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The reality of Manus Island

By Behrouz Boochani

This is my answer to Peter Michael whose article (now behind a paywall) in The Herald Sun quoted Immigration Minister Peter Dutton: “MANUS Island asylum seekers are trading taxpayer-funded cigarettes on the black market to pay for ­alcohol, electronics and ­marijuana.”

In the Manus prison, a skinny man with a pale and petrified face is leaning against the wall of a completely empty room in SAA solitary confinement. Deep down, he feels utterly hopeless while biting his nails. This man who has been kept in the prison for nearly three years and has lost 30 kilograms of his weight was recently transferred into the solitary confinement at his own request. He could not endure the drowsiness of marijuana anymore and had desperately pleaded to the officers to provide him with marijuana. Until recently, this solitary confinement was called the Green Zone.

A few meters away, at Foxtrot compound, a young man is collecting the cigarette butts spread over the mass of soil next to the dirty toilets of the prison, in order to roll them in paper and suck in the smoke. He is also addicted to marijuana and does not have any cigarettes to smoke. There are many like this vanquished and addicted man in the quadrangle of Manus prisons. In other words, they are experiencing a life similar to persons sleeping in cardboard, people who have inadvertently become slaves to addiction and are unable to live without marijuana in the cruel and harsh atmosphere of the prison.

The life of these forgotten men in this place reflects a crisis of silence; and the dominance of this crisis over the prison develops everyday, threatening the lives of this group of people in an even more apparent way.

Everything, however, refers to the weekly shopping points. If a person receives a double positive decision, which means, at the first stage he is recognized a refugee and at the second stage the Papua New Guinea accepts his resettlement in the country, his weekly points are cut. These refugees who are, at the moment, 450 people are loath to leave the prison and resettle in this country. They do not want to risk their lives in PNG as all they have seen, experienced and been taught so far is that this country has a tribe-like atmosphere where kinship ties demand allegiances that exclude ‘others’ and where safety is at its lowest possible level.

This policy precludes people from buying cigarettes and telephone cards; and also causes them to experience blatant discrimination and additional pressure. The other point is, according to this policy this group of people has practically become dependent on the others. In order to force refugees to live in PNG, the authorities make them reliant upon other prisoners. This discriminatory policy has had serious repercussion for refugees who smoke cigarettes and marijuana as they make every endeavour to provide them with substances to smoke. Apart from that, a cigarette in the prison effectively plays the role of money and makes it possible for people who do not smoke to receive many of their needs in return for cigarettes from the local officers who smuggle many goods into the prison. An obvious business is carried on by people who do not have anything other than some cigarettes in the small city of Lorengau – just twenty kilometers away from the prison. Those who have cigarettes buy different kinds of T-shirt, mp3, perfume, cups and many other small objects. This has formed economic class divisions over the course of time in this prison. Additionally, when a prisoner has bought everything he needs, he usually exchanges his cigarettes for little sums of money. Currently, many people have access to money at this hellhole; however, the amount of money is not much.

On the contrary, those who smoke cigarette and marijuana have nothing, no possessions. They are not even able to buy a telephone card to call their families. Since this policy was implemented last year, the deprived prisoners, those who cannot buy cigarettes and telephone cards, have sold their shoes, clothes, dictionaries, MP3s, and other useful possessions to the rest who still have cigarettes. Accordingly, they have become like people with nothing, like wanderers sleeping in cardboard

There is a relevant question. Why are the rest of the prisoners not assisting and supporting the deprived ones? The answer is clear. Despite the fact that they had helped their fellow detainees on various occasions in buying cigarettes or telephone cards, it is within the bounds of possibility that sooner or later, the same destiny lies before them. By receiving the double positive decision, they will too will be deprived of the weekly points; hence, every single wise person in their shoes would save his cigarettes so as to be able to smoke or speak with his family; particularly those who are a father and need to always know how their family is doing.

Here in this prison I know some prisoners who have not spoken even once with their families for nearly a year. Similarly, I know a number of men selling their rooms and beds to have marijuana. Some addicts prefer to smoke marijuana even at the price of living in crowded rooms. Therefore, they sell their rooms to people seeking a quieter and cleaner place in return for cigarettes.

Sexual abuse incidents and slavery cases have also been heard of where people use the supplicants, in practice, as slaves to carry out their personal work such as washing their clothes, getting food for them, etc. This rampant corruption has even spilled over into the kitchen. By paying with cigarette to the kitchen staff, many have milk, nuts, juice and snacks in their rooms. On the contrary, many others have limited access to quality food, as they do not have any cigarettes to offer.

Another vital question to ask is why Broadspectrum (Transfield) turns a blind eye to the catastrophic consequences of this policy. The response is crystal clear: With this policy, Transfield kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the company exerts mounting pressure on the refugees to make them resettle in the island; and on the other hand, this policy yields an excess economic profit for the company since there is a close correlation between the economic profit and the number of people attending various classes and engaging in sports activities. To clarify, if a person participates more often in activities, he can buy more cigarettes. A kind of direct relationship has formed between cigarettes and the activities in the prison. This relationship has caused classes to be busier, and the dirty ground of the prison full of people who are forced to run for a few minutes everyday to receive points and eventually, cigarettes. As a result of an increase in numbers of people engaging in the activities, Transfield has recruited dozens of teachers and trainers these days that bring about ambusiness boom for this company. In fact, if the refugees decide to impose a sanction against all the activities one day, the first loser will be the Transfield company; the company which develops its business more than before through cutting the weekly points of 450 people. In this scenario, Transfield will be compelled to dismiss its employees, similar to what occurred during the big hunger strike in January last year, when the company sustained heavy financial losses.

Prison is a filthy and inhuman place. It can cause people to be on the verge of distrust and hatred of fellow beings. For those who have experienced prison, an accepted reality is that a prisoner needs to reduce their dependence on the others; otherwise, he will simply become a tool in the hands of jailers and anyone else. A dependent person becomes like a slave.

