falsehoods which could cost lives? Just because someone ‘feels’ like doctors can’t be trusted, and we should all listen to some online health guru who espouses natural treatments to a range of medical conditions including cancer, does that mean we should sit by idly and let them misguide other people? What if that person has cancer themselves?

It definitely seems to be the socially accepted method. Don’t say anything to upset anyway. And definitely don’t say anything to upset anyone who is already in a difficult position.

I think this gets worse too, when people start imagining personal assaults where none exist. The most extreme example of this would be the cliche schizophrenic, who sees secret agents spying on them where the reality is just regular people on the street. This person could be incredibly upset by the constant harassment they are experiencing at the hands of the “NSA” or whoever, and thus would expect the same social grace to not have this absurd belief challenged.

That is the most extreme example, but like all mental extremities, all people exist somewhere on a spectrum, and we all project our mental focuses onto our world. This Key and Peele skit makes the point quite nicely I think:

Of course, not all people who interpret neutral events as personal attacks are actually “assholes” as this video puts it, but I think this sort of projection of persecution fears is more common than we think. And I think we are at risk of letting them become the norm, and having a world with too many false-incidences. ie: A population of people under assault from no one but themselves. Rallying together friends to support them in their time of need, against nothing but a personal interpretation of events.

It seems like that would take an awful lot of energy and resources to fight against an imaginary enemy.

I think we have enough genuine problems and real scourges without creating an army of imaginary ones too.

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Religion isn’t responsible for violence – except when it is…

Patricia Pearson’s article over at The Daily Beast about Karen Armstrong’s new book Fields of Blood says some weird things right up front.

Hitchens…never really bothered to acquaint himself with the great and nuanced theologians of Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. If he had, he wouldn’t have asked the audience whether it was a good thing “for the world to worship a deity that takes sides in wars.”
(Spoiler alert: the entirety of human religious history has entailed finely-tuned musings on divine exhortation to unity and peace, and whether there are loop holes.)

All of those finely-tuned musings and still the Bible very clearly portrays a God picking sides in wars. Repeatedly.

1 Samuel 15:3 “Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ”

How can one thousand plus years of reading that passage make it mean anything other than God told “his people” to go to war and kill other people? Sounds like God picked a side…. and you know this isn’t the only instance of it in the Bible, let alone nearly every soldiers belief since the creation of religion that God was on their side.

As far as I can tell, Theologians exist only to justify and wriggle out of the awkward things written in these religious books. If you want to change the Bible, then too bloody bad. It very clearly says in it that God is outside of time, all knowing and perfect, and that the bible is his words, and you can’t change it. So stop trying to change the meanings of things clearly written in them!

She then follows up that nonsense with:

Nor would Hitchens have made this statement: “Religion forces nice people to do unkind things.” Meaning, one was left to discern, that religion is self-evidently a coercive force for ill.
I remember thinking, really? All those innately tender-hearted Catholic priests were obliged by the Ten Commandments to molest children? Oh dear. How, then, to explain Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Hitler’s brutal minions? They were just bornto be mean?

Ugh. So inane. His comment had nothing to do with Catholic priests molesting boys. Nothing in the bible tells people to do that. That is an indirect consequence of people following the bible against their nature, as opposed to what Hitchens was actually talking about, all of the people stoned to death over the years and burned at the stake, because, you know, the Bible tells them to:

Leviticus 21:9 “And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.”
Leviticus 24:16″And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him.”

Please go ahead and show us how the “finely-tuned musings” change the meanings of those sentences. Let me guess – Jesus. Jesus made all the bad stuff go away. Well, for many hundreds of years how many thousand people were stoned to death and burnt at the stake anyway? Always justified with these sorts of bible passages.

Actually, sorry, I was wrong. Hitchens didn’t mean stonings and burnings at the stake – they are horrific acts. Hitchens only said that religions force people to do “unkind things”. So, lets look at all of the families who disown homosexual children because of the ‘abomination’ that homosexuality is? Jesus didn’t really die and change the meaning or intention of that line. He certainly didn’t disavow it. Sure, ‘love they neighbour’ and all that – but still, homosexuality is an abomination unto the lord… so what do you do? Many people err on the side of caution and don’t tolerate the abomination. Pretty reasonable position to take really, since loving your neighbour doesn’t actually require you to do anything, so you can ‘love them’ from a distance.

Besides, it is the more Jesus like thing to do, just break the family up, rather than what is actually recommended in the Old Testament – killing them.

And then there are the ‘harlotreferences and wives obeying husbands, and directions for slaves to obey their masters.

How amazingly magical are these Theologians that they can make all of this shit just magically disappear out of the bible so that people like Patricia Pearson can’t even think of them when it is pointed out that the bible makes good people do unkind things???

