HEADBLOG: Narcotics Euphonomous – Decrying the Morally Nebulous Tik Habit

THERE is a growing recognition that South Africa’s substance abuse control programme, in particular the war against new drugs like Tik, has been fruitless and ineffectual. Not because this country’s moral watchdogs are not eagerly and bountifully committed to eradicating drug dependency, but rather because their senseless policies such as zero tolerance gloss over the moral dilemma of drug abuse – the very rationale for taking illegal substances in the first place.

In fact it must be said there is something insidious and morally pejorative about a policy that relies solely upon policing in order to fulfil its objectives, with the implied threat of physical incarceration and systematic-wide sociological disapproval. In this vein the needle is given to so many community outreach programmes that rush to provide therapy without tackling the logical inconsistency, without at least providing a sensible and coherent reason why one should not take drugs in the first place.

Why not give drug addicts their drug of choice, on demand and be done with the public ruse that anything constructive is being done about the problem? Not only have we been struck dumb by our inability to tackle the moral issue, let alone the psychological drama involving poverty, of disgruntled and bored youth, but still we want medical opinion that sees drug abuse as a disease in need of a cure, and drug pushers as some kind of new age victim in need of empathy, love, and a good home .

Which all gloss over the fact that a lot of drug addicts come from stable backgrounds anyway and have some of the best prospects in life. Without open debate on this subject it becomes impossible to discuss drug abuse without “twitching away the good drapery” as both De Quincey and Will Self (himself an admitted drug user) would have had it be said. Admit to partaking of an illicit cocktail of pharmaceuticals and whatever ones predilection for sane use of narcotics, the only support you are likely to get is from the very same charlatans and hawkers of human kindness one is so desperately trying to avoid.

Take SABC 3’s sycophantic take on the matter and it is unclear whether it is better to hang out with hardened criminals – the kind who smoke buttons, mainline crack-cocaine or shoot heroin on a daily basis or to watch Oprah Winfrey. Have we come so far as to create yet another gordian knot between the left-wing fixation with marijuana, the rightwing fixation with tobacco and alcoholism and the strange new pleasures of opiates and amphetamines, the wired, frenzied engorging of speed and languished rumination of heroin, without pausing to count how many times this debate has reared its ugly head only to die down after being quashed by the selfsame moral watchdogs who lack a moral reason for not taking drugs.

To whit, Dr Irving Gofman in his notable book on intoxication sees experimentation with drugs as a basic human drive. We all experiment with getting high at some stage of our lives and the only real question is to what degree, (how much and how little and to whether we want to make it past forty or to survive our very first encounter with inebriation, not braindead but alive). For those unfortunates, who buy into all this drug-talking and moral solipsising and for whom the experimentation never stops, who instead of settling down into the odd tipple of cognac, take one drink and turn it into a life-time of dependency on alcohol, or a single toke of a cigarette and extrapolate that into crack or cocaine addiction, or for whom even heroin mixed with methamphetamine and bug powder would not do enough damage to the human condition, there can be only one reason for advocating closure in this debate, and that is Harm Reduction.

Harm Reduction, as the Dutch would have it, is state intervention that provides an alternative to the real horror of self-prescribed drug-taking hypocrisy, a motive beyond organised crime, and the mob who sell the product while promoting prostitution and human slavery. If not enslaved to the evils of capitalism, then all the better perhaps to addict oneself to the state tropium which should be tasked with dispensing along with all manner of hallucinogenres your drug of choice. In fact the British have maintained drug-users for years on their national health, dispensing methadone to heroin addicts, and all types of substances to the new world of crack without so much as a hiccough at the inherent contradictions of morality.

[copyleft, some rights reserved, reprint with permission]

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LONDON: Take your war and shove it!

Just a comment on the bombing scheduled during a job interview yesterday that blanked out my chances of gainfull employment: Both the so-called Free World and the Islamic World, can take their War and shove it. As far as I’m concerned the entire incident is a distraction from paradise and a means of creating hell on earth in the hope that a savior or messiah will arrive to sort things out. Come on people, whatever good book you read, there is no getting away from the fact that almost every religion compels us to sort things out for ourselves. Okay, can we agree on that one? Right, then oh ye faithless, lets all put our head between our knees and scream — bloody london bus wreck on its bloody backside.

