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The multi-faceted argument of drug decriminalisation

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I am starting to realise that the motto of a certain famous (notorious to some) whiskey may be wrong, and maybe Bob Dylan was right: The Times, They Are A-Changin’.

Though it feels like yesterday, it was four years ago that the Divorce Referendum, the pulpit (some pun intended) for the first major social change in a generation, was in full swing. From then on, we have moved onwards towards unrivaled social change: Divorce was introduced, marriage rights were extended to both transgender and homosexual couples, and now we are within touching distance of a some kind of drug decriminalization.

The White Paper on Drug Decrimilization has just been issued and, as expected, the aye-sayers and the nay-sayers have come out all guns blazing stating their points. A prima facie, all sides have relatively valid points; but the argument is as widespread as can be…

So here is a plausible list of the possible points of departure for any possible argument related to drug decriminalisation… and I am pretty sure that there are others which I have left out, but here we go….

 

Are all Drugs harmful?

 

This is not a question of whether all drugs are the same: I am pretty sure that ‘Breaking Bad’ would not have been such a success if Walter White grew cannabinoids instead of methamphetamine…

However, in the eyes of the beholder, apples and oranges are still fruit; anything which diminishes the capacity of understanding or mental thought of any person and may prove to be addicting and/or harmful to the human body should be out rightly banned. End of Story.

Oh wait….. Of course it isn’t.

Some of these drugs are used as medicinal prescriptions by the local doctor or pharmacist for both serious and less worrying diseases: The aim is far from recreational, and although it is true that some of these narcotics seem to diminish the mental capacity of the person to some extent, this is all done in order to help the human body repel its sickness… and preferably without suffering from side effects which make the whole situation even worse.

And if we forget the medicinal side of things, critics may point at two other things: tobacco and alcohol. It is not possible for tobacco in itself to be used, but in effect any normal cigarette has a number of chemicals which give it the blend and taste needed in order for it to be smoked: And herein lies the rub, for according to Cancer Research UK, any normal cigarette must have any, if not all, of these cancerous chemicals: tar, arsenic, benzene, even polonium-210. And talking to students about getting drunk is like talking to a baby about bed-wetting… We know you did it once too many times, you’re just embarrassed to talk about it with others unless we realise that they have done it as well. And if they outdrank (or out-sh*t themselves, than the competition is on…)

Yet it would be wrong to assume that with tobacco and alcohol it’s all carte blanche:  Anti-tobacco legislation has been as ferocious as never before, while alcohol is out rightly banned in public spaces: (In case you’re wondering, yes: getting drunk in Paceville, which is considered as a public space, is illegal by a contravention. That’s the pesky law for you)

 

Government Interference… Aye or Nay?

 

Simply put, the Government has a bonus pater familias duty of protecting the individuals of their state from each other. But the point of conflicting convergence is here: Does the Government, or any state organization for that matter, possess the duty and obligation (legal or otherwise) to protect the individual from him/herself?

Extending from this line of thought, people who are against the decriminalization of drugs argue that the state has the duty to combat the recreational use of any drugs whatsoever as the beneficial aspects of such use, which are few or non-existent, are vastly outweighed by its negative aspects. Meanwhile, others argue that the state should politely sod off and mind its own business.

Starting from the most obvious drug in question: Marijuana. Yes, it is a lesser form of drug whose effects are relatively few in contrast with other, high-potency narcotics.  It does not make your teeth fall off or lose your hair more than you should, but the myth that marijuana is “completely harmless” is just that… a myth. Smoking marijuana, just the like the smoking of any other narcotic, has severe physical cardio-vascular and respiratory problems.

 

Gateway Drugs… Fact or Fiction?

This ‘theory’ explains that any person experiencing marijuana and other lesser drugs for recreational use inadvertently leads to them experiencing other, stronger types of drugs, which in turn will lead to a never-ending circle of drug abuse from which there is very rarely any absolution.

The truth is that this theory can neither be completely disregarded as trash, but should not be taken as a narcotic commandment. Studies have managed to come up with inconclusive results.

The best part: The Gateway Theory is used by both sides of the Drug Decrimilization Debate: Those in favour argue that, by legalizing said lesser drugs but outlawing the rest, there would be no gateway to more powerful narcotics as they would have enough to be satisfied as there is. Meanwhile, the nay-sayers argue that no matter how harsh or severe a punishment can be, any substance will make the recipient body build up resistance to it, until it eventually makes the person move away to other narcotics in order to be satisfied.

 

Well… Is a Change needed?

 

If the recent arguments about drug decriminalization have reached a consensus on at least one of the possible points, it is the fact that the punishment and outlook of the law with regards to narcotics, in some cases, has been completely over the top.

