The Case For Cannabis: The Criminal Justice System is Not A Treatment Pathway

Of all the terrible arguments made in favour of cannabis prohibition – and there are many – one of the worst is the argument that contends that cannabis prohibition is a good thing because some of the people that get involved in the criminal justice system are incentivised to stop using cannabis. This article will examine the flaws in this logic.

One of the saddest peasant attitudes remaining in our society is the idea that certain people just need a “good kick up the arse” to encourage them to function properly again. The idea seems to be that a “short, sharp shock” of physical abuse can be beneficial to drive dullness from a person’s mind. It’s an abusive attitude that is a remnant of a less enlightened time and, fortunately for the rest of us, it’s dying off.

This attitude finds expression in the idea that getting arrested on account of a cannabis offence could be a good thing, if that led to a person suddenly appreciating the consequences of cannabis use and changing their habits for the better.

There is an element of logic to this line of reasoning. After all, it’s common for young petty criminals to become afraid the first time they encounter some genuine heat from the Police, or the first time they do a custodial sentence and realise that prison isn’t a great deal of fun after all. This fear can, indeed, change behaviour.

But what this approach leaves out is two things.

The first is that many people simply don’t want to stop smoking cannabis, any more than they want to stop playing rugby or buying magazines with Harry and Meghan on the cover. You could instruct the Police to arrest people for playing rugby in the park, on the grounds that their behaviour was recklessly dangerous, but it wouldn’t make it the right thing to do or a good idea. Neither would it stop people from doing it.

Psychologically speaking, it’s hard to declare that you know how another adult should live their lives, and so much better than them, that you can fairly justify setting the Police on them if they don’t do what you say they should do. In another time and place, that degree of coercion would be recognised as slavery, and it’s no wonder that people naturally disobey the cannabis laws today.

So this means that deploying the Police to force people into getting medical treatment for using cannabis (as if that even made sense) will not be effective in the long term. People feel like they have the right to use cannabis, and they will continue to feel as if they have the right, because it’s natural to think it ridiculous that a medicinal plant could be illegal.

It’s possible that Police involvement in a person’s life might reduce their level of cannabis use, but so what? Punching someone in the face for eating a Big Mac might also inspire them to make healthier lifestyle decisions, but that doesn’t mean that the overall benefit of the action outweighs the overall harm.

The second is that there are cases of legitimate medicinal need, and encounters with the criminal justice system are not helpful in cases of medicinal need. Police officers are not qualified doctors and neither can they be. Having them as the first line of dealing with cannabis users makes as much sense as making the Army responsible for it.

The argument refuted in this article is usually made by people who are entirely unaware of the medicinal properties of cannabis. When they become aware of the medicinal properties of cannabis they tend to stop making it. Of course, if a substance really is medicinal then it ought to be something supplied by doctors and pharmacies; the Police should not be needed at any stage.

There may, indeed, be cases where there is a cannabis user who needs psychiatric intervention. After all, there are many instances in which certain strains of cannabis will not be helpful. A person who is acutely psychotic from sleep deprivation doesn’t need a honking high-THC strain that will wire them even tighter.

But even in cases like this, it’s not Police intervention that would be helpful, unless it comes as part of the Mental Health Act or similar and not as part of enforcing the law against the “crime” of cannabis. A person who has mentally disintegrated so far that they need psychiatric intervention is already in a kind of hell. The last thing they need is to encounter law enforcement.

The argument that cannabis users can be persuaded to get treatment for “cannabis abuse” by getting arrested, and then threatened with further attacks from the Justice system, is neither fair for rational. It would be better for cannabis to be made legal and destigmatised, so that people who did need treatment would be more likely to get it. Police involvement is unnecessary.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Is This New Zealand’s Best Ever Test Cricket Side?

If the Black Caps win the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka 2-0 – and they should – they will go to No. 2 on the ICC team rankings. The rankings go back to 2003 and New Zealand has never been higher than 3rd before. This article asks the obvious question: is this the best Test cricket side that New Zealand has ever produced?

It seems sure that this is the best Black Caps Test side since Sir Richard Hadlee was in his prime. So this article will compare the current first choice Test team (in New Zealand conditions and assuming no injuries) to the team that beat Australia 2-1 in Australia way back in 1985. The way we will do this is by comparing all 11 players as if it was a boxing scorecard.

The prime difficulty with making a comparison is that the careers of the 1985 team are completed, and so their legends are established. Some of the 2018 team are yet to play many games. This means that their total level of greatness has to be extrapolated out from what they have achieved thus far. By the same token, the 1985 players are rated according to how good they were at the time, not according to how good they may have been earlier or later.

First opener: John Wright vs. Tom Latham

The dour John Wright was the first New Zealand batsman to 4,000 runs. At the time of the 1985 Tour of Australia he had played 41 Test matches and averaged 30.91. Wright had 2,000 runs after 39 matches, whereas Latham has already scored 2,503 runs in that time, so it seems like Latham will go past him.

