Centre of the Continent

Thoughts from the middle of North America

Archive for Addiction

Senseless Sensitivity

The war on drugs has been a failure. The war on the sex trade wasn’t so much as declared but the result has been the same. The similarities between the two industries are as evident as they are disturbing to the general public. Society judges the participants not as distinct players within an economy but as a morally depraved stereotype. The moral high ground is always claimed by the political right and any transgressions within their own ranks is seen as an aberration. The exception to their steadfast belief in their own blessed superiority.

Prohibition was an utter failure. Our hindsight allows us to see that not only was it so, it led to the rise of organized crime as a financial powerhouse. This is a simple matter of supply and demand. There was a demand for alcohol and when it could not be legally supplied, organizations stepped in to fill the demand at a premium. This is the same situation with illegal drugs and the sex-trade. Now drugs are substances that are addictive. Even when not in a physical sense they can become so psychologically. Just as alcohol. Sex can be the same kind of escape for someone suffering from loneliness or depression. More then that though, it is in our most primal nature to seek it out. As with most animals, we will often fulfill our carnal desires at all costs. Threats of legal consequences, disease, financial ruin and social devastation do little to curb libidos. When a person is well adjusted, we can consciously but these needs into perspective but it often only requires a tiny insecurity, weakness or perceived entitlement to allow someone to succumb to the instinct.

This is evolutionary programming. We are driven to be content and happy. When the body, devoid of wisdom and moral guidance needs something, it finds a way to get it. This is not by any means an attempt to justify bad behaviour but is a reality that needs to be addressed. Unless this dynamic is understood, any attempt to control the distribution of these products and services will fail.

North American society has a foundation in puritanism and religious moral education. It was part of the early mandates of the churches to provide education in all things, not the least of which was the difference between right and wrong. It is difficult to separate morality from religion and have a system of tolerant justice. The thought of prostitution is a biblically offensive. Illegal drug users are weak, immoral beings. Only when we separate from the issues the religious and societal stigmas associated with them, there can be no effective attack.

For illegal drugs, there needs to be a focus on curing the addictions and fostering environments that lessen the conditions of mental illness and poverty that led to them. Help from the bottom and severely punish the top of the drug industry. Only by curbing demand will the industry become less profitable. It will be foolish to ever think that this is a winnable war. We can only hope to win battles and move on. Punishing the addicted users only moves them into hiding or to prison. Neither of which will stop them from getting their drugs – only get it out of sight of the public and out of our minds.

The sex-trade is much the same. Dealing with it means accepting that we can never completely get rid of it. Best we can do is draw our lines and stick to them. Address the real problems with the business – exploitation, unsanitary, unhealthy and unsafe conditions, and all of the pitfalls that plague both the users and suppliers. Move it out into the open. Make it permissible only in monitored and publically known facilities. Have the workers registered and tested for STD’s. Unlike an illegal operation where authorities need a warrant to search a location, health officials and police can regularly inspect registered public businesses. Much like in the case of safe injection sites for intravenous drugs, services can be made available to those who want to both get out of the business or want address the reasons they feel the need to use the services. Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession for a reason. Various codes of morality have been unsuccessfully imposed on it over thousands of years. Again, the key is to focus resources where they can actually do some good. Contrary to popular belief, prostitution is not actually illegal in Canada. It is against the law to profit from prostitution, to run a bawdy house or to openly advertise the service. The act it self does not break any law. What I propose is to make the dangerous practices illegal. Exploitation of anyone is already a criminal offense. Operation of an unsanitary business is also prosecutable. Point is, the nasty side of prostitution is already against the law. Having the business operate under the light of day will make it easier to address.

The moral high ground is to save lives and make society healthier as a whole and only out in the open cab that truly be done. Hidden habits and chosen ignorance will only be to the benefit of illegal operations and allow them to flourish. Open control will allow for the issues to be seen and dealt with. What stops us is only the prevailing aversion to actually admitting these are economic systems as opposed to purely moral transgressions. It offends us. It scares us. So we choose to demonise them in their entirety allowing us to definitively separate ourselves from the dark muck – from the parts of ourselves we all like to pretend don’t exist.

We need to get over it.

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Gas Addiction & The NDP Intervention

Jack Layton Winnipeg A27 2011

So here we are in the final few days of the 2011 federal election campaign and the Conservatives are on the attack.  According to them the Jack Layton Cap and Trade plan will raise gas prices. Let’s do a logical fact check. Gas prices are going to rise. Whether it’s Prime Minister Jack Layton, Iggy, Harper or even Elizabeth May.

