2012-12-06

On Drug and Breastfeeding Freedom


Just to play Devil's Advocate for a moment, I happen to know that the Pearl Street Mall is an outdoor walking mall, i.e., a pedestrian street.  I'd like to speak to the issues of "second-hand smoke" and "running around drunk/stoned/impaired".  Also there's the question of "dangerous" drugs as opposed to "less dangerous" drugs.  This seems to be quite subjective.  What about "going about in public while ugly" or "....while fat" or "....too scantily dressed" or "...while showing butt-crack (deliberately or no)" or "...with body odor" or "...while farting"?  To take a (perhaps) more plausible example: public breastfeeding.  I've heard the comments "people don't want to see that" or "perverts might see that and get the wrong idea".  Why should these kinds of comments by bystanders about their own subjective impression of their own "comfort" be given precedence?

Why should one be legally allowed to have severe body odor and promenade the Pearl Street Mall but not while smoking something?  One could perhaps argue that one is carcinogenic and the other not -- but who says?  and why is that the only criterion?  Some people would much rather whiff someone's doobie or ciggie than their body odor.  Who gets to decide such things if not the individual?

Back to the breastfeeding.  Also applies to the being fat or being ugly -- although these also have the property of being subjective.  So what if people object?  People, i.e., mothers and their babies, have the right to exist, the right to take part in society.  They are performing their natural function, they cannot reasonably be denied.  The same is true of people who are fat or ugly or disfigured or disabled -- they have a right to exist.  Equal protection means they are protected.

This is the principle of tolerance.  This can be restated that there is no ethical basis for denying a person their right to exist, their right to take part in society.  Certainly not without some kind of due process for transgression of agreed-upon principles.  It means that we have to strike a balance between the reasonable expression of one person's freedom against the reasonable expectation of "comfort" on the part of another.  The comfort of the other cannot always be given complete precedence -- there is also the right of another person to exist and to express their own freedom.

Furthermore, I'd argue that the distinction between "hard drugs" and anything else is arbitrary and a dangerous slippery slope which leads to prohibiting everything (am I committing the slippery slope fallacy here myself? ;-).  Cannabis is currently on the bad side of that arbitrary fine line, but hopefully slipping over.  It's an individual perception.  Some people, habituated, like alcoholics or heavy drinkers, can tolerate a lot more alcohol than normal people.  It's my perception that some people, for example those who suffer from mental illnesses, can "handle" hallucinogens (LSD, psilocybin, etc.) better than other people who crack under the same doses (perhaps because hallucinations, free-floating anxiety, and terror for no reason comes more naturally  ;-).  One can hear amazing stories in recovery meetings about the kinds of things attendees have taken and in what quantities and with what regularity.  These meetings tend to be secret/anonymous and so medical people and/or lawmakers are probably unaware of these kinds of details.  The expectation that whoever decides these drug policies be privy to the actual details surrounding their use is a false one.  I would argue that this in and of itself invalidates the concept of classification and selective prohibition of drugs and such.  This will always be true in an environment of prohibition, i.e., the use is secret therefore a clear-eye official policy is necessarily unformulable.

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