HEADBLOG: Is Triangle Project Guilty of Gender Discrimination?

THE Triangle Project recently placed advertising in local newspapers calling for “gays and lesbians” to continue the struggle for same-sex marriage rights — thus continuing a long tradition in South Africa’s alternative community of distinguishing gays from lesbians. Is this sheer perversity, moral convenience or something more sinister like gender discrimination?

Whatever happened to the notion of equality? Plain old androgeny? Freedom of sexual orientation?

While it may appear like mere heuristic convenience to
partition people between male and female, gay or
straight, or gay or lesbian labels, the Out in Africa ideology of
Triangle’s version of gaydom loses some of the more nuanced
aspects of sexual freedom and arguably does harm to a much
broader struggle that includes womens rights as much
as the rights of hermaphrodites and transexuals.

The problem seems to be the tricky notion of what it
means to be gay as opposed to queer. According to
Michel Foucault “there are no homosexuals, only
homosexual acts” in other words, ones sexual identity
is not dependent exclusively upon the sex act, but is
rather part of a far more complex personal mythology
in which any number of sex acts may conspire towards
presenting a sexual persona that is independent of
social mores, gender values, and stereotyping.

Of course people will disagree with me — the new
anti-queer mainstream as exemplified by the Triangle
Project and its nemesis the Legal System seeks to
prove with gay science, the scientific fact of a gay
and lesbian divide that is historically incorrect
(aren’t lesbians also gay?). The result is merely a
rehash of the dominant “straight” ideology and the
intention however misguided, the ultimate replacement
of straight society with gay society, along with the
marginalisation of queers and those who shun gender
distinction?

In such a pitched battle, cast in shades of pink, the
struggle is doomed to failure, as much as straight
society is doomed to repeat its own closet-minded
attack against the rights of the homosexual. In effect
a dismantling of the rainbow nation as the legal
system finds new ways to protect religion above
reason, and tradition above logic.

Lets remind our courts then — not only are lesbians,
bisexuals and straight people still very much out
there, but there is also a sizeable population of
transexuals some of whom consider themselves straight,
as well as straight people like myself who consider
themselves queer. The solution is not simply to make
room for queerdom but to allow the demise of gender as
a biologically determined fact (that defines all
sexual relationships).

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Industry Appointed Ombudsman a joke.

WITHOUT legislation to combat censorship and the suppression of opinion, the media will continue to be an exclusive debating club in which ordinary people are excluded on the basis of race, gender and class. In fact the recent debacle involving the Sunday Times and the SANEF Ombudsman proves that the industry cannot be trusted to regulate itself. However such a view is admittedly problematic since it opens the door to legislation that might do anything but garner trust.

By regulating the media’s nasty habit of suppressing information that it doesn’t enjoy — the censoring of alternative views and the stifling of different perspectives the popular press doesn’t agree with — could we be destroying something unique and valuable in our democracy? By some reports, regulation of any sort might just dismantle the independence of media not just from government, but from itself. What then is the correct path to follow?

The solution may be found in our nations constitution. The media are what is in effect a fourth estate*** — a pillar not of the legislature or government but rather of the South African commons, enshrined as “We the People” and awarded special duties and privileges by the invocation of the right to freedom of expression in particular section 16 (1) (a). Great in theory, but to what degree do the media, in particular print media, feel bound by the bill of rights and constitution of 1996?

Ideals such as freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion form part of a magnificent bouquet of rights under section 15, but they do not exclude the use of legislation to give emphasis to what for all intents and purposes should be a pillar of society — the institutional challenge of picking apart the inalienable set of rights and principles already within the public domain and given substance by the presence of media. For instance the right of reply (a right which is rarely if ever actually accorded people without power, status and money), is considered one of the hallmarks of a liberal or free press.

In a country that has enjoyed democracy and human rights for little more than a decade, there is a sad lack of tolerance of dissent, and very little precedent with regards separation of powers and the commons versus the state. Bring on the legislators then, to open the door to a more responsible and, one hopes, a freer media.

