The Prohibition Problem
As much as we complained about it at the time, my friends and I reveled in the underground nature of underage shenanigans. Young, dumb high schoolers waiting in the backseat of a car while one of their older brothers grabbed a 30 pack of cheap beer and a bottle of even cheaper vodka. There was also the giddy anticipation of knowing we would be picking up a few grams of weed hours later. What kind? Who the hell knew at that time. OG Cali Kush, Purple Stank, Eastern Lights, Banana Peel…It could’ve been sticky oregano and I wouldn’t have noticed.
We were terrified about getting caught. It was taboo to be pursuing such shady endeavors. Meanwhile, the idea of having a few drinks and smoking some weed now, evokes no anxiety in me whatsoever.
For years I’ve contemplated the back-firing nature of prohibition; literally saying “you cannot do this thing.” Not only do humans–particularly Americans–not enjoy being told we can’t do something; evidence shows us that the amount of stress and restrictions we put on something directly correlates with the levels to which we abuse it.
I must preface this by saying I have immense respect for drugs and violence and their power. They lead to incredible experiences. They also destroy lives. This post is not aimed at getting people to do more drugs, to have more sex, or to be less responsible. My aim is to criticize the nature of the prohibition mindset. I find it to not only be delusional, but damaging as well.
Here’s what comes to mind:
I pity the middle school teacher assigned to teach sex education to pubescent preteens. It just seems like a losing battle. I would apologize to mine if I could.
“What’s the safest form of birth-control? Abstinence.”
I love Daryl’s response from The Office:
“Oh, I didn’t know we were asking trick questions. What’s the safest form of skiing? Don’t ski.”
It makes sense to hear this in a Catholic school, but public middle and high schools preaching abstinence seems ridiculous to me. Horny and confused teenagers are going to have sex. Plain and simple. Given that fact, shouldn’t the goal be to provide as much education about safe sex, pregnancy, and what love and sex actually mean…as possible?
A difficult game as well, but telling kids “don’t have sex,” and then being horrified when they do…something’s gotta give.
I was bullied when I was younger. I bullied when I was younger. It’s a terrible thing. Young, insecure boys typically want to express their physical dominance over others. Young, insecure girls typically want to emotionally scar others to make themselves look or feel better. Chaos.
Years of maturity, growing respect, and patience seemed to ween these problems out. What didn’t solve the problem? “Don’t bully.”
Of course something like physical violence or verbal abuse should be mitigated, but they are inevitable. What if, instead of demanding that confused, hormonal, angsty kids not bully, we taught them the fundamentals of defending themselves?
Naturally, I am biased toward martial arts. They are so effective not only in producing the skills needed to not get one’s ass kicked; but they also promote discipline, respect for self and others, camaraderie, and most importantly, a deep appreciation for the consequences of violence. People who know more about real fighting are actually much less likely to use that knowledge.
A little boy is being picked on in a group of other kids. He is being insulted. He is being threatened. He is being belittled. He is confused. He is scared. Tell that boy to “just walk away and tell someone.” That simply doesn’t work. I’ve been that little boy.
Most people know about the drug abuse problem Portugal had for many decades. In the early 2000s, they decriminalized the possession and consumption of all elicit substances. Shortly after, their opioid crisis stabilized, their levels of drug use dramatically dropped, and their HIV/Hepatitis infection rates, overdose deaths, drug-related crime, and incarceration rates all plummeted.
Obviously, the US and Portugal are different countries. But this is a clearcut example of how shifting norms can vehemently alter results.
When I lived in Germany for a year, I got to experience a totally different perspective on drinking alcohol. There, kids at 14 (with their parents close by) can have a beer or a glass of wine with dinner if they so please. They can typically drink beer and wine casually by 16. The drinking age is 18, and the years leading up to the legal age are those of openness and exposure. Drinking simply isn’t a big deal, and therefore is not abused nearly as often. Getting wasted in Germany is seen as embarrassing. Here, it’s a story.
“Dude. Last night, I got so trashed.”
“Lol that’s fucking awesome.”
What? You drank alcohol and got drunk off it? That’s crazy.
I’m willing to bet we all felt a similar drop off once we turned 21 and could legally walk into a liquor store or bar and order a drink. When something is taboo or underground, as mentioned in the beginning, it’s just more fun. It feels dangerous, scandalous…and whether we admit it or not, it adds to the experience.
And finally, Prostitution:
Oh boy. I’m sure someone who is better educated on this industry would kill me in a debate. But hey, I’m just a guy with a keyboard…
Since people who are lonely will pay money for sex regardless, wouldn’t it make more sense to regulate the market? Most brothels (thanks Game of Thrones) are cesspools for STDs, hardcore drugs, and shady transactions. What if the girls were tested? What if they were given benefits? What if we could ensure that these areas were clean and safe?
To sum everything up:
People are going to partake in possibly dangerous and harmful activities no matter what. It makes more sense to foster education, safety, and acceptance…rather than prohibition, shame, and punishment.