Tom Latham has already scored six centuries in only 39 matches, at an average of 36.27. This is similar to Wright’s career average, despite that Latham has still been learning the game. Wright was 32 years old by the time he scored his sixth Test ton, whereas Latham did so by age 26. This suggests that Latham will have a better career than Wright.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

Second opener: Bruce Edgar vs. Jeet Raval

Bruce Edgar had a first-class average of 40, but was in and out of the Black Caps over the course of his 39-Test career. He averaged 30.59, with three hundreds, and a highest-ever batting ranking of 8th, achieved in August 1983. He was ranked around 30th at the time of the 1985 Tour to Australia, making him a solid backup to John Wright.

Jeet Raval is new on the scene, having received a chance at opener only after several others had been tried, but has been dependable in his limited opportunities. He is yet to score a century in his 14 Tests, but has six half-centuries already, at an average of 33.86. His first-class average is slightly lower than Edgar’s. A world ranking of 8th seems unlikely, so this one will have to go to Edgar.

1985 Black Caps 10; 2018 Black Caps 9

First drop: John F Reid vs. Kane Williamson

John Fulton Reid was an excellent player whose finest moment was a not out 158 in Auckland in 1985, leading the Black Caps to an innings victory against a Pakistani side containing Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir. He averaged 46 from 19 Tests, and was ranked 10th at the time of the tour of Australia, having been as high as 3rd earlier that year.

Captain Kane Williamson is currently ranked 2nd in the ICC Test batting rankings, on 913 points, behind only Virat Kohli. It is the first time any Kiwi batsman has passed 900 on that scale, and reflects the fact that Williamson averages 65 over the past five years. At age 28, and with Williamson still refining his game, it seems like the best is still to come.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

No. 4: Martin Crowe vs. Ross Taylor

Martin Crowe was widely regarded as New Zealand’s greatest ever batsman, until this was challenged in recent years by not only Williamson but also Taylor. Like Reid, Crowe achieved a highest world ranking of 3rd, but Crowe was only ranked 32nd in the world at the time of the 1985 Tour to Australia – although he was good, he was yet to peak for another two years.

Ross Taylor also achieved a highest world ranking of 3rd, at least so far. He is currently ranked 16th and established as the Black Caps’ senior pro, holding several records, one of which is the highest Test score by a visiting batsman to Australia: 290. Much like their careers as a whole, comparing Crowe and Taylor at these particular points in time is too close to call.

1985 Black Caps 10; 2018 Black Caps 10

No. 5: Jeff Crowe vs. Henry Nicholls

Jeff Crowe was ranked 31st with the bat at the time of the 1985 tour, one higher than his younger brother Martin. Unlike Martin, this was as high as Jeff ever got. Henry Nicholls has climbed up to No. 9 in the world Test batting rankings, averaging 50+ over the past two calendar years, which means that he’s currently ranked higher than Ross Taylor.

Jeff Crowe managed three centuries and six half-centuries from his 39 Tests; Nicholls has three centuries and seven half-centuries from 21 Tests. At best it could be said that Crowe was a serviceable No. 5, whereas Nicholls shows every sign of becoming a genuine force there. This one handily goes to Nicholls.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

All-rounder: Jeremy Coney vs. Colin de Grandhomme

The stylish Jeremy Coney was a redoubtable batsman and a tidy medium pacer. He was ranked 13th in the world with the bat at the time of the 1985 Tour of Australia, which made him the second-highest ranked batsman in the side after Reid. He only scored three hundreds in his 52 Tests but he also scored 16 fifties, averaging 37.57.

Colin de Grandhomme is more of a 21st-century player, with incisive bowling and big hitting. It’s hard to see him averaging 37 with the bat, but he does average 35 at first-class level. Both players took 29 Test wickets, although de Grandhomme got his in a quarter of the matches. In the end, Coney’s batting is better than de Grandhomme’s batting by more than de Grandhome’s bowling is better than Coney’s bowling.

1985 Black Caps 10; 2018 Black Caps 9

Wicketkeeper: Ian Smith vs. BJ Watling

Ian Smith was a solid performer for the Black Caps for a long time. He played some great innings, most notably a 173 off 136 against India, but his Test average was only 25.56. At the time of the 1985 Tour of Australia, Smith was ranked 48th in the world with the bat, playing in a time when wicketkeepers were not expected to bat as much as they are now.

BJ Watling, however, has been world-class with both bat and gloves. He is currently ranked 22nd in the world with the bat, averaging 38.11 from 57 Tests. Although their glovework has been of a similar high standard, Watling is able to play proper innings: he has six hundreds to Smith’s two, and 16 fifties to Smith’s six, which puts him clearly ahead.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

First seamer: Sir Richard Hadlee vs. Trent Boult

Sir Richard Hadlee is comfortably ensconced as the greatest cricketer New Zealand has ever produced. Not only would he be the first name chosen for an All-Time Black Caps XI for his 431 wickets at 22.29, but he would be the only real chance of a Kiwi getting included in an All-Time World XI. He was ranked 2nd only behind Malcolm Marshall at the time of the Australian Tour, and would be around there for the remainder of his career.

