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In which I am gentler than I should be with our lecturer - Tactical Ninja

Mar. 12th, 2013

09:31 am - In which I am gentler than I should be with our lecturer

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Last night's lecture was.. enlightening. But not in the way I was expecting (and paid for). You know how I said I suspected the dude is in the 'drugs are bad mmk' camp? Well, last night he showed his true colours, including referring to drug use as 'a curse', citing gateway theory, and .. well.. this:


The first thing that set off a red flag was when he put up a slide that stated that in 1971 there were 500,000 heroin addicts in the US, and by 1974 there were only 200,000. He further went on to claim that a major reason for this decrease was the influence of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and transcendental meditation (which apparently reduces the desire to take drugs) on university students, making drug taking appear 'uncool'.

To which I went "WUT." I didn't say WUT though, I asked where I could read more on the topic, because it was my understanding that problematic heroin use is strongly correlated with poverty, inequality and marginalisation, and that Berkeley students didn't seem the right demographic to be the 'heroin addicts' of that statistic. To which he replied that it's a personal theory of his, that he's a member of an organisation associated with the Maharishi and transcendental meditation, and that he personally felt that this spiritual path had been influential in making kids think drugs aren't cool.

Which reduced his credibility in my mind to the same level as the Scientologists saying their drug treatment programs are 10 times more successful than other ones. In other words, *cough*bullshit*cough*.

Anyway, this morning I tried to find where he'd got that statistic from in the first place - the early 70s being the time when folks were coming back from Vietnam addicted to heroin and all, and the War on Drugs having started about then, and everything the dude says now being suspect.

I couldn't find it. In fact, everything I found seemed to indicate the opposite - that in fact, heroin use increased throughout the 70s in the US, indicated through words such as 'skyrocketed'.

The lecturer also said that nowadays, there are over a million addicts in the US. Again, I felt the need to fact check this. And I discovered just how fluffy the 500,000/200,000 figure actually is, because this sort of thing is almost impossible to measure. For example, this short article points out the discrepancies betwen various methods of reporting numbers. This one suggests that in the 1970s, numbers stayed roughly steady at an estimated 400,000-600,000, but that the 200,000 figure may have come from statistics about arrestees. Even the CIA cant' be sure, but they think that maybe at the moment there are about 600-800,000 'hardcore addicts' in the US, with maybe 2 million users (yep, contrary to popular opinion, heroin is not immediately addictive to everybody.

Anyway, from this I have concluded that our lecturer's facts and figures, and, well, also his statements about why things happened the way they did, are highly suspect. It seems likely to me that if there was a reduction in heroin addiction in the US in the 1970s at all, it's much more likely to be attributable to the introduction of methadone maintenance treatment and subsequent handling of statistics regarding addicts in treatment vs 'in the wild', combined with the shift to cocaine use among the population that's mentioned repeatedly in the articles above. And even that is just conjecture on my part. The figures seem impossible to find - but even my half hour search this morning seems more comprehensive than what our lecturer's done.

And then we get to the bit that really concerns me. He started talking about 'the islamicisation of the heroin trade', meaning the way in which the growth and trafficking of heroin has shifted from being based in Asia, the Middle East, and Central America, to mainly in the Middle East in countries that are often muslim. He talked about a thing he called 'The Islamic Agenda', in which apparently Islam is a proselytising religion (like Christianity), and some muslims believe that if a majority of citizens of a country are muslim, then the government should also be muslim - and they will fight to achieve this. This apparently has to do with heroin in that these kinds of fights require funding, and the heroin trade creates funding, and something about how the US and UK encouraged this kind of insurgency in the breaking up of the Balkan states, Afghanistan's attempts to expel the Russians, and the disintegration of the USSR. Apparently this had to do with the Cold War and the desire to destabilise these nations in order to access oil, and the desire of muslims to turn the whole world muslim was exploited by the US and the UK in order to achieve this, with heroin providing the funding. Thus, the majority of the world's heroin is now grown in the Middle East, by muslims.

Now, I don't know a lot about this, but certainly the political motivations to destabilise states in that way seem at least feasible. And that part of the world has historically been an opium producing area, and I can see how war could create a situation where growing opium is more profitable than growing other crops. Certainly, if you look at the UN Drug Report (p26), you can clearly see the production of opium in Afghanistan increasing dramatically once the US invaded, and slowly decreasing over the last few years. What it also shows though, is that Myanmar (which is overwhelmingly Buddhist, is the second largest producer of opium for the global market, and growing fast. And Central American countries (Christian) grow almost 7% of the world's illicit opium. And then there's India (Hindu), which not only grows for the licit trade, but is estimated to have 'a considerable level' of illicit opium cultivation, but consumes it mostly within the country. So while the majority of the world's heroin does still originate in Afghanistan, I'm not convinced that it's about any kind of religious agenda, and I'm really REALLY not convinced that 'Islamicising' opium production was a deliberate move by Western governments.

