Friday, December 29, 2006

What think ye of booze?

Hmmm, what we have here is a failure to communicate.

Over at Classical Values, a blog I troll, Eric is on vacation in Spain. He has a guest blogger, Simon of Power and Control, who used the occasion of President Ford's passing as an opportunity to talk about Richard Nixon and the hypocrisy of the War on Drugs. Specifically, according to Simon it's all a big stick with which to cynically batter the Democrats and their dope-smoking base.

You know," Nixon said, " those who use drugs are the protesters. You know, the ones who get caught up in dissent and violence. They're the same group of people."

Nixon said something similar to Haldeman on the Nixon tapes with the additional proviso that he thought pot was no worse than the martini he was drinking.

For Nixon, the drug war was never about drugs. It was a scheme to attack his political opponents based on some cultural characteristic.

Now, reading conspiracy into a Nixon quote is easy, but I think in this case it's incorrect. It occurred to me that this is the usual failure of communication: conservatives and liberals see the world through different eyes, and use words at each other that don't mean the same thing when heard as when spoken.

Conservatives, a label adhering to Nixon despite wage and price controls and foreign policy realism, are distinguished from liberals in several ways, but one of the keys is that conservatives tend to side with the traditional model of things, while liberals tend to want to experiment. Conservatives place a high value on preserving the social order, sticking to standards, and not fixing what ain't broken. Want a conservative on your side? Invoke tradition, and you're well on your way. Liberals see an injust social order, suboptimal standards, and a world crying out for something new and better. Want a liberal ally? Invoke the plight of a disadvantaged group (real or hypothetical, which is why I find it difficult to buy into it all).

Another difference (in the US anyway) is that conservatives tend to model politics on the individual, while liberals model it on groups.

All of this results in liberal seeing "justice" as a part of social change, while conservatives see "justice" as proper enforcement of rules. It also results in conservatives tending to favor alcohol as the drug of choice, while liberals ... are more likely to experiment. Yes, I know there are liberal winos and conservative coke addicts, but this is my blog, and I will paint with broad strokes when I wish.

I'm no fan of the War on Drugs. I think it's largely a waste of time and money, promulgated by both well-meaning and cynical politicians alike. It has given us the abominable property seizure laws, overflowing prisons, an urban culture of lawlessness, and worst of all, hip hop.

That being said, alcohol is woven into the fabric of civilization, and cannot be easily removed. (Islam supplants alcohol by replacing the civilization.) It forms the basis for mating rituals, social interaction, humor, and religious practice.

Consumed in moderation, alcohol has many health benefits, and few side effects.

However, the misuse and abuse of alcohol result in all kinds of problems, both to the individual and those around him. My brother, for instance, is an addict, and anecdotally an abuse metaphor: unable to keep from drinking, he is jobless, can't drive, may soon be homeless, is in poor health, uninsured, divorced, estranged from his daughter, and unable to avail himself of a family education trust. And that's just if you go off the deep end, and don't stop at just wrecking your vehicle or embarrassing yourself at the Christmas party.

Alcohol is not the same as heroin, cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, or inhalants. Banning it involves throwing the baby out with the bathwater; banning the others less so. Whether they should be banned at all is a different matter entirely, but alcohol and other drugs can't be treated equally.

Back on topic: Nixon was aligning himself with tradition, something a conservative does instinctively. So yes, it was about which drug was good and which bad, but it was also about opposing those who would monkey with tradition. To Nixon, that may have been the same thing.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Blog stats

Add to Technorati Favorites