It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Super Whale!

Week 5: Whaling laws

By Jordan Fay

Two years ago I was taking anthropology class at Melbourne University, a weekly, two hour adventure into the beautiful and sometimes sad world of cultural identity and religious conflict taught by smoke-break enthusiast Andrew Dawson. Like cement pouring over a sponge my brain bathed thickly in the idea of cultural relativism. Webs of meaning, regardless of which specific ones you believe in, are applied to everything and that’s how people deal with the weight of existence. When whaling laws came up I was eager to have my views broadened. I was a year into veganism and was yet to engage with the immensely political aspects of the issue.

I learnt of the Western phenomenon of the Super Whale: a mythical homogenisation of anthropomorphism and classic whale characteristics (the massive size of a Blue Whale, the friendliness of a Gray Whale, the large brain of a Sperm Whale, the beautiful singing of the Humpbuck, etc) created under the campaign of whale-activists and anti-whaling laws (Kalland, 20-21). Serving as a water-dwelling-Jesus-poster-child for anti-whaling crusades, organisations like Greenpeace and WWF have turned the issue into a profitable commodity that is fuelled by the crisis discourse of global warming (Kalland, 21, 24). Now, I don’t agree with whaling or any practice of animal slaughter (especially commercial kinds), but I find it hard to tolerate the ignorance of those who boast about the “I’m a whale adopter” sticker fading on their Jeep’s rear windscreen on the way to a restaurant to dine on veal. No offence Andrew, I mean, you painted your brother in the same light to prove your point during the lecture.

Main reference article (I just so happened to find the same article I read for my anthropology class):
– ‘Whose whale is that? Diverting the commodity path’ by Arne Kalland.

That’s right. You are getting very sleepy “person with obvious first world guilt, impulsive tendencies and a love for specific animals (preferably mythical types and ones that you would never ever eat)”

Advertisements

Cocaine is a hell of a drug

Written by Sally Naylor-Hampson
Things that were once legal…

Blow, dream, candy, mighty white, pop.

Addiction, depression, heart attacks, nosebleeds, cerebral atrophy.

In the 19th century, these words and effects were yet to be associated with cocaine. Instead the drug was said to “supply the place of food, make the coward brave, the silent eloquent and… tender the sufferer insensitive to pain.” And it’s medical benefits were so astounding that the drug was exclaimed to have a “benefit of which to humanity will be incalculable”. Such paybacks included use as an anesthetic; protection against the head cold; treatment for stomach pain, toothaches, digestive disorders, hysteria, melancholia, fatigue, hunger, seasickness, and alcohol and morphine addiction.

And buying the drug wasn’t hard either.

It was available over the counter.

You could get your hit from a bottle of coca cola. You could stick it in the mouths of your teething children to stop their pain. Or sip it from a bottle of wine after a hard days work. It was even recommended to give your nervous adolescents the white stuff.

Yet around the 1930s, the adverse effects of cocaine were discovered, and just as quickly as the drug was put on the market it was stripped of it’s legality.

These days, almost entirely worldwide, the drug continues to hold it’s illegal status. I doubt the days of buying stardust from your local store will return, but current research suggests it may serve further medical advantages previously unknown. So who knows what cocaine will be used for 20 years down the track!

HEROIN HORROR

Written by Zoe Blain
Week 6: Things that were once legal…

HEROIN: NEEDLES. AIDS. ADDICTION. OVERDOSE. INFECTION. DEATH. I would definitely have a much harder time defending heroin than marijuana, and its companion class A drug LSD. This week’s post is rather a journey down prohibition lane, marveling at the western world’s somewhat hilarious attempts to combat opiate addiction.

Opium, derived from poppy seeds, has been cultivated and consumed for thousands of years. These days, it is usually associated with seedy oriental drug dens and evil middle eastern money making regimes. However, in 1805, German pharmacist Friedrich W. Serturner isolated opium’s prime psychoactive alkaloid morphine. As opium was proving to be a problem child in the western world (due to escalating addiction rates), morphine was marketed as a non addictive alternative.

The new substance spread through Europe like an euphorically charged wildfire, with embers quickly alighting America and Australia. It was a wonder drug; the most effective painkiller the western world had ever seen. Soon, mothers were rejoicing; marveling at its astounding ability to suppress the coughs and headaches of their children. In nineteenth century America, the substance was even marketed as a highly effective cure for alcoholism, which was seen to be a much larger social issue.

