Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Sunday, October 09, 2005

When the right approach is wrong

From the Left - Chris Trotter - Otago Daily Times (7.10.05)
[Chris Trotter is editor of the New Zealand Political Review.]

When the right approach is wrong

   THE POPULARITY and proliferation of television shows exposing our appalling parenting skills raises some interesting questions about society's attitude toward experts and expertise.
   Supernanny, Demons to Darlings, Little Angels all have three factors in common: obnoxious children, clueless parents, and the intervention of an all-wise expert. Their entertainment value lies in the startling transformation which the expert is able to effect, usually in very short order, in the behaviour of Mum, Dad and the kids. The most interesting thing about the advice which these experts dispense is how closely it conforms to the scorned precepts of “political correctness”.
   Treating even very young children as small but independent individuals, with thoughts and feelings of their own, is shown to be a much more successful strategy than ordering them about like puppies.
   Even more clearly demonstrated in these programmes is the utter futility of corporal punishment. Parents who thrash their kids invariably make family life worse, not better.
   If the only lesson this new brand of reality television teaches us is that physical and verbal violence against children is one of the prime generators of human psychopathology then it will have fulfilled an immensely valuable social function.
   The saddest thing about these shows is that they lead so few people to extrapolate from the microcosm of the family to the macrocosm of society in general. 
   Right-wing ideologues never tire of reminding us that, “As the family goes, so goes the nation”. But if this is true then what conclusion should we draw from the fact that so many families are dysfunctional? That so many people reach adulthood without knowing what it is like to be reasoned with? That so many parents, by their actions, teach their children that violence directed against the weak and the vulnerable is a perfectly legitimate method of social control?
   The truth is that the Right does not believe in treating every person as a thinking, feeling individual with hopes and aspirations to be respected and, if possible, fulfilled. Nor does it have any fundamental objection to violence, provided that it is only ever meted out by the powerful against the powerless and never the other way around.
   In other words, the ongoing dysfunctionality of both family and nation are absolutely crucial to the success of the social and economic forces to which the Right has always been beholden.
   That is why the Right is so opposed to the “nanny state”. Not for them the wise, softly-spoken child psychologist who quietly observes the goings on in this or that desperate household and who then works co-operatively with the harried parents to modify the outrageous behaviour of their little “demons”.
   No matter what the issue — the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act, sex education in schools, the “harm minimisation” approach to educating young people about substance abuse — the Right’s approach is always the same: that these are matters best left to the judgement of parents.
   Never mind that it is parents who are beating toddlers with sticks, belts and electric cords and getting away with it. Ignore the fact that it's the parental refusal to adequately prepare their offspring for the onset of puberty that condemns so many teenagers to STD infections and unwanted pregnancies. Don’t worry about the sheer hypocrisy of Mum (zonked on Valium) or Dad (rampant with Viagra) throwing up their hands in horror because junior’s been found in possession of a joint.
   That six young people have recently lost their lives as a result of inhaling solvents (which are freely available over the counter at any dairy) is a tragedy for their parents, their siblings, their friends and their communities. What it is not is an excuse for the Wellington coroner to launch an all-out attack on cannabis, a herbal intoxicant which, in the 4800 years that it has been ingested by human beings, has never killed anyone.
   If ever there was a case for calling on expert advice and heeding it, it is the whole field of substance abuse. “Harm minimisation” is only the beginning. Equally important is asking why some of our best and brightest feel so alienated from society that they are willing to risk death getting out of it.
   If Nandor Tanczos is looking for something worthwhile to do outside Parliament, he could do a lot worse than to devote himself to taking drug education out of the hands of ignorant parents and authoritarian prohibitionists and returning it to people who actually know what they're talking about.

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