Do not decriminalise drugs.

So I know this is a little bit different to what I normally post about, but I recently wrote this article for my Universities newspaper and I thought that I would post it on here too. A reference site for my work. If people like this then please let me know and I can also post more news articles and not just my literary reviews.

just-say-no

Let the legislation be.

12 million people in England and Wales have tried an illegal drug in their lifetime. Based on the current policy in the UK, those persons found in possession of an illegal drug are liable for prosecution but may also be offered treatment for any dependency issues they may have. This policy is working: drug rates are at their lowest since 1996. So to me, it seems absurd to decriminalise drugs. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The proposal, by activists campaigning to make drugs legal, to organise a Royal Commission seems in itself to be a waste of time and money. Theresa May has made it clear that “a royal commission is simply not necessary” as the government has “no intention of decriminalising drugs”. It would make far more sense to invest that money into further rehabilitation for drug addicts and expand the treatment programme. The purpose of the commission was to investigate the methods executed in other countries in order to tackle drug problems. Portugal has decided that possession of a small quantity of illegal drugs will no longer be deemed as a criminal offense as long as those caught in possession enter programs which will dissuade them from future usage. Similarly in the American States of Colorado and Washington cannabis has been legalised. The study would consider these new policies as well as other approaches and determine whether something similar could be implemented and be beneficial for Britain.

But why should we decriminalise drugs? If our current approach is producing the results that it set out to achieve then it would be erroneous to make changes.

Legalising drugs would prevent drug addicts from being prosecuted for doing what they enjoy doing. But this is not the entire problem. Often drugs and crime go hand in hand. The lengths to which some people go to possess drugs can include theft or burglary of family or strangers which can often leave distressing effects in its wake. That need to take more drugs can have devastating impacts on families and communities; destroying relationships and the individual’s life. This impact is often highly underestimated, with quality of life on a sharp downward curve and the drug user left in a state of incapacity. If the drugs that are able to cause so much harm to people were legalised, it would only enable those who are addicted to them to be able to acquire them more easily and potentially more frequently.

Currently, “the number of heroin and crack cocaine users in England has fallen below 300,000 for the first time.” Something is working. These statistics are also supported by the lack of recurring drug users. The focus on treatment has enabled rates to drop because the services have widened and received more funding, allowing a greater majority of people affected by drugs to be treated for their drug related issues. For every £1 taxpayers spend on drug treatment they save £2.50 on reduced crime and lower costs to the NHS, says the National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse. Local communities and families have benefited hugely because of the current approach to dealing with drugs. If they were to be decriminalised, or at least some of them, would this not pose a threat to these impressive statistics? The current policy is working, why change it?

12,320 18-24 year olds required treatment for crack or heroine in 2005/6 compared to 4,690 young people in 2011/12. If even more money was invested into this worthwhile treatment programme then these statistics would not only maintain their impressive position but potentially decrease further. Decriminalising drugs may cause a relapse in the downward curve of reoffenders and addicts, which would impose more pain onto their families and communities. Sanctioning an unhealthy lifestyle by legalising weaker drugs will not make those who are currently under the influence take lesser quantities because it will be less ‘cool’. Surely it would only make their availability increase. Decriminalisation will only result in a drug high and those once impressive statistics will be lost in the smoke.

Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

America. Alienation. Adolescence. These three words, to me, seem to summarise The Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger’s only full length novel focuses on the troubles and difficulties of growing up and the desire to belong whilst maintaining ones own identity.

The protagonist Holden Caulfield leaves his school after realising that he is unhappy being surrounded by people he doesn’t like because of their annoying personal habits or their outlook on life. Phonies. Phonies is the go-to word of the narrator. Adults that he meets whilst spending time in New York city drinking, smoking or just generally wandering the cold winter streets are phonies. They are superficial products of the post second world war society. The worst part for Holden is that everyone is unable to realise their phoniness. Even sadder is the fact that Holden doesn’t realise that he is a phony himself. His compulsive need to lie and the speed at which he disregards people because of this highlights the phoniness that is present in the world.

Holden is both alienated and alienates. He is unwilling to grow up and take that final step into the adult world, like a traditional bildungsroman. He also refuses to like various characters in the book because of their artificial qualities. He also alienates himself because relationships confuse him. Opportunities for emotional and physical relationships present themselves to Holden throughout the novel but he inevitably declines because he wants to remain individual and apart from the norm.

The Catcher in the Rye

I think it this that has left The Catcher in the Rye with such a legacy. But also a universality. So many people can relate to Holden as a character. He is just one small person trying to be himself in a world full of phoniness and change. His fascination with the natural history museum shows how isolated and alone Holden both is and likes to be. The creatures frozen in time haven’t changed since he was young and this is one of the only static elements of the novel.