However, each silver cloud has a dark underbelly. Addiction rates were rising, with doctors even prescribing themselves huge quantities of the stuff. So, Seventy years of frolicking through the poppy fields later, German pharmaceutical company Bayer synthesized a cure…

Heroin.

Whilst marketed as a cure for Morphine addiction, Heroin was also a superior cough suppressant. (Perhaps because Heroin is two to three times more potent that its predecessor.) Its popularity quickly escalated, and once again, history repeated itself. Except this time, European chemists gave up, and Heroin was proclaimed illegal in all Western countries by 1930.

Today, in the twenty first century, as the war on drugs rages on in America, its neighbors have been quietly decriminalizing Heroin use and possession. In Canada, a number of ‘supervised injection sites’ have sprung up in major cities; aiming to minimalise harm. Just this month, Mexico decriminalized the possession of small quantities of Heroin, along with a number of other formally illegal substances.

Perhaps you’d be surprised to hear that Morphine is merely a controlled substance, with hospitals worldwide still favouring it as a painkiller. Furthermore, Codeine, which is another psychoactive opium alkaloid is still a popular ingredient in cough medicines today. It’s use has also extended to encompass anti-diarrheal, antihypertensive, anti-anxiety and sedative medications.

So where is the future of opiate prohibition headed? I personally have no idea, but am happy to sit back, relax, and enjoy the political show.

Whaling Woes

Written by Zoe Blain
Week 5: Whaling Laws 

I recall a summer afternoon five or six years ago; throwing foam ‘noodles’ at my father’s friends’ children. They swam and shrieked and kicked through the deep, commanding me to “act more Japanese.” Then the ‘whales’ morphed into activists and tackled me into the water. We ate sausages for dinner, and the boys showed me letters they had received from Greenpeace, thanking them for their support.

My best friend has a phobia of whales. Once I asked her what she thought of whaling…
“You don’t want to know.” Then we hiked to the lighthouse from ‘Round the Twist’ and scaled its spiral stairwell. A guide directed our eyes to the ocean. “If you’re lucky, you might spot a whale!” My friend shuddered. “It’s their tales. I hate their tales, and how mould grows on their backs.”

When I think about whaling, these images flood through first. Followed by a backwash of bloody carcasses dragged across my television screen. SBS world news. I sit on the couch, eating dinner, watching black dingeys wave fists at rusted metal monsters.
I am not vegetarian, so I don’t believe I can fairly condemn whaling. The government retorts, but they don’t hold a strong moral position either. It smells like politics. The Australian border control don’t tolerate any unauthorized vessels in our waters, regardless of who is on them and what their intentions are.

In a sense, the Japanese have a stronger argument than we do.“‘You eat cows and pigs, so why can’t we eat whales?” One whale feeds a lot more people than one cow, so really, isn’t this more humane? Whaling takes less lives than slaughter houses. Plus, the Japanese do claim that whale meat has been a part of their diet since 800 AD… Is our sensitivity towards whaling a disguised attempt to westernize Asia? How would we react if Hindu activists begun protesting at slaughterhouses to protect ‘holy’ cows?

What this debate really comes down to is the disparity between whales and other animals consumed by humans. In Australia, as in most western countries, cows are bred in copious numbers for food. Most whale species are endangered, with some, such as the Bluewhale declining into three digits. Minke whales, which are highly sought by the Japanese also make the list.

I don’t believe that whaling is an issue of ethics. Hundreds of thousands of animals are slaughtered each day for food, and the loss of one life shouldn’t be seen as less tragic than another. In fact, last week as a non-vegetarian I made a pledge. I proclaimed  that I would eat human meat if it was served up, because the animal world shouldn’t be hierarchised in terms of ‘worthiness.’ Whaling therefore comes down to respecting and preserving the diversity of the earth’s ecosystem. Ensuring a rich, balanced variety for years to come.

Image

My friend and I as Humpack whales 

Same sex marriage, why isn’t it legal?

Week 4: Why is it illegal?
A fortnightly post
Written by Sally Naylor-Hampson

“Marriage is between a man and a woman, and we can’t just go around changing the true definition for the homos! Same-sex relationships simply don’t have the same kind of intimate capacity that me and my wife have – that all heterosexual couples have.” This was a heated conversation I overheard between loud music and clinking glasses at a bar last week. I’d heard it all before, but it was usually on TV or in the newspaper.

Not in my local pub.