FOR THE SIZE ISSUE — VISIT US AND VOTE AGAINST MEDIA CARTELS AND SUPERSIZED MEDIA

***The term fourth estate is frequently attributed to the nineteenth century historian Carlyle, though he himself seems to have attributed it to Edmund Burke:

Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, …. Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable. ….. Whoever can speak, speaking now to the whole nation, becomes a power, a branch of government, with inalienable weight in law-making, in all acts of authority. It matters not what rank he has, what revenues or garnitures: the requisite thing is that he have a tongue which others will listen to; this and nothing more is requisite.
Carlyle (1905) pp.349-350

HEADBLOG: New Age Discrimination.

YOU SEE it everywhere — no under 25’s, or “only applicable to 35 and under”, the new age discrimination, aka ageism. A sign that South Africa is growing-up, or growing younger, or simply moving sideways? After dealing with racial discrimination it seems that we have found other things to discriminate against. Petulant youths who have never experienced apartheid and who see the older generation as cultural dinosaurs; intellectual has-beens from 1976 who need to be pensioned off; state-of-emergency drop-outs from 1989 who refuse to be a part of the market, no matter what?

Then there are the well-meaning comrades who keep fighting for the “rights of the youth” forgetting that they have long since retired into the ranks of the middle aged. Greedy, advertisers who keep trying to sucker the next generation, forgetting that we’ve never had a 13-and-under target market in this country before. It could take years before anybody realises the sacrifices being made to social cohesion and historical continuity.

Age discrimination is not only self-serving but short-sighted. While it makes sense for banks to hook new customers with free internet banking, overdraft facilities and credit cards, doing this along an invisible generational divide separating South Africa’s new 20-somethings from their older 30-something counterparts creates a new age-based friction in society that while imitating the old cleavages of the past, forgets that there is a backlog of grievances stretching back to the very first time the apartheid government started waging war against the youth, in the streets of Soweto, 1976. We also ignore at our peril the next generation which came of age during the State of Emergency only to find themselves in a freeze of isolation and the grip of sanctions and a cultural boycott that only began to lift after the Berlin Wall, came down in 1989.

The only discrimination in civil society allowed by our constitution are “measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination,” in other words, one may discriminate only as part of a pro-active measure designed to alleviate prejudice. Ageism is clearly a form of prejudice and the only age distinctions made by our common law are between minors and legal persons, and of course the tricky boundaries separating the age of consent and the vote.

Why then do South African’s insist on achieving new forms of discrimination? Is it that we yearn after a certain form of prejudice? Something to liven-up our lives that would otherwise become dull and meaningless without teen scamming, lying youths and adult self-deceit? Perhaps if we get rid of ageism, they will bring in some other form of parallel discrimination, take fashion for example, ever wondered why some people insist on wearing bow-ties?

[Copyleft 2005, some rights reserved, reprint with permission]

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Global Commons

FOR want of a better definition, the Global Commons is a platform of issues related to the sharing of resources both on a local and global scale and is in direct contrast to privatisation and the concessions made to business and the rights of the individual. While “privatisation” is seemingly in the forefront of development strategy, our constitution enshrines values such as equality, public access and participation in numerous areas such as healthcare, housing, and information; and in fact openly combats group economic discrimination i.e. class, as well as promoting freedom of movement alongside the rights of the individual.

However, while these values may put South Africa in the forefront of environmental justice and social democracy we have witnessed the steady erosion of the Global Commons in the following areas.

1) Public Libraries and Free Learning.
The replacement of low-cost or free access to books and learning materials with high-tech, information nodes that are dependent solely upon the computer or technology industry has paradoxically stifled learning, suppressed participation and destroyed the ideal of access for all. Library-use is directly associated with literacy levels and continued adult education and should not be the preserve of technocrats.

2) Mass Transport Alternatives.
The laissez faire and often chaotic development of private motor vehicles on the one hand and privately owned “taxi’s” that refuse to service all-areas (usually organised along the narrow interests of various “taxi associations”) on the other, has created a terrible dependency upon oil. Alongside privately-owned bus and rail companies a complete lack of late-night transport in the City of Cape Town, and broken promises as regards more environmentally-friendly means of transport such as trolley-buses and mono-rails. Where are the plans for inter-transport crossovers and ticket transfers so that commuters can easily change from one mode of transport to the next?