Trent Boult is the current leader of the Black Caps attack, and has taken 222 wickets from 57 matches at an average of 28.14. Hadlee averaged 23.83 after 57 matches, which means that the gap between him and Boult was not tremendous. Boult’s highest Test bowling ranking is No. 2, which suggests that he could yet achieve greater things.

1985 Black Caps 10; 2018 Black Caps 9

Second seamer: Ewen Chatfield vs. Tim Southee

Ewen Chatfield was the dependable foil to Hadlee for about a decade. Ranked 13th in the world at the time of the Australia Tour, he had a career high of 4th in the world a few years later. Tim Southee is currently ranked 15th in the world with the ball, and has been ranked as high as 5th.

Those are similar rankings, and their career numbers are very similar as well. Chatfield took his career wickets at 32.17, Southee has taken his (so far) at 30.70. Curiously, Jimmy Anderson had an almost identical average to Southee after 61 Tests (Anderson was at 30.65), so Southee could become great yet, but if he gets to that level or not is anyone’s guess.

1985 Black Caps 10; 2018 Black Caps 10

Third seamer: Lance Cairns vs. Neil Wagner

Lance Cairns took 130 wickets at an average of 32.92, mostly at first change. He was ranked 10th in the world at the time of the 1985 tour, which was about as high as he ever got. A first-class average of 26.52 makes one suspect that he could have been a little better than his Test average suggests.

Neil Wagner has only played 38 Tests, but he has fashioned a world-class record at third seamer. He has taken 152 wickets at 28.49, which is a fair bit lower than what Cairns was striking at. He also averages 24.79 since the start of 2015, which was when he really nailed down a spot in the side. His highest ranking of 6th was achieved earlier this year, so he might soon do even better.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

Spinner: John Bracewell vs. Mitchell Santner

John Bracewell was an offspin bowler with the mentality of a fast bowler. He wasn’t greatly effective, taking 102 wickets in his Test career at an average of 35.81, however he did have over 500 first-class wickets at an average of under 27. He was ranked 40th in the world at the time of the Australia tour.

Left-arm orthodox Mitchell Santner is unproven at Test level, but has already shown a lot of promise. He has a slightly better strike rate with the ball than Bracewell, but a slightly higher average at this stage (17 Tests). Although they are similar with the ball, Santner is a step above Bracewell with the bat, and is likely still to improve sharply in all facets.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

Final verdict: 1985 Black Caps 104; 2018 Black Caps 107

The 2018 Black Caps are easily better when it comes to batting from 1-7. In Williamson, Taylor, Nicholls and Watling they have four players at the peak of their powers; the best batsman on the 1985 team was a Martin Crowe still a couple of years away from his best. Although the 1985 team also had John Wright and Jeremy Coney, they were significantly weaker with the bat overall.

It’s true that the 2018 team doesn’t have a bowler of the same class as the 1985 Sir Richard Hadlee, but their supporting bowlers are better than the team of 1985. Hadlee was a one-man show, as exhibited by the fact that he took 15 of the 20 Australian wickets to fall in the Brisbane Test of the 1985 tour. Boult, Southee and Wagner, by contrast, hunt as a pack, with able support from de Grandhomme.

*

Dan McGlashan is the man with his finger on the statistical pulse of New Zealand. His magnum opus, Understanding New Zealand, is the complete demographic analysis of the Kiwi people.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

The Correlation Between Diversity And Poverty

A 2003 article in the Journal of Economic Growth quantified the degree of ethnic and cultural diversity in the various nations of the world, making a range of statistical analyses possible. For this article, we did a study to calculate the correlation between the ethnic fractionalisation index given in the linked article and GDP per capita (the most common measure of wealth), for the sake of investigating the link between diversity and poverty.

For this study we took data for 154 different nations and entered them into a Statistica database for the purposes of calculating a correlation matrix. There were three parts to this data: the first was a measure of the ethnic diversity of the country, the second was a measure of the cultural diversity of the country, and the third was a measure of the average personal wealth of the country.

The first two parts were taken from the 2003 paper linked in the opening paragraph. The third part, the measure of average personal wealth, was taken from International Monetary Fund data regarding the GDP per capita of all countries (measured on a price purchasing parity basis).

If diversity really is a strength, then there will be a positive correlation between ethnic and cultural diversity and wealth. This would happen if diversity led to higher education levels or if it inspired entrepreneurialism.

If, on the other hand, diversity is not a strength but a weakness, then there will be a negative correlation between ethnic and cultural diversity and wealth. This would happen if diversity made it easier to divide and conquer the working class for the sake of driving down their wages.

