The past year has been a tumultuous one in terms of national and world events. It has also been a chaotic one for many including myself on a personal level. While chaos often has negative connotations it has an upside. For better or worse, chaos makes things interesting and inspires action. It takes work, creativity and courage to deal with chaos and an expanded perspective to do so successfully.
One of my greatest challenges in 2014 was letting go of a full-time job in field I’ve worked in for over a decade. Though I can’t say I enjoyed the work, I was attached to the security and relatively comfortable lifestyle it provided. Equally challenging but more rewarding was learning the basics of starting an online business related to causes I’m passionate about: harm reduction and ending the War on (some) Drugs. On the side, I’ve also been learning new skills for a part-time day job in the medical field.
Though 2014 has undoubtedly been a struggle for many and was not without it’s share of bad news, it was a year that saw much progress in terms of harm reduction (especially the popularization of e-cigs as a healthier alternative to smoking) and ending the Drug War.
Public opinion has definitely shifted in a more positive direction on both fronts despite corporate media’s role in preventing such cultural changes. Of course it’s the job of corporate news to warn the public of potential dangers, but we should remember that sensationalized scare-mongering is good for their business because it boosts viewership and sponsorship (though often lacking context and nuanced analysis).
A compilation of typical mainstream media arguments used against e-cigs can be found in Sean Yokomizo’s critique of my commentary arguing for e-cigs as a harm reduction tool for the Asian American/Pacific Islander community. My rebuttal to such arguments are posted here. Views such as Yokomizo’s are typical of prohibitionists who tend to lump together users of substances they don’t approve of. For example, rather than look at hard evidence and data, they might view cannabis use as equivalent to addiction to heroin or methamphetamines, or e-cig users as being as self-destructive as cigarette smokers. Such thinking plays into the hands of opportunistic politicians and lobbyists but has a negative impact on public health.
Though it might be overly optimistic, my hope is that growing support for harm reduction and opposition to the Drug War might be a sign that more people are paying attention to factual evidence rather than authoritarian and/or corporate rhetoric. It might also indicate a reversal of the general societal trends of criminalizing normal and natural behaviors (eg. enjoyment of novel experiences and self-medicating for physical/emotional pain) and normalizing pathological institutional behaviors (eg. racial profiling, demonizing large segments of the population, removal of rights and property for victimless crimes, etc).
We hope you continue to join us in our exploration of the intersecting issues of harm reduction and the fight against the Drug War through our blog and newsletter. We also wish you all the best for a happy, healthy and successful 2015.
For a great year-end recap from a global perspective (with a touch of dark humor), check out Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe: