#00AF33 is the new #000000

For that title to make any sense at all you’d need to google the hexadecimal codes. Go on. Do it. You know you want to…

It’s clever. And it recognises the fact that I’ve truly scraped the bottom of the barrel when it comes to writing headlines about the Green debate.

I’m still working on my WebSalt article – and thought I’d bring you – and the debate – up to speed with my progress. Our local perennial Greens candidate, Jenny Stirling, also happens to be an Anglican chaplain/minister/social worker. I sent her an email with some questions about how she sees the Green party in relation to her personal faith. Here’s a summary of her responses:

I am a Green because of my Christian spiritual values including a strong belief in social justice; respect for God’s creation and the certain knowledge that  all creation groans from our misuse of what is essentially a custodial role; the grass roots nature of our organisation which is  respectful of difference and mindful of marginalised discourses; and last but not least because it talks about peace and non-violence.

In my activism for the Greens and on Green issues (which encompass  all of people’s issues and not just the environment) I employ what I understand to be  the Jesus model of  working with people, that is; compassion; giving respect; opposing oppression; speaking truth to power; standing along side people who need support; listening; acting out of God’s strength and not my own and being mindful that it is  better to be the ‘salt than to have power’ – this quote comes from Bonhoeffer’s  “Seize The Day” which is a daily reflection on the bible from his cell in a Nazi concentration camp. I try to read it most days.

I mentioned the standard “Christian” criticisms of Green’s policy – in fact I sent her a copy of the article so far – which you can find in the comments section of this post. Here’s what she had to say about that:

I belong to the Anglican church and we do not oppose people having the right to express being gay.

I strongly suggest that the public perception is wrong in understanding that we are  soft on drugs. Our policy is in line with most organisations that deal with the link between drugs and crime, including the police. We favour decriminalisaton because it takes away the lure of  the anti-social, robs crime bosses of much of their power to corrupt and we basically want to make drug abuse a health and medical issue. I say that with full confidence because my son is a detective with the CIB and  deals with the standard approach and its failures to make any difference to the drug culture and crime. It is not working and kids lives are going down the drain because we have our heads stuck in  the  sand. Prohibition has never worked. Along with decriminalisation of drug use we support harm minimisation programmes and would continue to throw the book at hard drug dealers.

As for abortion, I am against it personally.  That said I cannot justify putting my values over someone else’s. There will always be women who are abused, raped  and abandoned in pregnancy. I cannot force them to have a child they do not want or leave them to back yard abortionists. I do not see abortion as an acceptable form of  contraception and would vote against that and late term terminations.

I am really impressed with two things – her willingness to speak and act for her convictions and the fact that she took the time to answer my questions (which went over a few different emails).

I don’t however agree with her on some points of theology – or at least the emphasis. But I’m sure some of you – my valued readers and commenters – do. So let me know what you think the most important things she had to say were and what you agree/disagree with. I’m also thinking that I should read some Bonhoeffer.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

29 thoughts on “#00AF33 is the new #000000”

  1. I think the most important thng she had to say is that the greens viewpoint is more about compassion and informing/helping people than telling them what we think is best for them.
    Letting people make their own decisions. We all have to answer to God for our own choices in the end – not to other people.
    I always have much greater respect for people who have decided for themselves and can explain their reasoning even if I don’t agree compared to someone following someone else’s opinion blindly.

  2. Now I think I am even more Greens (The party) than before.

    Again, with the I have to post up some comments re your Biblical interpretations and /or emphasis vs my friend. But I am far too lazy.

    Maybe I’ll just send you the word doc instead.

  3. I think most drug takers don’t do it to be anti-social, but because
    a) they’re addicted
    b) they started because it’s what their friends were doing
    c) it provides an escape from other problems they have

    Decriminalising it will dissuade only a minority of drug-takers, I believe. For all the others, it will just make an easier/cheaper way to escape their financial/relationship woes. Like alcohol. Having alcohol legal hasn’t stopped anyone abusing alcohol, has it? Even the anti-social use it to be anti-social.

