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Kicking puppies, it's for breakfast - Tactical Ninja

Mar. 1st, 2011

09:56 am - Kicking puppies, it's for breakfast

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Nerdnite went really well! I admit my benchmark wasn't very high for 'really well' - nobody fell asleep, nobody left, nobody threw fruit, and people laughed occasionally and asked questions at the end. This is good enough for me. ;-)

My personal favourite talk was Will's, I am not sure why I was surprised but I was - also impressed by his, um, stage presence? Most of the information I knew already but I was engaged and amused anyway. Jan got me thinking about the different kinds of street art* we see around Wellington and what sort of public response there 'should' be to it. And I discovered that shearing sheep is a faster and easier way to make money than writing a book. Nerdnite delivered, as usual.

I didn't stay to socialise because I forgot to eat yesterday and my stomach was digesting itself by 10pm.

* Now I know more about the varieties of street art and how they are categorised and who does them!


I don't know how many of you have heard about it, but there have been noises made in the UK about offering addicts (most specifically heroin addicts) money to get themselves sterilised. My main issue with this approach is that there are some VERY big questions around the ability of an addict to consent when faced with this choice and an offer of a large sum of money - 250 pounds apparently. Dunno - is it ok to offer a kid a Playstation to suck your dick? Because the consent issues, IMO, are about the same.

Anyway, I have no idea who Ian O'Doherty is but he's got an opinion, that's for sure. Another warning - the piece covers the bingo card of marginalising attitudes to addicts, starting with a statement of his opinion that 'junkies' are "feral, worthless scumbags" and that he hates them more than anything else and just going from there.

The main premise of his argument seems to be that being addicted to heroin is some kind of personality flaw and that as such, there is something wrong with anyone who gets addicted to heroin, they are irredeemable and should be removed from society. With a healthy dose of the judgement that women should automatically become saints as soon as they become mothers and how if they don't it's because they are scum. He defines addiction as a habit you are trying to do something to stop (ie, externalised dependence), and being a junkie as a state of being based in an inherent inferiority and lack of compassion for your fellow man (ie internalised character trait). Addicts should be treated well, junkies should die. According to this guy, anyway. I am going to continue using the word junkie since that's what he uses in his distinction, even though I think it's an inappropriate term.

So he believes that junkies should be stopped from having children. He grudgingly acknowledges that junkies are mostly found in "disgracefully underdeveloped and under-resourced areas outlying the city" (of Dublin), but fails to make the connection between marginalisation, socio-economic deprivation, and the large amount of junkies. His reason for hating junkies seem to be based mainly on their behaviour. He cites fighting, breaking and entering, mugging, stealing, and 'feeling sorry for themselves'. He also believes that they are unrepentant for their 'sins' and will never get better, will not seek help. Of course, in a system that is characterised by people with similar attitudes to his, I am completely unsurprised that people are unwilling to seek help. Just saying.

I find his to be an interesting justification for such vitriolic hatred. I am wondering how he feels about unrepentant domestic abusers, and whether they should all die too. How about the organised crime syndicates that make money off the junkies and are probably also dealing in stolen cars and arms. Should they die? And if we're talking about the willingness to use rationalisation to justify behaviour that shows a lack of compassion for their fellow man, we should probably round up all the politicians and sterilise them. Etc. But no, it only applies to junkies. Because everyone else has a very good reason for their violent and uncivilised behaviour. With junkies, it's just that they are bad people.

Enter David Nutt with a brief overview of the neuroscience of addiction. Damn him and his science! Genetic predisposition? Social factors? Other forms of addiction than just heroin producing the same chemical changes in the brain, that affect judgement and produce cravings even for things that are not physically addictive? Including alcohol?

Sacrilege! Particularly, sacrilege that requires a thought-out policy approach that treats addiction as a health problem and requires money to be spent on treatment and support, that disallows moral judgement and treats addicts as people, and that is a long-term project that treats the problem incrementally. No fast results here.

Can't have that. Need to be seen to be doing something.

So instead, lets decide that addicts are not as good as the rest of us (even rapists and murderers are better!), and therefore its ok to remove their human rights in dubious consensual circumstances. Nobody really cares anyway, we've made sure of that by constructing junkies as the worst of possible criminals (nobody's suggesting we sterilise the people who sell the drugs to them, are they?) and not deserving of the same respect as everyone else. And if junkies stop having babies, it'll prove something we haven't figured out yet that the drug laws are working! That marginalising addiction (only the non-condoned kind, mind - we can't marginalise the alcoholics or tobacco addicts cos we make money off them) is the best way to deal with heroin - out of sight, out of mind!

And it'll look like they're doing something.

If it weren't for the way people keep dying because of attitudes like Mr O'Doherty's, I'd be able to snort derisively and go about my business. But attitudes like that are contagious because they're easy and lazy and people (flawed characters that we are) like easy and lazy because thinking is hard, compassion is hard, and othering the struggling is a natural herd tendency. Just ask Paula Bennett. So I can't ignore it - I have to speak out against it.

And you get to read it. Lucky you.


OK, now I've worked up a decent head of steam, it's time to go to work. Have a fun and exciting day kids, and don't forget the 2 minutes' silence at 12:51.

PS Landscape rocks available in Christchurch. Gotta love resilient humour.

Comments:

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From:victoria7
Date:February 28th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
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I would have rejected this out of hand ten years or more ago, believing that there was hope of the most drug-addicted drug addicts of all. Then, ten years past, my sister got worse (perhaps stumbling into junkie territory on speed), and started getting pregnant more often. Most of the time, she has abortions, but lately, she tried to carry the baby to term (there was so much wrong with the baby, the baby died in utero sometime between 7 & 13 weeks).

