Friday, December 21, 2012

Driving a Wedge Into Wedge Issues - featuring guest blogger Abbie Normal

One of my overarching, grandiose and sublimely absurd ambitions in regard to politics in America is to replace ideology with ideas.  Just to clarify, I'm sick to my figurative stomach of having political discussion in this country, whether through mainstream corporate-cocksucker media by various blathering-head "experts" or through social media like Facebook and blogs from peons like me, reduced by everyone else into easily labeled packages of "right", "left", "conservative", "liberal", etc. ad nauseum, you know the drill.  As a Green/Libertarian/Faithful/Doubting/Nature-Loving/City-Dwelling/Nevermind-I'm-Still-Evolving creature, I'm tired of having everything pigeon-holed by binary logic.  Binary logic, otherwise known as Cartesian Dualism (As in Rene Descartes, who we all know from that Monty Python song, "Rene Descartes was a drunken fart, I drink therefore I am!"), actually has its roots in the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.  The concept is that everything can be broken down into two sides: existence/non-existence, black/white, up/down, right/wrong, less filling/tastes great.  No room for grey area, no middle ground, no I-drink-this-shit-cuz-it's-cheap-dammit!  But hey, that's the status quo, the operative paradigm, the way it is.  Not gonna change without a mass awakening.

But every once in a while, mass awakenings are triggered.  Sometimes it takes a Tunisian street vendor's suicide, sometimes it takes the senseless slaughter of kindergarteners.  Horrific tragedies, without question, but perhaps remarkable catalysts for the dominant mammal race to reclaim their humanity.  But to do so, and reclaim it properly, we've got to eliminate binary logic and dig deep enough to ask the question that really matters: What works?  While seemingly everyone else in this country at this time is wrapped up in either how to stop school shootings or avoid a fiscal cliff, I've been wrapped up in finding an end to the 40+ year War On Drugs.  Doing so led me to find a documentary that I shared with a Facebook friend who goes by the nom de plume Abbie Normal.  His response triggered an awakening in me.  Perhaps it might do so for others.  Here now is the contribution from guest blogger Abbie Normal:

Thank you so much for the link to 'Breaking the Taboo'. I just finished viewing it and it is great on so many levels, particularly in that it is short and to the point and as we all know, anything narrated by Morgan Freeman is infused with a certain nobility and credibility regardless of content.

I've been observing an interesting trifecta taking shape in real time that this movie speaks to. With the renewed discussion of gun violence currently smacking us in the face, and all the weight of the abortion issue throughout the election, combined with the decriminalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado... our national consciousness is earnestly examining the fundamental merit of prohibition; to what extent are we capable of solving problems by banning them? I've been amused to see right-wing gun rights advocates screaming that banning guns won't stop gun violence while simultaneously arguing that outlawing abortion is the only way to stop abortions. And on the other side, you have left-wing peaceniks arguing that women will still seek abortions even if illegal, but will be forced into the proverbial 'back-alley', yet they argue that federal legislation will keep firearms out of the hands of maniacs. On top of these two issues, we have a presidential administration trying to figure out what to do about states legalizing weed, and it looks like (for now) they are deeming it an inevitablility, and holding off on releasing the DEA hounds.

This is a fascinating state of play in domestic policy. What these three issues have in common is a fundamental question: if we ban it, will it go away? The answer is a resounding 'no'. So if prohibition doesn't work, what else can we do? I'm hoping that we as a country will turn to examples such as alcohol prohibition and the tobacco industry as blueprints for how to proceed. We have enacted massive shifts in demographics through education, regulation, and transparency. Look at how far we've come with tobacco! We've done just about everything we possibly could have done to restrict tobacco use, short of banning it altogether, and by golly, fewer and fewer people start or continue to smoke each year... and cretins like me who don't want to quit, gladly pay the taxes and step outside to politely enjoy a cigarette.

If we were to increase women's access to birth control and increase their knowledge of how their bodies work, abortion may become non-existent or so rare that no one would think to suggest banning it. Gun violence may decrease with sensible community/government oversight and regulation, to the extent that what little gun violence remains is not perceived to be the result of dire systemic flaws. And if we simply remove the criminal justice system from the arena of medicine, maybe we can make some real strides in treating and eliminating the agony of addiction and its very medically morbid side effects like liver damage, heart disease, and AIDS.

This is the trifecta of our time, and I've been poking at it with a metaphorical stick in my participation in the national dialogue (which is just a fancy way of saying that I talk a lot of shit and make smart-ass remarks on Facebook political threads). But I think I'm on to something.

Anyway, thanks again for the link! I will pay it forward!

And in return, I am paying forward his contribution to rational discourse.  These are excellent points.  There are connective threads between these seemingly disparate issues that must be highlighted because they illuminate a possible gateway to problem solving on a more comprehensive level.  Unfortunately, because our popular media, both on the social and corporate level, falls in lock-step with binary logic, it's so much easier to highlight the divisiveness of these issues rather than their commonality.  That's why they're called "wedge issues".  Drugs, abortion, guns are all issues where the only thing we are usually told they have in common is that they should be the issue to decide your vote come election day.  Binary logic rules the day no matter what: just pick a side!  This is how power operates to distract citizens and keep them from uniting in solidarity over what they have in common.

Abbie and I offer an alternative: think!  What do these issues have in common that could serve as an approach to fixing the problems associated with drugs, abortion and guns?  Health.  That's the thread of commonality at play here.  Where drugs are concerned, it is often health issues, sometimes mental, sometimes physical, that drive people to consume drugs.  The issue of abortion touches on women's health issues on a physical, psychological and social level.  Finally, we've seen too many mass shootings where the gunman (it usually is a male person) is found to have mental health issues documented prior to their tragic homicidal actions.  Focusing on health as the main issue from which all these other issues are related may give us a starting point for comprehensive solutions where we can come together and stop wondering, "which side are you on", and start asking the real question: "what works?"

Because once you unite everyone with that common focus, I think we'll be surprised how quickly we shift our focus from health to the even more comprehensive issue of economics.  If you haven't heard this phrase before, here it is again: until you change the way money works, you change nothing.  Once we reach that stage, the mass awakening that drives a permanent wedge into wedge issues will be for real.


Tanya Savko said...

"to what extent are we capable of solving problems by banning them?" - brilliant! Thank you for posting Abbie's insight. He effectively put into words what we've always known to be true.

Robert Paulsen said...

You're welcome, Tanya! We certainly can't solve our problems by sweeping them under the rug, yet it's remarkable how often the government tries to do exactly that.