    “Prohibition has never worked”… whatever. It might not stop those who are already hooked, but I bet it stops a lot of kids from even starting.

  4. Initial drug taking as a general rule is about being anti-social / anti-rules / against the establishment – you don’t get addicted until later on. People take drugs to rebel against something – if it isn’t illegal than it isn’t really rebellion and loses a lot of appeal.

    Legalising it also means that drug manufacture becomes a cleaner process – most of the time people die not from the drug itself but all the other crud that is used as a filler.

    I also find it extremely hypocritical that these drugs are banned and frowned upon when our society so obviously has a problem with alcohol. I think if we are looking at making something illegal we should be looking at alcohol, not drugs, because it kills/harms more people than anything else.

  5. “Legalising it also means that drug manufacture becomes a cleaner process – most of the time people die not from the drug itself but all the other crud that is used as a filler.”

    I don’t think that’s strictly true – I think if drug addiction is a bad thing health wise we have an obligation to prevent people getting to that stage however possible – and prohibition does work, it just doesn’t work for those who become addicted. There are also plenty of people out there with latent allergies or who suffer from nasty reactions to the drugs themselves – and there’s no way of knowing that.

    And what drugs would you legalise and regulate? And what would remain banned?

    The system for dealing with drug addicts and drug dealers is what needs looking at – it’s not a question of throwing open the doors of drug use to everybody, but closing the door of dealing to those who would fall foul of addiction.

    And also – I think the high/effect of the drugs is probably more appealing than being anti-rules – nobody says “I want to break the rules, I’m going to take a drug” it’s “I am bored, lets get high”…

    And also, I agree that alcohol is a problem – but it’s the one area where prohibition is proven not to work. Particularly because it’s widely socially accepted in – and a fundamental cultural ritual. Drunkeness is a problem. But there are plenty of things other than alcohol that are a problem when abused… I guess that’s the nature of abuse.

    And one more – could you reread the comment you made about sending me a word doc re my theological points. It was a little garbled.

  6. People will always find drugs to abuse. Always have and always will. I do agree with Amy that one of the biggest problems with illicit drugs is the cutters, fillers and inconsistencys of the mix making it impossible to take ‘safely’ a lot of these drugs are relatively ‘safe’ if taken properly unless you have (as Nathan said) an underlying condition or reaction to them. The real problem I see is the reason people take drugs – boredom, dissatisfaction etc. That’s the root cause of all of the antisocial/dangerous behaviours. Anyway, that was a bit preachy but I do think prohibition in it’s present form isn’t very effective.

  7. I also wanted to point out we already decide which drugs are allowed and which ones are not on a relatively arbitrary basis as evidenced by the huge differences between which drugs are legal on different countries. But there is a lot of abuse of legal/prescription drugs as well which takes place and is a big problem as well.

  8. I don’t think that’s strictly true – I think if drug addiction is a bad thing health wise we have an obligation to prevent people getting to that stage however possible – and prohibition does work, it just doesn’t work for those who become addicted. There are also plenty of people out there with latent allergies or who suffer from nasty reactions to the drugs themselves – and there’s no way of knowing that.

    People are addicted to many ‘drugs’ that are legal. Alcohol. Nicotine. Caffiene. Adrenaline. Prohibition doesn’t stop underage drinking, or anyone taking illicit drugs now, if they want to.

    People have latent allergies to all sorts of things – not just these drugs, so why are we singling them out?

    And also – I think the high/effect of the drugs is probably more appealing than being anti-rules – nobody says “I want to break the rules, I’m going to take a drug” it’s “I am bored, lets get high”…

    I can’t talk about anything more than the people I know here who have tried drugs – they did it in some sort of stupid rebellion against a perceived authority than anything else. But leading a sheltered life, I can’t claim to know everyone’s reasons.