3) Social Security and Common Welfare
While the present generation is still paying for the previous generations pensions and even the next generations child-care grants and schooling, there is no safety mechanism in place to avoid a default on these “loans made to government in the national interest”. Why do we still see beggars and homeless people on the street? In a social democracy such forms of poverty would be eradicated.

4) Public Housing Projects
Alongside the demise of rent control and council housing, scattered or spread out development of housing that repeats many of the mistakes of former white suburban households. Where is the high density housing that saves public money by sharing common walls, roofing and services? Where are the incentives to the free market to create low-cost housing? Where are the public bathhouses, ablution facilities, and free gyms. In many cases it is impossible for pedestrians to find drinking water in the city.

5) Food Security for All
Not only should we combat hunger as a result of unemployment but protect the common genetic material that is the basis for all life and the ongoing nourishment of the individual. Transnational corporations such as Monsanto have simply been allowed to hook-up local farmers into techno-dependent relationships through the patenting of biological material, and in the process depriving future generations of food security.

6) Public Access to Media
Pay television has been allowed to saturate our national debate with programming that is not always fair or accurate. Free-to-air channels have stagnated or simply given-up on public participation. Without public access radio and television, perspectives are restricted to the rich and wealthy who are able to afford licences and subscriptions, broadcast equipment and material.

7) Impediments to Market Ownership and Fair Trade
The stock market is still the preserve of the rich, with entry-level stocks priced out of the market by high dealer fees and unfair trading regulations. How can one claim that the system works for everybody if the price for entry to the market is in many cases more than a days wages? Opening the market to the commons, would help to regulate society by avoiding the creation of elites.

8) Access to Heath Care
Where are the free dental clinics and day-care centres promised by government? Free-market principles do not work when the poor are forced to pay exorbitant fees for the most basic of services. Pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals still control matters such as life and death. By empowering the individual through sharing of common knowledge and medical wisdom we can lessen the burden on the state.

9) Cultural Diversity and Empowerment in the Arts
While great strides have been made in furthering equality in the arts, there has been very little funding for alternative modalities, subordinated knowledge, separated or divergent cultural expressions. Are we adequately preserving our country’s diverse counterculture history, apartheid memory, and local traditions that are being wiped out by cocoa–colonisation. Where are the youth projects targeting the next generation of cultural workers and arts practitioners?

While some topics may overlap with concerns already placed before government it is my intention rather to raise awareness around the Global Commons, the things we share, rather than that which keeps us apart. In this way, we may forge some unique strategy that overcomes the problems raised, and in so doing, create a better life for all.

SA GOVERNMENT: Next stop Paraguay?

THE days when jetting off to places like Chile or Paraguay were considered a political in-joke are long gone, but the fact remains that South Africa’s head of Aikona!-stan is beginning to look suspiciously like he is on a perpetual state visit to parts unknown. Could it be that Thabo Mbeki is trying to avoid something?

Surely ones heart goes out to our globetrotting “el Presidente” who, like the last Pope, is possibly the most well-trekked of any statesman, bar Madiba of course — who does set a hard act to follow by his wilful insistence on outlasting the last Great Trek. Perhaps its time then to reassess the “four years and you’re out” precedent set by our last president? At least we know where Mbeki stands on a host of issues, that while idiosyncratic, have tended towards social justice and peaceful development of our continent.

Jacob Zuma on the other hand, with his powerbase in Shaikland was a moral regeneralisation accident waiting to happen. In fact there is so little leadership material left after the ANC purges of the late-nineties and bribery, corruption and scandal-mongering of the last five years, that one could be excused for wanting to call for a complete halt to the notion of party political presidenting. Perhaps its time to just re-elect our president by popular vote, American-style, and throw in a short-stick, thin-wedgey, South American Banana Republic, with a virtual life-presidency that might just avoid the pitfalls of national dictatorship a la Robert Mugabe?

Then again, one feels rather sorry for South African politicians of all persuasions, those who are forced into political office by the votes of one of the most loudest, rambunctious and gregarious, of nations. Imagine having to endure fajita after fajita, tacos and nachos grande after grande, pursued by screaming soccer fans who aren’t half interested in either your policies or your lawmaking, but just want the queue to the 2010 World Cup ticket office to end? My choice for next president — Zenadine Zedine, and deputy, not Beckham but the great Pele (if he’s still alive, but if not, so what, who cares?).

