Saturday, 3 March 2012

Putting the real dealers out of business

I was stunned when I read this (, though not for the reasons DASH want me to be. But when I read this (see I actually cheered, then laughed when I realised that also isn’t all it seems.
What stuns me is that the Manx government has been putting over £100K annually (a sum roughly equivalent to 80% of Swithinbank’s basic salary) into an organisation which struggles to achieve what any motivated volunteer on any island housing estate could do in their spare time if they wanted to. In addition it presents itself as having ‘specialist expertise’ yet relies on inaccurate, biased and out-of-date information pumped out by UK ‘dependency specialists’ rather than objective (and by any comparison cutting edge) information readily available to any rank but engaged amateur with access to the internet. Until now I honestly thought DASH’s government funding would be closer to the sum we know they still receive (i.e. around £27,250), and even that seems about £26,250 more than any voluntary group operating at this level needs.
It was tempting to believe that the Department of Anti-Social Careerism had finally come to its senses, until you consider that the money ‘saved’ is, by remarkable coincidence, about the same annual sum it needs to put aside to cover Swithinbank’s pension. This was the point at which I burst out laughing. Knowing that Swithinbank was employed in the first place because of his ability to cut costs, source off-island funds and put in place structures whereby ‘independent’ charities do the social care and philanthropic trusts provide the money and materials, yet government pulls all the strings, it makes sense. Perhaps his final juggling act was to fund his own retirement.
Interestingly a follow-up misinformation plant from DASH (see ) was quickly removed from the IOM Newspapers website, then reappeared heavily re-written and minus all but the most innocuous public comments. To be fair, most of the comments on the original version were so bonkers they might have come from prospective DASH clients. They certainly showed a lack of social engagement, some distancing from reality and a blinkered knowledge of current affairs peculiar to those fuelled by only the most down-market tabloids.
But it will be interesting to see what that ‘alternative service model’ will be, and especially if a ‘reformed’ cokehead now functioning as a quasi-pastor for an evangelical ‘drug charity’ will have anything to do with it. To my knowledge this outfit have friends within at least two relevant government departments, and the backing of other evangelical outfits who draw money for the (non) provision of Manx ‘public services’, in at least one case paid directly to an off-island parent which in turn acts as little more than a clearing account for ‘donations’ to a major church. As these venal, self-serving parasites, though worryingly under-informed (and under-educated in either the formal or professional senses in their fields of ‘expertise’), also featured prominently in the setting up of the Chief Minister’s Task Force on Drugs and Alcohol we can anticipate a smaller, but equally useless, public program which claims to be tackling drug abuse but actually just underwrites the activities of a shady business community which rots more minds and wrecks more families on this island than heroin dealers ever did.
Bottom line – we don’t need the ''alternative service model' either, because professional drug prevention agencies don’t work, and the best thing government could do is stop pretending it knows what it is doing and just butt out. The only thing that works is when a community decides if it wants neighbours and workmates dealing or taking currently illegal drugs or not, then what it wants to do about it. The only models I have ever seen over the decades that work are informal ones run by relatives and friends of those affected. They got people off stuff that was killing them simply by being around until they stopped taking it, and if they didn’t think the drug dealers should be there they just closed down the estate to them. It’s not rocket science, just compassion and taking an old fashioned pride in what you do and where you live and work.
The only thing government can or should do is deal with the strictly physical and medical aspects of drug dependency. They can provide adequate medical care, and if they are really serious they can (a) deal with the poverty and social inequality that makes the weakest people most dependent on drugs and (b) consider if the illegality of the drugs is a bigger problem than the physical damage they may cause.
As no-one else will say this, I will. If a cheap and easy local supply of Class A drugs dried up on the island tomorrow, the call centre operations which form the backbone of the offshore finance industry would close within weeks. Call centre workers get through days of battery chicken existence at a frantic pace by necking illegal stimulants or, if they can’t get those, semi-legal steroids which they obtain under the pretence of being dedicated gym bunnies. Their employers know and turn a blind eye to this, with the better ones offering professional counseling to employees whose habit gets out of hand and the worse ones constantly replacing staff (always at entry level wages and on short term contracts) who they expect to burn out within a year or so.
Maybe a better answer to the real problem is to legalise some of the substances, and let the market do the rest. Faced with a choice between reasonably priced merchandise of certifiable quality from reputable high street stores and the current options, the skanks selling milk and baby powder cut with knock-off East European pharmaceuticals whose name and provenance (never mind chemical construction) nobody can be sure of will go to the wall.
Of course government and local employers (even the wisest, bravest ones) are not going to go with that. Which is why all anyone can do is decide for themselves, and, where or if they think a problem exists, to get together with a few friends and sort it out.
Forget politicians, forget social services and any other government employees after a steady income and a good pension, and especially forget evangelical shysters. Like the smack dealers, they are just out for an easy living, and if we deny them that they will eventually get off our backs – or at least find a scam with less risk.

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