In fact it bothers me a lot that when I googled The Islamic Agenda, what I got appears to be the religious equivalent of Men's Rights Activist sites - ie, hate groups. *shudder*

And when someone called him on it, he was unable to argue his case, and again fell back on the 'personal theory' argument. One of my fellow students suspects he's angling for a book.


Anyway, I'll keep going to the class because it's fairly interesting, but I have deep concerns about the academic integrity of the information we're being presented. I just finished a degree that required me to be able to justify everything I said, and now I'm being lectured by someone who's using the lectures as a platform for unsubstantiated pet theories, and anything he says is suspect. I'm not sure I have the energy to fact-check his relevant points to the degree I might have to to get the truth, and he seems unable to present references when pressed.

;-/ I am not sure how this'll go when we get to the legalisation debate, because then he'll be on my turf, and I can cite my sources.

Tonight, we are going to degustate at Martin Bosley's. I'm told it's posh, but it's my view that the poshest folks don't need to act posh, so we're just going to go and enjoy the food because I'm told it's good.

Comments:

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From:khaybee
Date:March 11th, 2013 09:15 pm (UTC)

Martin Bosley's

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It is good, and if you aren't interested in the wines, ask them to match non-alcoholic drinks for you. This is the end of the market where you have great control over your experience, and it is lovely. Enjoy.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 11th, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC)

Re: Martin Bosley's

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The said that they could provide non-alcoholic beverages, but that they may not be able to match every dish. Citron did a pretty good job of matching, and I suspect most of them do this on the fly for non-alcoholic, so we'll see.

Mostly it's about the food though. I have it on good authorit that it's awesome. ;-)
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From:khaybee
Date:March 11th, 2013 09:32 pm (UTC)

Re: Martin Bosley's

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It is absolutely awesome, and the sommelier has done an excellend job for us twice. Once with non-alcoholic beverages and once with New Zealand only wines.
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From:pombagira
Date:March 11th, 2013 09:53 pm (UTC)
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hmm... that lecturer is suspect... although i do have to day that it is the job of an acadimec to accept critical criticisiums? well that is how i understand how adacmica works..

also i understand that some academics just befor they leave academica, write a polemic type book/theory, pretty much i figure so that they are remembered.. some even go back and say that what they said durning their working life was all wrong and heres how... its a thing.. a politics thing...

maybe he should of read more Foucault??
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From:tatjna
Date:March 11th, 2013 10:27 pm (UTC)
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Fact is, I can't find any evidence that the guy's an academic at all. He has a degree, but his LinkedIn says he's a teacher of transcendental meditation and the blurb on the continuing education site says he's 'worked in the non-profit sector'. Hmm..
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From:pombagira
Date:March 11th, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
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Transcendental meditation??

#isjudging

and sure i get that some people who don't have degrees or phds can know about stuff in an accurate critical adacemically sense but in this case #isjudging more

>0
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From:tatjna
Date:March 11th, 2013 10:47 pm (UTC)
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I'm trying really hard not to, but I keep thinking about the other people in the class, and how some of these things may be accepted without question.

I called him on the Maharishi thing, and will continue to do so regarding things that I know to be fabrications, but who knows how much else that I don't know about is opinion stated as fact?
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From:pombagira
Date:March 11th, 2013 10:52 pm (UTC)
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hmm.. and weridly i am running into a similar thing..

i am trying to write nice appealing stuff about the individual wall hangings i make, that connect people with them.. so have been doing some research on folklore of the various animals that are depicted so i can write a story type that contains nice info but not twee .. and it is surprising difficult to find referenced sources online.. arrgghhh....

although having said that i want to give hares to Hecate cause she should have some.. but apparently don't.. bugger..

*makes faces*

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From:richdrich
Date:March 11th, 2013 11:29 pm (UTC)
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If you're leading a degree-level course, you have to have a postgrad degree in the subject, right? And the course material gets some sort of peer review?

It doesn't really behoove Vic to run CE courses that don't live up to this, really. A guest lecture where somebody's billed as talking from a specific point of view is one thing, but a whole course?

Polytech doesn't do this - if you learn welding, you get a real welding tutor, not someone who teaches phlogiston theory.
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From:bekitty
Date:March 11th, 2013 10:08 pm (UTC)
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"The Islamic Agenda"? Fuuuuuuuuck. :(

Edited at 2013-03-11 10:08 pm (UTC)
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From:richdrich
Date:March 11th, 2013 10:15 pm (UTC)
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some muslims believe that if a majority of citizens of a country are muslim, then the government should also be muslim - is that similar to how every US president has been a professed christian?

Anyway, if one was worried about hostile states and groups funding their activities with heroin, wouldn't the easiest way to stop that be to provide a licit supply, destroying their market.