[copyleft 2005, some rights reserved, reprint with permission]

Suppressions Anonymous: More blacked-out than biko?

“I write what I like.”Steve Biko

HAS your work been suppressed? Do you live in fear of retribution from the powers that be? We all have stories to tell of hitting that glass wall, whether through abuse of editorial power, misuse of legal authority, or merely brushing copy under the carpet, the usual censorship runaround. The Size Issue would like to hear from you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a media worker for a large corporation or a small zine, suppression often occurs without your knowledge and consent.

In fact the highly selective editorial process is often a ruse for a much larger pattern of abuse. Throughout history, original thinkers, non-conformist individuals, dissenting voices, minority opinion-makers, have been targeted because of their views. Being a dissident is not about falling in line, or going with the flow, in fact questioning authority and posing intellectual problems and mental challenges is an important part of the consensus process, and provides a counterbalance to what would otherwise be a narrow outlook and one-dimensional view of life.

People like Galileo, Trotsky and Steve Biko were martyred for their ideas and yet today we all realise that the sun does not revolve around the earth; that there is more than one possible reading of Marx or Lenin; and being conscious of ones oppression does not mean participating in the oppression of others. Philosophy teaches us how to approach these challenges, but without a forum for expression or a means of discussing topics such as free speech in an open environment, we begin by participating in our own oppression, then assist in the active suppression of information by stifling arguments and censoring debates, and end-up aiding and abetting the suppression of other peoples ideas. Is it not obvious that engaging in our oppression means renouncing our right to oppress others, to act as fellow oppressors?

When was the last time you stood up for what you believed was right? It takes chutspah, gumption and sagacity to question authority and to actively debate the issues at hand. The Size Issue wants you to reach down and see whether blogspace has balls. We want you to come out and resist media suppression, by posting stories about press censorship, intellectual gagging, cultural brainwashing, NIA mind control, corporate-government thought-police, resistance to apartheid and big business and other forms of groot baas mentality.

Resist Supersizing and Suppression of Information by mailing Suppressions Anonymous

or check out The Size Issue, a blog dedicated to exposing Supersized Media and the Independent Media Cartel.

Put South Africa first!

WELL the honeymoon is definitely over – the ghost of PW Botha has come back to haunt us in the form of a super-presidency under Thabo Mbeki. Why should supermen flying around Africa be given extra powers if they already possess mandates from their people? If they keep crashing and burning on issues such as national soveriegnty, regional economic and political stability perhaps its because they never had a mandate to start off with?

How is it possible to create a Pan African Parliament that will eventually overide the laws of our own nation without at least a debate on the floor? How is it possible to find ourselves in the situation where, not only are we gagging newspapers about oil, but we’re actively supporting one world government and the Bush war in Iraq via our participation in the WTO? While corporate South Africa has been given a big “up yours” by the Laugh It Off judgement in the constitutional court, large corporate media and transnational corporations still fail to take heed of grassroots dissatisfaction with an economic system dependent upon coercion, a strong foreign military presence and punitive sanctions against the unemployed.

While Mbeki, the reformed capitalist, pumps rands into foreign trade deals that sell-out local labour and cleverly avoids facing up to the mounting casualities of his new economic policies, a growing tide of resentment against big government grows by the day. Despite attempts to nation-build, we are fragmenting into eleven language groups each with its own agenda as the former National Party burrows its way deep within our societal structures. Is it no wonder that the liberation movement has been outlawed and freedom fighters are now called terrorists? Is it no wonder that presidential spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe is proposing dictatorship from above instead of grassroots democracy from below?

Where other movements have failed, the anti-apartheid movement succeeded in creating a true people’s parliament and a bill of rights based upon the Freedom Charter. It is now up to our representatives to take these principles further by calling a referendum on the language issue before we forget what freedom means. As William Shakespeare once said, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, but pretty pointless if the children of tomorrow are born into a world without freedom of expression, without South Africa’s unique version of human rights and democracy.

copyright 2005, all rights reserved, reprint with permission.