The Daniel Holmes case, which maybe is still fresh in the sheer majority of the Maltese population, students notwithstanding, has been the major pivotal point of this whole debate. Even non-drug users still felt pretty aggrieved when a ten-year sentence and a €23,000 fine were splashed on him for drug trafficking and possession of more than one kilogram of cannabis.

Here lies the rub: The police investigation, when taking into account the amount of cannabis found in the apartment where Mr. Holmes resided, forgot to mention that they also included the stalks and roots of the plants, which are not used in any way for the usage of marijuana. Taking this into account, the amount of illegal substances found was supposed to be much less than it was declared. Mr. Holmes’ defence lawyers also pointed out the anomaly that was that this man, who was supposed to sell said drugs, ‘could not afford utility bills, had to borrow a car and his rent was paid by his parents,’ with the only cash being found in the apartment amounted to €100, and no other cash was in Mr. Holmes’ name.

The uproar was enormous, yet it did not do any affect, as the sentence and punishment were soon confirmed by the Court of Appeal.

And so, even though there may not be a clear direction in which the next Maltese social revolution must arrive, the hardest part of all has already been accomplished: We have started paving the way for change; lest we not stall in our progress.

What was that cheesy quote by what-his-face about the only thing having to fear is fear itself… or something? Yeah, well… You know the drill: get inspired and move along.

Posted in Opinion, Opinion

We never ask the experts of migration

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On the 16th of June 2014, a group of Ethiopian migrants set up a protest in Valletta against our government who is supporting the very source of their hardship: the Ethiopian regime. It had to be these farmers to show the whole, true picture of migration. The solution for illegal migration lies in their countries of origins, not here in Europe.

At the moment, there are two opinions on migration. The not-so-enlightened liberals want to open the European borders for all to come. They want to regularise the situation of illegal migrants, give them voting rights and let them work without any concern for their cultural and linguistic capabilities. Christian democrats, socialists and eurocommunists have joined forces trying to eradicate every form of separation between cultures and nations. This is the current position of the EU. NGOs like Aditus and the UNHCR are simply supporting this stance and it is common for people who don’t agree to get labelled as ‘racist’. They support fully the EU position for obvious reasons. An increase in illegal immigrants correlates positively with an increase in their work and thus their salaries.

The people want a different stance and they are supporting far-right movements who have no real solution but to send everyone back home and let them face the music. But what about an alternative solution? One that would tackle the source of the problem. The Ethiopian farmers made it clear that they left their country since their government simply took their land for industry. Their options were to either work in the new industries for meagre pay or flee their homes. And who is urging the Ethiopian government to steal land and spoil it? Obviously it’s the West. First of all it was Western colonisers that left dictatorial regimes to rule Africa and secondly these countries have been locked in astronomical debts owed to the West [the USA and Western Europe] for their so-called ‘foreign aid’.

Evidently there’s another side to the story. The UNHCR and the NGOs are not the only ones benefiting from migration. The EU, a predominantly neo-liberal institution, holds an interest to lower wages in Europe. Illegal migrants hold the key. It’s easy. They saturate the labour market with surplus workers and thus employers have a larger choice and more room to reduce salaries. It’s basic Marxist economics, yet even the communists have fallen for the trap and want Europe to be full of Africans. The left has been dragged to numbness by capitalism. Of course the West goes on supporting the African dictatorships! They are providing it with a good supply of workers and greater profits for big business.

Seeing all this, the Ethiopian farmers have the best and most difficult solution. The West stops supporting the African regimes, they get weaker and the people can safely revolt and find a way that best suits them. If different tribes cannot live in the same nation-state, then they should form their own states without any nosing around from the West. Yes, prices in Western countries will increase since we wouldn’t be relying on stealing African resources, yet we would have better wages since the European population is decreasing and employers would be forced to pay more to employ people with rare skills. Europeans will be happy living in their own continent and Africans in theirs whilst big business will be forced to give out more money to the people. Until Europeans and Africans wake up and see how their governments are screwing them, we will all continue living in this mess.

Posted in Opinion

A national/European cliché

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The European Parliament elections are only two days away and I am so relieved that the political campaign leading to the afore-mentioned elections is coming to an end. Once again, the major political parties have resorted to hurling insults at each other and morphing the European elections into a national one. The European element was left out with both parties attempting to outdo the opposing party either by showcasing their excellent work in government or by pinpointing each other’s flaws.

The basis of many voters’ opinions is the media and the web and although they are worthwhile tools to inform oneself, they are not sufficient to understand the whole picture of the European Union. Because of this, many have the impression that this entity is made up solely of the European Parliament and that it is the spitting image of the Maltese parliament. For sake of clarification, the EU is neither. It is a complex body of institutions and unlike the national parliament, there are more parties and ideologies that need to be addressed. The PN and PL will be part of a larger political group. They will be a number in that group and although Maltese issues will be tackled, they are at the mercy of the other EP members whether they like it or not. Therefore, the campaign should be one to convince us, as voters that you will fight for our county’s rights in the EU and attempt to resolve European issues which affect your country as best you can.