What should be emphasized is that what has happened in the Manus prison is the collapse of social relationships and moral values through bringing cigarettes in the form, not only a consuming object, but more importantly as a functional tool that plays the role of money. A prisoner has very basic needs, and sometimes, having a simple cup could be a manifestation of power. The operating system in the prison engenders distrust in social relationships among the prisoners that leads to humiliation, pessimism, anxiety and ethical collapse. In short, these days at the Manus prison, the cigarette is used “as an element of control and domination”. At the moment, the authorities fear a public protest, even a peaceful one, being mounted.

By cutting the weekly points of half of the population, the authorities have created division between the detainees. Whereby, unlike before, they have been split into various groups. The prisoners are also aware of the fact that they do not have the previous sense of unity and, more than ever, they have become too weak and too obedient to confront this system that has stripped them of all human dignity and whatever they had as a human. There is no doubt that the cause of this division, rift, and even hostility is the discrimination that dominates the small society of this prison.

manus This article was originally published on Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites.

Behrouz Boochani is an Iranian journalist and writer currently detained on Manus Island.

 

 

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62 comments

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  1. Annie B

    An interesting and well formed article Behrouz. ….

    It is an alarming article, as it shows the prison tactics ( tactics that apply all over the world in prisons of any calibre ) … to be alive on Manus Island. But that is what happens when groups are shoved together with no reasonable hope that they will have a hearing or get out of their incarceration.

    As for cigarettes … they have long been held as some form of ‘ money ‘ in prisons …. and how much of that goes on at these detention centres is debatable. It would not surprise me that what you have said is so – but at the same time, there are many other bartering exercises that take place in prisons or detention of any form. People want to survive, and seek the best ways to do so. That can entail just about anything ( without going into sordid details ).

    The bottom line is : …. these hell holes should not exist. Not for any reason. The current Government is too lazy or too self interested, to put in the time and effort that would be required to bring them to Australia, teach them our ways of life, have them learn our language, and also to define whether they can or cannot be permitted to stay here. ( there would be some who are suspect through health issues, background etc. – it is virtually impossible to have a 100% perfection of refugees entitled to stay in any place ).

    Showing a lot of guts there Behrouz, in bringing this subject to the fore.

    …………

  2. Florence nee Fedup

    One wonders why TV are not provided. After all they are basic and cheap. Not a luxury in this day and age.

  3. Terry2

    Thank you Behrouz.

    I see that yet again the coalition have trotted out their scare campaign on asylum seekers right on schedule . What hope is there of any rational or balanced discussion when you have this sort of base mentality governing the discourse.

    Dutton had been wheeled out to spin his own particular brand of xenophobia , dog whistling the lowest instincts in our society about non-English speaking people coming here and bludging on Medicare and unemployment benefits.

    My wife’s father taught English, in our more enlightened post war years, at the Wacol migrant centre outside Brisbane. Several of his students went on to contribute significantly to our society and were always grateful for the opportunities given to them by a more compassionate and humane Australia.

    At one time I lived in what is now Dutton’s seat of Dickson and I cannot imagine the good folk in that area of Northern Brisbane having become, over the intervening years, so bigoted that they would re-elect this toad.

  4. Johnathan123

    There is a (more) relevant question, why are the local officers who smuggle so many goods into the prison permitted to do so and since when has marijuana been soon horribly addictive? Could it be possible a country (that) has a tribe-like atmosphere where kinship ties demand allegiances that exclude ‘others also be a humane way of protecting their wives from possible pack rape and their boys being sodomised in the local public swimming pool?

  5. ImagiNation

    Nearly all refugee are a by-product of US wars of aggression and there is no way of telling who is a genuine refugee and who is a terrorist. History has proven Muslims don’t assimilate and terrorists are active only in countries that have aligned with the US. Australia has no natural enemies other than the ones we create and the US takes very few refugees. The solutions are rather obvious are they not?

  6. Mercurial

    “Addicted” to marijuana (cannabis)? How on earth do you know that?

  7. regalcrime

    It might help some readers to understand the existential problems facing our society today by replacing the word “tobacco” with blanket, and “cannabis” with the word pillow in this article.

    The elite’s (and politicians’) addiction to the morbid practices of mercenary “security” corporations, and ‘legal’ pharmaceutical cocktail drugs, is humanity’s greatest failure.

  8. Annie B

    @ Mercurial and Johnathan123 :

    I too wondered at the references to ‘addiction to marijuana’ in this article … but I took it to mean, that the weed can in fact make life more bearable, because of its ability to remove sadness and replace it with a happy-go-lucky feeling for a little while. However, it does NOT always work that way.

    It is not addictive in and of itself, like tobacco is ( mostly ) or alcohol can become. Not sure why he introduced the subject of marijuana in the first place.

    Cigarettes ? – yes, a common bartering tool in prisons. Rather think some of the local officers smuggle a variety of items to prisoners, to make their own jobs a lot more easy, and to initiate a dependence on the officers – by having prisoners behave themselves, and thus being given the goodies. Just a thought.

    …….

  9. Annie B

    @ ImagiNation –

    I beg to differ …. many Muslims integrate very well into Western society ( here specifically ) …. however, some do not. It is rather like Greek and Italian people, when they first arrived here – who would not give up their native tongue, stuck very closely in their own family / friend groups, shunned the friendly advances made by caucasian people … and this goes back many decades.

    Now look at those people – a very big % of Italian and Greek immigrants, have joined our society with great gusto. They are proud to speak English while keeping their mother tongue, proud to share their extraordinary culinary delights with us, happy to give out recipes etc. etc. …. and have run, and still run – very successful businesses here. ….. BUT, it took a long while to get to this happier state of affairs.

    Muslims ( here ) are ‘newer’ ( for want of a better word ) …. and it will take them just as long. When they realise, as other immigrants have, that they do not have to invalidate their own identities, backgrounds, customs, and places of birth, they will come out into the open, more than they do at present.

    History may have proven this and that, but history speaks of the past. But point taken – it is mostly a result of U.S. aggression that has people running for cover, and ultimately becoming refugees.