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From:richaarde
Date:March 12th, 2013 12:43 am (UTC)
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Aren't politicians always more religious than the people they represent?
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From:bekitty
Date:March 11th, 2013 10:22 pm (UTC)
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From Victoria University's Equity and Diversity Policy (pdf):

"(c) Recognising that diversity enables the University, and members of its community, to
benefit from encountering and understanding people from a wide range of backgrounds,
holding a multiplicity of beliefs and opinions, and contributing in a variety of ways.
(d) Instilling a culture of respect, with no tolerance for unfair discrimination or harassment."

Sounds like the lecturer is not holding up his end of the bargain.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 11th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
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He hasn't specifically said anything disrespectful - it's more of an indication that he's a conspiracy theorist who is conveniently using a generalisation about Islam to justify his theory.

Which is definitely uncool, but I'm not sure it crosses into discrimination.
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From:bekitty
Date:March 11th, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC)
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Using terms like "the Islamic agenda"? That's hate speech in my book. Were I a Muslim student in any of his classes, I'd feel distinctly unsafe.

It's not just the lecturer -- what about the students who take in what he says as The Truth Because My Lecturer Says So, who then go home, google "the islamic agenda" and think it's their duty to go out and bully or harass Muslims, just because "they're all dirty drug smugglers 'cos my lecturer said so! and look it was on the internet too!"
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From:tatjna
Date:March 11th, 2013 10:53 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I understand that. Luckily he was also called on this connection in front of the class, by someone who wasn't me. It's also true that at no point did he say that all Muslims feel like this - but he then indicated that the troubles in the Middle East and the Balkan states were related to it. And I don't know enough about those wars (there are a few of them) to be sure he's completely wrong about the manipulation of Islamic extremists who supposedly have this agenda for the nefarious purposes of large Western governments.

What I do know is that when I googled 'the Islamic agenda' I got a bunch of sites that were seemingly created by people who think Muslims are trying to take over the world, and who think that we should be worried about this. People who aren't this lecturer, but whose views are concerning.

I am trying to formulate a letter to the continuing education people about this topic, and the 'Islamic Agenda' stuff will definitely be in there alongside the 'opinion stated as fact' stuff. But I have to be very careful about making accusations of discrimination or hate speech.
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From:bekitty
Date:March 11th, 2013 11:00 pm (UTC)
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The university also has to be very careful about lecturers using terms that could be construed as hate speech, even if they aren't intended that way.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 11th, 2013 11:02 pm (UTC)
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Yep, so I think my best bet is to present the information, say I am concerned, and let them decide whether it breaches their terms.
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From:clashfan
Date:March 11th, 2013 11:30 pm (UTC)
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This guy is not just a tool; he's the whole damn shed.

I think you should lobby the U to be allowed to take over and instruct the class yourself.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 11th, 2013 11:32 pm (UTC)
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Bahahaha I would have to do a crash course in politics first.. I know little about this topic, although I do have a book on it (which I've only skimmed for citations if I'm completely honest).

But, you know, I'm starting to think if I did that I might just be able to pull it off. ;-)
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From:clashfan
Date:March 11th, 2013 11:39 pm (UTC)
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You're certain to do a better job than this clown.

Back to the original discussion--in my limited knowledge, my understanding is that the Taleban were hardcore against drug use, and burned opium fields and severely penalized those caught participating in the trade. After the US invaded and broke their country, lots of farmers went back to growing poppy because it was profitable and they were really poor. Please to forgive my gross oversimplification.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 11th, 2013 11:41 pm (UTC)
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That is also my Weetbix packet understanding. I was hoping to gain a more nuanced one from doing this course. ;-/
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From:clashfan
Date:March 11th, 2013 11:51 pm (UTC)
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The real moral of the story is, as always:

Never get involved in a land war in Asia.
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From:pombagira
Date:March 12th, 2013 01:17 am (UTC)
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and the less well known 'Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line'
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From:t_c_da
Date:March 12th, 2013 09:23 pm (UTC)
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waddya mean "less well known"!!! It was in "The Princess Bride", ergo it is very well known (at least in my family...)
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From:richaarde
Date:March 12th, 2013 12:38 am (UTC)
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People are going to believe what they want to believe. Unless you somehow get the lecturer addicted to heroin so they experience addiction for themself, they are going to spout their nonsense and dismiss everything that runs contrary to their point of view.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 12th, 2013 12:41 am (UTC)
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True, but one of the important things about academia is that you are expected to be able to support your spoutings with sufficient evidence to indicate that you are not just pulling opinions out of your arse. If you can't do that, you're supposed to make it clear that it is merely opinion.

This lecturer is doing neither, so I question the validity of his claim to be an authority.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 12th, 2013 03:13 am (UTC)
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Yes, that's exactly it. How did you know? Also, I want that on a t-shirt.

This might have been discussed as a possibility on Saturday:



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