Centre of the Continent

Thoughts from the middle of North America

Archive for illness

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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It’s All Bad For You

Cell phones cause cancer.

The carbs in fruit make you fat.

The media can give you a new phobia every day if you let it.

Look, simply put it’s about moderation in all things. Of course there are unfortunate people in the world that need to take extra precautions with their diet or lifestyle. When I really think about it, however, it’s our own culture of excess that has led to these negative habits and behaviors.

Here’s how to combat some of today’s trendy issues.

Don’t fill your plate. It seems simple but my Mother and Grandfather have both told me of dinners in the 7-child home and how food was portioned out of necessity. Sadly now the poor can easily access cheap and fattening processed food. Combine that with the lethargy of poverty, add rampant mental illness and addiction and there is little chance of having any kind of healthy diet. Generally, most of us have an excess of food in our kitchens and we consider a good meal based more on quantity rather then quality. The simple fix is to buy more fresh foods and buy them on a more frequent basis. Only cook what you need. One of my bad habits is to make a large batch of something with the ideas of having leftovers in mind only to go back for a second helping and maybe a third. Reevaluate your caloric need and weigh that with against the next step — activity.

Get up and do something. That’s pretty much it. You don’t need to start an intense exercise regimen … just go for a walk. Then do it again. It’s all a cliche now but that’s because it’s true. Take the stairs. Throw a frisbee. Get a new bike. I think you get the idea.

Turn off your cell phone. (… and your tv … and your computer … and …) This is a tough one for me and probably my biggest challenge. Just turn it off. Disconnect from the world and reconnect with the people around you. Especially at night and get your sleep. There are few things that can’t wait until tomorrow. And on that topic, leave your work at work and set a clear boundary between it and the rest of your life. If you work from home, that division becomes one of time. Make a schedule and stick to it.

Balance.

When it comes to a healthy and fulfilling life, no word holds more weight. Have a burger and a salad. Work hard and then don’t. Have some wine. Explore your neighborhood and be a neighbor. Sometimes we all need to power down.

I don’t always do as I have said but I try. I have found though, that if these basic principles are applied to any health or social issue that might arise, the solutions hold true.

I’m going to power down … now.

(This is my first try at actually writing a post entirely with my iPod.)