Have you seen the Westboro Baptist church? You know that everything they do is actually based on words in the Bible right? They aren’t making that shit up. Don’t blame them for taking things as they are actually written, rather than how we wish they were written.

After Hitchens died, the debate continued with celebrity pundits like Bill Maher and star intellectuals like Richard Dawkins, a biologist, and Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, none of whom appear to have an infant’s weak grasp of why thinking human beings would come to believe in a meaningful universe.

Oh, they understand. They actually talk about it pretty clearly – but don’t bother familiarising yourself with the work you are criticising, just assume the highly regarded well read intellectuals you are criticising are stupid morons. It is much easier that way.

No, they understand why humans believe in a meaningful universe – it is because our brains are evolved to do so in order to avoid death. There is quite a lot of literature on the subject if you cared to familiarise yourself with the fields of Neuroscience and Biology…oh look, these two individuals with an “infant’s weak grasp” of the subject just happen to be world renowned experts in those fields. How amazing that they don’t understand it and you do.

*sigh.*

From here the article quickly moves through anger at Islam and into the main point of the article, the book. I personally wouldn’t try very hard to defend the claim that Religion has caused more wars than anything else, so I won’t bother arguing against that point, but the idea that secularists somehow don’t understand what religion is drives me crazy. And then this:

To say that spiritual engagement somehow causes humanity to become violent is to ignore the obvious pressures on all human societies throughout history to accrue scarce resources, to shore up status and power, and to impose order on chaos.

It isn’t spiritual engagement that anyone is saying causes violence, it are the direct lines from the creator of the universe telling his followers to murder people who don’t follow his rules which is what people like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens get angry about.

Sure, I’d be happy to accept that “every new religion emerged at least in part as a protest against violence and oppression” – which is probably why violence features so prominently in their religious texts. The problem is that these books aren’t positioned as just historical texts describing a revolution. They are positioned as works of God himself, outside of time, perfect, absolute, moral, all knowing, telling people what to do. And those directions include a lot of violent actions.

And then we get puff pieces like this making out like atheists and secularists are upset at the ‘spiritual engagement’ of believers. FFS. Is it that hard to understand? When ISIS members go on murderous rampages against non-believers, they aren’t doing it because they are feeling particularly religious. They do it (amongst many other complicated emotional and political reasons) because they have direct quotes from God himself telling them to do it. When you have a direct commandment from God Almighty to kill people, why would you doubt your murderous desires?

The disgust felt by the non-religious of the religious isn’t about religious people (necessarily), nor is it even about religious extremists (necessarily). What it is about is the fact that there is a book claiming to be the unalterable and perfect account of the creator of the universe and it is a book full of violence bigotry and hatred – and for some reason, against and sense, otherwise sane and intelligent people keep defending it.

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Transcendence – How it should have ended

So I got to watch Transcendence on my flight yesterday, and I was very impressed with it. I went in with extremely low expectations because there have been so many bad philosophy of mind / AI / futurism movies out lately that I think I just assumed this would be another where it was made by someone who clearly had no idea what current thought on the near future will be like, and was almost certainly going to do the usual “Fear science and technological progress because it might kill us all, steal our souls and take away our humanity!!!” – which seems to be the modus operandi of just about every science and technology focused Hollywood movie.

It is quite sad that my first assumption of a movie about uploading would know nothing about uploading, but Hollywood has given me too many examples of people making movies about things which they know nothing about. I mean, when you watch Morgan Freeman (someone who presents a Science show!) say “It is estimated that humans only use 10% of their brain” you tend to feel like it is all beyond hope.

Well, anyway, I’m quite happy to say that it didn’t go too heavily on the ‘fear technological progress’ bandwagon (for the most part). There was definitely a fair share of “Beware the all powerful AI!” fearmongering, but I actually felt it was largely justified. There is a very valid reason to be fearful of run away AI (Terminator). So that wasn’t too bad.

And more importantly, it  seemed to have been written by someone who does actually have a clue about current futurism ideas with regards to uploading, AI and other associated technologies. The whole story was by and large quite realistic (within the usual realms of “lets speed this up for the sake of it being a movie regard).

What I am saying is that, if super intelligent AI was created, in this sort of a setting,  the series of events which follow could go something along these lines. The choices it made were (mostly) clever and progressive, and revolutionary in all the right ways….except for one obvious error…which was of course necessary for the ‘drama’ component to the movie.

Which brings me to the SPOILER ALERT part of this post.

If you read past this point, I will be revealing plot devices and how the movie ended and how I think it should have ended. Last warning.