    Guess we can only hope that aggression is dumped into the past also. Have a sneaking suspicion it won’t happen ….. not for a very long time.

  10. Terry2

    jimhaz

    The similarities between Nauru/Manus and the movie Papillon are eerie.

    At the end of the movie, as I recall, Papillon (Steve McQueen) makes the dash for freedom on a homemade raft but Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman) is too broken in mind, spirit and body to follow him.

    I guess it is Peter Dutton’s gameplan to similarly destroy these people if they don’t first commit suicide.

    How did we get to this ?

  11. Miriam English

    Johnathan123, “a tribe-like atmosphere where kinship ties demand allegiances that exclude ‘others also be a humane way of protecting their wives from possible pack rape and their boys being sodomised in the local public swimming pool”

    I’m not quite sure what point you thought you were making there, but surely you are aware that almost all rapes and violent crimes are committed by people related to the victim. Stranger danger is mostly a myth.

  12. Miriam English

    Behrouz Boochani, a courageous and worrying glimpse inside the hopelessness of those awful places. Thank you. Hang in there. Many of us are trying hard to get those places closed down so you can come here and be safe.

  13. jimhaz

    [The similarities between Nauru/Manus and the movie Papillon are eerie]

    When that guy set fire to himself, I started to think Gosh it must really be bad there, more than just boredom, it must really be some sort of Devil’s island.

    [How did we get to this?]

    It is in the nature of the religious to seek to control the lives of others whenever they can. Combine this with the nepotism of political parties and one ends up with a Third Reich team.

    That said, I’m on both sides of the fence on this issue. I agree with the fundamental policies to prevent smuggling, but disagree entirely with the methods and hardness of the LNP implementation. I guess what I am saying is that similar policies are required but they need to be managed by the ALP. I just think we can relax the policy to set time limits on detention and provide them with better facilities and more to do on at the centres, particularly seeing the immense cost per detainee.

    I find this is a lot different to Vietnam and Chinese refugees where we were proper world citizens. The problem is the smuggling organisation systems that seem to rapidly ramp up the numbers these days.

  14. Johnathan123

    Miriam English perhaps you are unaware of what has been happening in Europe.

  15. ImagiNation

    Annie B an interesting theory. Just one question though. When the Italians and Greeks arrived in Australia, how many mosques did they build, how many Italian/Greek only schools did they open and how many continuously petition the federal government to implement their own (sharia) law?

  16. ImagiNation

    Not to mention their own financial system Rudd introduced…

  17. Florence nee Fedup

    When the Greeks and Italians arrived, they face exactly same outcry we have today. They were different. They married their girls as kids They smelt. Undermined jobs. Of course were roman catholics and would breed like rabbits,

    In my seventies, I sit back and smile. Rach wave migration got same welcome. Even the words remain the same.

    I still remember the way Irish were treated. Banned from many jobs, catholic school kids bullied.

    Sorry, being Muslims makes little difference. First to come, were Lebaron Christians who weren’t given any different reception than their Muslim brothers who followed.

    Of course if you were indigenous. you were hidden away on reserves. Many that lived in the community, half blooded kept their race hidden.

    As a young child, sadly learnt to throw racist taunts, such as bloody dagos etc. Well that is before my mother and her father set me straight. Wasn’t on.

    For the record, I am fifth generation Australian whose people all came before 1850s.

    One thing I don’t want is to see Australia return to the sterile, narrow minded and bigotry of 1950s.

    Our Muslim migrants are already becoming a fixture in Australian society. They come from a region that has history of culture much older than we came from.

  18. ImagiNation

    Are you not aware of the situation in Europe? Are you not aware even Merkal has admitted she was wrong (even if only because she is about to become unemployed because of her immigration policy). Racism is one thing but reality is another. If you choose to bury your head in the sand and pretend all is well that’s fine but please don’t insult my intelligence by insinuating I am racist when I am not, nor am I making racist comments.

  19. ImagiNation

    Australia, England, France and the US didn’t bomb the shit out of Italy and Greece but we did bomb the shit out of Iraq, Libya and Syria and killed millions of their women and children. Think for just one minute why so many people from all over the world are joining Isis and you just might see there is a huge difference.

  20. ImagiNation

    For the record, I am fifth generation Australian whose people all came before 1850s too.

  21. Miriam English

    ImagiNation, I won’t insinuate that you’re racist. I’ll state categorically that you are explicitly and undeniably racist.

    When I lived in Melbourne some of the people I most respected were Muslims from Iran. They were gentle, tolerant, intelligent, well-educated. They had fled the religious revolution. I also knew some very close-minded Muslims. For a while I lived in the same street as a mosque. None of the people was ever rude to me or my girlfriend.

    I also had Christian friends. Many of my Christian friends were kind and tolerant, but the most rude and intolerant people I knew in Melbourne were always Christians. I had a number of Buddhist friends there too, and I have to say I was surprised that a number of them were rude and intolerant too.

    I dislike all religions. They are all a matter of wishful thinking, believing utterly ridiculous things, and misinterpreting crap written by superstitious savages from thousands of years ago. I have an especial aversion for Christianity and Islam — two of the most militant and bloodthirsty religions, though even the Buddhists have proven that their religion centering around the sanctity of life can nevertheless produce Kamikaze pilots and the mass-murdering monks of Sri Lanka.

    Muslims can hardly be blamed for not integrating when faced with the sort of xenophobia spouted by the likes of you and brussels sprout Dutton. Not all Muslims want Sharia law. Nearly all the ones I knew didn’t. Most Muslims come here to escape an environment of religious extremism.

    The problems in Europe are mostly produced by people entering a region that has large numbers of xenophobes or people easily stampeded into xenophobia. More than anything the problem is racism (again!). You, ImagiNation (despite your screen name) are showing yourself to be one of those easily gulled into racist fears. Wake up, dearie. You are the problem, not the vanishingly tiny number of refugees who just want to flee to safety where they might be able to create a good life.