So, I'm conflicted. I know there were times when she would have gone the sterilization route for a few hundred dollars. And I cannot imagine coming into this world, already addicted to speed with all the developmental problems that creates, with a mother who is focused on getting more drugs and not a baby (except for the social plans that are now available to women with babies.)

My other sister got cleaned up, the minute that she found out she was pregnant seventeen years ago. She spent the first 5 years giving her son a good life until she started doing drugs again, had her child taken away, and went to prison. My nephew is so heart-hurt by his mother that it has broken my heart and there's only so much that an Auntie can do. One of which is answer the question, "Does my mom love drugs more than she loves me?" I'd, of course, be sad if he weren't here, but I wouldn't know what I was missing, would I?

You're right. There is something terribly, terribly wrong about forced sterilization. However, there is also something terribly, terribly wrong about drug addicts having babies. (and I would definitely include alcoholics in the junkies group)

I'm against paternalism, so I would definitely vote against this, if I were given the choice, because we need less of a daddy-protector government, but I'm not so sure I think it's an entirely bad thing.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 28th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
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"No, your Mum is very, very sick. It affects her mind and how she acts."

I have absolutely no issue with an addict choosing to have themselves sterilised, but this choice should be made under conditions which enable informed consent, and with support and advice that's offered to anyone else considering it.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 28th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
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Which is why people should pay attention to David Nutt and not O'Doherty. Because he doesn't deny there's a problem - he just doesn't advocate treating the problem by subhumanising and eliminating people.
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From:rivet
Date:February 28th, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)
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This is one of those issues that makes me spin in circles because it makes sense from a harm reduction point of view (if you're only thinking of the children) but is nonetheless noxious and smacks of eugenics.

Like Victoria7 above, one of my sisters is a drug addict who has long-since lost custody of her 4 children. Those children were all born into poverty, had poor pre-natal and early childhood nutrition, had poor and inconsistent access to healthcare, and unstable family life. They all suffered physical, emotional and probably sexual abuse. I don't track all 4 of them, but the 3 boys were already in and out of the legal system by age 10. While it's possible to have a turnaround in those situations, their outcomes are unlikely to be good. The best thing that could have been done for those children was to prevent them from coming into the world.

The problem is that there's another person involved. As a woman, I can't get behind any position that puts the rights of the unborn child before those of the woman who's bearing them. So it becomes a balance of consent and harm. How MUCH consent do you need to do how MUCH harm? Forced sterilisation is anathema, and smells a lot like genocide when directed at particular minority communities. What about reversible approaches like 5-year contraceptive implants? What level of 'coersion' is tolerable then? What principles do we use to decide?
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From:tatjna
Date:February 28th, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC)
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I am similarly conflicted and for similar reasons. Although I have to be honest and say that having grown up around foster homes and surrounded by poverty, the outcomes you're describing for children aren't that different from those seen in other situations of marginalisation sans drugs. But you knew that.

So one of the ethical questions for me then becomes "OK, so if it's all right to condone sterilisation with dubious consent for people addicted to drugs because of the outcomes for their children, then in what other situations with poor outcomes for children would this be OK?" And then my head explodes.

I certainly don't want to discount the possibility of offering long-term contraception or sterilisation as a harm minimisation tactic (for addiction and other problems that affect children adversely). I would even be ok with it being included as an option in counselling provided for addicts, especially those who already have children. But it would need to be a situation in which consent is clear and informed, which when dealing with people with addictions, requires a substantial amount of work just to get to a place where that is possible.

I am intrigued by your last paragraph and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
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From:wildilocks
Date:March 1st, 2011 12:23 pm (UTC)
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I am intrigued by your last paragraph and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

(seriously, I was thinking this as I was reading above)
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:March 1st, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
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Strangely, in India and China they've had money for sterilisation programs for a while. Completely unrelated to drugs, but in an effort to curb population growth.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:March 1st, 2011 01:35 am (UTC)
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And, yay for the successful Nerdnite. I wait for the videos to be online with bated breath.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 1st, 2011 01:39 am (UTC)
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We were all rockstars!
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From:tatjna
Date:March 1st, 2011 01:38 am (UTC)
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Yeah. I don't have an issue with the offer of sterilisation being accompanied by a financial incentive. The problem I have is when that offer is being made to a specific, troublesome and marginalised group of people. People who have what is essentially a chemical problem in their brain that causes them to be unable to accurately measure the relative value of the money vs their reproductive ability, and thus makes their ability to give informed consent murky at best.

It's not quite forced sterilisation, but it's still dodgy as IMO. It would be better if the same incentive were offered to everyone regardless of their mental health, drug use, criminal record or whatever.
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From:wildilocks
Date:March 1st, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
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I am equally intrigued by this last paragraph, &c.
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From:richdrich
Date:March 1st, 2011 06:43 am (UTC)
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Ironically, the article wasn't from the UK, but from Ireland - a country where until 1978 all contraception was illegal (as being in conflict with Catholic teaching).

Possibly the writer was partly aiming to provoke the priests.
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From:helianthas
Date:May 17th, 2011 07:16 am (UTC)
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Hrm, I'm coming to the convo late and haven't read all the comments, but I'm wondering about offering copper IUD's instead of sterilization. Last 10 years, totally reversible. I agree informed consent is very important.
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