The question then becomes where you want that money to go. Right now all increases mean bigger profits for the oil companies. Do you really think they are suffering? No – they are not. Do you believe that they will pull out of Canada? No – they’re here because the oil is here and not because of what any particular government is doing. At very least, the new tax dollars can fund the search for and development of alternatives and not just to pad corporate pockets.

Welcome to the realities of addiction. This is a process that should have started years ago but no parliament had the will or the courage to do it. There are many aspects to curbing fossil fuel dependency and as with any addiction the longer you wait, the worse it gets. I will be the first one to admit that green energy sources aren’t ready for prime time but who’s fault is that? It’s our leader’s and ours. We need to demand that green energy and transportation alternatives be made a priority and we need to elect a parliament that is willing to take the initiative on making it happen.

Addiction. A frightening word I am using deliberately. It is so easy for me to point out the similarities between our dependency on oil and an addict’s dependency on a given drug. It started with big business and the industrial revolution but let’s fast forward to the mid 20th century. In 1947 Canadians bought 159,2051 new passenger cars. By 1956 that number had exploded to 407,7102.  While that extreme rate of growth did not continue, in 2009 it was 863,1613. What does this mean? We all were happy about it really. New cars represented the freedom and prosperity that was the hallmark of the post war baby boom. We didn’t know what we were doing was bad. I mean we all could see in our cities where the most cars were concentrated smog starting to visualize but we had no grasp of the long tern effects.  There were a few forward thinkers for sure but for the most part, cars were good – more cars were better.  This is the experimentation phase for us addicts. We had the means and we all wanted what the “cool kids” had. The cool kids were the well off and the well off had cars.

Somewhere in the late 1960’s, early 1970’s people saw what was happening. Air pollution was visible and affecting health but cars weren’t yet seen as the problem so much as industry. Even hippies happily drove their lovebugs. To their credit, they were smaller more efficient cars and the economically-challenged youth were likely to carpool. But at this same time the car had been marketed into a right and not a privilege. Owning a car had become not a luxury but a perceived necessity.

Addiction had taken hold. We could not let go. Our lives were now designed around keeping that addiction alive. Cities, highways and indeed a massive chunk of our economy was built around feeding and supporting that addiction. The combined might of the “dealers” – oil companies and car manufacturers – had made them major players in our politics.  And there were limitless resources to keep our dependency alive.  (I invite everyone to research what happened to electric streetcars in most cities.  Safe to say that auto and oil had a hand in the demise. That will be a whole other post some day.)

And so it grew. In 2009 there were 20,706,6164 registered vehicles in Canada.  That’s a ratio 1 for every 1.645 persons in the country. And most of us would say we “need” that vehicle. Some are right for the infrastructure has been built around just that. And don’t get me wrong, some people absolutely do. I’ll use the recent developments in Winnipeg as an example. In the suburbs, public transit service is poor and even I would not argue that.  Winnipeg Transit would argue that there is less demand. All of this is true. An addict might well feel that there are no options.

Here’s the reality.

There are options but they must be requested and in most cases demanded. Ultimately, we as the addicts must take the first steps. Gas prices, for no matter what the reason, will continue to rise. The cost both in terms of our health as individuals, and as a nation will depend on the choices we start to make now.  This will apply to our economic wellbeing and our environmental survival. It will be difficult. It will be painful. It should have been earlier, it will be worse if we wait longer – the intervention must happen now.

We know the way out – deep down most addicts do. Green fuels and technology and public transit. Simply put, the only way to lessen the amount of money we have to spend on gas in the long run is to buy less gas.

We can do this.

Sources:

1,2 – Statistics Canada, Canada Year Book, 1957/1958, Retail sales of new motor vehicles, 1947 to 1956 –http://www65.statcan.gc.ca/acyb02/1957/acyb02_19570941009-eng.htm

3 – Statistics Canada, New Motor Vehicle Sales: 2006 in Review – http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-621-m/11-621-m2007054-eng.pdf

4 – Statistics Canada, Canadian Vehicle Survey: Annual – 2009 – Catalogue no. 53-223-X –http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/53-223-x/53-223-x2009000-eng.pdf

5 – Wikipedia, Population of Canada by Year  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_population_of_Canada_by_years