  22. ImagiNation

    You have disappointed me. I thought I was free of your ‘ignorance is bliss’ agenda. Obviously I was wrong.

  23. ImagiNation

    I agree with you, 90 percent are genuinely decent people. It’s the other 10 percent that concern me.

  24. Annie B

    ImagiNation – – –

    To answer your question ( May 18, 2016 at 6:19 pm ) ….

    As you very well know, Italians and Greeks did not build mosques. The idea is idiotic. The Greeks did establish their Greek Orthodox churches, and nobody said a thing – because it was NOT necessary to say anything about it. .. They had the freedom ( then ) to do it. …. They still do have that freedom.

    The Italians were mostly roman catholic by birth and persuasion – so nobody would question that, considering there were so many generations of catholics in our country at the time ( and now ).

    As for ‘petitioning our Government’ to implement sharia law. …. I think perhaps you have been led by googling, to the American state of things. …. It is there, ( and I believe, the U.K ) that have seen these petitions … Australia does not ‘do petitions’ on this kind of basis. Here, Muslims are free to establish mosques, as long as they obey the same principles and standards that anyone building ANYTHING, abide by. … It is groups of mischief making, misguided Australians of all kinds ( including other ethnicities ) who protest, hound and try to interrupt the establishment of mosques. As for sharia law – it exists, but here is so far a myth. There might well be a few Muslims who would like to see it happen – but it ain’t gonna happen.

    ….. FYI … a church ( one of several ) was burned down in Geelong overnight. It was originally an Anglican church. The arsonists have seemingly targeted christian churches there. What struck me – like a massive thump to the head, was that the church involved had been purchased as a mosque. In other words, a Muslim community purchased a christian sanctioned and sanctified building, to make into a mosque. …. That astounded, but also delighted me.

    I would have thought, from the garbage I have read over many months, that no Muslim community would ever enter a building that had housed ‘ infidel ‘ worshippers. … Just goes to show, how wrong I ( and many others ) … can be.

    Trust that sheds a little more light on the situation.

  25. ImagiNation

    Everywhere but here you say…. Aren’t we the lucky ones. I feel so much better now. Thank you.
    P.S. Burning it down sure solves that problem. I wonder if the insurance investigators agree…

  26. Annie B

    @ ImagiNation ( p.s. )

    ( You said ) 90% are genuinely decent people …

    The other 10% concern you ?

    I would think you should be very grateful for those stats.

    Could not seriously say, that it would apply to a lot of other situations in life today. Especially concerning the use of drugs and alcohol.

    Will leave that thought with you ……….

    ( another p.s. ) … just noticed your recent comment. Don’t know what you are on about, and dare I say ( ? ) I don’t think you know what you are on about either. !!!

  27. Annie B

    Florence nee FedUp …

    Your comments were spot on … thank you. Spelled it all out in no uncertain terms.

    I remember the nasty slights against mediterranean immigrants in my youth – ‘ Bloody dagos’ and other epithets bandied about. And the shame that seemed to prevail whenever an aboriginal poked his / her head outside their door. Of course, in those days, ( back some many decades ) the indigenous peoples were never welcome in suburbia, and therefore did not attempt to purchase there – even if they did have the where-with-all to do so. …. so they grouped in colonies – country towns which became known as ‘abo towns’, and something to be avoided.

    Nice ( not ). … Like yourself Florence, I hope and trust we do not return to those days, when that kind of racism was rife.

    If however, anyone listens to the likes of Dutton – it could happen – could have an impact on the impressionable among us.

    Heaven help us from the likes of Dutton. He is a blight on humanity.

  28. Matters Not

    Miriam English wrote:

    I won’t insinuate that you’re racist. I’ll state categorically that you are explicitly and undeniably racist.

    Really? ?

    And then:

    Annie B wrote:

    I don’t think you know what you are on about

    Can only agree.

  29. ImagiNation

    I don’t believe this. I am talking about what is happening in the world, none of which is my opinion, all of which can be verified from worthy news outlets. The world is in total chaos, US wars of aggression (Australia is equally guilty) for hegemony, China, Russia (me) and a few other smart countries buying gold in unprecedented quantities knowing the worlds economy is seriously compromised, five economies have already collapsed (Venezuela being the latest), petitions all over Australia protesting Sharia Law, ISIS out of control, US and NATO on Russia’s doorstep, Goldman Sachs (TTP) in control of Australia, Repeated pack rape of women in Cologne by Muslim men, Erodgen blackmailing Europe so 80 million Turks can have visa free travel (and stay there) using an unprecedented flood of Muslim refugees as the threat (Europe cannot accommodate them) Assad is the elected leader of Syria but the US and lackies (us) are about to re-enter the middle east and blow up what little is left so we can have a pipeline to Europe, Merkel backpedaling as fast as she c an, Muslims all over the world are (understandably) fighting back, I am as extremely concerned fro the welfare, not just of myself but that of my children and grandchildren and I am trying my damnedest to make as many people aware of just how close we are to the cliff as I can and you people call me a racist.

  30. Annie B

    @ Miriam English …

    Appreciate your comments and contributiond here .. I always do.

    Especially understand your distrust of christian religions / sects who grab people by the throat, indoctrinate them mercilessly, ( all in the name of God or Jesus ) …. and then set about controlling them – again mercilessly.

    A few have woken up to that and left the monsters that inhabit those religions. But not all christian religions are like that . … Just too many christian sects appear to be. And there are many of them. …. Too many. … They are the ones who contribute to hatred of anything outside of their own religion – – which resonates very much with the jihadists and extremist Islam followers who are, or become, terrorists – in the name of Allah ( God ).

    Interesting ( and despicable ) isn’t it.

  31. Annie B

    ImagiNation …

    You have now spelled out what you are most concerned about – all of it, specifically categorised …. which I believe we are ALL concerned about …. a world in chaos ( or almost in chaos ). Won’t go so far as to say it is all the way there yet, but it certainly seems to be heading in that direction.

