On reflection

Our attitude towards young people drips with hypocrisy

At 45, I am working in what’s widely regarded a young people’s game – the media industry. As such, I am intensely aware of my looming decrepitude and the approaching brow of the hill, no matter how many selfies with my skateboard I take and other youthful shenanigans I pursue. It is not just the media which has a fetish for youth, or, to be precise, for millennials or digital natives, themselves about to be supplanted by the next cohort, Generation K (“named after Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of the Hunger Games, who embodies many of their qualities”). What is so special about those 1990s-born youngsters? We study, promote and extol them as if having only ever known a world in which social media rule gave them a sagacity we, the dying-out analogues, lack. Yet despite this hero worship, this young generation has a tougher time of it than any other since the last world war. Indebted by tuition fees, should they be so optimistic, determined or privileged to go to university, they struggle with poor employment prospects and the prohibitive cost of housing while their parents live off the gains they made while the going was good. Not only that, this generation has grown up with – and been shaped by – “terrorism, technology and anxiety”.


 Arch-survivalist Katniss Everdeen: the embodiment of “Generation K”

This disconnect between perceived cultural leadership and economic suppression is a schizophrenic state of affairs. Perhaps our idolatry masks a guilty conscience. Perhaps it is just a cynical method to flatter them into docility and submission. For what is striking about this youth is its meek acceptance of the status quo. In Brexit Britain, their elders, with self-righteous ruthlessness, have destroyed their future as equal citizens within Europe (two thirds of young people voted Remain). But do we see an outcry, protests of young people marching in the street? While there have been some eruptions (student protests, the Occupy movement), it seems that millennials are more pre-occupied with instagramming their selfies. At the same, they are a practical lot: If there’s no work at home, they cross borders to work as baristas, even if they are woefully over qualified for the job). All this, by the way, is to say nothing of those young people outside Europe, who are even more shockingly disadvantaged. Meanwhile, oldies continue to bolster their position at the expense of their children – one need only look at the primacy of pensioners over young people in the UK. Perhaps the Millennials are merely excercising patience, knowing that what is theirs must eventually come to them by natural causes. If this is true, they may be wiser and more philosophical than I give them credit for.

On reflection

Hitler, Christ and marijuana

Today is 420 day – the 20th of April – and for those who haven’t heard yet, presumably being too busy with their irrelevant jobs, 420 is code for reefer, marijuana, weed, pot, bud, leaf, herb, ganja, smoke. It is also, by the way, the day I was confirmed into my Lutheran faith some thirty years ago: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ was my chosen bible quote, and it’s a message we would all do well to remember as we are asked to hand the inhuman Tory government five more years to f*ck the people. Finally, in a weird coincidence, on this day in 1889 was Adolf Hitler born. As a result it’s quite probable, nay certain, that neo-Nazis gather to commemorate the man who is a hero to the lowest, satanic instincts of humanity while elsewhere, potheads assemble to smoke a joint or two, celebrating peace love and happiness.



But I digress – perhaps fittingly for post about “420”. For isn’t being distracted, inattentive and unfocused the mark of the pothead, the stoner, the Cheech and Chong bong suckers? Yet fret ye not, dear reader, I am possessed of the greatest lucidity and clarity, unencumbered, unpolluted and untainted by any TCH in my bloodstream: the gunk of marijuana doth not clog up the ducts of my brain. It is often said that somehow marijuana encourages creativity but I for one find it hard to see how a brain diminished, befogged or impaired can produce any work of art that requires a sharp intellect. It is also often said that the bud frees up the imagination to roam and chance upon new insights, as rare and precious as gem-stones found in mud. Yet all to often, once the state of intoxication has passed, the self-same ideas, avidly noted down in a near illegible scrawl as if they were other-worldly prophesies, seem banal and obvious: stripped pf their magic.

Perhaps, I grant, this isn’t true of the performing arts, art that happens in the moment such as music or painting. After all, with so may weed references in rap, soul, reggae and hip hop – never mind the well-known weed smoking proclivities of many jazz greats – far it be from me to deny that THC does not fire the imagination for some. I have found the same thing to be true to some degree of alcohol, but the side effects – potentially driving your car off a cliff or into a tree, being vile to your mother, making an arse of yourself in public and possibly catching a blade in the ribs – quite apart from the occasional suicide, never mind a rotting liver and brain – gave cause to me to forego this toxic tonic.

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Be that as it may, 420 has become quite the thing in popular culture. There are whole Instagram accounts dedicated to smokers’ selfies, including those of sexy, blunt-puffing chicks (do weed and sex go together?). Viceland, ever eager to show how down with the kids they are, have dedicated a whole week’s programming to the herb, even advertising their programmes with a massive spliff on a billboard in London’s Shaftesbury avenue. In places were it’s legal, celebrities talk quite openly for their love of the herb, while in places like the UK it’s all nod-nod, wink-wink – as is the case with most illicit drug consumption. The fact that weed is illegal makes it only cooler – especially as there is o real risk of suffering any consequences with the law in practice (even though the police have warned against smoking grass upon the grass today). Not only that, even Trump’s Homeland Secretary John Kelly says that weed is not a priority in the war on drugs. How times have changed!

Once, weed used to be demonised as a drug that would send people into axe-murder frenzies, taken by “otherised” groups such as Mexicans and African-Americans. Thus there has always been a racist dimension to the outlawing of the drug and, what’s even worse, the starkly unequal enforcement of drug laws. So we have come a long way indeed. Far from making the populace unruly, weed has a way of mellowing the taker out. As such, its use should be positively encouraged by all those whose political rule relies on a “meh, who cares” attitude. There might be plenty of grounds for a revolution but I have a feeling that the stoner will be just too mellow to go out into the streets and torch the local McDonald’s (especially since this is much-needed to sate one’s hunger when overcoming the munchiesTM). So, Theresa May, what are you waiting for?

The growing acceptability of weed – the admission of its relative harmlessness and low potential for addictiveness – has even led to some new thinking in recovery circles. Only recently it has been reported in the news that a weed-based rehab has opened in LA. Here, the idea is to wean addicts off much more harmful substances such as crystal meth and heroin. 12-Step purists will see this as heresy; far from solving the problem, this is seen as merely replacing one problem with another. To which objection the “harm reduction” school of addiction treatment would reply, better a small, manageable issue than a lethal and utterly destructive addiction. Yes, these may “only” be differences of degree – but if they choice is between a numb ache and raging pain, such differences may constitute the the difference between life and death.

There is no reason to assume that the 12-Step-Movement – the likes of AA and NA – will mollify their fundamental opposition to “soft” drugs or any time soon, even though in parts of the US, marijuana is now – in some cases – classed as medicine. Even if they wanted to, officially changing accepted doctrine is well-nigh impossible, requiring the consent of an obscure conference. Famously, AA founder Bill Wilson found this to his cost when he experimented with LSD as a cure for depression in the 60s – and was promptly shot down by the group’s elders.

Be that as it may, on this day, 20 April 2017, marijuana is more accepted than ever before – and whether you smoke or not, for anyone who cares about fairness in our judicial system and the freedom of individuals to do as they please so long as they do not harm anyone else, that surely is a good thing.