I was outraged.

Of course we can change the meaning of the word marriage! Language has always been fluid, changing and adapting with time. In fact, the “true” definition of ‘marriage’ has changed with time in Australia. No longer can marriage occur between a man and a 12-year-old girl. No longer are individuals forced into an arranged marriage. No longer are women rejected of their legal rights, or treated as property in a marriage focused around business. Mixed-race couples can now marry. Couples of Aboriginal heritage can now marry without restriction. Divorce is now accepted. We gave words meaning in the first place, so why can’t we change them? Why can’t we change the definition of the word marriage, when we obviously have before?

Looking further into the arguments against legalising marriage in Australia, a common focus was that same-sex couples can’t procreate, whereas heterosexual couples have this natural ability. However, the world is facing overpopulation, which presents a greater potential threat than climate change. There isn’t a need to increase the number of humans on the planet anymore. Instead there is a need to decrease the number. So why should the ability to have children be a factor in the prohibition of same-sex marriage? If a heterosexual couple does not want to have children, should they be restricted from marrying? If a woman is infertile, should it be illegal for her to get married? Of course not. So why should it be illegal for same-sex couples?

Many against same-sex marriage enforce the idea that a child must be raised with a father and a mother, and disallowing a child this upbringing will impact negatively on their psychology. Yet there is no evidence that children turn out worse if raised by a same-sex couple. In fact, “children raised by same sex partners benefit from marriage equality”! As we can see, there is no basis or fact to suggest that children will be impaired by same-sex marriage.

And what ever happened to equal rights? It isn’t that long ago that I, being a female, wouldn’t have been able to vote, or have equal pay to men. All because of my reproductive organs. When will it be realised that restricting same-sex marriage is just as outrageous? Employers can’t discriminate against someone’s sexuality, so why is it okay for the law to? Australia is part of many human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Politial Rights, which has a prohibition on discrimination, therefore including discrimination based on sexual orientation.

So why is it still illegal?

Discriminating against same-sex marriage only encourages an environment of homophobia and negative connotations associated with such individuals. Homosexuals don’t decide to be gay, just like one doesn’t choose to be black, or choose to be a woman. All they want to do is marry the person they love and share a life together. How does that affect anyone?

(Read more about the quotes and facts discussed in this post here)

 

Good reef? Good grief!

Week 4: Why is it illegal?
By Jordan Fay

Last week I got talking with fellow blog-contributor Zoe Blain about drugs, in particular marijuana. I used to see myself as an innocent outsider to the drug scene. Even after three years of infrequent, yet irresponsible experiences with alcohol – and a life with no more than a cough of passive smoking – I’ve been getting more bored with anything under the drug label. But Zoe referred me to a documentary called ‘The Union: The Business Behind Getting High’. Without repeating Zoe’s insightful post regarding marijuana stigmatisation I’d like to say that I’ve been enlightened. But why had I been lead down the garden path in the first place? Why didn’t this garden grow cannabis? Well, in 19th century Australia cultivating and ingesting cannabis was widespread[1]. Smoking a Cigares De Joy was a common remedy for asthma, bronchitis, hay-fever and influenza[1]. Heck, hemp (seeds and leaves) was the staple food of two Australian famines in the early 19th century because of its high protein content and omega acids[2] (eat your heart out fish oil).

But what happened? Well, rising political pressure over international drug legislation lead Australia to joining the 1925 Geneva Convention to prohibit the use of opium and other drugs. Not long later in 1938 the government was given some shock therapy (it turns out that ass-kissing is highly conductive) by America’s “Reefer Madness” propaganda campaign against cannabis under the new term marijuana and was outlawed nation-wide. Despite this, usage and demand kept increasing while a Nixon-styled crackdown emerged during the sixties and onwards[3][4]. And since the twenties empirical evidence against cannabis has not only been lacking, but has been replaced by false propaganda and a growing conservative perspective in Australian politics. Imagine a young John Howard parachuting into a peaceful commune and burning houses down[4] (exaggerations don’t exist in political accountability).

I haven’t traversed to the greener side yet, but at least I know the grass is safe to consume.

A visual metaphor for real science versus politicised symbolism

 

Information sourced from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_in_Australia

Relevant references cited:

1. Jiggens, J. True Hemp in Australia

2. Elliot, T., (2010) Weed is good – hemp comes to the city. Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney.

3. The Australian Marijuana Grower’s Guide. Otter Publications, Redfern NSW (1996)

4. Jiggens, J (2005). The Cost of Drug Prohibition in Australia. Paper presented to the Social Change in the 21st Century Conference, Centre for Social Change Research, Queensland University of Technology.