    I agree with your concerns for your children and grand children. I look at the very young today ( the under 7’s for instance ) and think ” what the hell kind of world are you all entering” …. I have the same concerns for my grown children and my grandchildren, and very young nephews and nieces.

    You mentioned at ” May 18, 2016 at 7:31 pm ” …. that “Racism is one thing but reality is another.” …. I am not at all sure what you meant by that, but it seems to me, that racism IS a reality – the two are not mutually exclusive, and not separate. Racism is alive and well, and living in all corners of the planet – no matter who is who, and what is what.

    A desperately sad state of affairs.

  32. Matters Not

    am talking about what is happening in the world, none of which is my opinion

    Really? Is ‘reality’ (a social construct) ever divorced from ‘opinion’? But you do go on:

    all of which can be verified from worthy news outlets.

    Which of course are (like you) devoid of ‘opinion’. But there’s more.

    . The world is in total chaos

    Perhaps you have a link? Just jokin…

    China, Russia (me) and a few other smart countries buying gold in unprecedented quantities knowing the worlds economy is seriously compromised,

    So buying gold is the way to go for ‘smart’ economies (and individuals) such as you? Really?

    I won’t go on. For f@cks sake?

    The education system has much to answer for. But of course, it’s not alone.

    Just for the record, my main concern is for ImagiNation and the (lack) of logical thought presented.

  33. ImagiNation

    Annie thank you. To clarify my comment, yes, (of cause) racism is real and I hate it too, I was pointing out the issue. Perhaps I dismissed it too casually but to me (at the time) racism had nothing to do with it.

  34. ImagiNation

    Matters Not 9 minutes. I’m impressed. I allowed 20 minutes to do what ever it takes to dispute my words rather than take them on board. You must have been really keen to discredit me. Perhaps if you spent 1/5th of that time researching you just might have learned something but that would never do, would it.

  35. Miriam English

    ImagiNation, you sound to yourself as reasonable, and I understand your fears and concerns (especially that we could well be targets of misguided reprisals by people avenging the bombing of their homes by our immoral, hateful politicians). But seriously, you are like the car that tailgates another, trying to make the person in front drive faster, when all it does is scare them and make them drive slower. It seems like it is reasonable to the tailgater to do this, but they become increasingly exasperated when it has the opposite effect expected.

    Yes, some things are going wrong in the world, though it isn’t as bad as you think. It always looks worse than it is. I remember growing up in a time when everybody was terrified that China and USSR were going to take over the world. It inspired horrific rounds of racist attacks on innocent people. In actual fact USSR was crumbling from inside and China was self-destructing from Mao’s cultural revolution and the millions starving to death as a result. But the fear and loathing in our society was powerful. People were convinced the world was ending unless we stopped “them”. Thus was born the Vietnam war, and a new playground for the military psychopaths to experiment with a new generation of cruel weapons on the poor bloody peasants trying to defend themselves from… us. We were the true monsters. Powered by fear and hate there was no horror we were not capable of.

    It is as true now as it was then. Look for the Muslims torturing thousands of refugees in concentration camps. See any? No. We are the ones doing it. Yes, I know. You’ll be pointing at Daesh (ISIS), but I think, like Pol Pot, we created them (“we” being the West).

    Oh, and by the way, our allies in Cambodia who we had a hand in illegally slaughtering… I have friends from there who bear us no ill will. And I have never been to Vietnam, but I have family members and friends who speak glowingly of that place and people, now that our atrocities there are a fading echo. People in both those places have every right to hate our country and feel vengeful, but they understand that people everywhere are just people. It is the puffed up politicians and propagandists you have to beware of… and the puppets they manipulate to spread the fear and hate that they so casually manufacture.

  36. Matters Not

    ImagiNation, I never ever dispute words that are chosen. What I (often) draw into question, is the implied meaning(s), given to words (human constructs) that have no ‘stand alone’ meanings (devoid of particular socio historical locations or ‘intentions’.)

    As for the claim that I am in the business of ‘discrediting you’, (the cheap shot, while obvious, will not be entertained).

    Here’s a clue. I don’t know ‘you’. ‘You’ don’t know me. All I know of ‘you’ is the ideas you present, and presumably defend.

    Blogs such these are about ideas not personality contests.

    Let’s keeps it that way.

    ‘Ideas’ or lack of same.

  37. Miriam English

    ImagiNation, please question your motivation. You point to gang-rapes by Muslims in Europe as a reason to hate and fear (all) Muslims. (You’ll deny the “all”, but it is there, shouting in your panicked implication.)

    I have a friend who was gang-raped in New Zealand by a bunch of white men. Should we fear, hate, and decry all white men as a dangerous threat? If not, why not? You just did exactly that with Muslim men.

    Question your fear. It is not rational. You are being manipulated by politicians and the vultures in the news media.

  38. Matters Not

    You are being manipulated

    Patronising! And in the extreme. Let the ‘contributor’ stand or fall on the quality of the ‘argument’.

    I am sure he/she is up for the challenge.

    And if not, then why not?

  39. ImagiNation

    Miriam
    What ever I say you automatically assume racism and I can’t help that. I was pointing out how serious things are becoming in Europe. You disagree and call me racist. You can do that. You disagree the state of the world, you can do that too, I don’t pretend to know anything. I sound to myself as reasonable. I guess that means to you don’t but that’s ok as well. What might be difficult for you to understand though is not everything you say is always quite as correct as you would like it to be in your positive world so please, how about keeping the insults to a minimum. Thank you.

  40. Miriam English

    ImagiNation, pray, where did I insult you?

  41. ImagiNation

    Miriam your kidding me.

  42. Miriam English

    ImagiNation, I guess your response means you were unable to find an example.

  43. ImagiNation

    You don’t really read my posts, you dissect them for things you can attack, discredit and destroy. Like an alarm goes off, ding ding ding! Must not get through. Block at all costs. Ding ding ding. Hate hate vomit.

