Friday, February 06, 2009

Correct Ideas

Where do correct ideas come from? Do they drop from the skies? No. Are they innate in the mind? No. They come from social practice, and from it alone.
- Mao Tse-tung

Michael Phelps, one of the greatest swimmers in history, has been suspended from competition for three months and lost a sponsorship deal with Kellogg.

Both Ray Lewis and Leonard Little are football players who were tried for murder. They weren't suspended for three months. Michael Phelps hasn't been charged with a crime, let alone convicted, and he's on the bench.

I'm not crying a river for Phelps, the guy's already got more money and gold medals than I would accrue in a dozen lifetimes, but the shallow hypocrisy of these actions says a lot - and none of it good - about our society.

First, it's a picture. He wasn't found in possession of drugs, he didn't test positive for drugs, it was a picture of him with his lips around drug paraphernalia. He's been very forthright about admitting a mistake, so it's safe to assume he was using the bong for its intended purpose, but a picture by itself is not incriminating evidence. You certainly can't convict someone of possession on that alone, as the idiotic South Carolina sheriff's department is starting to realize.

Second, in this country and apparently in Britain as well, we have a strangely warped idea about the dangers of marijuana. You can find plenty of research showing that marijuana is less dangerous than legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol, and only mildly more dangerous than caffeine. (Note: you can find research suggesting the opposite as well. But the greater weight of evidence supports the contention that marijuana is at least "no more dangerous" than tobacco and alcohol.) The Dutch have actually banned tobacco while pot remains legal.

Third, almost all of the dangers associated with pot are from long-term use. Occasional, casual use has almost no destructive effects. And Phelps clearly isn't using the stuff regularly, since it would hamper his performance and show up on drug tests anyway.

So why is marijuana illegal in the first place? Social practice. If the original settlers of America had done more wacky weed and less tobacco, the laws would be reversed today, and Phelps' picture would be no more of a story than him with a cigarette.

Let's grow up and recognize this for what it is...a consequence of a society who relishes in both the building and tearing down of cultural icons. We love our heroes, but at the same time are envious of their success and can't wait to see them fall. When they do slip up, our self-righteousness only fans the flames of their destruction. It's lame, pathetic, hypocritical, and disgusting. To watch USA Swimming, Kellogg, and the media to happily play their roles in this charade makes me embarrassed to admit I'm American (as if there aren't enough reasons already, but still.)


At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Z0r said...

While I agree with you 100% that the marijuana taboo in America is pretty lame, I still think Michael Phelps is an idiot.

Here's why... he made it his mission and cause to be a role model for kids. Part of this involved very lucrative contracts with companies that advertise in markets to American kids with American parents.

He knew his demographic -- he knew that this would not play well in the American media, and he had to know that the American people would play lawyer, judge and jury and convict him in the court of public morality.

While I feel sorry for the guy because 99% of Americans are idiots, he'll still have more money than I'll ever make. So, I'll sit back, and enjoy watching this farce play out.


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