In the words of Doug Stanhope: “Boredom is a disease. Drugs cure it.” This might be a throw-away line from a famously irreverent standup comedian, but it points to a truth that our society lacks the sophistication to debate: boredom causes legitimate human suffering, and this costs money and even lives.
Some psychologists are aware of the consequences of boredom. It’s now believed that boredom literally causes the brain to degenerate, as it requires a certain minimum amount of excitory stimulation to maintain the strength of existing neuron connections.
This is why it seems to actually hurt. The mental pain associated with boredom is the pain of your brain dying from a lack of stimulation, in the same way that a newborn infant neglected by its mother may die of hospitalism from a lack of oxytocin.
It’s not likely that anyone in Nelson will go as far as shooting someone out of sheer boredom, as happened to the unfortunate Chris Lane in Oklahoma. But the more boring this city becomes, the further we move towards forcing people to become violent in order to combat the pain that comes from so many fun things being illegal.
The reason for this ought to be clear by now, especially if the reader knew any juvenile delinquents while growing up. Because boredom is painful, people suffer from it, and as a result of the suffering they become willing to destroy in order to alleviate it.
Almost everyone has done something recklessly stupid at some point because it felt good on account of that it relieved boredom.
Unfortunately, the people making the laws in New Zealand are whores, not psychologists. They have whored themselves out to the pharmaceutical, tobacco and alcohol industries, and these industries have commanded the politicians to make recreational alternatives to their products illegal for the sake of wiping out their competitors.
Nelson, like all provincial New Zealand towns, is not an easy place to live in when a person is aged between 18 and 30 or thereabouts. If you’re a young person and consequently have a high point of homeostasis for excitement, there are not many really good options.
Cannabis is illegal, the drinking culture is violent and disgusting, the hookup culture is vile and depressing, and the control freaks have even taken away the simple pleasure of having a cigarette to relax by making it too expensive to be enjoyable.
Well, this is the price. This is how we end up with burnt-out cars sitting on the side of Maitai Valley Road.
As this column has previously argued, there ought to be cannabis cafes on Bridge Street. Giving the young people of Nelson greater recreational options than booze and television would result in less boredom, which would result in fewer burnt-out cars.
This would necessarily require a change to New Zealand’s cannabis laws, which would have ancillary benefits, not least putting a stop to the current wastage of $400,000,000 of tax money every year.
Perhaps some of the estimated $120,000,000 of Police funding that would be saved from cannabis legalisation could then be used to clean up the mess on the side of Maitai Valley Road, as it has been sitting there for over a week.
Nelson does exceptionally well as a tourist town over the summer. We get thousands for the Abel Tasman alone and the Black Caps played here twice this season. It means big money for Sun City – but it won’t continue if we continue toget a reputationfor mindless violence.
Retail group Uniquely Nelson is especially concerned by what they see as a spike in antisocial activity, in particular “drunkenness, violence, abuse, theft, rubbish and broken glass.” But as anyone who has lived in Nelson for any length of time knows, violence, abuse, theft rubbish and even broken glass are natural consequences of the first problem named – drunkenness.
Neither can we glibly blame everything on ‘North Islanders’ as if Nelsonians are not subject to the same loss of inhibition as everyone else on the planet who drinks booze. Drunk people in Nelson do the same things in Nelson that drunk people in any low-wage area get up to.
The problem with the drinking culture of Nelson is this – most of the intelligent people who have lived here for long enough have secured cannabis hookups and use that instead. Cannabis has driven out alcohol among the sort of consumer that is most sensitive to being turned away by dickheads, and this has left the drinking to the lowest common denominator.
Anyone new to Nelson looking for a good time will quickly encounter this lowest common denominator, and the results are usually as described in the examples given in the opening paragraph.
The sad thing is, there is plenty of opportunity for people to come here and have a good time. Being the oldest of Kiwis, we Nelsonians naturally represent what is the best of us, in particular a sunny nature, a social attitude and a genuine joy of life.
But we’d rather smoke weed at home than come into town to get our heads kicked in.
So the solution is obvious.
We ought to demolish the dive bars of Bridge Street and replace them with a handful of cannabis cafes, so that Nelsonians and our many visitors can relax in public without fear of being attacked by some drunken animal.
As it is, if I’m driving East on Bridge Street late on a weekend night and I see some young backpackers heading the other way for a night on the town, I feel sorry for them, knowing that they will not get to see the best of my city or of its people.
Cannabis cafes on Bridge Street would provide the revitalisation that Sun City needs. It would bring the young people back out of their homes and life back into the streets of the CBD. It would also create a festive atmosphere in the city centre to replace the fighting, vomiting and vandalism.
Not least, the local retailers of Nelson stand to make a packet from the idea. The wider Nelson region is already, along with Coromandel, the most popular destination in New Zealand for underground cannabis tourism owing to our widespread local embrace of the plant medicine. International visitors know that they can come to this region for some of the world’s best natural cannabis.
If Nelson could get it together to take advantage of the impending repeal of cannabis prohibition we could position ourselves first in the queue for the hordes of young tourists that would flock here to escape from the drunken shitheadery that plagues most other Kiwi towns and cities.
If we did it right, many of those tourists would be other Kiwis. These people should leave Nelson with a sense of being impressed by our forward-thinking, gregarious and positive attitude, not with relief at getting out before they were glassed by some pisshead.
Pete Rainey needs to stop crying about Hone Ma Heke and support a policy that will actually benefit the people of Nelson. What Nelson needs isn’t to raise a lynch mob and go after a protester – it needs to legalise cannabis.
In few places on Earth does cannabis have more popular support than among the people of Nelson. This is a hugely pro-cannabis area, with the sentiment only getting stronger the further West from Nelson one goes. Almost everyone here smokes it – young, old or in between. You can see Bob Marley posters in several stores and a handful of others openly sell cannabis paraphernalia.
So a mayoral candidate that promoted such a thing would have the support of the locals.
Also, we need the money here in Nelson. It has been estimated by the Treasury that cannabis law reform would make the country $330,000,000 per year, roughly half of that savings from not enforcing cannabis prohibition and the other half from taxes. If the Nelson area has 1.5% of New Zealand’s population, it stands to reason that we would reap 1.5% of the savings of cannabis law reform.
This amounts to almost $5,000,000 per year.
With the proceeds from cannabis law reform alone, Nelson would save, in ten years, enough money to build a gondola that rivalled the biggest gondola in the world!
That’s the sort of vision Nelson needs – not petty hatred aimed at a guy already at the bottom of the ladder.