  44. ImagiNation

    You did it once before and I fell for it. Attack till submission. Doesn’t matter what is said. But attack till submission doesn’t win an argument. It loses respect.

  45. Miriam English

    Actually, I do read your posts. And I do try to be careful. I am very concerned about the fear and xenophobia in what you say that echoes what our manipulative media and politicians promote.

    As I said, I know it seems reasonable to you, and I can understand how such fear develops and how it can feel so genuinely realistic. I cited, as an example, the reds-under-the-beds hysteria when I was growing up.

    Yes, there are some scary people, but more often than not we are the scariest of all, especially when we give in to unjustified fears. Are those fears unjustified? I gave you an example of rapists that were not Muslim that fail to elicit the same fear response in you. That should raise your suspicions.

    I also mentioned people who are not bent on avenging the way we helped trash their homes and murder their people as a way of hinting that your fears of Muslims might not be as accurate as you think. (Incidentally, and for the record, I too share that latter fear, though as powerfully as you. But it is one of many reasons I think we should avoid all war like the intergenerational poison it is.)

    So, you see? You think I don’t read what you write, but given your response so far I wonder if the reverse might be true.

  46. Miriam English

    In any case, the topic is closed for me now. If you don’t get my point and think I’m just pointlessly attacking you then we are both wasting our time.

  47. Archaic

    Returning to the original article and some of the comments made, I would like to say that it is my experience from working in mental health that marijuana can be very addictive.
    Historically it was not always seen this way, but many regular users develop tolerance such that they need higher doses to get the desired effect and experience withdrawal phenomena when they stop, or need to have a smoke first thing every morning.
    Leaving aside the physical dependence, many users can become emotionally and psychologically dependent on marijuana as a means of coping with distress.
    I would recommend the National Cannabis Prevention and Intervention Centre website for more information

  48. Annie B

    @ Archaic ….

    Did not know the extent of it, but thought that as a coping mechanism for stress and all that the word implies, some form of dependence on it might result. Like a person trying to drown their sorrows with alcohol, which of course doesn’t work and makes the situation far worse in the long run.

    Understandable that marijuana could have the same effect psychologically, but without a hefty hang-over.

    Now we know – thank you.

  49. Miriam English

    There is a physical withdrawal associated with cannabis, though it is easy to miss. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a strong effect, just that it presents in a way that’s not obvious: impatience, irritability, dissatisfaction.

  50. Annie B

    Miriam …

    Can understand the physical withdrawal, aligned with the psychological ‘withdrawal’. …. Interesting that the 3 symptoms of withdrawal from marijuana, are similar to a person heading into an epileptic episode. Irritability, impatience, ( which could also be construed as dissatisfaction.) …. All neurological … so there is no doubt that marijuana has its’ effects on the neurological / brain functions of a person who uses heavily. The occasional user of it, would no doubt not have these problems ( I hope – for some people I know !! – but not me ……. I have used it only 3 times in my life !! ).

    The combination of much alcohol and marijuana, can have a very seriously bad effect on the user. … Can lead to psychotic episodes. Much like schizophrenia … and can be ultimately diagnosed as such.

    My cousin lost her son to this combination of drug taking … ending his life in his mothers’ back garden. She has never recovered from the shock.

    While on the subject, I totally object to the use of the term ” recreational drugs” …. they are not and never will be recreational …. ( all of them, ice, weed, ecstasy etc.) … they are ILLEGAL drugs and should be named that way.

    Having said that though – the medicinal use of marijuana is a good thing, and is gaining momentum in medical circles.

    ……….

  51. Johnathan123

    Prescription Analgesics – 18,893
    Heroin Overdose -10,574
    Marijuana – 0

  52. Miriam English

    Annie, I think it is a serious mistake to characterise drugs as illegal. The law interfering with drug use was always a terrible mistake. It always makes things worse. Drug use should be treated as a behavioral/medical phenomenon. (I don’t really like to call it a problem because for many people the drugs themselves are no problem. The problem comes from the way they get used.

    I also have always had grave doubts about the common belief that cannabis can elicit schizophrenic breakdowns. All the “evidence” I’ve ever read is anecdotal. People tend to have their first schizophrenic episode in their teens and early twenties, coincidentally when they are most likely to be experimenting with drugs. Coincidence is not evidence of causality.

    Of all the mind-altering drugs cannabis would be one of the safest, if not the safest. As Johnathan123 noted above, there have never been any recorded deaths from its use. (Although heavy users can end up with cancers associated with inhaling smoke.)

    Personally I think most drug use is a big mistake. I include in this, not only the currently illegal drugs, but also legal mind-altering ones such as nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol, and therapeutic drugs like aspirin, antibiotics, and most medical drugs.

    The “recreational” drugs are a mistake because all human brains are finely balanced on the edge of insanity anyway. Giving them a push is not a smart thing to do. You have to deal, not only with the initial effect, but the second unbalancing resulting from the withdrawal, and people almost never do. Other things like aspirin and antibiotics can be very useful, but are massively over-used leading to bad ripple-on effects.

  53. Annie B

    Miriam …

    For once there are things we have to agree to disagree about. An unusual situation, to be sure.

    Legal drugs : … those purchased over the counter at a pharmacy, those prescribed by a doctor, or dispensed by a hospital … e.g. endone, morphine ( same family ) … the paracetamols / codeines of various strengths, aspirin, NSAIDS etc. ALL should be respected by the users, but many are often NOT respected. They are abused, because a ( psych ! ) dependence develops.

    The drugs I categorise or characterise as illegal, are in fact illegal … .by definition. They are the drugs cut and sold by unscrupulous drug dealers on our streets today. …. causing untold damage, not only to the users, but to family and friends as well. …. to those people who have to ‘pick up the pieces’ from a drug soaked individual ( from ice – for instance ). There is nothing whatsoever useful, medicinally or psychologically in the use ( and possible or probable ultimate abuse ) of ice, as an example. ….

