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Posts Tagged ‘potential fistfights’

And now, to coin a phrase, for a little bit of politics. One of the more startling NCJG moments of 2012 to date came round about Easter-time when your correspondent found himself embroiled in a rigorous and yet terribly polite discussion with none other than Mr Peter Hitchens, the noted Mail on Sunday columnist, author, and ‘maniac’ (according to the Rt. Hon. David Cameron), as an indirect result of my seeing him in the street in Oxford.

I know what you must be thinking, and I too was startled to learn that Mr H was a reader of this here blog. Much thought on this topic has led me to conclude that one of three possibilities must be true – a), Mr H, when not bewailing the state of the nation, is very keen on reading semi-comic film reviews, accounts of wargaming disasters, and waffle about cult TV programmes; b), Mr H googles himself on a regular basis (don’t think too harshly of him, we’ve all been there); or c), he came across it in some other fashion which is less potentially amusing but also less likely to provoke a writ.

Anyway, since that point I have occasionally seen Mr H out and about around Oxford, always in roughly the same neighbourhood of the city centre, often upon his bicycle but never appearing to particularly enjoy riding it very much. Then again, to my mind Mr H never gives the impression of enjoying anything very much, although he has assured me he enjoys arguing with people (which some might say was just as well, given the nature of the beliefs he shares with the public with such dedication).

I would probably not go so far as to say I actually like Mr H, as we are just a bit too far apart on the political spectrum, but close reading of his works has left me with a definite respect for his intelligence and integrity, and it does occur to me that the reason why he is so execrated in certain circles is not what he says but the manner in which he says it: not so much the message but the medium. In any case, the news that Mr H was scheduled to make a proper public appearance in my adopted home city was cause for much pricking up of ears in the garret.

The reason for this is, of course, that Mr H has a new book out which I suppose I am obliged to plug. Ahem: said tome is The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs. The main thrust of Mr H’s latest opus really doesn’t need much more explication from me, which is just as well as I’ve no intention of actually buying or reading the thing – you can sort of work out the gist from the title.

Now, rather than just letting Mr H stentorianly … you know, I’ve been on holiday, so I’m perhaps a bit rusty, but I can’t for the life of me think of an adequate verb to describe the way our man expresses himself… rather than just letting Mr H do his thing to a crowd (who may well have been frisked on the way in for rotten vegetables, etc), possibly with the odd selected reading from the book in question, what we have to look forward to is in fact a debate on British drugs policy, with Mr H naturally speaking in favour of total abolition.

Possibly rather mischievously, the good people at Waterstone’s (hosting the event) have recruited, to speak in favour of recreational drugs, the author, commentator and convicted drug dealer Howard Marks (aka Mr Nice). It says something about the status of Mr H in the public eye that, in a confrontation with a convicted criminal with past connections to the Mafia, the Yakuza, and the IRA, for many people he will still be the bad guy.

This baffles me a bit, probably because I am generally dubious about the cult of the celebrity criminal: a modern phenomenon I genuinely can’t understand. I actually know very little about Howard Marks, and have never really had any interest in learning more. I will be very surprised if he has the kind of intellectual firepower to seriously contest the issue with Mr H.

The set-to isn’t until Thursday night so I have no idea how things are going to unfold. My prediction is that Mr H will be proceeding from a position of principle, while Howard Marks will be rather more pragmatic.

Personally, my own views on the drug question are as follows. Currently we’re in a situation in most countries where there are a multiplicity of recreational drugs available, some of which are legal and some of which are not. Quite where you drop the legal barrier, in terms of which are which, is what interests me: tradition and precedent, to me, are not sufficient grounds for maintaining such a ban.

Most people, hearing the word drugs in this context, won’t think of nicotine and alcohol simply because they are legal – even though they are both potentially harmful and, certainly in the latter case, the cause of much social ill. And – to paraphrase Bill Hicks, someone who always struck me as a source of much wisdom on this topic (if only Bill was around to debate Hitchens – he would only have been 50, if he were still with us) – if you give one room of people unlimited alcohol, and the one next door unlimited cannabis, everyone knows which will be the most pleasant room to be in two or three hours down the line.

In short, go ahead and ban cannabis and mushrooms, but if you’re going to do that you really need a rock-solid argument as to why you shouldn’t also prohibit the sale of alcohol and cigarettes. And I’ve never heard one yet. Maybe Mr H will be the man to produce one this week; I am curious to see if he does. In any case, I will let you know how it all kicks off and which telling blows, if any, get landed by the literary gladiators. Should be a memorable confrontation no matter how it turns out.

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