Politics rather than ‘war’ as answer to drug problem

31 12 2012

I want to talk about the drug war, making clear what I take to be at stake in it and make a case for decriminalization, legalization, and regulation. It has been over-moralized and under-politicized, so I want to start by talking about politics in general and then talk about the political calculations regarding illegal drugs.

The regulation of human behavior is the core of politics. Any politics worthy of the name commits itself to creating an environment in which people can thrive. Politial debates and struggles revolve around how broadly politics reaches, who thrives and why. The question of reach is important because with regulation comes the possibility of violating that regulation and the need for authorities to deal with those violations. Especially where those violations are defined as a threat to the welfare of the people to whom the politics are committed, i.e., defined as a crime, they must be dealt with firmly. Because that demands resources, what a society chooses to criminalize needs to be carefully considered and its consequences weighed.

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The Future is Killing Us

24 12 2012

On a whim, I watched the first couple of episodes of the new (and final) season of Fringe. I didn’t stick with the show, but I keep thinking about the premise–the future is killing the present. It’s development in the show is simple and pulpy–scientists from the future invade to transform it into a toxic mess suitable to their needs!–but has this kernel of symbolic truth I can’t shake. While we don’t have evil future scientists invading, we are suffering from the future, being slowly suffocated by the future.

I don’t mean the actual future, but our fantasies of the future that drive us to overlook and ignore the costs of rapid technical progress. Fringe juxtaposes the clean and magical seeming technical facilities of the invaders with the crumbling urban landscape where most everyone else lives. Think about how far removed the factories that produce computers and kindles are from the wealthy U.S. that consumes so many of those products. The future promised by these devices looks so clean because the damage done producing them occurs out of sight and what Fringe has done is situate that conflict in the heart of our ‘clean’ world. Compare this to the world of forty-two years ago, when the writers of Dr. Who could easily imagine the dangerous factory on British soil in The Spearhead from Space.

It isn’t the fiction but the concept that sticks with me. We have spent so much effort rushing toward some idea of the future that is faster, closer, bigger, more, that we have let ourselves overlook how destructive that pursuit has become. It’s easy to think about the struggles we face now with climate change, but the process began some time ago. Here, too, Fringe is clever–the scientists from the future dress like men from the 1950s, which is when things started going wrong. Innocent efforts to bring poorer countries into the modern world, led to ‘modern’ agricultural projects throughout the Third World which, instead of bringing wealth, brought disastrous shortages and famines. It turns out the ‘future’ hadn’t quite realized that agriculture isn’t a one-size fits all affair and that the varieties of agricultural practice found throughout the Third World were often well-suited to local ecologies.

This is all well-trod ground, so I won’t dwell more on it.

Chains, Webs, and Soups

12 09 2012

A few weeks ago, a friend forwarded this article about a bacterial infection spreading through the water pipes of a hospital. It is eye-opening on a lot of levels, not the least of which includes the increasing danger hospitals may pose to health as more and more antibiotic resistant forms of bacteria develop. I’ll leave that particular issue for others, though, and focus on something else.

In response to the article, another friend grimly joked that this was just bacteria reminding us who was at the top of the food chain. The food chain bit was just a joke, but it made me realize how deeply embedded that concept of the food chain was and how poorly it captured what was going on. It’s a soup, I thought. It’s the bacteria reminding us that our food chain is in their soup.

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Marxism and Nature, Critique and Anthropology

29 08 2012

This post begins in two disparate observations, but comes together around a common issue. The first observation is that there is a common misreading of Marx that portrays him as believing that nature has no value in and of itself. The second observation is that efforts to justify anthropology’s distinctiveness as a discipline are terribly unpersuasive to me. These two observations bring me to discuss what constitutes an intellectual discipline. I’ll talk about the two observations first, which should make clear how they lead me to the issue of justifying a discipline.

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Dinosaurs, Entropy, and Hope

11 08 2012

I have been reading a bit of John Michael Greer of late–first his blog (see my blogroll over on the sidebar), then The Ecotechnic Future, and now The Wealth of Nature. It is all good stuff: thought-provoking as well as a sort of call to moral and practical action. I imagine I will talk more about that as I digest it more thoroughly, but at the moment all the talk about the laws of thermodynamics makes me want to tell my own favorite laws of thermodynamics story.

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[Religious Types 18] Vision, Pattern, Archetype in Proper Relation?

3 08 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

I ended the last post looking to speculate about the proper relationship between visionary experience and more intellectual work. Looking at Jung in particular, I realize that is likely to look a little presumptive; Jung was no fool and he was surely doing what he thought best.

I don’t mean to imply either. Jung didn’t have the intellectual tools at his disposal to negotiate his experience, so he had to make them himself. I can be critical and think differently in part because I have Jung’s life and work to study. It is Jung that makes a critical assessment possible and I don’t undervalue the intellectual labor that entailed.

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Collapse Contagion?

30 07 2012

This isn’t anything deep; I’m just thinking out loud about decline preparations and the difficulties of a faster collapse scenario. I first stumbled across this piece on collapse contagion while reading through the comments to a recent post on The Archdruid Report. Greer’s subsequent post addresses well the issues with taking the most dramatic forecasts too seriously while still acknowledging its overall acuity. Both the original report and Greer’s response are sharp and detailed enough that I will summarize only a little bit and encourage folks to read it all for themselves.

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