A state of denial: They're so out of it they can't face reality (the law-makers, that is)

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The Independent Online
Here I am back in the land of freedom and reason, having just returned from a few days in Iceland (a real nanny state), and what do I find but an unbelievable muddle about a ten-quid deal in a pub. It all makes me want to inhale. Inhale, as in a sharp intake of breath. I realise, of course, that even to use the word is controversial in these zero-tolerance days. If you ask me - and why would you, when my mind has been addled by substances that cabinet minister X's son can only dream about - Tony Blair's joke that unlike Clinton, had he smoked dope he would have inhaled reveals him to be not a great wit, but something of a social outcast.

Obviously, had any member of the Cabinet ever inhaled, they would not be doing the good works that they are now, such as swiping money from lone mothers. Instead they would be kicking their doors down to nick their videos. Had any tabloid journalists ever inhaled, they would not be able to uphold the standards of investigative journalism that we so value, as they would be too busy dealing in lowlife misery and sin. Had any police officers ever inhaled they would not be able to exercise such clear judgement as they have in this case. And had any government spin doctors ever attended what is bizarrely being referred to as a "spliff party", they would have become totally detached from reality, and be living in some hazy world of their own.

Thank goodness none of this has happened, and that we have such a sensible drugs policy, and that everyone is being so responsible. The minister concerned has responsibly made his son confess, the tabloid reporter has responsible had the hash tested to make sure she got her money's worth, the editor concerned has responsibly told us that the young man is into drugs in "a fairly alarming manner". The father wants to be named, but he would be breaking the law, even though everyone has a shrewd idea who he is anyway. We cannot have him breaking the law just because his son has, and we certainly cannot question the law even though it is obviously not a very sensible one.

The excuse for all this sanctimonious twaddle and hypocrisy is that it is being done in the name of protection. Children must be protected from drugs even though nearly half of them by the age of 15 will have tried cannabis anyway. The Government must protect the minister concerned. The boy's identity must be protected although it has been so hinted at that it will soon become common knowledge. To protect someone is to assume responsibility for them, rather than letting them make up their own mind; thus responsibility - a favourite word of this clean and sober administration - must be assumed at all times, even when it cannot be guaranteed.

Parents are responsible for the misdemeanours of their children, even when these children are nearly adult. They are responsible when they will not go to school, and do bad things, because the state wants to shift responsibility away from itself and back onto parents. Fair enough. But the paradox is that the state itself is responsible for telling us that it is us and not they who are now to be held responsible. Is it possible to impose a sense of responsibility in this way?

Well, if it is, then how can the same state now allow us to be responsible for what we choose to inhale? Yet again, all talk of the decriminalisation of cannabis, a sensible and often dull debate, is being overshadowed by hysteria about drugs in general. The spectre of drug-related crime has been raised. Show me what crimes are committed by monged-out dope smokers and middle-class puffers, apart from the odd bit of shoplifting, and I will begin to take this seriously. Otherwise, why cannot politicians brought up in the 1960s make the distinction between different kinds of drugs that 15-year-olds make with ease?

Are those in government really as far removed from real life as they appear? One hoped that a younger government would not continue to perpetuate the feeling that its members do not know much about the country they are governing. Once more there appears to be two nations, the poor misguided out-of-touch warriors fighting a war on drugs that their counterparts in America admit they have already lost, that is full of imagery about evil pushers and horrible addicts, that has Leah Betts as its patron saint of ignorance, that believes prohibition works contrary to all the evidence, that cannot recognise its own children and when it finally does, hauls them down to the police station. This is the nation that is out of control, that has got itself into the fine mess that the minister is in today. These are the people we should be concerned about - the sad deluded souls who cannot deal with reality except by ignoring it.

The other nation just does its own illegal thing. It knows that Noel Gallagher was being truthful when he said that for some people taking drugs was like having a cup of tea. It knows that drugs can make you have a good time and sometimes can make you have a terrible time. It understands that much of the music that it likes could not be made without inhaling. It also made "The Drugs Don't Work" a number one hit. It has an independent mind because it knows that neither the media nor the Government tells the truth about drugs. It knows that ecstasy does not always kill, that cannabis does not lead to heroin, and it knows these things because this is its experience. It knows people who should not take drugs, whose lives are ruined by them, and it knows that sometimes drugs are the symptoms not the cause of that ruin. It knows that drugs are a phase, and that they can make you very boring indeed. It knows, in other words, that none of this is a big deal, or even the small deal that all this fuss is over.

How can these two nations begin to communicate with each other? How can the father sit down with the son that has caused him all this trouble and say, not "you are stupid", but "you are ordinary"? How can politicians, never mind their pressurised children, admit that they have also made mistakes? Cannabis does not lead to hard drugs any more than being the child of a politician leads to soft drugs.

Honesty is the only way, but our terribly responsible law will not allow it. Sometimes the only way to change the law is to break it, but that is not an option for a cabinet minister. Those in power who speak of any kind of drug-taking as a way of avoiding reality should consider that they have themselves created a situation in which realities cannot properly be faced. I worry about those people. They are so completely out of it that they cannot see what is in front of their faces; their wasted lives are full of empty promises. One day they will deal with the drugs problem. Meanwhile their own children just deal with it. Failing that, they just deal.