Focus on Addiction

There’s been a couple of shows on TV this week about the nature of addiction.

One was the “Diary of a Heroin Addict” on ABC2 on Wednesday, which was the remarkable insight into the personal journey of a heroin addict who lived at home with his family.

Usually, like most people I guess, I’ve been quite dismissive about hard drug users, more or less thinking that they’ve got themselves into their own situation, so they’re responsible for that.

Well this documentary has changed my outlook completely.

To witness “Ben” in his early thirties cry out in sheer desperation that he hated his addiction while injecting himself, and then passing out was truly gut-wrenching, not to mention his efforts to get clean only to relapse again.

The entire helplessness of his, and his family’s situation, the love they have for each other despite his addiction was truly eye-opening.

For those who haven’t seen it, it is definitely worth seeing if it screens again. And it has completely changed my previously somewhat stereotypical views of the nature of addiction and the addicts themselves, particularly those who find themselves in the grip of addiction to hard core drugs.

This is the extract from ABC2:

Ben Rogers was a bright schoolboy from a loving, middle class family. He played in the orchestra, loved cricket and enjoyed the annual family holiday. But his future promise was halted when he started taking drugs in his teens. Early drinking led to cannabis, harder drugs, and then the revelation to his family, at the age of 21, that he was addicted to heroin.

Over the next 13 years Ben and his family battled with his addiction, going through detox, rehab and attempts at ‘cold turkey’, but his health gradually declined. Whilst attempting another detox aged 34, he died from a brain haemorrhage.

But during the last two years of his life, Ben filmed an unflinching video diary showing his final desperate attempts to come off heroin. It’s a portrayal of his descent; intimate, raw, and at times difficult to watch, he talks to his glove puppet as he injects into a vein in his groin.

It is also a very intimate portrait of a family battling to save their son. He tells the camera: “I hope that when you look at this afterwards that you don’t think I’m self-pitying because I know that I’ve done this to myself.” Yet we see the impact on his mother in her sheer frustration, anger and tears, as Ben fluctuates between searing honesty and manipulating deception.

Days before his death, Ben weeps into the camera that he knows he is losing his battle, and begs those watching the footage to use it to show how powerful and deadly the drug can be. His mother is now determined to warn teenagers of the effects of drugs.

More info here:

And after doing some google searches, I “think” the documentary can be downloaded here

As news reports are coming that Sydney is experiencing a dramatic surge in cocaine use, and the fact that overwhelming majority of crime in Australia is drug-related, it is perhaps timely to open this topic up for discussion..

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58 Responses

  1. Thanks for this reb – I will watch it over the weekend.

    In the gay world here in Sydney – you do see those who are affected by addiction. Fortunately, my life has not been touched by anyone close to me with a serious addiction.

  2. It’s a fascinating documentray joni.

    Probably one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.

    What makes this one different, is that Ben does 80% of the filming himself using a handycam he bought.

    A lot of the footage shows Ben fiming his family at dinner parties and other family gatherings, sometimes you can tell that he’s high, other times you’re not sure.

    The remarkable thing is that his family only found ought that he was also recording the angst he was having with his addiction after he died. There’s candid footage of him scoring drugs, shooting up and living the life of a deceiptful addict, yet all the while craving to give up.

    It is a very sad documentary, because he was clearly just your average kid who grew up in a loving home. He loves his family dearly and yet they all feel helpess as he just deteriorates before their eyes due to his addiction.

  3. I’ve had my own experiences with addiction (not heroin), but, as I’m not really into blogging as public confessional, I’ll keep the details to myself.

    But I will say, no one wakes up one morning and thinks “I want to be an alcoholic” or “I want to be a drug addict and screw up my life”.

    You can go there for any number of reasons and it happens so gradually that, before you’re aware of it, you’re done. And it can happen to anyone. And yes, you know what you’re doing and you hate yourself for it, but by the time you’re there, all you have left is self-loathing and the self-loathing drives you there again and again to block it out.

    No amount of ideological folderol, government pamphlets or campaigns and whatnot makes one tiny jot of difference. Some manage to pull through it and some don’t. And it’s not strength or weakness that determines who does and who doesn’t.