When a correlation matrix is calculated, a strong link between diversity and poverty is apparent. This can be seen from the fact that there is a significant negative correlation of -0.36 between ethnic diversity and gross domestic product per capita. This means that a country’s score on the ethnic fractionalisation index predicts how wealthy it will be: the more diverse, the less wealthy.

There is also a significant negative correlation between cultural diversity and GDP per capita, although this is weaker at -0.18.

There are several reasons to think that diversity leads to poverty.
Diversity makes it harder for workers to organise, because a plurality of languages and cultures makes it more difficult to find common points around which to rally. Diversity also leads to mistrust, because the social signals that people consider to be signs of trustworthiness are either not present as often, or presented in a form that is not understood as readily. It also leads to corruption, as people are more readily inclined to cheat others if those others lack similarities.

There could, however, be underlying factors at play. If we add the fourth factor of IQ to the correlation matrix, we can see that there is also a correlation of 0.65 between IQ and GDP per capita, and even a correlation of -0.54 between IQ and ethnic diversity. So it might simply be that the reason for the correlation between diversity and poverty is that diverse places tend to be low IQ, and low IQ leads to poverty.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

A Brief History of Modern Racism

I remember the first time I got called a racist. I was 17 years old, and was in my first year of university, involved in a philosophical discussion. Someone had claimed that the word ‘Islam’ means ‘peace’, and I had countered that it really means ‘submission’, only to be told that this was a misconception that I had to be racist to believe. In the 20 years since then, as this essay will examine, our conception of what racism is has only become more ridiculous.

Racism originally started out as a reaction to the racial supremacist sentiments that were blamed, in English-speaking popular culture, for World War II. As the story goes, the evil dictator Adolf Hitler stirred up such latent sentiments among German speakers, which lead to an attempt to invade Eastern Europe for the purposes of securing lebensraum for the overflow of Germans. This led to the deaths of some thirty million people, and all because of racism.

Quite reasonably, there developed a movement within postwar popular culture to reject racist sentiments, so that the causes of World War II would not cause another great conflagration. The problem, as with so much of popular culture, is that things went too far. Far, far too far.

Once upon a time, in order to be called a racist you had to display racial prejudice that harmed someone. A racist would be someone who called a black man a “nigger” in public, or someone who refused to hire the best-qualified applicant on the grounds that he was Asian. An example of something that was racist would be going around your neighbourhood beating up Aborigines. Choosing to hold an unfashionable political opinion was not racist, as this was just a thought, and thoughts weren’t crimes once.

Now, if a person doesn’t actively hate the white race and wish for its destruction, that person is considered some kind of white supremacist. The ‘It’s Okay To Be White’ campaign revealed that, in the minds of many people, a refusal to feel guilt on account of being white is tantamount to support for white supremacy. You can now be racist merely for a refusal to be ashamed for being white.

In modern times, our conception of racism has evolved, and well beyond any directive to treat different races on equal terms. The white man is perfectly evil – if you think that there’s a semblance of good in him, you’re a racist. All men of other races are perfectly innocent – if you think there’s a semblance of malice in them that did not arise as a result of their oppression at the hands of white people, you’re a racist. This is the new dogma – question it at your peril.

All economic and social advantages that the white man possesses can be attributed to his ruthless oppression of coloured people and the theft of their natural birthright, but curiously this does not apply to Jews. Despite being much wealthier than the average white person (at least in America), Jews did not achieve their position by any immoral means, but only by diligent and intelligent application of effort.

It is never explained why the white man can not have become rich by the same application of effort as the Jew, it’s just assumed that the white man became rich through crime, while the Jew – who is far wealthier – did so through honest hard work.

Similarly, an attempt has been made to redefine racism as “prejudice + power”, implying that black people cannot be racist against white people on account of that black people do not possess institutional power with which to oppress white people. But, as above, white people do not possess institutional power with which to oppress Jews, yet white people are accused of anti-Jewish racism all the time.

Believing in science is now racist if science suggests facts that are in any way unflattering to a coloured person. It’s not even okay to suggest that different groups of people evolved to meet the survival challenges of different environments, unless of course all non-white people evolved to be superior to whites (there is no way in which white people could have evolved to be superior over anyone else). The idea that the different challenges of different environments led to different intelligences is right out.

It can be seen from the examples above that much of what passes for modern racism is really an anti-white sentiment, either self-hatred projected outwards (as in the case of the social justice warrior) or simple hatred born of envy and fear (as in the case of most coloured people). This explains why accusations of racism are often made in situations where they make no logical sense, the most common example today being getting called racist for expressing a dislike of Islam.

The truth, of course, is that most of this racism hysteria is part of what is known as “call-out culture” – in other words, it’s mostly a way for bourgeois white people to one-up each other, gaining social capital at the expense of their fellows. The modern concept of racism has, therefore, lost all contact with its roots as a way of reducing suffering from racial prejudice. It’s now just a fashion, displayed as shamelessly as any other.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

The Case For Cannabis: A Majority Now Want Reform

One of the strongest arguments for cannabis prohibition was that it was what the majority wanted. For better or for worse, we live in a democratic system, which means that the law ought to reflect the collective wisdom of the majority, and opinion polling in Western countries used to favour cannabis prohibition. As this article will examine, that is no longer the case.