    And also, I agree that alcohol is a problem – but it’s the one area where prohibition is proven not to work. Particularly because it’s widely socially accepted in – and a fundamental cultural ritual. Drunkeness is a problem. But there are plenty of things other than alcohol that are a problem when abused… I guess that’s the nature of abuse.

    Hallucagens [sic] were an accepted cultural ritual in other cultures. 100 years ago it was quite acceptable to smoke opium. What is socially acceptable changes with governments and time.

    But in terms of damage done alcohol is a huge problem – talk to any ambulance officer or hospital worker or morgue worker – just because it is culturally acceptable should we just let the problem go on?

    1. “Prohibition doesn’t stop underage drinking, or anyone taking illicit drugs now, if they want to.”

      Yes it does. It stops some underage drinking – remove prohibition and see how many teenagers take it up.

      The argument “prohibition doesn’t work” is wrong – prohibition works, just not totally. In every area. There are people who will obey the law just because it is the law. If I were an Italian I would no doubt have been drinking wine from my early teens. But that was illegal here – so I didn’t.

      In terms of percentages – sure, a lot of accidents are caused by alcohol – but again, there are plenty of sensible people who don’t drink and drive – or abuse the problem. Making bad things more available is not the answer – preventing the abuse of them is.

  9. I wrote the word doc comment late at night, so yes, probably made no sense. But it seems you can’t edit what you have posted.

    So what I was trying to say was this: I got a pastor friend to respond to some of the issues you raised in the previous green post, which I think might be relevant to the discussion. They are in a huge word doc now and I am being too lazy to post up the whole thing. So I could probably email it to you instead, but then it wouldn’t be on this public forum. So let me know your preference – email or here.

      1. Well – I’ll need to respond to it in any case – and if he’s disagreeing with me I’ll no doubt disagree with him.

        My theological position on the Green thing is shifting slightly – I think my fundamental problem is that the whole green ideology has become an idol – people are worshiping the creation rather than the creator.

  10. Commentary on commentary – that should be interesting. I think he might prefer his comments to stand on their own.

    I will try and remember to dig it up tonight – if I am feeling inspired I will post it myself.

  11. Yes it does. It stops some underage drinking – remove prohibition and see how many teenagers take it up.

    It stops some – but generally the ‘goody-two-shoes’/people who respect rules who are less likely to be problematic anyway. Anyone who wants to drink will drink anyway. Schoolies as an example.

    The argument “prohibition doesn’t work” is wrong – prohibition works, just not totally. In every area. There are people who will obey the law just because it is the law. If I were an Italian I would no doubt have been drinking wine from my early teens. But that was illegal here – so I didn’t.

    As far as I know it is legal here to give your children alcohol in your home in a responsible manner (at least as part of guidelines for parents about alcohol use up until recently).

    The point we were making here is that prohibition does not seem to have worked with the drugs issue – so perhaps a different tack is worth trying out.

    In terms of percentages – sure, a lot of accidents are caused by alcohol – but again, there are plenty of sensible people who don’t drink and drive – or abuse the problem. Making bad things more available is not the answer – preventing the abuse of them is.

    The trouble being that even if you are sensible with alcohol (and a lot are) your life can still be destroyed by it. Ask Tim how many cases he gets of innocent lives taken by alcohol.

    The point I am trying to make is that everyone is making a huge deal about illicit drugs and the problems they cause, while a far bigger problem is being ignored. In reality, far more death and illness is caused by legal drugs, so for me they are a far bigger issue.

    Legalising drugs would not necessarily make them readily available – many concepts around this work on a principle of prescriptions, not like a bottle shop. The idea is that by making these substances available through certain channels you can control quality (freeing up hospitals/morgues), break dependences (ie stopping dealers/pimps controlling supply and/or creating addicts to keep themselves in business), reduce funding to terrorism/crime, remove the aura of rebellion/danger, have some sort of standard so that you have true data on what these drugs do to people, etc.