    It’s a lottery of nightmares.

  4. Reb and Joni..my life has been touched by addiction, that is a very former brother in law a truckie being an amphetamine addict.

    Eons ago when I was studying criminal law, my lecturer was David Heilpern. David was of the opinion that drug addiction should be treated as a health problem rather than a criminal offence.

    David is the author of: Fear or favour : sexual assault of young prisoners..and Rough Deal: Your guide to drug laws.

  5. Will watch this when possible. Is this download legal? Don’t want anyone to get burnt for piracy.

    I’ll not go into what I know of addiction and how it can affect people, as my name if pretty unique and easy to track down. I will say I am of the opinion that addiction should be treated as both a health problem and a criminal one.

    We lock up those that are a danger to society for actions they cannot help (i.e. unfit for trial due to mental illness). Drug addiction, especially some of the more potent varieties, I think falls under this regime. Being treated for it though is not instead of incarceration for crimes committed but in addition to.

  6. Ben..this into the reason why we should or shouldn’t lock people up. That drug addicts should not be locked up but that their problems be treated as ‘health’ rather than ‘criminal’ offenses.

    An example might be a young man with no prior offence, who is caught with drugs/no other offenses. Should this young person be treated as a person with a health problem or should he be locked up in prison with criminals 20-30yrs older than himself to be ‘taught the ropes’.

  7. The incarceration issue is an interesting one.

    And is covered in Ben’s documentary.

    Essentially Ben is a good kid from a good family. He has no criminal history.

    He simply became progressively addicted to a highly addictive chemical substance.

    At one point, the family exclaims in desperation – perhaps if he did commit a crime and be sentenced to a jail term then this might help him kick drugs.

    But you can tell throughout his “journey” that he is a good kid who has just fallen victim to the addictive nature of heroin.

    And if you watch the doco, you’ll come away with the conclusion that it has to be treated as a medical condition (rather than a crime), because really no crime was/is involved.

  8. Min/Ross/Ben/reb et al,

    The blogocrats never cease to amaze me with their depth of experience or compassion for others (and that covers the rightoids on here too).

  9. Well said Ross.

    It can and does happen to anyone.

  10. Reb..this gets us to the issue of incarceration/whether this works as a deterrant.

    The popular press would have us believe that the harsher the penalty the less likely the ‘crime’.

    Ross.. (re self-loathing) it’s always one day at a time..but if the popular press keep treating people as criminals, then they just run down the excellent achievements of people who are currently going through the mill trying to overcome addictions.

  11. Min,

    I think there is an abundance of evidence that imprisonment has virtually no effect as a deterence.

  12. I should apologise/clarify. I don’t mean that addicts who have not committed a crime should be incarcerated. Even ignoring the fact that simply possessing heroin & the like is a crime – I was referring to my opinion that addicts that commit crimes should not have lenient punishment for them due to their addiction.

    Addiction to cigarettes (a mild addiciton compared to some of the drugs one can possibly obtain) is treated as a medical condition, at least as far as government funds is concerned. I don’t see why the other addictions should not receive the same (if not better) recognition.

    As for this “Ben” (which I have yet to watch), it would sound to me that he should be kept under observation for his own good in the same way that those that try to commit suicide, cut themselves, etc are taken care of. Once they are no longer a danger to themselves (i.e. are off the drugs), they can be released under their own power.

    Sorry for the confusion.

    On a related note – we (as a society) have found from experience that prohibition does not work when people wish to partake of a substance. It didn’t work with alcohol (a much milder drug), it’s not going to work with much more addictive substances. The “War on Drugs” only serves to profit the criminal organisations (as they can drive up the cost of the illicit substance). I don’t know the solution – but we’ve tried this method and it doesn’t work.

  13. ” Alcoholism and addiction give a very clear example of how people are trapped by false self images.
    An addicted person is trapped by a chemically created self image.
    In a genetically susceptible person, alcohol or other drugs goes to the part of the brain that looks after really deep self images. It then changes one of the deepest and most powerful self images. The person’s energies are now channelled through this artificially altered self image.
    There is a very important understanding in this.
    A chemical can switch on and off what a person deeply experiences as being himself or herself.
    The fact that a chemical can change the self in a person, shows that self must be image.
    This means that what we experience as our self must be through some image from our own minds.
    Otherwise how could it be switched on and off.” J. Maclaine, Psychologist.