In a world that is rapidly developing, with technological advances and a booming economy, there is no time to build up the intimate relationships that Holden believes should exist. His romantic view of the world is outdated and again he prevents himself from belonging. Sex is prevalent throughout the novel, with his need to lose his virginity and his apparent interest in it. Holden is a product of this changing society. He wants to lose his virginity to someone he respects and loves but is also aroused by people he doesn’t care for and considers stupid.

It is this inability to grasp the world which makes the character of Holden so relatable. Although the reasoning behind his self-alienation and inability to connect with the real world is unique to him, I feel that I can relate to him as a character. The social pressure to belong in a constantly moving, changing, growing world is something which cannot be done without trouble. Everyone has problems. Some people are just better adjusted at coping with them than others.

Phonies

Review: Poem: A la Recherche de Gertrude Stein by Frank O’Hara

After three weeks of administrative failure on the part of the school of English, I finally had a lecture on Wednesday. I didn’t really know what to expect from Frank O’Hara. I hadn’t heard of him until last week, and I think this was kind of the point of his work. Poetry for poetry’s sake. Not writing with the intention of creating a masterpiece and achieving world acclaim. But for enjoyment, to show appreciation for the moment. It was this which interested me.

Poem: A la Recherche de Gertrude Stein is fantastic. Read it as if one is talking intimately to a loved one. It is a spontaneous overflow of emotions and so needs to be read in a breathless frenzy to really understand it.

When I am feeling depressed and anxious sullen
all you have to do is take your clothes off
and all is wiped away revealing life’s tenderness
that we are flesh and breathe and are near us
as you are really as you are I become as I
really am alive and knowing vaguely what is
and what is important to me above the intrusions
of incident and accidental relationships
which have nothing to do with my life

when I am in your presence I feel life is strong
and will defeat all its enemies and all of mine
and all of yours in you and mine in me
sick logic and feeble reasoning are cured
by the perfect symmetry of your arms and legs
spread out making an eternal circle together
creating a golden pillar beside the Atlantic
the faint line of hair dividing your torso
gives my mind rest and emotions their release
into the infinite air where since once we are
together we always will be in this life come what may

The breathlessness that the poem creates is evidence of breathtakingness. A lack of punctuation makes it harder to read without breath  and pauses. Passionate overflow of uncontrollable emotion. The use of simple language does not make it less poetic and babyish like some have criticised. To me it helps to recreate that isolated moment, with the two bodies lying next to each other are the only people in the world. Their nakedness is a reflection of both a literal lack of clothes but also they are so comfortable with each other, they have stripped away any shields. They have pulled down their protective guard.

Again, I reiterate my point. Amazing.

Any Couple

Any Couple.

Review: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels is a classic novel. First published in 1726 it addresses political issues that were prevalent in Britain and also Europe, with particular focus on the corruption of society and the treatment of individuals. This political satire is intended to be funny. Lemuel Gulliver, the narrator and central figure, was a travel writer whom Swift created entirely, with a family back story which could have been supported by evidence and also a note from the publisher explaining why there is a lack of precise geographical locations in the text. Swift intended this text to be read as a factual travel document. Not long before this was published, Robinson Crusoe had been written and this was again, written as a travel document because it was a genre that would interest ordinary people. Ordinary working people, unless in the navy, would not have possessed the means to travel and so the only way that they could escape to these exotic places was for them to read travel documents.

With this in mind I feel that it is easier to consider the text as a satire on the early eighteenth century European society. The foreign lands that Gulliver visits are exciting and new, whilst at the same time bearing resemblances to their home. The visits to Broadbingnang, Lilliput and Laputa offer new ideas and people to be expressed whilst also subtlely criticising European society. The fighting over petty issues like the Big-Endians and the Little-Endians in Lilliput, which end of the egg should you use to break it, is an example of how trivial and often insignificant conflicts can be. Which is a reflection of Europe in the eighteenth century.

Gulliver's Travels Cover from the first publication

But for me the most poignant fictional country that Gulliver visits is the unknown island inhabited by the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos. I enjoyed this section the most because it was the only one, I felt, in which Gulliver was not treated as a Demi-God, Emperor, or a figure of extreme power and self-worth. If anything he was seen as nothing more than a yahoo, a brutish human-like creature but who considered himself to be sophisticated. A noble savage. I just did not like Gulliver as either a character or a narrator. He seemed to resemble all the arrogance, power and patriarchy that Swift himself was satirising. I would perhaps go so far as to say that Gulliver was misogynistic, particularly with the way he discusses women that he meets in the different societies. They are sexualised, objectified and generally inferior to those around them. Granted that this was written just under 300 years ago in a patriarchal society and there have been many feminist readings of the text, I still felt that there was just something, an aspect, that I couldn’t quite accept.