The main error the AI made was ‘networking’ the minds of the people it healed together, so that they could communicate with one another over the network, and, so that it could inhabit the bodies of those people and take over control… Sure, many people would love to volunteer to be networked with AI (especially if doing so would heal all illnesses and weaknesses and make them super strong!) but very few people would like the idea of being taken over by that AI, and vanishingly few people like to look at other people being controlled by an external mind of unknown intent. And so predictably everyone who was ever allied with the AI quickly turned against it when they saw this Cult like behaviour from this ‘army’ of individuals that it was building which it could control.

It was creepy, it was weird, and it was the one step which really made it easy to fear the AI.

Of course, the nanobots slowly replicating their way across the planet is also a terrifying idea because there is the fear that they will grey-goo the planet, but that probably would have gone unnoticed or ignored if not for the growing number of people terrified of the ‘army’ that the AI was building (even though the respective threats are quite out of proportion).

So, first most obvious thing that the AI wouldn’t do (being far more intelligent than us mortal humans), is it wouldn’t take actions which would obviously turn humanity against it.

The movie also fails to consistently apply the AI’s ability to read people, but again, this is just a necessary plot point for a movie.

How it should have ended

OK, the main point of this post. Assuming all of the rest of the plot devices need to stay in place to make a good movie, I think they screwed the ending up just a little bit. They had the AI keep Evelyn outside while they were being bombed (without a good reason) until she was injured, hoping to force him to upload her (and the virus she was carrying). Of course, the AI knew about the virus and was saddened by the fact the Evelyn (his wife and creator) had lost faith in him and wanted to help destroy him but there is absolutely no reason he wouldn’t have removed her from the dangerous situation of being under mortar and artillery attack. Her injury was easily avoided, and thus the whole “I can either save her or upload the virus” conclusion to the movie is unrealistic.

That, and the fact that he can show Evelyn “everything” and have her understand that he really was healing the planet and people, gives us the real solution to the movie – if Hollywood didn’t need to have everything back away from a utopian finish where everyone is happy and the world is completely provided for – he just needed to do that trick with the people attacking him.

I think a nice finish would be to have him get into Max’s head since Max represented the well informed philosophical voice of concern over the risks of the technology, and bringing him around to understand the vision and reality of the situation would be the seed needed to bring everyone else around too. And then you could have the usual movie tension of Max arguing with the neo-luddite crazy woman, convincing the soliders and all the rest of that jazz. (Though of course, the easier solution would be to just show all of them the same thing he showed Evelyn all at once – but that is a little bit too easy).

So yeah, there was no need for the false choice of saving Evelyn or Killing himself in order to save Max’s life. He could have easily shown everyone what he was actually doing, and then everyone could have gone on with life where everything was provided by the omnipotent god like being taking care of everything – but instead, because Hollywood still reflect American values, the better solution was to destroy the godlike AI taking care of everyone (socialism!) and send everyone back to the hardship and struggle of existence to which they are so accustomed. (which, btw, the movie didn’t cover at all – making it look like “losing the entire internet” would just be a minor inconvenience, and not the end of the modern world as we know it, which it would be).

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Unchristian behaviour….

I think this concept can be applied to just about anything whenever someone seriously talks about a behaviour being unchristian. Just remember that the core Christian ideology is that “Jesus died for your sins” – and they are PROUD of that fact! They are proud of the fact that their entire belief system is based on the idea that an innocent person can be punished for the crimes of others.

So I look forward to seeing more remarks about how the Christian spirit teaches us that we should be punishing innocent people for the crimes of others.

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The (almost) utopian world of the conspiracy theorist…

The world of the extreme conspiracy theorist must be an amazing place. Wars don’t kill innocent bystanders, terrorist organisations either don’t exist, or lack the ability to execute acts of terrorism, mentally disturbed individuals don’t ever go on murderous rampages, illnesses never happen when people are left in a natural state, and everyone gets on with each other perfectly….

If only it wasn’t for Them.

Them. The ones pulling the strings to undermine this perfect utopia of healthy cooperation which naturally exists.

The government. The Illuminati. Aliens. Who it is who controls the media, false flag operations and international ‘accidents’ is hard to say exactly, but they definitely exist, and they are preventing us all from living our perfect lives of contended happiness and compassion.

Welcome to Conspiracy Theorist Utopia (CTU)

Wars Can’t Harm Innocent Civilians!

They fabricate planes full of people exploding in the sky through elaborate plans carried out over several months with the participation of numerous nations in order to create the illusion that war kills innocent civilians of even wealthy countries! Because in our perfect utopia, planes can’t crash into the ocean, and pilots can’t be suicidal… or more importantly, some accidents can’t possibly go unexplained. No, in CTU, every event has a deliberate cause and must be explained, and it is all connected to acts by some incredibly powerful and controlling force (probably not God though – that is religion, and this isn’t religion).Planes can’t crash or go missing, and other unrelated planes definitely can’t be shot out of the sky by rogue militarised forces with weapons specifically designed to shoot planes out of skies.