    This is not just true of chemical addicts but others with ‘pathological’ disorders.

    Addiction is a health issue and should be treated as such.

  14. reb, on June 12th, 2009 at 3:08 pm Said:
    Min,

    I think there is an abundance of evidence that imprisonment has virtually no effect as a deterence.

    ~~

    Well, you and I know it reb..so what do you say the next time that harsher penalties are called for/where it is accused that this government or the other.. goes ‘light on crime’.

    As you know, most people have the belief that the harsher the penalty the more likely that this acts as a deterrant.

  15. Ben,

    “Ben” did try rehab a couple of times and also “self detox” being locked in his own room.

    The problem, Ben mentions is that methodone just turns you into a zombie, so it’s not really an effective “replacement” for heroin.

    I think this is the problem for hard drugs like heroin and to a greater extent methamphetamine.

    While methadone is available as a chemical “substitute” for heroin users, there is no chemical “substitute” for methamphetamine.

    In fact, the path of the crystal meth addict is far more predictable than the path of the heroin user.

    From the point that a crystal meth user begins addicted. The average lifespan is two years, whereas many heroin users can go on to lead otherwise fairly normal lifestyles, unless of course as in “Ben’s” case it becomes all life consuming.

    It’s a tragedy whichever way one looks at it..

  16. Min

    And of course the old “tough on drugs” harsher penalty approach resonates with the self-righteous Christian fundies!!

  17. That’s a very interesting comment Handyrab.

  18. Reb..I suspect that you think that I am just theorising rather than having a working knowledge of this issue.

  19. “Addiction to cigarettes ( a mild addiction…) B.T
    Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs around. It just doesn’t have the mind altering effect of other drugs.
    “It didn’t work with alcohol ( a much milder drug…)B.T
    If you’ve ever come across a full blown alcoholic (and you probably have), alcohol addiction is on par with any of the narcotics, except it is legal. And just as hard, if not more so, to get off.
    Rehabs are full of people of all walks of life trying to reclaim their lives. The alcoholics are more often than not professionals (teacher,police, army, bank mangers
    executives and so on). But so too are many of the ‘drug addicts’.
    While ever, as a society, we have this double standard where, if your a well to do alcoholic you have a health problem, but if you’re a ‘drug’ user you’re a criminal, we really don’t have much hope, do we.

  20. Quite right handyrab..the same addictive qualities. Another example is amphetamine users who then proceed from dope to barbs as their downers..and the downers are more addictive than the uppers.

  21. It’s cases like ‘Ben’s’ that make me question my ‘libertarian’ stance on drugs; that is, what an adult person wants to put into their body in the privacy of their own home is their business.

    However, I always come back to my belief that the negative consequenses of the ‘war on drugs’ far outweigh the tragic cases like ‘Ben’s’, whose fate was determined ultimately by the excercise of his own free will.

    From an interview with Milton Friedman on the Drug War:

    The proper role of government is exactly what John Stuart Mill Said in the middle of the 19th century in “On Liberty.” The proper role of government is to prevent other people from harming an individual. Government, he said, never has any right to interfere with an individual for that individual’s own good.

  22. reb, on June 12th, 2009 at 3:45 pm Said:
    “And of course the old “tough on drugs” harsher penalty approach resonates with the self-righteous Christian fundies!!”

    I always find it interesting how places like Singapore have overcome such problems.
    Post WW2 whilst still a colony they began tackling a quite large problem that fortunately was confined mainly to the elderly and those at the bottom of the social structure. Their approach began with allowing the problem to gradually disappear as the older generation passed on, whilst ensuring it wasn’t passed onto the up and coming generations. The old addicts were allowed to live out their lives as addicts.
    The main philosophy was that they had to be able to put a long term plan that spanned generations into action, one that wouldn’t be put at risk every time there was an election, so the direction and commitment would always remainconsistent.

  23. Great post @ 4:54 TOSY.

    Almost word for word my own views.

