Above us, Only Sky

Politics, Philosophy, Science, and Everything Else.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Racists on the Bus

I take the bus from time to time, and normally it's a mildly irritating but not especially painful process. Last week I was doing this, and some young men got on the bus and started making comments about some people who had missed the bus, then started to talk about how great it was to be white. This was a first for me, I know these people are around but normally they're sufficiently aware of the unpopularity of their views not to air them in public. These kids where not up to that limited level of comprehension, and they invited me to join them in celebrating being white. I told them not to include me, and that was the end of it. The incident left me thinking about this particular human weakness.
It is my opinion that racism is not just a moral failure, though it is. It is a failure of the intellect, an abdication of intelligence in favour of tribalist instincts. Anyone who pays attention will know that race has no meaning in any real sense. I could tell you fifty important things about a person- their job, education, intelligence, how they behave with others- and never mention anythign about race, or tell you anything that would let you guess the race of the person. Nor is it a useful tool for identifying a group- nothing observed about another member of the same race means anything about a person- I'm not a better person for the good acts of white people, nor a worse person for their misdeed. The concept of race is an empty one. That is to say, it is meaningful only in that people give it meaning- it does not have meaning independant of human interpretation.

The point is that racists are nessesarily stupid, that being racist is nto just an immoral act, but it will nessesarily degrad ones ability to function effectively in the world. Which is good, because racists are assholes and deserve every failure their chosen ignorance brings them.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Saterday Night

Saterday night and my plan is... blog and then go to bed. Working in the service industry means you learn to be an alcoholic... but you also tend to express that affliction on days of the week more than weekends, because, as usual, I work at 7 am tomorrow, so going out and getting hammered would result in a day's worth of pain. I'm getting too old to consider the trade off a good one more than once a month,

I have a number of random thoughts going through my head right now, but I think I'll fixate on the one that has some serious content. A couple of days ago here in my home province of Alberta, some RCMP officers were killed in the line of duty. Four of them, all at once, by one deranged guy who then took his own life. That guy makes me kinda wish there was a hell, because damn, just being dead doesn't seem like a fair punishment for that kind of mindless evil. This is the most RCMP officers who have died in a single incident in 120 years. It's a big deal. The RCMP were there because the crazy bastard apparently had a marijuana grow operation going on, though from what I've read he was a life-long troublemaker and the only thing surprising about this for the people who had to deal with him is that he managed to get the drop on four RCMP.

This is a terrible thing and many good families have lost good men, it's a dark day for the country, and I'm afriad that the reaction is going to be exactly the wrong one. In the paper I read, the somewhat right-wing but mostly reliable Calgary Herald, there were many calls for a clamp down of marijuana in all it's forms. We've been moving towards some de-criminalialization of the stuff here and tehre are calls to halt that, calls to increase penalties and funding, ect. Basically the response to these casualties in the war on drugs is: fight harder, expend more resources, hit back. This is insane. We're living next to a textbook example of why a country can't criminalize a popular and widely used substance- the united states locks up people for a couple of pounds of weed for longer jail terms than they do murderers, and any american teenager can still get his hands on a joint.

When a society chooses to make something illegal it must do so not because that thing is bad and if it were struck from the earth the world would be better- this is not within the power of any society. When you choose to make something illgal, you're simply choosing the costs and benefits of having that thing proscribed and punished over the costs and benefits of not doing so. When you make pot illegal, you choose to give all pot revenue to illegal organizations, you choose to punish people who would otherwise just be harmless users, you choose to create an underground economy only regulated by criminal violence. Certainly, having pot illegal has probably kept soem people from using it or from using it more often. If you made alcohol and nicotine illegal you'd get the same benefits. The issue is that this benefit doesn't equal the cost. These RCMP deaths are part of the cost of keeping marijuana illegal. They are casualties in the war on drugs, and that war is a nessesarily endless one. Their deaths are a tragic waste, and will be all the moreso if we don't finally realize that a few more potheads is a small price to pay for a society with less organized crime and criminal violence.