What sort of a world would that be, where human beings would willingly shoot planes out of skies? A horrible one. And in CTU, everything is perfect and nice and friendly. Except for Them.

Terrorist Organisations Don’t Exist, or They Are Harmless

And the idea that a large organisation of people like Al Qaeda might exist, is completely unacceptable in CTU. People who have had their lives upturned by continual war and conflict between foreign nations, which have used them to fight each other, funding the warfare, providing weapons and training, then leaving them with nothing. The idea that these people could exist, and that they could hate our nations. Hate us. And then use that training, and that hate to organise an attack against us…. simply doesn’t make as much sense in CTU as our own government fabricating hatred of our people in order to justify the fabricated attacks that they made, with not-really-planes on the buildings which were actually demolished with thermite anyway…..

Yes. Convoluted inside jobs carried out by the thousands of people it would have taken to carry it out, all of whom have friends and families in the USA, many of which would know people killed in the attack and affected by the outcome of the attack is far  more likely than a foreign organisation driven by past hatred actually attacking the nation it sees as its enemy.

Disturbed Individuals Don’t Ever Go On Murderous Rampages

Another highlight of CTU is that disturbed people never go on murderous rampages. All events which involve mass shootings are fabricated events set up by them to create  a public backlash against gun rights, so that they can start taking guns back off the american population. Which they will start doing any day now!

So all of those mass shootings weren’t really done by civilian, mentally ill or troubled people. No they were done by trained operatives or government agents of whoever it is that works for them. And all of those people crying over their dead children and loved ones? Crisis actors. In CTU, people don’t actually die. They just pay people to pretend they have lost loved ones so that the general population falls for the trick of believing that people might die when they are shot with guns…

We Are All Perfectly Healthy…

Not only do people not die when they are shot with guns (or gun shootings simply never happen – however you want to look at it), but we’re all perfectly healthy…well, we would be, if it wasn’t for those evil pharmaceutical companies, evil lying doctors who should know better, fluoride in the water, chemicals in the air from chemtrails, poisons in vaccines, man-made diseases and the genetic manipulation of our food…. we would all be perfectly healthy and never suffer from any form of illness.

They are constantly raining sickness-causing agents upon us all to make sure we stay docile and controllable. Nature doesn’t have any flaws, and humans are of course designed to be perfect and immortal in their natural state. Cancer obviously couldn’t exist if we were left to our natural state – so it must be a manufactured illness through ‘toxic’ chemicals being pushed onto us so that the pharmaceutical companies can make money from our suffering. AIDS is a created disease. Vaccines only hurt us, and don’t even stop the illnesses they are meant to stop – they are stopped by simple hygiene and eating well!

The New World Order

The perpetrators of all of this misery are an incredibly well organised group of people who control everything from large corporations, to independent research institutes, virtually every scientist on the planet, nearly all of the politicians, public servants. They are the ultra-wealthy ultra-elite and despite their ability to control so many people in so many countries and industries and affect virtually everything – they want to destabilise the entire system and bring it down to its knees…so that they can have…more… extreme wealth and extreme power… than …

OK, this just makes zero fucking sense.

I get it. It is nice to think that random tragedies are somehow orchestrated and controlled… but they just aren’t. Not usually anyway. I can’t say that none of the tragedies of the past 100 or more years haven’t been manufactured or taken advantage of in some way, but for the most part, there is no need to manufacture a complicated conspiracy to explain shit which just happens all the time.

Planes crash! They do! You don’t have to make up convoluted stories to explain and justify it every time it happens.

Innocent people die in wars all the time. And not all wars are just, or justified. They are just a consequence of our flawed psychology.

People do go on shooting sprees. This is just a fact of life when you have a population of 300+ million in a country with just as many guns – it only takes 1 in 300 million to decide to shoot into a group of people for it to happen! It is actually surprising it doesn’t happen more often!

People get sick! As a matter of fact, people are getting less sick and living longer now than ever before in history – you just need to look at the actual stats to understand this instead of imaging some idyllic past where everyone lived in perfect health all the time! There is no evidence of that ever being the case, and even with endless piles of web pages telling you how you too can live sickness free by just avoiding XYZ and only eating ABC, we still don’t see any of the people following those regimes actually being illness free! Because they’re all bullshit.

How about we start dealing with the tragedies of this world as they are, rather than trying to solve non-existent riddles and causes which complicate them unnecessarily?

Things might actually start getting better….

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Turning the war on drugs into a form of political protest

The war on drugs is an unmitigated global disaster. This is a widely established fact and can be defended on many different levels – financially, outcome based, or morally for instance.