    I don’t want to give the impression that I think a free-for-all is the way to go. Pot has obvious links to mental health issues, alcohol has obvious links to liver disease, etc. But people have been licking toads since the dawn of time and I don’t see that that is ever going to change.

  12. Well – I’ll need to respond to it in any case – and if he’s disagreeing with me I’ll no doubt disagree with him.

    My theological position on the Green thing is shifting slightly – I think my fundamental problem is that the whole green ideology has become an idol – people are worshiping the creation rather than the creator.

    I meant that he should get a comment all on his own, which you can then comment on.

    People are always creating idols for themselves. Maybe this is a chance for Christianity to use this as an outreach tool and point them in the right direction.

  13. My argument re prohibition extends to illicit drugs – I think it does work. Or drug use would be more widespread – if drugs were legal there’d be as many – if not more – bodies turning up in the morgue through drug related problems.

    Like I said – I agree alcohol is a problem – but I don’t know how you can argue on one hand that we should decriminalise drugs and on the other that we should criminalise or restrict access to alcohol. That doesn’t add up. The proportions of use are currently very different. You can’t compare current alcohol figures with current drug figures – because the factors are different.

  14. My argument re prohibition extends to illicit drugs – I think it does work. Or drug use would be more widespread – if drugs were legal there’d be as many – if not more – bodies turning up in the morgue through drug related problems.

    Drug use is already very widespread. Again with the issue that a lot of the reasons people turn up in morgues/hospitals because of drugs is either a) the pure drug is cut with something nasty, or b) because people take it with alcohol, other medications and don’t understand that it will react (same as people don’t realise that ‘natural’ therapies can react with other things – they are chemicals after all). The drugs themselves in many cases aren’t that bad for you – abuse/addiction is, but if you took pure ecstacy now you probably wouldn’t have any issues at all.

    Like I said – I agree alcohol is a problem – but I don’t know how you can argue on one hand that we should decriminalise drugs and on the other that we should criminalise or restrict access to alcohol. That doesn’t add up. The proportions of use are currently very different. You can’t compare current alcohol figures with current drug figures – because the factors are different.

    My point with this is that you can’t get up on your high horse about illicit drugs and then turn a blind eye to legal ones. It is all very well for the government to go on and on about these drugs while their leader thinks it is fine to get so wasted that he can’t remember being in a strip club. It is just hypocritical.

    1. “Drug use is already very widespread.”

      My point is that it’s less widespread than it would be if it wasn’t prohibited. Prohibition works by creating a barrier that must be crossed in order for those looking to engage to do so.

      You argue on one hand that the barrier should perhaps never have been removed for alcohol – and then that is should be for other drugs.

      Imagine the increase in drug driving cases if drugs are freely available to all. Imagine the increase in drug related assaults and serious violent crimes if crystal meth is more widely available and not “prohibited”, imagine the increase in health issues if more people start using heroin. Legalising won’t make drugs cheaper – it will just mean the government gets a slice of the pie. The same crimes will be committed by people looking to get a hit. Or are you arguing that drugs be given out freely?

      I just don’t see how you can hold two contrary points together and suggest they support your argument. Yes, it’s hypocritical. But if you’re suggesting there’s a conundrum the solution is surely to ban alcohol – not to legalise drugs. And we know what happened when alcohol was banned – a society of addicts turned to organised crime to get their fix.

  15. My point is that it’s less widespread than it would be if it wasn’t prohibited. Prohibition works by creating a barrier that must be crossed in order for those looking to engage to do so.

    That is an unprovable statement at this point, not having something to compare it to.

    You argue on one hand that the barrier should perhaps never have been removed for alcohol – and then that is should be for other drugs.

    No, I argue that they should be treated the same way. Either restrict them all, or make them all legal and control them that way. I just hate the assumption that because it isn’t banned that it is okay – not the case at all.