Unfortunately, despite fuelling the campaign with shouts of ‘Energija Pozittiva’ and ‘Malta Ahjar’, I personally think their tactics neither served to improve Malta’s ideology about the EU nor surround the Maltese electorate with positive and encouraging energy to vote in these elections. Bipartisanism is the plague of national politics and no matter how hard we try, we can never find a cure or more accurately, we do not intend to find one.

These elections are supposedly about electing competent and strong-willed individuals who will voice the concerns of the Maltese population. Some potential MEPs, dubbed ‘star candidates’, were in the limelight attending debates and persuading the electorate to trust them with their vote (or rather uttering repeatedly why people should believe in their party’s ideology). Others were forgotten and despite the MEP election campaign coming to an end, it seems that many still have no idea who some of the candidates are and what they can offer if elected. The candidates were overshadowed by the slander match taking place between the two main party’s leaders, who ironically are not even contesting the MEP elections. The only party who took a clear stance on a European level also fell victim to this saga, was shunned and sometimes even ridiculed.

Comments by the electorate on social media evidently show how exasperated people are of listening to the same cliché of the two main political parties. The only group of people who have put in spectacular effort to turn the tables and give these elections a slight European feel were the young generation. They have taken many initiatives promoting the EU’s work throughout the year and broadening our perspective as to the real reasons for voting on Saturday. Hats off to these energetic individuals and organisations, you were a breath of fresh air throughout this fight for a place in the European Parliament.

Albert Einstein once said that ‘we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’ and I’m sure that many people will concur with this statement. Try as we may, it is difficult to completely eliminate the bipartisan mentality that our country is accustomed to. We need to keep an open mind and broaden our spectrum of ideas. It is only through this that one can slightly change the country’s political landscape and not by refusing to go out and vote.

 

Posted in Opinion

Everyone’s water breaks in June

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I’ve got a thing for analogies.

Not only do I use them to prove a point or to make situations clearer for myself and to others, but I sometimes find myself going specifically out of my way to try and draw a comparison between two completely unrelated things. Call it an elitist tick. The last of these came to me and it was as sudden as it was flawless – a year at University is pretty much like being pregnant.

You’ve got your standard nine(-ish) months of random cravings which keep escalating into a couple of painful pangs right around the end, and if you’re lucky enough, you get to cradle an adorable little “A” by the end of it all. Sure, one of the two can get excruciatingly worse at times, and the comparison isn’t a totally fair one – we all know how much harder it is to wake up for 8am lectures on a wintery Monday, so point taken. The two do end up getting shockingly similar at times though; no matter how many people around you try to comfort you and tell you that others have been through this before and that you’re going to be just fine, you somehow feel like no one can really understand all that you’ve had to go through, and the trials and tribulations of staying up all night, unable to sleep, staring up at the ceiling with a strange, random and painful pang in your stomach.

So, what does one write to comfort the hundreds of proverbial pregnant post-teens reading this? I could whip up a couple of comforting clichés, something on the lines of a light at the end of a dark tunnel, or a pretty little rainbow after a hailstorm. However, knowing me (and I do pride myself on you know, knowing myself), I’d much rather go for the “buck up and face the music you sad excuse for a student” technique. We’re all in this together – see it as one huge Prenatal Class. Which begs the question – is your chosen thesis supervisor you midwife? I’ll just leave that here.

I think I might actually be able to milk this analogy a little further (props to you if you got that last pun by the way, I swear it was initially unintentional). Everyone knows – or at least they should – that pregnancy isn’t just about those last couple of weeks. Every part of those nine long months build up to that one moment, but they’ve all had their own important role to play. We hear of pregnant women listening to Beethoven to inspire a more creative and artistic spawn…which might explain why I study better with classical music in the background (although I might be pushing it too far with that one). And don’t forget that anxious anticipation right at the end of it all, where you’re still not sure whether it’s all gone smoothly or whether you’ve sadly just wasted nine months of your life.

I feel like I should stop here. This might end up spiralling into the politically incorrect even as far as my standards go. But work with me on this one. And even more importantly, work with yourselves. Take care of that baby, nourish it, and come June, when you’re sitting down in that heat, looking at that piece of paper, panting regularly, remember to slowly breathe in and out, push all the information you know onto the paper, and hope for the best.

I’ll be seeing you all once we all get knocked up again at the end of summer x

 

This article was first published in the May edition of The Insiter. Grab your copy from the designated pick up points.