Bullets and hypocrites

Week 3: Hypocritical laws
Written by Sally Naylor-Hampson

With increasing speed, hypocrisy is flaunting its presence with blasting bullets aimed right at the innocent lives of Americans. Shootings are increasing, and despite Obama expressing his difference toward violence, firearms and ammunition are exceptionally easy to possess and therefore so is the undertaking of a massacre. In fact, you only have to be 21 years of age as long as you’re not a criminal or minor to purchase weaponry. However, background checks are only performed by licensed firearm dealers, which account for only 60% of gun sales. As a result, 2 out of every 5 guns bought are obtained without a background check through means such as gun shows which are held 2,000 to 5,000 times a year.

Yet Obama must still think he’s doing a pretty good job at preventing such ease, as he states, “I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons.” However it doesn’t seem like he’s doing that at all as on the 20th of July James Holmes, a mentally ill man, walked into Century 16 Movie Theatre during the premiere of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ fully clad in body armor and bearing an assault rifle, shotgun, and handguns which were all purchased legally. He then proceeded to shoot 70 moviegoers, injuring 58 and killing 12.

Hundreds of people are dying each year from the direct result of unprovoked shootings, and who could possibly say this is acceptable and not horrifying? No one. Yet the laws seem to suggest otherwise.

‘The Batman Killer’, James Holmes

Hypocrisy on the Rocks

By Zoe Blain
Fortnightly post
Week 3: Hypocritical Laws

Everybody loves a good conspiracy. Especially if it’s hypocritical. Especially if the problem can be traced back to government offices. Except this hypocrisy can be traced back to your lips. Or through a string of smoke to mine. You can even sip it through a straw. Or serve it with a slice of lemon on the rocks.

At my high school, it was compulsory for students to study “Health” for three years. I loved health class. It was hilarious. Once my middle aged, bowl cut sporting teacher brought half a dozen zip lock bags filled with grass clippings, painkillers and caster sugar into class. “Who wants some coke?” Swaggering through the doorway. “C’mon guys, I’ve got ecstasy.” I said I’d give her 50c for a Panadol. She was horrified. “This is the real deal dude.” I was horrified.

In health class, I learned that illegal drugs were illegal for a reason. Dangerous and highly addictive. I learned that LSD burnt out your retinas, marijuana ate  holes through your brain and magic mushrooms made you schizophrenic. I also learned how to pour standard drinks and how to say no to cigarette wielding citizens.

One of my friends nearly died when I was seventeen. Her blood alcohol level was apparently 0.32, but then, I too was drunk remember little of the night. 0.4 is a coin toss; heads is comatose, tails is dead.

There was a poster in my health room with scans showing holes in human brains. It showed marijuana and cocaine. It offered no sources. I hit the keyboard and quickly uncovered “nicotine” “alcohol” and “caffeine.”

I am no corporation hating hippy, but the hypocrisy appalled me. Further research lead to studies claiming that according to national and international drug classification systems, tobacco and alcohol should be as illegal as lady H. In fact, the whole hierarchy of harm and well, “evilness” should be totally shuffled. Firstly, tobacco and alcohol are not classified. Hence, their legality. However, this indirectly means that both should have high medicinal merit, or cause no harm whatsoever.

Current Drug classifications in the UK

Funny then that 95% of drug related deaths in Australia  are caused by alcohol and tobacco… Definitely safer than class A hallucinogen LSD which contributes to a whopping 0% of fatalities… I also couldn’t help but note that morphine is unclassified because its potential harm level is “low.” This is the high water mark of the classification hypocrisy. Heroin is actually derived from morphine.

How can these classifications currently stand? Four words: political, historical and cultural preference.

What a shame that politicians are whiskey slurpers and cigar suckers. That colonization and wars were toasted with wine. That beer is a national icon. Mind you, I do enjoy a tequila on the rocks every now and then. But at the same time, my retinas are miraculously intact, my brain sports few wormholes (MRI scans looked pretty clean) and the voices in my head haven’t made me kill anybody… Yet.

 Me in Mexico, 2011

Advertising Standards Bureau missing just one thing

Written by Daniel Browne

A body-scrub commercial that shows gents how to “clean their balls properly so they’re more enjoyable to play with” was recently banned by the ASB, but not for the reason you’re thinking.