It’s true that opinion polls used to favour prohibition. In 1969 only 13% of Americans believed that cannabis should be legal. Only 44% of Americans believed that cannabis should be legal as recently as 2009. By 2018, however, opinion polls now favour legalisation. 66% of Americans now support legal recreational cannabis along the lines of the Colorado model, and the trend line points sharply upwards.

If one goes back 100 years, most people thought that cannabis should be legal anyway, as its medicinal applications were obvious: cannabis prohibition is the experimental condition, and it has failed. So this sharp decrease in prohibitionist sentiment over recent years is really a return to the baseline condition of liberal cannabis sentiment.

The public did consent to the experiment with prohibition, this is true, but this was the result of a naive people believing the lies of politicians beholden to industries that saw cannabis as a competitor. Foremost among these were the timber, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries. Being the paid whores that they are, Western politicians happily told lies about how cannabis had no medicinal value and was a dangerous drug, because their sponsors profitted from it.

As a result of these decades of lies, the public has not been accurately informed. As a result of that, they could not make correct decisions. Because politicians have been lying to people for decades about cannabis, there has been a common perception about cannabis that has taken a lot of effort to correct. When the public are accurately informed, things are different.

If people are correctly informed about cannabis, with reference to science, evidence and reality, they almost always come down on the side of legalisation. There is simply no scientific evidence supporting any of the common arguments about cannabis causing violent murders, rapes and general madness. The mid-1990s repeal movement in California associated with Proposition 215 was possibly the first time that a proper public attempt to tell the truth about cannabis had ever been made, and in that instance they came down on the side of legalisation.

As mentioned above, a clear majority of Americans are now in favour of legal cannabis, and something similar can be observed in New Zealand. Although opinion polling about the upcoming cannabis referendum is rudimentary on account of that the actual referendum question is yet to be formulated, what little there is suggests that the pro-cannabis side is already ahead. Probably it will pull further ahead as more positive news comes in from American states that have legalised.

Other opinion polls, asking more specific questions, have returned similar results in New Zealand. A Drug Foundations survey conducted in July found that two-thirds of the country wanted some kind of change to the cannabis laws, although they were not given a clear distinction between legalisation and decriminalisation. It also found that the prohibitionist side was no longer winning the recreational cannabis debate.

The next generation of young people is heavily pro cannabis all over the West, as seen in Understanding New Zealand. McGlashan calculated that the correlation between being under 20 and voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party was 0.41, whereas the correlation between being aged 65+ and voting for that party was -0.43. This means that the opponents to cannabis law reform are all dying off: after all, society advances one funeral at a time.

What this suggests is that the victory of cannabis law reform is inevitable. The fact is that the majority of anti-cannabis sentiment is held by brainwashed old people who are dying off. There is already a majority in favour of cannabis law reform everywhere, and this will only grow stronger as time progresses and old people who have been conditioned to hate cannabis users die.

Cannabis ought to be legal because a majority of people have now realised that the fears were grossly overblown and they want reform. Cannabis prohibition no longer has the support of the people, and support for it continues to fall. In a short number of years there will only be a remnant of cannabis prohibitionists left, and it might be better to put them out of their misery now.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Could Fuel Tax Riots Come to New Zealand?

Europe is caught in its heaviest protests since 1968. Ostensibly as a result of fuel taxes, they have become so large that in France some are concerned they may lead to a nationalist revolution, and French President Emmanuel Macron is rumoured to have given orders to send in tanks to quell any unrest this coming weekend. However, there’s more to the story than this – and the reality suggests that these protests might come to New Zealand.

France is a heavily taxed nation – government spending is 56.6% of GDP, compared to 37.4% in America and 48% in New Zealand. This has long been accepted by the French people, because of their high levels of social trust and solidarity, but the whole system is dependent on the will of the average Frenchman to pay into it. The Frenchmen paying taxes were happy to do so because they believed that this tax money was going to help people like them, but this is no longer the case.

Fuel taxes are something that particularly affect working-class white French people, to the benefit of the middle class and the underclass who live in the big cities. People who live in big cities can take public transport or taxis, and in any case don’t have to drive far. Working-class people who have to commute to work often have to drive from small villages or towns to a city somewhere else, sometimes twice every day, and so become heavily affected by any rise in the fuel price.

A large proportion of the New Zealand population still lives rurally or semi-rurally. There is a commonly-cited statistic that suggests that New Zealand is one of the most urbanised countries in the world, but what this statistic ignores is that our cities are exceptionally sprawling by world standards. So even people who live in cities have to drive a lot as part of everyday life.

