July 25th, 2013


So about that nice cuppa tea

This morning an article came through my feed about the tea trade, and how low wages paid to tea pickers in India fuel human trafficking. The reason this is of interest to me is that I often hear arguments about how the (particularly) US demand for marijuana and cocaine fuels violence in Central and South America, because there's big money in meeting that demand. The argument often goes on to suggest that people who choose to use these substances are in part responsible for the deaths of the innocent, and that the problem could be solved if these unethical folks would just choose not to use drugs. Which has a certain logic, right?

Except that the big money associated with the illegal drugs trade is mostly there because they are, well, illegal. The money is associated with the risks involved in production and distribution rather than the basic costs to grow or make the drugs. If the substances were legal, we'd get what? Less violence, more human trafficking? I suspect it'd end up being something like the article above suggests - growers exploiting the working class in order to maximise profits, and privileged Westerners trying to ease their consciences by working to improve conditions for said working class.

So, it seems that your cup of tea is pretty damn unethical too. It's another drug after all. Is there any less guilt attached to your morning fix of tea or coffee? Most people would say yes, I think. And I tend to agree. The reason I agree is that the legal status of these drugs allows work to be done legitimately to improve the conditions of their production and sale from a human rights perspective. In order to extend this logic to the illegal drugs, you have to accept that the "Just say no" approach to the ethics of drugs is unrealistic. And what better way to do that than to look at a drug that's so ubiquitous that most folks don't even consider it to be a drug - tea? How about we all "Just say no" to that? Why not? I dislike tea therefore I'd find it easy to give up, and you should too.

So I put to you that having a legal and regulated trade in drugs that are currently illegal would go a long way to resolving the violence currently associated with them. But I'm under no illusions that it'd solve all the problems, it may just shift them to other forms of exploitation and human rights abuses, the way things are with tea and coffee. But at least then governments would be able to start working together to address some of this. Have a think about this next time you're enjoying a cuppa...

There's a whole rant in here about ecstasy and endangered sassafras trees and what if people could legitimately farm them instead of setting up clandestine labs in the Vietnamese jungle, protected by armed guards and booby traps, and taking as many as possible in a scorched-earth approach before they're caught. But that's for another day.

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Also, I've decided to join the march against the GCSB on Saturday, standing in as proxy for Dr Wheel, who's flying out that day for OHM2013. I am ambivalent about protests after the Video Surveillance Bill one, because there seems to be a core group of activists who have a different approach to mine, and who turn out for everything. Unfortunately, they are the chanting, angry ones and they are the ones that make even me roll my eyes when I see them - the problem being that even when a cause is legitimate, their presence causes people to assume that it's just those people getting a bee in their bonnet again, and therefore it's unlikely to be anything worth taking seriously.

I'm not sure how to reconcile my belief that dissent and protest is important to democracy and that I should walk my talk, with my desire not to be associated with those people and my own feeling of (admittedly probably culturally conditioned) contempt for their methods. We've been trained in this country to invalidate protest and protestors, and I try very hard not to - but there is a certain element who don't help themselves at all in this respect. If they are there, I don't know how long I'll last. But I'll show up because it's important. And someone who's not those people has to, right?