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
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.