Give us a break, any kind of break…
Once again we were reminded last night on the news that the smoking ban is coming into effect on July 1st. Although a non-smoker, I’d be tempted to join in any mass-civil disobedience on this one. It seems that whatever you want to do these days to recover from the stress of daily life is to made illegal.
There’s a petition doing the e-rounds (another one on the Number 10 website, I think) that is calling for a last minute reprieve for Shisha cafes, seeing as these will effectively be illegal, and most will go under within a month or two of the ban. Shisha is quite popular here in Bradford. Its basically a kind of scented tobacco burnt with charcoal, on top of a device which we might as well refer to as a bong.
Whether you’re white and smoke regular cigarette tobacco or Asian and smoke the wonderfully scented shisha tabaccos (or another combination of the two), your favourite method of unwinding is now under threat. In the case of Shisha, its not like people go into Shisha bars to do anything other than smoke. In fact, many places that serve Arabic food will loose a major source of income due to the ban as well.
So its back to the old pint for all of us. The big pity, of course, is that we’re not going to get served half-litres. I like the idea of half-litres of beer. Things that come in halves should also come in wholes. I like the idea of whole litres even more. But alas, the nearly-two-pint beer glasses just aren’t going to happen any time soon.
Nor will any alcohol, for that matter, if the government continues. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, the government has decided that fining any adult who gives a child alcohol is the way to cut drinking. This means that either, as I suspect will happen, lots of more youths will drink copious amounts behind their parents back, or they’ll try and survive their teenage years without drink and therefore end up either doing other drugs or turning to more physical methods of dealing with the aggravations of teen life.
My parents were firmly of the opinion that teenagers should be given alcohol in small amounts at suitable times, working into our heads the idea that we should drink at meal times, and no more glasses than the meal has courses. We didn’t need to go behind their backs to find out what alcohol did to us, and we didn’t need to end up vomiting before deciding that maybe this stuff wasn’t so good after all. I myself went teetotal for all bar the Christmases of three consecutive years, with very little sense that this was a hardship.
Add to this the bans on drinking in most public places, and the governments determination to reduce us all to teetotallers and occasional drinkers, and it won’t be long before the government tries banning us from drinking. Which I doubt will reduce the amount of violence going on, as people’s stress levels hit even higher peaks, and there is no longer any reasonable way to unwind at the weekend.
So now we move onto harder stuff like Cannabis, which of course, is now even more illegal. So no unwinding with a spliff or you’ll be in jail for two years minimum. One of the best ways of unwinding, probably the least violence-connected, is getting harder to acheive.
Of course, or so I’m told by certain of my friends, we could all go straight-edge. For those who, like myself a year ago, don’t know what straightedge means, it basically means you don’t do any kind of drugs and are vegan. Given what happened the last time I went three weeks without a drink (erm, best not to recall in detail, but I was very happy during most of that night as I managed to unwind for the first time in ages).
I’m told most straight-edge people are into hardcore music, which is unsurprising, seeing as they basically deny themselves almost every other way of escaping their own minds. Which leads me to my final point…
Which is to say that police in various places are starting to crack down harder and harder on raves. Yes, I figure this is a tenuous link, seeing as most rave-goers are fairly heavy drug users. But there’s some overlap, it has to be said. Once again we are reminded that it is illegal to play music loudly outdoors without a (near impossible to get) licence if it consists wholly or predominantly of a succession of repetitive beats (Criminal Justice Act 1994). Indeed, playing it loudly indoors might get you an ASBO, or a get your head cracked open as happened in Leeds recently.
So you can’t smoke in public, you can’t use drugs, your right to drink alcohol as, when and where you please is being clamped down upon, and the right to unwind to music of a sufficiently high volume is also being reduced, not that we’ve had it at all since 1994. Still, there’s been some good successful raves this year already, and there’ll be more I’m sure.
I think this all goes to show just how much this current government is obsessed with messing with our private lives, telling us what we can and can’t do. Our freedom to find release from the stresses of life is under attack, and this can only be a bad thing.
When such methods get banned, people don’t tend to go for less extreme methods of unwinding, they go for more damaging ones. When alcohol was last made illegal in America, it resulted in a shift towards heavy whisky drinking, as it only made sense to smuggle around the more concentrated forms of alcohol.
Another interesting piece of news turned up today. The number of people taking anti-depressants is rising, despite attempts to prevent this happening. Use of drugs within the same category as prozac is up 10%, and under-18s are still being prescribed it. Apparently the charity Mind is calling for more people to be prescribed country side walks, but with more houses and airports being built, the amount of available countryside could get ridiculously small. And then where will we go to find freedom from all the crap in our lives?
P.S. the aforementioned 1994 Criminal Justice Act bans churches from holding outdoor music events, and churches in residential areas which play music too loudly are banned from using their sound equipment for a week, or have it confiscated, or get fined. Yes, there are more spiritually and physically useful ways to find release, but this isn’t one of them.