Garth George: I hope I'm dead and gone before drugs are legalised

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The case for decriminalisation, said the lead headline on this page on Tuesday, and I said to myself, "Here we go again. Let's get rid of the drug problem and its enormous cost by making the stuff legal".

Last week I suggested, among other things, that the legal age for drinking alcohol should be raised to 21. Of the 170-odd comments made on the column on nzherald.co.nz, a large number put forward the tired and specious argument that those old enough to vote and fight for their country should be able to drink.

If Paul Thomas and others thought about that argument for more than a few moments, surely they would see how incongruous it is. And not only because it ignores a fundamental human foible: the easier you make it to get at forbidden fruit, the more people will want a taste.

The philosophy that if something is forbidden and causing inconvenience, it should be dealt with by making it either legal or acceptable has changed our society dramatically in the past 50-odd years, so much so that it would be unrecognisable to anyone who died in the early 1960s.

Ignoring the "liberating" effect on teenagers and young adults of the rock'n' roll era which began in this country with the movie Rock Around the Clock, one of the first pieces of legislation that was to change the face of society was the Matrimonial Proceedings Act of 1963, which made divorce much easier and banned the media from reporting divorce cases.

Within a generation the stigma of divorce had all but disappeared from the land and the divorce rate had climbed off the clock. In the 10 years from 1961, divorces rose from 1700-odd to 3900 a year and a decade later numbered 8600. Very quickly solo motherhood lost its stigma too, and the numbers of sole parents rocketed.

And alongside this throughout the 1960s, the sexual revolution was transforming traditional sexual mores and was given a tremendous fillip by the arrival of the birth control pill in 1969, which freed women from the fear of unwanted pregnancy and allowed men and women, married and unmarried, to be much more sexually active.

At the same time the feminist revolution was getting into full swing, a movement which was to bring so many changes in attitudes to gender dynamics that many of us oldies are still coming to terms with some of them.

By the early 1970s the needs of sole parents had become so great that a 1972 royal commission recommended a new benefit which was to be set at a level high enough to allow sole mothers to stay home to care for their children.

The Domestic Purposes Benefit arrived in 1974 aimed at helping women with a dependent child or children who had lost the support of a husband, or were inadequately supported by him. It was also available to unmarried mothers and their children, and to a father who was the sole parent of one or more children.

Thus, as many critics predicted, it was made easier for the numbers of sole parents to increase, made easier for men to simply walk away from their responsibilities and made easier for sole parents to opt out of the workforce. The new benefit, they said, would also place an unfair burden on the taxpayer. How right they were on all counts.

Increasing numbers of illegitimate children and the raucous demands of hard-core feminists brought an 18-month royal commission of inquiry in the mid-1970s which resulted in 1977 in the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act which was described in its short title as an act to, among other things, "provide for the circumstances and procedures under which abortions may be authorised after having full regard to the rights of the unborn child".

Many people at the time, myself included, predicted that in spite of all the caveats in the legislation, the result would be abortion on demand, and so it has transpired - between 17,000 and 18,000 a year. The "rights of the unborn child" have never been upheld and, in fact, the Court of Appeal has lately ruled that the unborn child (euphemistically called a fetus) has none.

Over these same years our education standards have been made easier so often and so incompetently that they have dropped to rock-bottom and tens of thousands of young people suffer from illiteracy and innumeracy, can't get jobs and resort to crime.

The economy, which since the mid-1980s has created a degree of poverty rarely experienced in this nation's history, groans under the pressure of a social welfare system plagued by thieves and bludgers.

Making it easier for children and young people to get alcohol has resulted in an epidemic of teenage (and younger) drunkenness and consequent mayhem, tragedy and suffering.

And now ex-cop cum ex-MP Ross Meurant and others want to make it easier to do drugs. Go for it. With any luck I won't be here to see the consequences.

- NZ Herald

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