    We can’t say we won’t tolerate esctacy addiction, but we will tolerate binge drinking. That’s stupid.

    If I had my way alcohol would be restricted, as well as cigarettes and pot and everything else. But seeing as this country will never restrict alcohol, then they should apply the same logic to other drugs, especially when what is legal and what isn’t most of the time is entirely arbitrary.

    1. It’s not unprovable. It’s basic economics. Restricting supply moderates demand. Forcing suppliers to be criminals means forcing them into low visibility areas and means that in order to meet a supplier a demander must be willing to both meet a criminal and become one. Prohibition works.

      The alcohol argument is a different kettle of fish – because there’s no stigma attached to alcohol. While there perhaps should be there is not. Which is why even our judges and politicians consider drink driving a socially acceptable misdemeanor.

      We’re also (collectively through our taxes) funding a fight against binge drinking – substance abuse is the problem with alcohol – not the substance itself. Both are problems with drugs. You can’t argue that alcohol is chemically as problematic as addictive drugs. Unless alcohol is chemically addictive. Which I have not seen any research to suggest. Drugs that create chemical dependencies that have harmful results should be prohibited. That’s pretty much where the line is drawn as far as I’m concerned – except for cigarettes – which are restricted in limited ways. More restricted than alcohol (except for the point of sale).

      The substance itself is a problem in the case of many illegal drugs. And the danger of unpredictable reactions to drugs and physical intolerance of them.

  16. It’s not unprovable. It’s basic economics. Restricting supply moderates demand. Forcing suppliers to be criminals means forcing them into low visibility areas and means that in order to meet a supplier a demander must be willing to both meet a criminal and become one. Prohibition works.

    The trouble being that the supply isn’t restricted now. They may be illegal, but they are available.

    We’re also (collectively through our taxes) funding a fight against binge drinking – substance abuse is the problem with alcohol – not the substance itself. Both are problems with drugs.

    Yes, abuse of any substance is a problem, legal or illegal.

    You can’t argue that alcohol is chemically as problematic as addictive drugs. Unless alcohol is chemically addictive. Which I have not seen any research to suggest.

    Yes I can. Alcoholism is an alcohol addiction. Binge drinking is alcoholism. Binge drinking is our national pastime.

    Drugs that create chemical dependencies that have harmful results should be prohibited. That’s pretty much where the line is drawn as far as I’m concerned – except for cigarettes – which are restricted in limited ways. More restricted than alcohol (except for the point of sale).

    Caffeine creates a chemical dependency. If you need a coffee to function in the morning then that is your body showing signs of addiction. High amounts of caffeine are harmful, especially to children and pregnant women. Yet there are no restrictions on coffee or red bull, or notifications that guarana is just another form of caffeine. So if it can cause harm in some people, should it be prohibited?

    Many drugs used in small amounts will not cause harm – legal or illegal. You can be addicted to chemicals your own body produces – adrenaline for one – why do you think they are called adrenaline junkies?

    The substance itself is a problem in the case of many illegal drugs. And the danger of unpredictable reactions to drugs and physical intolerance of them.

    This just reinforces the idea of legalising them to allow research into what happens to people’s bodies when they take them, and also to control dosages and quality of what goes in.

    People have unpredictable reactions to prescription drugs, to foods, to alcohol as well. This isn’t an illicit drug issue alone.

    1. Amy said “The trouble being that the supply isn’t restricted now. They may be illegal, but they are available. ”

      Making them illegal is a restriction. If you make them legal there’s no restriction on supply and it becomes a legitimate business – and suddenly I think “profit margins in drugs are great – I’m going to make some” and so do thousands of other people not currently making them. And suddenly there’s oversupply – so drugs become cheaper as well as more available. And then people will start buying them in pharmacies and at night owl… Then we’ll see if alcohol is society’s biggest problem.

  17. I would also like to note at this point that this entire debate is being carried out by people who I would guess, wouldn’t ever take drugs themselves, so probably wouldn’t understand the motivation behind it.