Vice ran a story the other day about a small town in Southern California which ran a sting in a high school which involved manipulating students into ‘selling’ drugs to an undercover police officer. They arrested 22 students, many of whom were simply trying to help out a ‘friend’ who pestered them every day to get drugs for him. It is an horrendous story and highlights the horrific nature of the war on drugs and the way the laws are used to manipulate and control populations, often simply for financial gains – of law enforcement agencies, of prison systems, or any other number of individuals, organisations and corporations.

This story got me wondering if it wouldn’t be possible to use the war on drugs itself as a form of political protest?

It is possible these days to log on to marketplaces over TOR which allow people to purchase drugs with crypto-currencies like Bitcoin. With anonymous connections, and anonymous financial transactions, purchasing the drugs is completely untraceable. Receiving the drugs though… that is not so straight forward.

What if the very people who continue to promote the war on drugs, and continue to stop reformation of the laws, and continue to incarcerate people who have hurt no one etc started to receive illegal drugs, of a quantity which would result in jail time perhaps, into their personal homes, offices, and other places directly associated with them? How would law enforcement react? I wonder if they would even respond to an anonymous tip off?

Actually, there is a good reason to fear this idea being used in reverse, because I expect that if a kg of cocaine got sent to a respectable politicians house (in many many small envelopes that is), the police would go over there and help him get to the bottom of whoever is harassing him in this way! But if someone sent a kg of cocaine to a poorer black man’s house – that poor guy would be in prison before he even had a chance to speak. And this is precisely the problem with the war on drugs. The arbitrary choices involved in who they prosecute and who they support.

Anyway – it was just a pondering. Could ‘Anonymous’ start sending drugs to politicians as a form of political protest?

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If I were in charge… (Part 1)

If I were in charge of a country, I would change 3 significant things:

  1. I would legalise and monopolise all illegal drugs
  2. I would implement a universal basic income
  3. I would rigorously secularise society

Put the cartels out of business legalise drugs

Part 1. The War on Drugs has Failed

This is no secret. It is well documented now, in all sorts of ways. It costs many billions each year, it causes more harm than good, costs lives, creates crime, and completely fails to deliver on its one objective. Drugs are more accessible, cheaper, and more numerous than at any other point in history.

We need a new approach.

Portugal has been the only country to really give decriminalisation a serious go. And it has worked remarkably well for them. But decriminilisation is a weird halfway sort of solution. Sure, it isn’t ‘criminal’ any more, but it still isn’t legal. It becomes more like speeding.

If I were in charge, pending rigorous expert consultation and comprehensive review, I would immediately take steps to create a centralised government drug production and wholesale distribution system.

Dare to legalise drugs

Initial Education

While the infrastructure was being set up, I would ensure adequate educational material was made available and regularly presented to kids of all ages, at least once a year throughout all of high school warning of the side effects and risks of drugs (in all forms), ensuring that everyone in society grows up with a valid understanding of drugs, not a fear based one. TV commercials, paper, radio, and mail-drops of informational pamphlets would also be done at this early stage to inform the public of the changes, and provide them with access to a website where more information and drug facts could be accessed.

With the warnings and education in place, the drugs would start being produced, and retail outlets would be licensed. Either directly through pharmacists, or similar to how liquor outlets are currently handled in Australia. Either way, the government would handle the production and wholesale distribution to private, highly regulated, thoroughly trained and licensed retail outlets. Every shipment of every type of drug would have information sheets which go with each batch, providing crucial information relevant to the dosage, side effects, risks, interactions etc that should be known before taking that drug.

Retail Scenario

The retail outlets would be responsible for ensuring the customer meets age restrictions (most likely 21+ for most drugs, but definitely based on scientific rigour rather than ideology), limiting the quantity purchased per customer, providing cursory verbal information, warnings and queries to ensure the customer understands the risks (as pharmacists currently do for prescription drugs), and of course, giving information pamphlets/booklets with the purchased drugs.

User Consequences

Now, all drug users have a clean reliable source of known quantities of drugs. This will significantly reduce risk of poisoning and overdose. Plus all users have readily accessible information about risks, rather than trusting ‘friends’ and random strangers to advise them. This too will have a significant impact on overdoses, overuse, addictions, bad interactions and many other risks typically assumed to be the fault of the drugs, rather than the fault of ignorance.Remember prohibition it still doesn't work legalise drugs

Crime Results

With a reliable government source, drug dealers will all be rapidly put out of business.

All of the drugs will be sold with a high tax rate and commercial mark up, so drug dealers might be able to keep lower prices. However, people will tend to prefer the certainty of knowing they are getting pure quality of known concentrations from reliable outlets over slightly lower prices. The profitability of large drug running organisations and organised crime groups will simply disappear, and with it, those groups will die a quick death. Most organised crime will simply disappear because most of them depend on their drug sales to maintain cash flow.