The commercial for Unilever brand LYNX, surprisingly staring Sophie Monk, shows the willing-to-accept-whatever-comes-her-way-singer-slash-model cleaning various sporting balls with an appropriately branded body wash utensil. Bogus audience members stand up and present their different sized anatomical metaphors to be scrubbed clean, among them an African American gentleman with a “big ball sack”. All of this seems to have been ignored by the Advertising Standards Bureau, who found the advertisement not to be racist or sexually degrading. Instead the ASB ruled that the portrayal of a grey haired gentleman who asks for help with his “saggy old balls” was demeaning to older men. The mention of his wilted scrotum mightn’t have been such a problem if he hadn’t of also claimed “they haven’t been played with in years”. I can see why insinuating that old guys with droopy nuts don’t get laid isn’t exactly kosher, but surely neither is saying that black men have large genitalia.

Image

“It would be impossible to imagine an ad featuring men washing objects that are portrayed as representing the vagina. So that said why should it be allowed in reverse?” She (I assume) makes a decent point, but I assure you it is quite possible to conjure up such an intriguing image.

In the same vein, the ASB have also let slide an ad that tells the tale of a lady whose boyfriend won’t perform oral sex on her because of her pubic hair. We’re told of this woman’s troubles via a fairy-tale format – attracting an unwanted child audience – that disguises crude terms like “mouthful”, “went down” and “tidy muff” with very simplistic letter changes (midy tuff, etc.). Sure, let’s teach pre-pubescent girls that any changes their bodies make must be disguised; that’s just what we need, a world full of Kucking fardashians.

Banned Theft Auto

Week 2 – Media Censorship
(A fortnight post) By Jordan Fay

When I found out a few weeks ago that an R18+ classification was set for video game classification next year I felt a bizarre sense of relief. My mind first went to the classic truth that the average age of gamers has always been above 18 years of age (being thirty-seven in 2011). I pondered over all of those cringeful American films from my childhood that portrayed male adults with a messiah complex and/or no friends as the stereotypical gamer. But with never seeing social caricatures of select groups as anything more than ignorant I thought more seriously about the boundaries that surround mature content in the media. I’m averse to media censorship and the double standards of the Australian Classification Board regarding media texts, but I’m not crying over the banning of The Human Centipede 2. If I honestly tried to see a speckle of social commentary in that franchise worth analysing it would be the questionable motivations of the writers and producers involved.

But let’s bring this discussion back to video games before I go on a separate rant. A major aspect of video games is the concept of choice, and in a contemporary context this has evolved into the integration of moral choice. Titles like The Sims, Fallout 3 and many others punish the player harshly for immoral acts. Deprive your Sim of its desires (food, socialising, three story mansions and ladders out of pools) and they will turn defiant and eventually die. Try to cut that douchebag bartender in Fallout 3 that everybody wishes was dead and the whole town comes after you anyway, even your humble robot servant! The morality systems of these games, even when set in an open world environment allowing players to explore and enact upon their own journey, are still significantly basic. They are more a simple homage to the arcade-style motivation of point systems. Killing a pedestrian in a Grand Theft Auto game can be no more immoral as winning a game of Space Invaders. The artificial intelligence in what is such a controversial game is so ridiculously idiotic and satirical that concepts of ethics are left at the door. The repercussions of violence never show through in the GTA games, but this includes both harsh penalties and emotional depth. Its simulated world is so laden with humour and corrupt morality that most mature people would never see it as realistic.

The 2006 game Reservoir Dogs, based on the film is an example of moral dilemma. Its release was banned in Australia due to its high impact content that gives the player the opportunity to torture civilians. This includes burning out a person’s eyeball with a cigar, chopping off their fingers and repeatedly hitting them in the face with a pistol.

(Wait, I don’t remember these things in the film. All I remember is Steve Buscemi talking  about a lot things really quickly…)

This is where content, regardless of its possible acceptance for the new R18+ rating, becomes questionable. Not because of its graphic nature, but because the game requires you punish civilians with violence to progress in the game and to have the artificial intelligence take you seriously. In my opinion, the R18+ rating has potential to finally legitimise the industry’s majority adult audience, but the question will still remain as to what will be labelled as “adult”. Whether or not that means relying more so on interactive mechanics that are without meaning beyond being shallow, graphic entertainment.