Dan McGlashan showed in Understanding New Zealand that this rural population is much more likely to own cars and to drive to work than to walk or to take public transport. Buses are not an option for the majority of New Zealand’s rural dwellers. There’s more to it than just this, however. These fuel taxes would come as another burden to what is an already heavily discontented working-class rural population, who already feel that the cities are benefitting from the current order at their expense.

If Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Party go through with their plans to raise the refugee quota at the same time as raising petrol taxes for the sake of fighting global climate change (or whatever the excuse is), they run the risk of fostering the same kind of discontent that has now erupted in Europe. Although they will deny the connection, the perception will rise among the rural working class that they are being taxed through fuel to pay for the importation of refugees that they didn’t want.

For a working-class white person who already has to see middle-class brown people promoted ahead of him on account of their skin colour, or winning scholarships that he cannot apply for on account of his skin colour, things like fuel taxes are an extra kick in the guts. Despite the attempts of the mainstream media to spin the French protesters as insane anarchists, hooligans and neo-Nazis, the fact is that they belong to the same group of normal, everyday people who have lost out from neoliberalism all over the West.

We already saw some small protests in New Zealand two months ago when the petrol price crept up to $2.40 per litre. As the article linked to in the previous sentence suggests, the Government plans to raise the excise tax on petrol by another 7c over the next two years, primarily to pay for infrastructure projects in Auckland.

This means that the neoliberal Government of Jacinda Ardern is potentially making the same mistakes as the neoliberal Government of Emmanuel Macron.

The Sixth Labour Government certainly seems like it’s willing to raise petrol taxes on the New Zealand rural poor to pay for things like doubling the refugee quota, and for Auckland infrastructure projects that most New Zealanders will see no benefit from. Should this cause the petrol price to get up to $2.40 again – or even higher – then the stage is set for fuel price riots to come to New Zealand as well.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto V

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘Control of Human Behaviour’. Having established that invasive control of human behaviour was inevitable given a high enough level of technology within a society, Kaczynski now turns to the question of how that behaviour is controlled.

Pressures to control human behaviour have arisen from the beginning of civilisation. When civilisations try to control people so tightly that those people go beyond the limits of their endurance and collapse, then that society will also collapse. Human nature therefore limited the development of human society, but technology threatens to change this by making it possible to change humans.

The passage “Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy, then gives them drugs to take away their unhappiness. Science fiction?” reads as extremely prescient for 1995. Kaczynski was writing at the start of the Prozac wave, but the trend has worsened severely, with as many as a quarter of some populations on a psychiatric drug at any one point in time. It can be said, therefore, that he predicted the current state of widespread dismay and despair.

Psychiatric drugs are not so much medicines as they are ways of postponing the collapse of society. “In effect, antidepressants are a means of modifying an individual’s internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable.” With a strong sense of irony, Kaczynski notes that the system is often doing the individual a favour when it brainwashes him into submission, because the alternative is destruction. Likewise, the definition of “child abuse” changes depending on which childrearing techniques produce results the system wants, and which do not.

The social disruption we see today is the result of what the system has done to people. This can lead to a totalitarianism that arrives after a number of steps, each one an apparently necessary reaction to a social problem, often with a humanitarian justification. We will probably have to contend with widespread genetic engineering for this reason. The system tends to regard as a “sickness” any mode of behaviour that is inconvenient for it, and therefore that manipulating people to fit in is a “cure”.

In ‘Human Race At A Crossroads’, Kaczynski points out that the system is not in control over everyone. Although it has total control over those who could be termed ‘bourgeois’, there are still many different kinds of disaffected rebel groups. The main concern of the system is to make these people docile so that they can no longer threaten. With this achieved, technology can then expand to take over everything on Earth. Human resistance will be impotent.

A total collapse of the technological system would give humanity the chance to start again. Kaczynski concludes that those who hate the industrial-technological system have two major duties: the first to increase the stresses within the technological system so as to hasten its collapse, the second to develop an alternative ideology that can serve to order a new world when it does.

The last chapter in this section is ‘Human Suffering’. Kaczynski was able to note, even in 1995, that the world’s population has become overblown on account of the technological system, and a collapse of the system would shortly be followed by a collapse in that population. This might entail much suffering in the short term, but this is less than the suffering that would arise if the system was allowed to grow even bigger. In any case, some consider dignity and freedom more important than merely avoiding suffering.

It is far from clear that the collapse of the industrial system would lead to less suffering anyway. Technology has meant that natural controls on population have been removed, which has resulted in a population explosion and all the suffering ensuing from that. Our relationship to Nature has been destroyed, and this is before we account for the effects of future problems like climate change.