    Willpower is integral to being in control of your own life.

    Not that I mean to imply that it’s an easy thing to exercise or not prone to distraction, subversion or lapse & failure.
    We are all but human.

  24. Thanks Toiletboss; I had a hunch we’d concur on this topic.

  25. I’ve been on numerous blogs over the years on drug use and addiction and it always comes back to decriminalisation at worst and the consensus was always that no political party would consider such a concept to somewhat alleviate the situation, it would be political suicide!

    Meanwhile people suffer alone because the stigma of addiction.

  26. Provide non-coercive treatment options for those who need them.

    And stay off the hydro, the sun grown remains the same.

  27. May I suggest that alcohol abuse, the drug with the worst social consequences of them all, is out of control. Not just because it’s socially acceptable either.

    Do we need a war on grog? Probably not but the side-effects of drinking are a huge problem that 24 hour trading has added to.

  28. Again agreed Horace. Drinking, on the whole, is a socially (destructive) acceptable vice. Societally ingrained even.

    re hydro. I think it pays to be very wary of it. As we know, it’s an “unregulated” industry & often those producing hydro aren’t consuming it. They’re in it for maximum yield & profit. Not an ounce of care goes into concern for the deleterious effects of the growth promoting, maturity enhancing , unflushed chemicals used to turn the cash register over every 3 months.

    Simply put, you don’t know what, apart from the plant, you’re inhaling when you smoke hydro unless you’re intimately involved in the “nurturing process”.

  29. I also have a close relative who is an alcoholic and has spent much of his life addicted to various drugs. IIRC he was introduced to alcohol in primary school and didn’t know what it was at the time. He screwed up his brain quite a lot – various cognitive issues, paranoia, deep irrationality, difficulty concentrating or taking on new information, deep obsession, the usual kinds of stuff. He managed to get out from under it, but he did it by getting deep into very fundamentalist religion – which has its own problems, but I still think it’s preferable in the end. Now, a few years later, he’s lightening up on the fundamentalism a bit, which doesn’t hurt.

    I think alcohol is about as bad a problem as hard drugs – just less individually spectacular (most of the time) and more socially acceptable. It causes a lot of damage to people as well as very dangerous behaviour, never mind the rest.

    Here’s an impassioned blog post on the American enforcement efforts that are sweeping up the small fry in the dealing operations. I believe it refers to this NY Times story.

    I really don’t know the answers. I’m fairly libertarian about what you do to yourself if it doesn’t harm anyone else – but as the blogger says, the demand for heroin grows to meet the supply – and it’s fine for me to say because I think taking heroin is really stupid, but many are tempted by it for various reasons.

    I tend to think that perhaps the government should supply high quality drugs to at least registered addicts to take the organised crime out of the picture (compare with the high quality alcohol and nicotine supply). However, I don’t know how to motivate people to register who don’t want to, or how to stop the next generation becoming addicts. Singapore’s experience might be useful for the latter.

  30. Lotharsson, one of the key factors has to be social acceptability. Within our society there are widely differing degrees of social acceptance to each of the full range of drugs from alcohol and tobacco to the very worst.
    It used to be socially unacceptable to drink, or to be seen as drunk in public. Tobacco seems to be heading in the other direction, or perhaps drifting may be more appropriate.
    I’m not sure if there are any similar campaigns against any of the other drugs, if there were they must have been short lived, as it seems are attempts at law enforcement.

    Whatever is done, it must include alcohol, and needs to aimed at seeing real results a generation or two down the track rather than at the next election.

  31. Some really interesting and thought-provoking comments folks.

    I always come back to my belief that the negative consequenses of the ‘war on drugs’ far outweigh the tragic cases like ‘Ben’s’, whose fate was determined ultimately by the excercise of his own free will.

    The thing is Tony, somewhere along the line Ben (and other addicts) lost the power to excercise their own free will, as the addiction takes over.

  32. That’s true, Reb, but the initial decision to use or experiment was made prior to any addiction, and presumably of his own free-will .

  33. On the Singapore experience, Friedman comments on that in the interview I mentioned above:

    Paige: What scares you the most about the notion of drugs being legal?