I cannot criticise the entire work however, because the ideas and concepts present in the text are fantastic. The floating island of Laputa and the experiments described in the Academy of Science seem to fill the text with hope. The attempts to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants, to me seemed to be an example of optimism for the future. That despite all the troubles and tribalism between nations, that the dream of a paradise exists. But again this dream of a perfect society is comprimised because none of the experiments in the society work, are useful to everyday working people and as a result living conditions in Laputa are awful. Furthermore, the irony that this is juxtaposed by the island of Laputa literally enforcing its dominance on the country below by threatening to crush them with their heavy floating island if they do not conform and agree to the demands of Laputa, takes away from the utopian concept a bit.

Which brings me back to my initial response to the text. It is interesting, no doubt about that. But I think that this is as far as I can go. I am unsure if entirely like it as a novel but I appreciate what Swift has attempted to do. His description of imaginary places (which even at times I found difficult and irksome to read. The vast quantity of description in the novel just made it even harder for me to engage with Gulliver as a narrator) which are at the same time majestic, mythical and fantastic are also full of corruption is a reflection of his contemporary society. But also a reflection of our modern day society too, so I guess this novel still has an impact with its question on morality and power.

Review: Friedrich Durrenmatt’s The Visit

I was sceptical at first about reading a translated play, purely because sometimes words are not translated correctly and the text can lose some of the fluidity that it would have in its natural language. Furthermore the choice of words and their meaning will differ between languages and so this can often cause the text to lose some of its depth.

However, The Visit for me gained depth because it had been translated, and helped to highlight the intention of Durrenmatt to create a universal setting. The play is set in the town of Guellen which is a run-down place after the Second World War. This comedy focuses on the lives of Alfred Ill and Claire Zachanassian and her ability to manipulate all those who love Ill with her power and wealth. Although intended to be a comedy the dark and often grotesque themes that run throughout make it appear more as a tragicomedy in my opinion.

Durrenmatt

The question about being able to buy justice is a very disturbing idea. Claire asks the townsfolk if she can buy herself justice after she was abandoned pregnant while Ill was able to create a proper life for him and his new family. Claire on the other hand was forced into prostitution and a life she would not have chosen for herself. When she returns to Guellen with substantial money and power she is able to dehumanize men as she pleases, castrate those who wronged her in the past and ultimately buying herself justice. The lack of active characters also leads the audience to question the role of the institutions in the town because they remain passive and highlight moneys ability to corrupt. The minor characters have been named by their profession: Schoolmaster, Butler, Mayor, Priest etc which shows both their unanimity and also their passivity.

Despite these heavy themes prevalent throughout the play, it is essentially intended to be a comedy. It is very funny. The rhyming of characters names Toby, Loby, Koby and Roby let the audience laugh in between the sinister outbursts. Claire’s treatment of her new husbands also offers a high point, with them being called Husband VI or Husband VII.

This play is great. The way Durrenmatt deals with these controversial but highly apparent issues of Women’s rights, Prostitution and overall the desire for money is so unique. I love his writing style because it is both tragic and comedic simultaneously without making the audience feel like they are watching a tennis match.

The Visit 1964

I highly recommend this play, particularly to anybody who has delved into the world of translated texts. Or even if they have not read anything that was written by a less famous playwright. This play is not to be missed.

First Post. Great.

If I am completely honest, I am not really sure how to do this. I never caught onto the tumblr or instagram trends and so this all seems to be slightly odd. I sometimes even struggle just to tweet. But the writing part, the writing is fun. That is what I enjoy. I am not even really writing about anything particularly interesting, and so apologies to any of you that happen to come across this post, but this is my first attempt and I hope you will be considerate enough to let me off the hook this one time.

So to get started why not start with a classic? Weather. If I look out of my window to the world outside it actually would create a sense of one being in a paradox. To the left there is a ominous looking pale grey cloud, which unsurprisingly (although surprisingly considering it is the middle of March) it is snowing. Snowing tiny little fluffy flakes. To the right in comparison, is a lovely blue sky with rays bursting through the clouds and glaring onto my laptop screen to the extent that it is making this a little difficult to write clearly. How annoying.

But if life progressed the way you intended it to then where would the excitement originate from? The importance of novelty is paramount in everybody’s lives. The necessity for spontaneity to exist is vital to ensure that you don’t stay on that mud-ridden track for the rest of your life. This idea of time progressing is one that needs to be understood, the past is history. Fact. It is the only thing that we can be certain of. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fantastically over-quoted last line of The Great Gatsby “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Love.

Love.

In any case, I promise that my second post will be far more enlightening than this one on how confusing the Great British weather has been recently.