    Your comment : “People tend to have their first schizophrenic episode in their teens and early twenties, coincidentally when they are most likely to be experimenting with drugs. Coincidence is not evidence of causality.” hit a raw nerve.

    Schizophrenia can in fact be inherited, but is only influenced by genetics – not caused by it. My cousins’ son began his downward slide in his early twenties, when – under the stress and miserable distress he was suffering, he first turned to alcohol, and quickly added marijuana use to that – which resulted ultimately in his suicide, some years later ( after continuous and heavy use of both ). There was no doubt about that – medically supported. … double dosing of those two substances, can in fact tip a person over into schizophrenia, particularly if they are previously disposed to being that way. … I rather think he might have had a pre-disposition to being schizophrenic, but not being a psych. or doctor, I would dare not presume to say.

    Anyway – coincidence and causality are often partners in the crime.

    “Of all the mind-altering drugs cannabis would be one of the safest, if not the safest. …. I have always thought so, indeed still think that is the case. While tobacco has a very short span of altering brain function ( sense of relaxation for the duration of inhalation ) cannabis has a longer effect.

    I cannot for the life of me understand why governments drone on and on ad infinitum about the terrible outcomes from cigarette smoking, displayed garishly on cigarette packets, while at the same time they put their grubby hands out for 43c in every $ spent on cigarettes. I am a ‘seriously reducing smoker’ …. but I honestly believe cigarettes ( no matter the lame arguments about black markets etc. ) should be taken off the market – made an illegal substance. Cannabis does not have the same impact – long term, although many roll their joints along with tobacco. … others however, do not – or they use bongs for heavier impact.

    I would prefer to see cannabis legalised, and cigarettes taken off the shelves …. as they are still – a ‘legal product’.

    I think we ( or I ) have wandered way off the track of the original article here … but I still think it all needed to be said – by both of us.

    Cheers ………

  54. Miriam English

    Annie, yes. It certainly is unusual for us to disagree. We seem to have very similar outlooks on most things.

    With regard to schizophrenia I have a pretty close association with it. One of my girlfriends had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in her early twenties. (Though we’re no longer partners, she remains one of my closest friends after nearly 30 years.) Through her I ended up meeting many people with various mental disorders, mostly schizophrenia. I’ve always been interested in the mind and was reading university psychology texts in my early high school years. That interest has not diminished, but has shifted more towards artificial intelligence. I mention this merely to indicate I have some knowledge of the topic. I don’t consider myself an expert, but have had to live with schizophrenia in those around me for many years.

    Correlation doesn’t mean causation. Almost 100% of drug users had milk as infants. Coincidence. But nobody in their right mind would suggest an association between the two. This is why experiments have to be very carefully designed in order to remove biases and false positives.

    The law was never the right instrument for dealing with drug-use. It actually boosts drug consumption. This has been shown many times. Cannabis was a drug that hardly interested anybody at all until it was made illegal, whereupon its use exploded. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs of all. When it was made illegal during the Prohibition years consumption actually increased and need for supply gave birth to large scale organised crime. But not only does the legal/moral approach worsen drug use, it removes any chance of quality control and classes people as criminals who have not actually committing an immoral act. It also pushes users underground and into criminal associations. It creates a whole class of crime that didn’t previously exist, worsens disease, and increases theft and violent crime undertaken in order to feed illicit habits.

    Treating drug-use as a psychological/medical thing instead of a moral/legal one changes the whole drug-using climate. Users are able to get help and often manage to exit the cycle of addiction. While they do so they are able to participate in society. Drug related crimes (theft and assault) are dramatically reduced, and the spread of disease can be eliminated. Quality-controlled drugs are supplied by doctors, eliminating overdoses and poisonings.

    None of this is controversial. It has been shown to be true time and time again. Most recently Spain was fed up with its growing heroin problem and decided upon a harm minimisation solution by decriminalising it. Subsequently, for the first time, heroin use has dropped, and has done so dramatically, as have theft and assault associated with it.

    Drug-use should be seen as a mistake, not as a moral failing. It should be viewed the same way as poking your finger into your eye is. Why would you do something so silly? The moral approach has never worked. I don’t think you can shame someone out of using drugs. Someone close to me (I won’t say who) has an addiction to alcohol that appears to be causing psychotic breaks. Shame is one of the things that appears to be actually driving their addiction. Take the shame away and see it as a mechanical error and the whole difficulty disappears. Unfortunately people generally don’t see things that way, and are encouraged by our puritanical society to make moral judgements on drug use.

    Sorry about the long, off-topic reply. I should shut up. 🙂

  55. Annie B

    Miriam ….

    No – you should not ‘shut up’ …. you always contribute greatly to any conversation, with informative views.

    I should expand a fraction on my use of the word ‘illegal’. …. it was not meant in the moral sense, ( bad person – using banned substances ) …. but rather the fact that drugs ( which are not legal, are abused by some and should be avoided altogether ). …. Equally, drugs that ARE legal are also often abused, and become addictive for whatever reason. …. but – they are to this day categorised, as one or the other. Never mind that Joe or Mary swallow pain killers that would stop an ox, with dependence growing – but god forbid if they smoke a joint !!

    The law certainly is not the only path to go down, to treat this problem,, but at some stage it has to be used. Much more in fact, should be done to rehabilitate, educate, and provide counselling to those affected by the abuse of any substance – no matter what it is. But the law won’t touch the illegal / improper use of pain killers for example, because they are categorised ‘legal’.

    Agree that alcohol is in fact, THE most dangerous drug. …. It not only acts on the neurological plane, but also on the physical. Alcohol contains ’empty’ calories, so the body is tricked into thinking it’s been fed properly when it hasn’t. …. And the results of too much alcohol is far more wide reaching than most want to even consider. Pity they can’t paint bottles of top shelf alcohol in a nasty green and put vile pictorial warnings on them … I could think of a few nasty pix. We all could….. As for removing the trigger to alcoholism ( shame as mentioned by you in ref. to someone close ), the alcoholic must be led along to face what is the trigger ( or triggers ) and to deal with it – and only then might the road to recovery be seen …

    Cocaine was widely advertised openly as a remedy for toothache in children, in the 1920’s. Similarly a hair dressing tonic was labelled “Cannabis Indica” …. Cocaine tablets as a cure for ” hay fever, catarrh and throat troubles” … my own mother used nux vomica to ‘calm’ her daughters before school exams. She used a few drops in a small glass of water, or straight onto the tongue ( presumably homeopathic or I wouldn’t be here ) … as it is obtained from the strychnine plant. She was wrong, as it is mainly used for nausea, bloating and other digestive disorders. But ………. !!!

