Australians love illegal drugs, please make them safer

poison-1481596_1280.jpgImage by qimono

At some point in our distant evolutionary past, a primate chanced upon a sticky swirl of fermented fruit, and after making the decision to consume it, felt the pleasant effects of a drug for the first time. Much changed over the next few million years, but our collective love for drugs isn’t one of them. Whether it’s the energy-boost from a cup of coffee that releases us from our zombie-like state, the numbing relaxation of a pint of lager that permeates us with ease, or the love-inducing effects of an ecstasy pill whereby we want to hug everybody, many of us adore how drugs make us feel.

Drugs have the ability to make us more productive employees, more likeable people, or seemingly better dancers. They can transform the steady, monotonous thump of a house beat into something wonderfully hypnotising, for which you’ll happily spend five hours dancing to. They can remove the stifling, anxiety-inducing edginess which is ingrained in social interaction, or make a difficult conversation a little easier to handle.

Drugs can also lead you to a sickening addiction that may result in giving alleyway blowjobs, surrounded by scores of needles and scum-filled pools of water. A thunderous techno beat might be the last thing you ever hear if you take too many ecstasy pills. Legal drugs aren’t any better – alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs to withdraw from, creating hallucinations, severe body tremors, and occasionally death. Cigarettes are notoriously tough to quit, and create a cancerous, sticky black tar in the lungs of their smokers.

Drugs can be extremely dangerous when abused, but despite the plethora of information outlining the risks, we take them regardless. This is how much we love them.

Debates are raging in Australia at the moment about the possibility of implementing pill-testing tents at music festivals, offering attendees the chance to discover what their illegal drugs actually contain, and how strong they are. A few months ago, New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian pushed back against the idea, stating the following:

“We do not support a culture that says it is OK to take illegal drugs, and I am worried about the number of people who attend these events who think it is OK to take illegal drugs.” —Gladys Berejiklian

The crux of the problem is this: it doesn’t matter whether the Australian government gives their approval to take illegal drugs, people are going to take them anyway. The fact that there’s a $320 billion dollar black market is proof of this. Until our governments develop some kind of effective mind control, our love of drugs isn’t going to change, and we’ll continue taking them, illegal or not.

Prohibition obviously doesn’t work, it just goes underground and creates a network of crime that governments waste billions battling against. Every single country that has embarked on a war on drugs has failed miserably, not because they lacked the correct strategy, but because people have a strong desire to take drugs. Where there’s a desire, there’s a market.

The government has also tried drug-scare campaigns, which in a comical backfire, have shown to have the complete opposite effect, with people more motivated to take drugs after encountering the campaign. No amount of bodybag or car crash imagery will prevent people from doing what they love. I cannot reiterate this point enough – people will continue to take drugs, regardless of the government’s futile attempts to convince them otherwise. History has proven this point time and time again.

In light of the fact that people are always going to want to take mind-altering, illegal substances, and that convincing them not to take them is a laughable failure, any sane person would surely agree that we should do whatever we can to ensure that their drugs are as safe as possible? Would any politician in their right mind – Gladys Berejiklian included – argue against this point? Can they really continue pushing the astonishingly pathetic, antiquated idea of just say no? People don’t just say no, they just say yes, regardless of the fact that they’re risking death (albeit the tiniest chance) every time that they take them. If you can’t frighten a drug-user with the prospect of their death, you’re not going to frighten them with anything.

Inevitability cannot be fought, so the only sensible solution is to make illegal drugs as safe as possible. Festival drug testing tents have been shown to be an effective way of doing this, simply by giving users more information about their drugs. It’s absolutely astonishing that politicians like Gladys Berejiklian, and NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller, are claiming that it’s a bad thing to know whether your drugs contain a poison that will kill you. This is one of those situations where their arguments are so ridiculous that you half-expect it to be a prank. There’s simply no scenario where life-saving information about your illegal drugs is a bad thing, unless you’re advocating more death, which as bizarre as it sounds, is exactly what people like Gladys Berejiklian and Mick Fuller are doing.

Former police chiefs and politicians (who no are longer concerned about pursuing a career) are calling for decriminalisation. The ambitious NSW premier would never dream of doing this in case she loses voters, but losing drug-users to poisonous pills doesn’t seem to be so much of a problem. The recent spate of drug-related deaths in Australia may not have happened if the victims had access to a service that detected the deadly toxicity in their drugs, or were offered advice from a knowledgable, sympathetic drug-worker.

I don’t believe for a second that Gladys Berejiklian or Mick Fuller actually think that the approval of pill-testing tents will legitimise drug use. They’re just so concerned with damaging their own careers that they’re willing to overlook the mountains of evidence that demonstrates the life-saving capabilities of drug-testing. They can no longer ignore the proof. Unless they want more people to die, it’s time to put aside their selfishness and offer serious legislative support for establishing pill-testing tents at every Australian music festival.

 

The good, the bad, and the ugly of Australia and Britain

Putting aside cultural aspects, Australia and Britain are two wildly different countries. One is an arid, impossibly-sized place, home to only twenty-five million people, and the other is a smallish green area that contains almost three times the number of humans. If a prankster alien gleefully beamed you up and dumped you in the center of Australia, you’re facing two weeks of walking through scorching hot desert to get to the nearest major city. There’ll be little water to saturate your sun-charred body, but you’ll make friends with plenty of kangaroos and brown snakes. If you’re lucky, you might even learn how to box. Finding yourself positioned in the center of the UK would probably mean being in a stranger’s living room, with them politely asking why you’re there. You might even get offered a nice cup of tea. Or you’ll get stabbed.