With the death of most organised crime groups, violence will decline. Turf wars, inter-gang rivalry, and violence to intimidate and maintain control will disappear with them. This fact is already being demonstrated with marijuana legalisation in Colorado, with violent crime declining by 5.2% in the first 6 months. Legalise all drugs, and it will be much more significant.

Revenue and Expenses

The biggest positive will be the significant new income source taken from crime syndicates and given to the government for the benefit of the public.

The costs of policing drug crime are significant, and these will nearly completely be eradicated over the course of a couple of years. The savings there alone will be immense, but they will be nothing compared to the revenue generated by the sale of the drugs, and the tax revenue generated from the retail outlets.  If there is one thing we have learned over the last 50+ years of drug prohibition, it is that druglords make more money than just about anyone else in society

Some of that revenue would be lost to the initial costs – creation of the farms, laboratories and distribution networks. Ongoing staff costs, maintenance etc will be easily covered by the revenue of sale. The significant profits and the taxation from retail sales would then need to be all used for specialised drug-related concerns in society.

Investment into Education

First, there would be the education side. Some of the money would need to be put into ensuring schools can adequately teach children about the drugs, so that no one is left ignorant of their risks and dangers. So a certain amount would be invested into schools every year and specific teachers, teacher trainings, materials, and other overheads associated with this.

Medical Expenses and Drug Abuse Support

Secondly, most of the money would need to go into ‘medical’ support. This would consist of counselling, addiction treatment, rehab and outright medical expenses generated as a consequence of drug abuse. As part of the constant exposure to drug information provided under this system, constant reminders about counselling, psychological support, and medical assistance would be forever pushed on all drug users, so that no one is ever left feeling isolated, vulnerable and trapped by their drug use. This fact alone will save more lives than any other measure in my opinion (and cut medical costs by helping people avoid the devastating outcomes of untreated abuse).

One of the biggest problems created by the war on drugs is the labelling of drug abuse victims as criminals, forcing them to feel trapped by their situation, pushing them deeper into desperation, crime, isolation, mental illness etc. By breaking that stigma alone, lives will be saved, people will be helped back to functional productive members of society, and everyone will benefit.

Scientific Investment

If money remains, or after a few years of keeping enough money in buffer to compensate for fluctuating incomes and expenses, a fund should be generated for scientific research. By having easy access to all known drugs on the planet, scientific research should be delved into with rigour. Medical applications, long term consequences on individuals, society as a whole, psychology, physiology, etc. The ability to finally get some real research done on these most remarkable of chemicals will yield amazing commercial prospects for the country as new medical applications and treatments will be pioneered there exclusively.

Related to this is the fact that by controlling virtually all drug production, wholesale sales, and regulation of retail sales of drugs, it would finally be possible to get actually reliable statistics on the usage rate of drugs. Governments would be able to monitor just how much of each drug is consumed, and the track that against adverse health affects, long term outcomes etc. Rather than just polling people, and roughly guessing. It would even be possible to recruit far more people into long term health studies of specific drugs, rather than trying to infer the outcomes indirectly.

Invest in Children

One final investment option for the new drug based revenue stream, if there is the money available for it, is to invest in parental support.

This is a bit of a wildcard, but it seems to me like most drug abuse doesn’t come from drug addiction nearly so much as it comes from feeling trapped and useless (see the rat park research). One half of that equation is being unable to fend for oneself – unemployable, destitute, desperate poverty etc. We will deal with this issue in step 2 of this piece.

But the other half of the equation (or at least, another aspect of it) is growing up in an abusive or dysfunctional household.

As a society we already try to prevent children suffering through abusive upbringings. And this is great, but no doubt most of them slip through the cracks because abuse and maltreatment isn’t always obvious. It also isn’t always intentional. Often parents just find themselves overwhelmed. Unsure of themselves. Potentially even inadequate (surprise! Just giving birth to a human doesn’t make you a great parent!).

So the wildcard idea here is to invest in family support initiatives. Definitely keep providing strong support to abused and maltreated children, but also start extending support to parents who just wish they had more help with caring for and raising their children. The idea here is something of a government initiative Super Nanny program. Nannies who come and visit for one work day per week (mornings, middays or bedtimes) or more if required, to help advise parents on how to deal with troubled children, structure and support. Lighten the load and inject alternative unbiased professional experience into the household, and hopefully the children will have better lives for it.