Posted in Opinion, Opinion

10 reasons why studying at the UoM is a good idea for some

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Having graduated last year, this is going to be my first year without exams. In a weird of way, I actually kind of miss these times. Having read Johann’s sarcastic article on the downsides of studying on campus. I couldn’t help but feel the need to reply after having spent so much time doing exactly the opposite.

http://insiteronline.com/other/10-reasons-stay-uom-study/

Here are my reasons why studying at the University of Malta can actually be beneficial to the student:

1. You actually have a social life during desperate times. You comfort each other, share a joke as to why you’re going to fail BIG time in your exams, and get to know new people who you’ve never met from different course.

2. As the library opens early, it’s perhaps enough motivation to wake up early and start studying early. Perfect if like me you used to cram everything in 2 weeks.

3. There are lockers at the library and in Students’ House these days. Plus all you need to get with you to University during exam times is a laptop and maybe a book or two anyway.

4. Be at the library early and find a place next to a study buddy. Sure you might not start studying right away but eventually you will both set a schedule and get your priorities right.

5. Now that KSU has introduced the Common Room study area initiative, you have the option to try and study there. It’s 1am, don’t expect to study much, unless you’re used to doing it. If not, you have the option to go home earlier and you know….sleep at home.

6. These days students have far greater choice of restaurants than there was three years ago. With the Health shop, you can at least try to be healthy. A better and cheaper alternative would be two slices of bread from home!

7. At home, you might be tempted to go to so many coffee breaks. Too much coffee isn’t good enough for you anyway and the fact that you have to walk to buy a coffee on campus, makes it an experience. Take a break, go say hi to that girl downstairs, and enjoy the sun for at least a few minutes outside.

8. You might be less tempted to log onto Facebook every two minutes at the library as everyone will start judging you if you do. Some people still do it….but hey it’s your choice.

9. Up for a break? Go for a walk around campus. I know it’s not close to being the most beautiful place on earth but would you go for a walk if you are in your pyjamas at home?

10. Exam time is an experience on Campus. You make new library buddies, get to know your course mates, discover new rooms around campus, and live the University experience for at least a few days.

It’s not for everyone, but it worked for me!

Posted in Opinion

(River of) Love and (Gay) Marriage: parable from a pastor

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It seems as though not only did Gordon Manché not move his clock an hour forward, but his calendar is a day behind, and still showing the first of April (much like KSU’s, it seems). Manché, pastor of the infamous River of Love evangelical group, seems to have had too much seawater to
drink lately, and intends to collect signatures for a petition to block the government’s planned legislation on civil union.

“We want to get the present government’s attention and stress that over 80% of Malta and Gozo do not want the law on gay adoptions and civil unions to go ahead against the majority of the Maltese people’s desire and opinion,” he said in a statement published on MaltaToday. I wonder if
he pulled that figure out of the same hat that he used to convert gay people, or if this is actually a bona fide statistic.

“It is unheard of, in a country where over 80% of the people are against these issues, that people in power continue to press on. This is no longer democracy, but subtle, in-yourface[sic] dictatorship.” I must be honest; this worries me slightly. Our governments are generally either subtly dictatorial or blatantly dictatorial, but if Labour are both… things must be getting bad. Never mind EU law, not even the law of non-contradiction can stand in Joseph’s way!

On a serious note, however – what is intriguing is that both Labour and Manché use recourse to popular opinion to justify their crackpot notions. With Muscat last year, it was the refugee push-back, which did admittedly have the support of a good number of the (subtlym inyour- face) racist pragmatic Maltese population. Now Manché is calling on God with one hand and the (obscure and plain) bigotry piety of a good chunk (or so he claims, but for some reason, I don’t doubt it) of the Maltese population with the other in order to justify what is spewing forth from his sewer of hate (as Ramon Casha aptly put it in the comments section of the same article). Although it might seem comical, and, mind you, to a certain degree it is, there are serious issues at stake, as well as the potential for the setting of some dangerous precedents.

Maltese politics has always had a tendency to trample over minority rights in order to please the majority. Now, it seems, not only do politicians do it, but the Maltese themselves are doing it as well. Both in this case as well as in the case of the proposed spring hunting referendum, not to mention the irregular migration controversy, issues which essentially matter to a minority and which are a question of minority rights are at risk of being decided by majority vote. It is a symptom of the failure of democracy as practised worldwide that political dialogue is all but dead, and issues that matter are decided by being put to the vote, whether direct (as in the case of a referendum) or indirect (as in the case of boot-licking politicians who want to win elections).

There is nothing more totalitarian than the squashing of minority rights. Most people aren’t a fan of River of Love and their nonsense. I wonder how Manché would react in the face of a referendum to have his little hate group shut down.

Read more:

http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/37569/evangelical_pastor_to_present_10000_signatu

res_against_gay_unions

Posted in Opinion