    Friedman: Nothing scares me about the notion of drugs being legal.

    Paige: Nothing.

    Friedman: What scares me is the notion of continuing on the path we’re on now, which will destroy our free society, making it an uncivilized place. There’s only one way you can really enforce the drug laws currently. The only way to do that is to adopt the policies of Saudi Arabia, Singapore, which some other countries adopt, in which a drug addict is subject to capital punishment or, at the very least, having his hand chopped off. If we were willing to have penalties like that–but would that be a society you’d want to live in? </blockquote<

  34. Yep understood Tony.

    However as Ross mentions, no one begins to take a substance conscientiously thinking that they want to become an alcoholic or drug addict.

    Confront any typical teenage smoker, and you’re bound to be greeted with the response “I can give up any time I like”.

  35. Thanks for that interview link Tony. Looks interesting. I’ll go and have a quick read.

  36. True again, Reb, and I’ve personally experimented with various ‘recreational’ drugs from time to time. There is one that has always fascinated me, and all reports are it’s extremely pleasurable – the same one that got poor Ben – but I never seriously contemplated trying it out of fear of addiction.

  37. Tony, on June 13th, 2009 at 9:52 am Said:
    “On the Singapore experience, Friedman comments on that in the interview I mentioned above:”

    It is drug traffickers in Singapore, not drug addicts, that the laws being referred to are focused on.
    Singapore based their efforts on education and forming social acceptability, backed up by laws that were consistently enforced.
    For places like Singapore, drug traffickers are in the main, somebody elses problem that happen to briefly land on their doorstep.
    The message they are trying to send out, not only to the drug traffickers, but more so to preferred destinations like Australia, is, we are not prepared to put up with what is essentially someone else’s problem. If you don’t like what we are doing, then YOU do something to fix the problem at your end.

  38. Fair enough Johnd, but what is Singapore’s policy on drug users?

  39. It’s OK Johnd, I’ve found it myself:

    Yesterday on the HR2 blog, we reported on Singapore’s objection to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture at last week’s session of the UN Human Rights Council. In that report, the Special Rapporteur – Prof Manfred Nowak – expressed concerns about human rights abuses committed in the name of the ‘war on drugs’, and about the use of corporal and capital punishment. As we reported, Singapore’s response was to vigorously defend its ‘sovereign right’ to beat and kill drug offenders. . . . Keep in mind that in reading this, the CNB is specifically describing penalties for drug consumption and use.

  40. Jesus, “beat and kill drug offenders”

    That’s a bit severe. Mind you they don’t seem to have much of a drug problem in Singapore.

    When I was last there, which must be some ten years ago, I can remember seeing posters everywhere – in subway stations, on the trains etc – warning people about the damage that drugs can do.

    But of course the whole culture in Singapore is so fundamentally different to Western society and Australia in particular, that I doubt that such measures would be successful here.

  41. Tony, those changes are fairly recent, but reflect an ongoing attempt to adjust to changing circumstances.

    New types of drugs, growing affluence, and more exposure to other cultures all introduce new pressures.
    I would be interested to see a breakdown of the statistics as to how the offenders are distributed citizens vs non citizens.
    What I have found over the years in Asia, is that people are less concerned about how high you might set the bar, and greatly concerned about whether it is set the same for all, and that it is not going to be suddenly changed.

  42. Re decriminalisation..my opinion is that addiction to illicit drugs should be treated as a health problem rather than a criminal offence.

    For example, if a registered addict can go to their doctor (whose dispensing is controlled via a central registrar much the same as methadone is) and obtain the drug then you will limit the influence of the drug barons and limit drug related crime (break ins and muggings). This is not a sure fix as there will always be the potential for rorting the system, but to me it’s better than the current situation where drugs rule the streets.

  43. johnd,

    Just to clarify, I take it you’re not advocating the (current) Singaporean approach?

  44. Min, on June 13th, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Min, that is only addressing the here and now.
    What assurance is there that such measures aren’t going to grow, as Medicare has, to the stage it’s very existence is at risk.
    A plan for the next 50 years, and beyond, is needed.