Modern Australians and Brits are similar in a lot of ways. They look remarkably alike for obvious reasons, enjoy booze perhaps a little too much, and have a sense of humour that is utterly moistureless. You’re not really friends with an Australian or a Brit unless they’ve taken the piss out of you at least once. This kind of jesting is an indication of their developing love for you, and should be welcomed with open arms. Sensitive people probably shouldn’t move to either country. If you’re a Londoner moving to Australia, be prepared to have your chimney-sweep accent roasted hourly, with Dick Van Dyk impressions lumbering painfully through the air. There’s just no escaping it. It’s a small fraction of the joy that comes with living among Australia’s people.

Native Australians – Aborigines – are discussed in either an idiotic racist way, or with a tinge of sadness. As has been the case throughout history across many different continents, white folk with advanced technology have treated the natives in the most appalling and morally corrupt way imaginable, inflicting genocide. For those who are ignorant enough to believe that this happened because they were an inferior race (a suprisingly common viewpoint), you might want to consider reading Jared Diamond’s masterpiece, to learn that there’s many different reasons that Europeans are more advanced, none of them due to genetic superiority. As a result of their ancestors’ treatment, many modern Aborigines find themselves on the lower rungs of society, a position that can be difficult to ascend from. This is perhaps the most depressing part of living in Australia. The faces of Britain are much more diverse, and its people more seemingly tolerant of multicuturalism.

Back to literal sunnier topics – Australian cities receive a rough average of 250 days of sunshine per year, with the United Kingdom getting roughly half of that. You might think that this makes Australia a clear winner, but you quickly adapt to the weather after having been there for a while, and it certainly loses its charm when you’re essentially swimming through the streets in a hundred percent humidity, looking like you’ve just exited a wet t-shirt contest. When it comes to rain, Australian cities vary depending on their location. East-coast Brisbane, for example, gets almost exactly the same amount as the UK – around 1150mm. This usually comes in the form of sudden thunderous downpours though, not incessant, depressing drizzle.

Australia is a land where almost everything seems intent on inflicting damage. Seemingly innocuous birds have spike-tipped wings that they use to slice your head open, if you get close enough to their newly-born chicks. Magpies appear to have flown directly out of hell in order to wreak havoc on skittish cyclists, stalking them for literal kilometers while battering their helmets with their sizeable beaks. Stepping out onto your fresh green lawn in springtime should be undertaken with extreme caution, lest you place your vulnerable foot onto a patch of vengeful bindis. If you’re not sure what a bindi is, think of a small golden sphere armed with a hundred of the sharpest spikes on Earth. They could easily pass as torture weapons. Australia boasts some of the most venomous animals in the world, including the devlish box jellyfish, an invertebrate with a poison so powerful that it sends your body into immediate shock. Most people die before reaching shore. Another noteworthy specimen is the Inland Taipan snake, a danger noodle so ferocious that it can kill an adult in about forty-five minutes. Contrast this with the British fox, a cute bundle of orange fluff that is about as harmless as your arthritic, eighty year-old neighbour Ethel. Or consider the red deer, a regal and majestic be-horned mammal that the Brits allow to run around a London parkland. The most dangerous animal you’re likely to face when wandering around Britain is a local with a drug problem.

On the topic of crime, Australian cities seem to feel much safer than British ones, even though the stats don’t show much difference. Perhaps it’s just the dodgier parts of London that are more dangerous, with their endless high-rise, low income council towers. Adorable stilt-balancing Queenslander houses aren’t quite as menacing. The most upsetting thing to emerge out of one of those is a drunken, maroon-clad rugby fan during State of Origin.

Britain is a clear winner when it comes to overseas holidays, with a huge selection of amazing European destinations just a short flight away. It costs your first-born child to fly somewhere far from Australia, which is why so many Aussies opt for the more economical Bali. On the plus side, New Zealand is closer to Australia than anywhere else, and it happens to be one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places on Earth. Just be prepared for a great deal of confusion whenever a Kiwi opens their mouth to talk to you – if one them tells you that they’re skent, it means they haven’t got any money in their bank account, and they’d like you to purchase them a beer.

The diets of Aussies and Brits are fairly similar, with the former probably taking the trophy for deliciousness. You’ll find chicken “parmy” on most pub menus in Australia – a gigantic chicken breast slathered with tomato sauce and cheese. British pubs usually have a shitty chicken curry that almost certainly hasn’t been prepared by an Indian (you’ll need to go to one of the many superb Indian restaurants for a better version). The seafood in Australia is generally magnificent; prawn lovers should rejoice. Britain conjures up the best Sunday roast dinners, undoubtedly one of the greatest meals of all time. It’s mandatory to stuff an entire gravy-covered Yorkshire pudding into your mouth at once.

Each country is charming in its own way – from the rolling verdant hills of the graceful English countryside, to the impeccably golden and endless beaches of Australia, you’d do well to spend an extended amount of time enjoying the delights of both spectacular places.

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