Technophiles are unwilling to admit that when a technology comes and makes great changes to a society, this results in many other changes further down the line. For instance, agricultural advances that solve the problem of poverty merely lead to overpopulation, which leads to new problems of stress and aggression. This is an easily predictable problem, and there are many, many others that are not as predictable.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Mental Illness is a Political Concept, Not a Medical One

Many people live under the glib assumption that mental illness is a subject that the experts have got a good handle on. These experts, through the wisdom gleaned from decades of studying human behaviour in a myriad of contexts, have made a clear distinction between mentally ill and mentally healthy behaviours and thoughts, and can apply this accurately in a clinical setting. We are told that this distinction is objective and scientific, but the reality is that who is crazy and who isn’t depends more on fashion – and who is in power – than on science.

Take the example of homosexuality. Sexual attraction to people of the same gender was considered a mental illness as recently as the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. By this, it was meant that same-sex attraction was a mental defect that could be diagnosed and, if need be, treated. Some would say that we’ve evolved past such a mentality, and this author would not disagree, but with a caveat: we could easily make homosexuality illegal again.

All it would take would be a strong cultural shift towards a family-oriented kind of folk conservatism, and for it once again to be fashionable to be against homosexuals, and the herd could easily come to take it for granted once again that homosexuality should be illegal. If a popular celebrity made arguments against homosexuality on national television, the masses would soon be turned against it. Some arguments against homosexuality are perennial, and will inevitably become fashionable again, like the appeal to naturalism.

The appeal to naturalism is a common argument against homosexuality. It contends that, because both a male and a female are necessary for an act of sexual intercourse to have any chance of resulting in reproduction, only this arrangement of sexes is natural. Two people of the same sex engaging in sexual intercourse cannot produce a child and is therefore unnatural, and this is therefore immoral, in the same way that having sex with animals or the pre-pubescent cannot produce children and is therefore immoral.

One could fairly argue that there are a number of fallacies in this line of reasoning, but that’s not the point. The point is that, as long as the appeal to naturalism holds some sway among people, there is a chance that it could become fashionable again such that the masses came to accept it as obvious. If one looks at the world, and at the history of it, it’s apparent that homosexuality, like feminism and the use of certain drugs, is a fashion that waxes and wanes according to historical cycles.

The same thing is true of other conditions now considered to be mental illnesses. The case of schizophrenia is another example of where politics trumps medicine. No-one knows what schizophrenia and psychosis really are: psychosis is said to be the loss of touch with reality, but there is no universal, objective way of knowing what reality is. What is commonly accepted as reality is something that varies greatly from place to place and from time to time, even among people who are all committed to the scientific method.

No-one really understands why some people are crazy, but if a person doesn’t work, they need a doctor to declare them mentally unhealthy if they want to go on welfare. Sounds straightforward, but if an incoming conservative government wants to trim the number of people on welfare for psychiatric reasons by 10%, then the psychiatrists will select the 10% of their current patients that they feel have the best chance of making it and declare them to be mentally healthy. That they are the same as before doesn’t matter – the important thing is that the politics have changed.

For political reasons, all responsibility and blame for a person suffering a mental illness has to be shifted back onto either genetics or the person themselves. The environment is seldom to blame, but if it ever is, it is the fault of the parents and the home environment, never the fault of the rulers and the social environment. Depression is never caused by society being depressing. Anxiety is never caused by society being anxiogenic. What causes mental illness is bad genes, doing drugs or some kind of quasi-mystical spiritual failure, but never the misarrangement of society.

Some will say that mental illness demonstrates a failure to adapt to society. Fair enough, but the problem with this is that society is grossly unhealthy. For many tens of millions of people, the pressure of trying to fit into a society as fucked up as this one has pushed them beyond the limits of their psychological endurance. Their major problem is that society does not, and never will, recognise the part that it has played in making people mentally ill, because this would be a political error. This obstinance only serves to drive more people insane.

At the end of the day, it’s politicians that that people take orders from, and not research psychologists, and so doctors who have to deal with mental illness have to use the framework laid down for them by politicians. These politicians have not been able to resist the temptation to play around with the definitions of mental illness for the sake of achieving their political goals. Unfortunately, this meddling has become so severe that the concept of mental illness is now more political than it is medical.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto IV

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘Restriction of Freedom is Unavoidable in Industrial Society’. Here Kaczynski expounds at length what appears to be the central thesis of the manifesto.

Modern man is strapped down by a number of rules and regulations that have been laid down on him by faceless people far away and who he cannot hope to influence. Kaczynski contends that this is not because bureaucrats are malicious or because the system is yet to be perfected – this is the nature of technological society. Generally speaking, our lives have to be closely regulated by large organisations in order for society to function. Human lives have to be modified to fit the system.

This close regulation happens even to children. The system needs people educated in a particular manner in order to run its machines, and so children have to be forced to study things that they don’t really care about. This social pressure creates a lot of dysfunction in the form of dropouts and mentally ill people. The system uses propaganda to try to induce people to want what the system is doing to them. This is a complicated and dishonest process.