  45. Tony, on June 13th, 2009 at 11:03 am Said:
    “Just to clarify, I take it you’re not advocating the (current) Singaporean approach?”

    I take it you mean adopting the same approach in Australia.

    Australia would have to look back at the Singapore experience and how it evolved and find a point at which Singapores actions at the time might be an appropriate starting point.

    Singapore post WW2 had nothing going for it, great poverty, racial, labour and political unrest. Really heading to become an irrelevant backwater.
    It’s early home grown leaders realised that they only had one resource, it’s people, and they really only had one chance to avoid squandering it.
    Education in all it’s forms was of primary importance as well as getting people united working for a common goal.

    Circumstances are different, but I believe the concept of education and a long, long term plan are the right approach.

  46. John..I think that step 1 is to take the drugs off the streets as much as is possible and to give them the ‘status’ that they deserve, that they are not trendy nor that they are they ‘party drugs’..they are just drugs. That is, take away the current perception re ‘party’ and allocate these drugs to a health problem.

    It’s been done re tobacco, no longer is it the Marlboro man with it’s macho/trendy inferences, but smoking is now ‘a health problem’.

    Yes certainly there is the potential for this to become a big problem for Medicare, yet this cost needs to be balanced against what it currently costs re such things as drug based crime, break-ins, bashings, deaths of young people od’ing on party drugs. An additional social aspect is the rise and rise of the drug barons.

    I was pleased to note that the federal government is going to place a ban on the importing of pill presses.

  47. Min, on June 13th, 2009 at 11:30 am Said:
    “It’s been done re tobacco, no longer is it the Marlboro man with it’s macho/trendy inferences, but smoking is now ‘a health problem’.”

    Min, I agree with you there, it is an approach that is successfully spanning generations, I just hope it doesn’t lose momentum as the law on diminishing returns starts to apply.
    Unfortunately with regards to alcohol it has been heading in entirely the opposite direction over the same period of time.

  48. I think that there is one very fundamental belief that needs to change if success at educating people on these matters is to be achieved.
    That is that it must be recognised that the rights of the community or the society as a whole are greater than the rights of any one individual.

    Tony, that is one great difference between Singapore and Australia.

  49. You are absolutely correct John…that is, while after decades, finally tobacco addiction is now regarded as a health problem, that the alcohol industry has been on the up and up.

    I think that we might have more success with the illicit drug industry rather than the alcohol industry, the alcohol industry being such a powerful force. For example, the alcohol industry employs many Australians, is an expanding export industry, is a sponsor for many high profile sports.

    Deaths from illicit drugs make headlines, but deaths from alcohol related illnesses do not.

  50. johnd,

    I’m all for educating people on the potential perils of drugs; I just am not that into beating and killing people for victimless crimes in the name of “the rights of the community or the society”.

  51. “That is that it must be recognised that the rights of the community or the society as a whole are greater than the rights of any one individual.”

    I certainly don’t think that’s achieved by criminalisation of drug users (pushers, yes). Corruption, crime etc. is the only result of that.

    When I lived in Kings Cross for few years in the 70s, fellow residents knew that if a big drug was reported in the papers, then there would be a plentiful supply on the streets quite soon via …. the cops. I should hope it’s not as flagrant as that now although I wouldn’t believe that some cops are not involved.

    I do believe drug use is not decriminalised for the simple reason there is just too much money involved and too many are getting rich from it – and I don’t mean just the ‘drug lords’ and other persons ‘of interest’ to police.

  52. Just something to build on my last comment: June 12th, 2009 at 7:22 pm.

    I believe that we are looking at the effects rather than focusing on why people take drugs in the first place.

    There are many reasons, escape, confidence, experimentation, elation, enlightenment, peer pressure and maybe sub conscience self destruction.

    We live in a somewhat flawed society but to issue blame is a cop out, I don’t see improvement…actually the reverse!

    So how do we attack this, prohibition is a failure and one would think that decriminalisation or even legalisation is warranted but this is not the answer either because people will still harm themselves and some will die.

    Here comes my curve ball…has there been any thought or action to create a range of drugs that does not cause maximum harm that even addiction can be manageable so these people can possibly still contribute in a tangible way to society?