My intention with this idea is to help reduce the number of people who grow up harbouring psychological trauma, mild as it may be, at the hands of misguided parents. I don’t mean to over-generalise here, but like it or not, parents have the biggest impact on our lives, and if you are unlucky enough to get one who repeatedly tells you you are useless, or ugly or a failure at life, or the cause of all of their problems….etc then there is a good chance that these sorts of psychological traumas will follow you for your life, and for some people, these traumas can cause them to seek escape into drugs.

Like I said – wildcard idea, and far from validated. Just an idea at this stage, which I am happy to receive feedback on.

Ultimate Outcome

So in summary, the government produces and wholesales all (currently illegal) drugs to highly regulated retail outlets who sell to very well informed customers who have significant psychological and medical support provided to them should they need it. Drug cartels would be put out of business, reducing violent crime significantly as crime syndicates lose their main source of funding. Policing can focus on actually protecting people rather than arresting drug users, the government has more money all round, and scientific research will undoubtedly find innumerable medical applications for most of the drugs, selling the technology/knowledge/application/treatment globally, creating even more revenue for the nation.

legalise regulate educate medicateCost?

I really don’t see one.

I know, I know: More people will have access to drugs, and drugs are dangerous!

Access will be there, but most people, even if offered heroin for free at a party, would still decline. Hell, alcohol is ever present in our society and I turn that down all the time! Just because something is available does not automatically mean people will start doing it. There has to be a desire to do it.  Just ask a Dutch person whether they smoke marijuana and take mushrooms or not – most don’t.

Secondly, if people want drugs, they can already get them! This is the current situation! The difference is that when you have problems, you have no real support. And your chances of having problems are significantly increased because of the unreliable source, the materials the drugs are cut with, and the lack of education around the drug usage. The only ‘education’ we currently have is “Don’t do it.”

Abstinence only sex education causes more pregnancies than real sex education, and abstinence only drug education causes more death and harms than real drug education.

So, when we get over this automatic assumption that ‘doing drugs’ is the bad thing, and start to think in terms of actual harms – overdoses, adverse health affects, psychological illnesses etc – then we can start to assess which system causes more harm. Does the current system which provides no support and proper education and reliable sources cause less harm than the system outlined here?

I doubt it very much.

Not only do we have easy comparisons between the USA and the Netherlands showing that the country with legal access to drugs actually has LOWER usage, but we have the obvious fact that support and education create better outcomes than ignorance, violence and unreliable sources.

So again.. I can’t see an actual negative.

End the war on drugs. Legalise and monopolise drug production and lets make the world a better, more inclusive and supportive place.

 

Part 2 to follow soon.

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A response to Tim Worstall’s article Raising America’s Pay; Might Someone Hit The EPI With A Cluebat Please

I came across this article shortly after it was published, and meant to publish this response back then, but have been exceedingly busy. So here it is now.

In his article Raising America’s Pay, Tim Worstall argues that the Economic Policy Institute has made untrue claims about poverty staying the same despite continuous economic growth because the way the USA measures poverty is flawed and doesn’t take into account the support provided by the government. In his own words:

The American system is much closer to a measurement of here’s the number of people who would be poor if we weren’t helping to alleviate their poverty.

So basically, Tim’s argument is that because the government provides support for many people who would otherwise be in poverty, the EPI’s claim that a growing economy has not proportionately pulled people up out of poverty is untrue.

This argument doesn’t make sense.

Companies are making more money than ever. The wealthiest are making more money. The poor though, they’re getting more government hand outs – therefore a rising tide floats all ships…? No. Clearly, the basic argument of the EPI report remains valid. Exceptional economic growth has NOT improved the lives of the poorest. Continual government oversight and support has done a bit to help them, and that is all.

So, the evidence here seems perfectly clear. Strong economies don’t alleviate poverty. Strong governments do. The rational advice would be to tax the wealthy more, and give that money to the poor.

 

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Making enemies out of allies

I learned something this week. I learned that I was wrong when I thought that the following image was hilarious, and an effective parody of a ridiculously untenable position held by some moronic members of the US congress. I was wrong to laugh at it and wrong to think it a useful public statement, because instead of finding humour in it and understanding its intent, I should have been outraged.

we should ban life jackets rape analogy funny joke haha

I should have been outraged at how this “joke” makes light of the serious nature of drowning. Do the makers of this joke not care that 10 people die of drowning every day? Do they think that is funny!?!? Are they ignorant of this fact, or do they just not care?

You might try to tell me that I am over-reacting. That they aren’t really making fun of drowning, but are just using it as tool to make a point.

That doesn’t matter, because as someone who has suffered from two near-drowning events in my life, let me tell you that I personally find this image incredibly offensive. I could have died to drowning. Proper real end of life actual death…and you think that that trauma is irrelevent? You think I should have to spend the rest of my life letting people make light and “fun” out of something which really did happen to me and was traumatic? How about instead of that, everyone else on the planet stops being so insensitive!?!

