tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

Pragmatism in the extreme

Last night we watched a documentary called Sex, Drugs and Democracy. It was about Holland. Not sure when it was made but I'm guessing early 1990s, so I'm not sure how accurate it is these days. It looked at Holland's constitution and the way it affects people's lives, particularly with reference to freedom of choice and its relationship with various social problems. The obvious differences between Holland and most other western nations are their drugs policy and their prostitution policy. Drugs are not legal there, but they are tolerated. Prostitution is legal. But it seems to go much deeper than that, in the way the people view their freedoms and the freedoms of other people.

Is really high, apparently. One of the speakers was saying that tax starts at 35% and goes up to 65 or 70%.

That's a lot of tax. However, there was an equivalent social spend which meant that the rich/poor gap was narrower than say, here, with a supposed flow-on effect of people being able to relate to each other better.

The message of this documentary seemed to be that more personal freedom + high tax/social spending = happier, generally wealthier and more tolerant and self-controlled population.

The thing that came through about drugs was that they made a big distinction between 'soft' and 'hard' drugs - they spoke of trying to build a wall between soft and hard drugs, being tolerant of 'soft' drug use (cannabis, mushrooms, ecstasy, LSD) with the idea that most people wouldn't bother with 'hard' drugs (heroin, cocaine, amphetamines) if they were able to indulge themselves relatively freely and the dealers weren't all in the same place - ie, you could buy mushrooms out of a coffeeshop but you'd have to go seeking heroin somewhere else - it's not easily obtainable.

Personally, I'm not keen on 'soft' vs 'hard' drugs as a term. There's nothing soft about cannabis or any of the others listed. They all change the chemicals in your brain in such a way as to alter your perception in some way. Some people handle them, some don't. If one must label them, I much prefer 'acceptable risk' vs 'unacceptable risk' to differentiate.

But I digress. What I didn't like about the Dutch approach was the idea that if they build this wall between the 'soft' and 'hard' drugs, the 'hard' ones will just go away. This obviously isn't true - however, they are right in the thinking that most folks will stop in the candy shop and play happily there forever, and never go seeking what's out the back and down the dark alleyway - make it easier to get out of it with acceptable risk, and the effort to find the unacceptable risk becomes, well, too much effort for most people.

So what happens with the people on the other side of the wall? The thing is, while they would prefer that 'hard' drug users didn't happen, they aren't trying to sweep their heroin addicts under the rug. It seems a very pragmatic approach to take - methadone buses (I have a beef with methadone in that it's as addictive as heroin and more dangerous to come off once addicted, but hey), needle exchanges, and most importantly, treating addicts as human beings with health problems rather than as scum or society's dregs. So they have this idea that while most people don't ever get into trouble with drugs, those that do should be helped rather than punished.

It was very interesting. For the first time, despite having grown up knowing that you can smoke pot in Holland and not get in trouble, I actually want to go there. I want to see this for myself. Yes, I'd smoke pot and take mushrooms while I was there. Who wouldn't, of those of us who are interested in such things? The opportunity to do so freely is one that doesn't come along in most other situations. But.. I'm also interested in seeing for myself this supposed social democratic utopia in action. What's similar to New Zealand? What's different? Why? How does it affect the actual people, and what do they think of it?

Lalala, research scholarship please!

Speaking of which, I got another of those letters saying 'congrats on a top mark' for my latest Crim course. Would it be wanky of me to contact Vic and ask them what the criteria are for sending them out? I didn't do as well in this course as in the other two I've had these letters for, and now I'm confused as to what they actually mean. But part of me thinks this is gifthorse mouth-looking...

Anyway, one of the things that arose from watching the documentary for me was a desire to assert the non-sexualness of my breasts. I think I should be able to take my shirt off in any situation where a man is able to. And I'm kind of tired of social pressure to hide my breasts because they are somehow more sexual than ferrouswheel's, and therefore it's unacceptable for them to be seen. And I think I'm articulate enough to argue this, or discuss it, with people who have an interest in keeping my breasts sexual. So, um.. people who are my friends, you may be seeing more of them. Possibly also of me getting carted off for being 'offensive'*.

This morning I looked in the mirror and didn't double take and wonder who it was.

* Don't worry, I'm not about to take my shirt off in a restaurant, I understand about appropriateness of place/context. But if men can get their shirts off and have it be ok, then so can I, damnit. And I believe in walking the talk.
Tags: drugs, equality, holland, i'll get my breasts out if i want to
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