    But I don’t hold out high hopes of having someone who takes drugs actually commenting.

  18. Fascinating, I would point to one thing Nathan previously said to say that who would smoke cigarettes if they weren’t doing it to be cool? There isn’t any ‘high’ that I know of or anything like that, it’s terribly addictive so if you start when you are teen to be rebellious and cool then you’re stuck with it unless you get into an almighty fight to get away.

    Otherwise, it’s an interesting thought experiment to think what people/society would be like if all drugs were free or available in some relatively easy form. The immediate picture I get is anarchy with lots of drug addicts everywhere, but I’m not sure it would be like that. I’m not saying that’s my opinion of where things should go, but where do you think the balance would settle?

    Same with lots of issues that are fought about with such strength. I do wonder if we’re all making such a fuss about things that are not as big as we make out.

    I think it’s interesting to try to work out which camp is stronger in the end or how much so. There will always be people who will be involved in drugs, and people strongly against all forms of drug taking (I personally refuse to even take paracetamol).

    Which side in a reasoned/logical argument would ‘win’ the most followers?

  19. >>Otherwise, it’s an interesting thought experiment to think what people/society would be like if all drugs were free or available in some relatively easy form. The immediate picture I get is anarchy with lots of drug addicts everywhere, but I’m not sure it would be like that. I’m not saying that’s my opinion of where things should go, but where do you think the balance would settle?

    I mean by the description that our society has this built up opinion that drugs are evil and bad and everything will be hell on earth if we let them exist even in any form. Which is somewhat overreacting I think, and doesn’t let us think clearly about the issue.

  20. Nathan – I have emailed you the comments for Green is the New Bleak, let me know if you don’t get them.

  21. There is a difference between making something legal and making it available in every shop on the street.

    What I am talking about here (and what I guess the policy is talking about) is similar to the prescription system we have now – not available for anyone to manufacture and not available on every street corner.

  22. Just a reference to this comment:
    You can’t argue that alcohol is chemically as problematic as addictive drugs. Unless alcohol is chemically addictive. Which I have not seen any research to suggest.

    Aaron White, a health administrator with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said neurological processes, that were originally designed to ensure human survival, were put off course by alcohol.

    Dr White, a psychologist, was speaking yesterday at a conference organised by Drinkwise, a research group funded by the Australian Government and the liquor industry.

    Alcohol, along with other drugs, induced the release of the neuro-transmitter dopamine. The younger the consumer of alcohol, the more likely the habit of drinking would become entrenched, he said.

    Experiences while drinking, such as vomiting and car accidents, can be associated with the pleasurable feeling that dopamine induced. “The brain is tricked into thinking those things are positive because it felt good … Pleasure increases the odds that this rewarded behaviour will be repeated.”

    Dr White said a review of research at the University of California, San Diego, had found heavy alcohol use among adolescents led to a decrease in the size of the frontal lobes, the part of the brain associated with planning, inhibition and emotion regulation.

    From this link:
    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/wellbeing/younger-brains-tricked-by-alcohol-20090428-am1h.html

  23. I think our restrictions on alcohol are far too loose. The fact that as long as there is a set of shops there is a Bottle-O is not a good thing, I don’t think. I don’t actually have any answers, but I don’t think what we have no is good.

    After reading everyone’s comments, having not really thought much before about legal availability of drugs, I think it makes sense that there would be some form legalisation, but with restrictions. I don’t know how, but I do know we manage quite well with the prescriptions system for medical drugs, many of which can be addictive.

    But, just two points in history worth considering, is the total ban on alcohol in the US in the late 19th century (could have the wrong dates) didn’t solve any problems, it probably enhanced a few. And when AIDS first arrived in Australia, there was a big uproar about making free condoms available, and sharps containers available for drug users. That’s just like an open invitation! But it wasn’t, and Australia, as a result has one of the lowest rates of AIDS worldwide.

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