I also learned that I should imply that the creators of this image are active representatives of whatever organised community they are part of, and imply that that whole community are anti-drowning-safety. Because if you find this image funny, then you basically drown children. There are no half measures when it comes to this sort of thing, you are either as outraged as I am that some “comedian” makes light of an issue as serious as drowning kids, or you drown kids.

<fin>

OK, enough stupidity and hyperbole. Yes, I was exaggerating, but this is how I feel when people react to a “#grapeculture” joke made by someone talking about a good night out with friends having drinks (presumably, wine, which is made from a “grape culture“)

#grapeculture tweet outrage

So when someone not included in the (publicly visible) conversation decided to take offense at the use of the #grapeculture hashtag and invite herself and her opinion, outrage and judgement  into it, I couldn’t help but feel very quickly like the whole thing became a parody of the very thing the joke was making fun of.

Despite the initial reaction of @vitabrevi which was to imply that @rjblaskiewicz and @cherryteresa  thought that rape itself was funny, it seemed quite clear to me that the tag was (at the most) a parody of people who use hashtag activism to accuse people of perpetuating rape culture. ie: it is no wonder vitabrevi felt attacked by the joke, it was probably aimed at people like her. But the shocking thing is that she bit. She bit with all of her might, accusing @rjblaskiewicz of supporting rape, misogyny and representing the entire skeptic community. Is there any world where that is a reasonable reaction to a #grapeculture joke?

How is it any different to my hyperbolic example above, where I claim that I should get desperately offended by the maker of this life jacket joke, and accuse them (and any communities they represent) as being supporters of people who enable the drowning of children?

This is why I made the reference to 4chan raids which aim to make the feminist movement look moronic by taking ridiculous positions and claiming to be feminists. I wonder if @ViteBrevi isn’t one of the, because if she isn’t, everyone can tell 4chan that they need not bother, some people are doing a fine job of making the movement look moronic all on their own.

And this upsets me.

The feminist movement is bloody important. Fighting the rape culture which is present in our society is incredibly important to me. But instead of actually doing that, we have counter-productive people out there claiming to be feminists who are busy sticking their nose in other people’s conversations, interpreting jokes to meet a pre-defined outrage sore-point, projecting their own suffrage on those comments, and inciting outrage and attack in their friends and colleagues. All to what end? All it does is make enemies out of friends.

I’ve met the people @VitaBrevi was attacking with her projected victimhood and offendedness. They are NOT the people we need to deal with. The people we need to deal with are abundant enough without picking fights with allies. The #grapeculture guilty are allies where it matters. They are feminists and want equal opportunities and freedoms and rights for people independent of sexuality, race and gender. But apparently being an advocate and champion of equality and a progressive society isn’t enough – they have to be super-sensitive to every possible sensibility that every person on the planet might have. They have to double check their language at all times, and avoid ever making jokes which might trigger traumatic events from the pasts of people they have never met nor talked to.

How about instead of that, people take responsibility for their own lives and emotional states (which may or may not include getting help from friends, family or trained professionals)? I’m not saying “suck it up”, I’m saying that we all have to take responsibility for our own lives, and that most certainly does not involve forcing the rest of the world to behave a particular way.

accept responsibility
Expecting the word-part “rape” (as in Grape) to be forever out of bounds as a tool in jokes is literally the sort of thing that fascists actually do. It is the core control mechanism in the book 1984: Control the language, and you can control the people. I am all for ending rape culture., but I want no part in ending our ability to use words, or our ability to find humor in things – even the morbid or the upsetting. (not that this even was – it was a joke at the (slight) expense of people doing this sort of thing! by making a pun about how wine is made).

*sigh*

So anyway, yes @VitaBrevi, you definitely seem to be “determined to be offended” – this is why you went into someone else’s conversation and chose to interpret their use of a phrase in a way which offended you, rather than 1. not paying attention to their conversation 2. not interpreting their joke as diminishing the experience of being raped 3. accepting the words of the several people who pointed out that the joke was about slacktivism, not rape 4. not projecting your outrage on an entire community which has nothing to do with one #hastag chosen by two individuals which didn’t even mean what you decided it meant  …or any other of an infinite other possibilities which didn’t involve you being mortally offended and justifying your outrage at their chosen method of interacting and attacking them (and everyone who defended them).

It is bad enough that reasonable people have to fight against tradition and socially conservative people who want to keep things ‘the way they have always been’ regardless of the fact that things used to be terrible for most people. But it is so incredibly disheartening when we also have to fight against extremist nut jobs who make reasonable objectives look crazy. It just gives the traditionalists and social conservatives material to use to undermine the real movement.

 

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