    We are living in the twenty first century and we are still reliant on old school methods that are clearly failing us…surely there could be some funds devoted to the research from the endless pool that has been thrown at the problem with next to no success?

    An out there concept, I know… but at least it is worth a try.

  53. “drugs that does not cause maximum harm that even addiction can be manageable so these people can possibly still contribute in a tangible way to society?”

    I have heard of, but don’t know any, wealthy people who have heroin addictions and maintain a normal productive life throughout their lifetime. The difference for them is that they can afford to quality heroin and not the street stuff.

  54. scaper…, on June 13th, 2009 at 12:28 pm Said:
    “An out there concept, I know… but at least it is worth a try.”

    Not really. It’s called treating the symptoms and not the illness, and you more or less pointed to this at the start of your post.

    To me, the addiction of any one person is not the problem, it’s the reasons similar to those you listed, or the flaws and attitudes that have become entrenched in a society.

    One of the flaws that became apparent to me returning after living in Asia for some time, is that running through Australian society there is a very deeply ingrained sense of being a helpless victim.

    It seemed to me the most common word used was “they”, used in reference to the government generally. They should do this, they should have done that, they, they, they.
    It had probably always gone on, but after living in a society with virtually no welfare, and little government interference in the lives of everyday citizens who were always saying, we need to do this, or we need to do that, we, we, we, the difference in attitude was stark.
    Even more shocking was that people I had previously considered independent and self sufficient, small business owners, farmers etc were no different to anyone else.

    I feel that as a starting point people need to either be allowed to or forced to take back the major portion of responsibility for their own lives and their own circumstances.
    Then we need to lighten up on rules and regulations, and things like political correctness so that people can actually be themselves and know that there are real opportunities for them to progress and achieve their aspirations without being progressively handicapped if they find some form of success. But they must learn that it is up to them to find or create those opportunities, nobody is going to hand them to them on a plate any more.
    Not long after I had began living in Asia I realised that our society is reflected in our greatest horse races, all of them handicaps. Maybe if we start giving more prominence to weight for age events, there may be some positive flow on though our society.

  55. What do people think of the Heroin injecting rooms in Kings Cross?

    A good thing or not?

  56. I support them on the grounds of harm minimisation, among other reasons.

    There is a very good resource I’ve come across in the form of a website run by the Family and Friends for Drug Law Reform. In particular, the section on ethics is well worth a read.

    An excerpt:

    The first step must to be to acknowledge that moral positions play a fundamental role in the community’s response to drugs. This is not to say that everyone’s response is shaped by morality. Fear, revulsion and other emotions have a huge influence. Even so, within this charged environment the many appeals to morality have strong influence. When pressed, many governed by fear would readily associate themselves with moral condemnation of some drug use. Those whose personal or professional life bring them to witness more and more instances of addicted users suffering social isolation, poor health, and dying are likely to swayed by feelings of sympathy and frustration. Many (though far from all) of the latter are likely to be attracted to moral positions that emphasis compassion rather than condemnation. . . .

    This quick sketch illustrates what we think are the four moral positions evident in the drug debate. These are:

    • a libertarian position that people should be permitted to indulge in activities that do not cause harm to others and that this applies even when those activities may harm the person carrying them out;

    • a position that some drug use, however defined, is inherently wrong;

    • a related position that addiction is wrong; and

    • a middle ground that has no particular view on the morality of drug use as such but holds that drug use is undesirable when its use reduces individual and community welfare.

  57. Then we need to lighten up on rules and regulations, and things like political correctness so that people can actually be themselves and know that there are real opportunities for them to progress and achieve their aspirations without being progressively handicapped if they find some form of success.

    I’m not sure that “political correctness” and “rules and regulations” are “progressively handicapping” those that “find some form of success”. Perhaps some more explanation of what you mean might help.

    Most industries will tend to monopolies or cartels without suitable regulation; most will tend to privatise the profits and socialise the risks, given half a chance. I see appropriate rules and regulations are necessary to give many people a shot at “some form of success” (although perhaps not in the form that you meant), who wouldn’t otherwise have that shot due to some people (and corporations) dominating and exploiting the rest.

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