    Where we differ a bit, is in the meaning of the word ‘coincidence’. …. I don’t believe in it. Just because I think of my sister at 10 a.m. and she phones at 10.05 am, is not coincidence – it just happens. Many more times when I have not thought of her, she might phone – any time. And vice versa. Milk drinking babies grow up to either be afflicted or not – occasionally medically by an allergy to cows’ milk, but certainly not leading to drug addiction. There is much much more behind the emergence of an addict ( to whatever ) than can possibly be 100% known – in all instances. …. Impossibly diverse.

    So – basically we do agree. Particularly on ” This is why experiments have to be very carefully designed in order to remove biases and false positives. “ … It is a gigantic task, and one that must be addressed in every respect, with more scientific / medical / psych. investigation into every aspect.

    Cheers …..

  56. Miriam English

    Annie, sorry to keep on about this… You might not mean “illegal” to have moral overtones, but that is how it always gets used in society. With punishments being inflicted how could it not? Also, our rather puritanical society forces such moralising upon those who break laws (thank my damnable Scottish and English ancestors for that, perhaps my Irish ones too). At least we escaped being quite as insanely puritanical as USA’s society. [shudder]

    Law can deal with some things well — swindle, assault, theft, the law is the appropriate tool for dealing with those. But drugs? No. It is like sentencing someone to prison for being raped. It doesn’t make sense. It only seems like it has some applicability because we have grown used to it. There are places where sentencing women to prison, or even death for the “crime” of being raped is unremarkable and feels to the inhabitants as “appropriate”.

    As for which drug is legal and which illegal, that is entirely arbitrary. Alcohol, which is like a great monkey wrench thrown into the delicate chemical machinery in every cell of your body, is an incredibly harmful drug, even though, astonishingly, many people are able to use small amounts daily with relatively minor damage. Heroin is extremely safe compared to alcohol. Long-term use has virtually no health drawbacks at all. Even overdose only risks death because the victim’s body forgets to breathe. Wake them up, force them to their feet, get them to drink coffee, or in worst cases administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or a shot of apomorphine to block the endorphin receptors and they will be perfectly healthy again. Overdose on alcohol results in brain death. End of story. There’s no coming back from that. Why is alcohol legal and heroin illegal? It makes absolutely no sense.

    All mind-altering drugs interfere with the brain’s ability to think clearly, even though many people insist that a glass of wine, or a joint, or a line of coke, or a ciggie, or a hit of smack helps them think better. Such declarations should be seen as a dangerous warning sign that they are actually escaping from the drug’s withdrawal symptoms and that they are already addicted.

    It has been shown conclusively in country after country, and study after study, that the law is the wrong tool for dealing with drug-use. It always worsens the problem instead of helping.

    Oh dear, I’ve done it again. You can see why I write books and stories. I do rattle on. Sorry.

  57. Annie B

    I swear this will be short(ish) !! ( to Miriam ).

    “At least we escaped being quite as insanely puritanical as USA’s society. [shudder]” … when I read that, a very old saying crossed my mind, being ” Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition”. The U.S. is puritanical only as it suits them to be, at any given time – everything else is open slather ( as reported by both MSM and Independent media ). They embrace extremes to an alarming degree.

    “Why is alcohol legal and heroin illegal? It makes absolutely no sense.”

    Likewise, why are cigarettes still legal, while cannabis is not. That doesn’t make much sense either, does it.

    Reducing ( seriously ) the number of cigarettes I puff on each day, which is about 80% successful, I cannot escape the knowledge and acknowledgement that I am addicted to nicotine. …. Nor would I want to. Nicotine is a substance way much harder to kick than heroin – chemically / medically speaking. …. if they have some ‘calming ‘ effect, it is very short lived. …. it was advocated for returning soldiers after WWII to help them cope with their PTSD ( which was not known as such, at that time – it was termed “shell shock” ).

    As for sentencing women to prison for being raped – that does not enter into our culture. … It does however, happen in many places overseas. Disgusting, degrading and diabolical. …. that’s them, not us.

    Cheers ….. 🙂

  58. Miriam English

    One of my brothers used to smoke cigarettes (one of the few drugs I thankfully avoided). He once said to me resignedly that he’d given up giving up. It was funny in a sad way. Later though, he became angry at the hold they had on him, and decided not to have the next one. Many decades later he still hasn’t had the next one.

    The partner of one of my old girlfriends is always giving up cigarettes, but goes back to them “temporarily” to get through a particular period of stress and thus never actually manages to give up, apparently never realising that the stress is caused by the cigarettes as a withdrawal effect, seductively luring the user back.

    A good conversation. Thank you for the exchange, Annie.

  59. Miriam English

    (Annie, I should add that I think Miss Ruby is very pretty.)

  60. Annie B

    Thank you Miriam …. Miss Ruby is a beautiful big girl ( bias there !! ) …. I later added text on that photograph which was ” Stand” you said ? — ” Ok, cop this for a stand Mum – Bhaaa ha ha haaa “ Looks for all the world, like she is laughing her head off.

    Your brothers’ decision based on anger at being controlled by cigarettes – and succeeding in giving them up, has given me much to think about.

    I hope I can be as fully successful as your brother was. … There is a certain degree of ‘fear’ attached to giving them away – believe it or not. Strange, isn’t it.

    Always a good experience to exchange some ideas with you …. see you again soon, no doubt.

    Cheers and all good wishes ………

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