In ‘The Bad Parts of Technology Cannot Be Separated From the Good Parts’ Kaczynski argues that technology is a double-edged sword. Not only does advanced medical treatment require an entire industrial society to maintain, but it also removes the natural selection pressure that is, in many ways, keeping the human race healthy. The only solution to this is either eugenics or massive genetic engineering. Kaczynski contends that this genetic engineering is inevitable owing to the good things it promises.

The next chapter is ‘Technology is a More Powerful Social Force Than the Aspiration For Freedom’. Freedom is continually forced to compromise to technology, and after many repeated instances of this, all freedom is gone. The motor vehicle is a great example: when first introduced, they took no freedom away from the walking man, but society has been forced to adapt to accommodate them, and now walking in many places is impossible. Moreover, regulations such as driver’s licences and insurance have tied people down.

New technology changes society in a way that people are forced to use it. Each new advance, taken by itself, is desirable, but the cumulative effect is to lose freedom to people far away. Technology always advances, but can never be rolled back without a collapse of the system. This means that reform is impossible, which in turn means that any resisters effectively have to be revolutionaries. History shows that social arrangements are temporary, but technological advances are more or less permanent.

The last two chapters in this section are ‘Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable’ and ‘Revolution is Easier than Reform’. These contain a summary of the main statements made so far. Humans have proven themselves incapable of dealing with much easier problems than resisting technology, and therefore cannot succeed without a revolution that destroys the entire industrial system. Kaczynski points out here that we have already left massive environmental problems to our grandchildren merely for the sake of convenience now.

Revolution will not be as difficult as it seems, because the prospect of revolution is capable of inspiring powerful emotions in people. By contrast, the prospect of reform can only inspire lukewarm emotions at best. It is not necessary for a majority of people to become revolutionaries, just enough so that the system is incapacitated.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

The Case For Cannabis: Cannabis Is An Established Crop

The War on Cannabis seems to be based on the idea that cannabis, if persecuted hard enough, could potentially be eradicated, so that no-one used it at all anymore. In reality, such a war is unwinnable, for a number of reasons. This essay will make the argument that cannabis ought to be legal on account of that it is an established crop.

One of the reasons why cannabis prohibition was doomed to failure was because cannabis has been used by people all around the world for thousands of years. Despite the best efforts of prohibitionists to eradicate all knowledge of cannabis cultivation and use, people remain aware of its medicinal properties. Cannabis has been illegal for almost a century, but its medical uses are reflections of the natural world, because the calming, soporific and therapeutic effects are universal to humans.

For this reason, demand will always exist for cannabis, no matter what the law says. Whether by underground chemists, criminals, shamans, botanical scientists, insomnia and nausea sufferers or simply by the curious, cannabis culture has been kept alive despite the massive efforts to eradicate it. It’s likely that it always will stay alive, on account of that there are so many people who think so positively of the drug.

Evidence that cannabis is an established crop can be seen from the vast number of popular cultural references to it. Films like Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle and Pineapple Express base their entire plotlines around the audience understanding cannabis and how it works, and that’s without even mentioning Cheech and Chong. There are entire genres of music called things like “stoner rock” or “stoner metal”, and literary references to cannabis or its effects are legion.

This establishment is a physical fact as well as a cultural one. All around the country there is wild cannabis growing, and there are millions of seeds in possession of private growers, who are just waiting for the Government to get out of the way. In every town and city there are rings of people who share seeds, clones and buds. Hundreds of thousands of people have a medical condition that might be alleviated by cannabis, and tens of thousands of them are aware of the benefits of cannabis and are trying to inform the others.

This demand survived prohibition; it will always be there.

Perhaps the best way of measuring this demand is by measuring the size of the cannabis market. Most people in New Zealand don’t understand how big the cannabis market is. Last year, Colorado made $1,500 million worth of cannabis sales to a population roughly the same size as New Zealand, roughly $300 per person per year. Considering that this is after 90 years of adverse propaganda – in other words, 90 years of strong abnormalisation of cannabis use – $1.5 billion is a lot of money.

Even without sentiment, in the cold hard light of pure commerce, the argument exists for cannabis to be treated as a major industry simply on account of its size. If the industry is worth billions then it deserves a place at the table alongside other industries of similar size. There ought to be Members of Parliament willing to argue the corner of the cannabis industry, and the consumers served by that industry, like there are for the racing, alcohol, tobacco industries, among others.

Fighting cannabis, and trying to eradicate it from popular culture by means of prohibition, makes as much sense as fighting potatoes. All over the world it’s possible to find cannabis enthusiasts who are devoted to the promulgation of their chosen plant and the culture around it. None of these enthusiasts can understand cannabis prohibition – making a plant illegal is insane, however you look at it. They will keep cannabis culture going.

Ultimately, the desire of the people to use cannabis for recreation and for medicine has proven itself stronger than the ability of the ruling class to successfully bullshit the rest of the population into accepting prohibition. Use of the plant is so deeply entrenched in culture worldwide that attempts to get rid of it are futile. Cannabis is here to stay, and the law ought to reflect this.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.