Saturday, May 22, 2010

Say No to Cigarettes and the Differences between Illegal Drugs and Nicotine

Drawing of a smoking cigarette
There is a lot of propaganda against the use of drugs, but surprisingly comparatively little and less severe reactions against the use of cigarettes, especially despite the fact we are clearly aware of its dangers along with its high level of addictiveness. What might be the reason for such preference and biased and unequal treatment?

The argument is often brought up that tobacco is legal, while the other kinds of drugs are illegal. But legality can be akin to fashion: It changes according to the seasons. Once alcohol used to be illegal, and drugs were tolerated. Birth control pills and condoms used to be illegal until their use was finally admitted. Abortion is still a crucial and controversial issue where not only countries but both states and people are thoroughly divided. Not to mention gay marriage, of course, where legality often becomes mixed up with morality.

Another point concerning illegal drugs is its apparent lack of discrimination: All drugs are judged as equally evil and harmful, which would be the same as treating all alcoholic beverages as dangerous, without considering its potency, that a beer cannot be on par with vodka, for example. There is no doubt in my mind that certain drugs, such as cocaine, opium, heroin, crystal meth, are inherently harmful and have devastated many people's lives, yet others, more "natural" drugs, such as marijuana have proven beneficial for medicinal purposes.

But I am less interested in the discussion of drugs; I rather wonder how come cigarettes do not need to sustain the same vicious attacks. Why are people not demanding tobacco to be put into the same category and declared illegal as it is a clear and visible danger that is killing people all over the world and draining the health care system?

And why is this fight against tobacco halfhearted and -measured attempts instead of a full-out war? It seems that the strategy is to attack the consumers, the smokers, by containing them in and limiting them to certain restricted areas, but this obviously does not stop them from smoking; it makes their lives rather more inconvenient and by thankfully giving us nonsmokers a bit of protection from the dangerous effects of second-hand smoke.

Yet the problem lies in the continuous production and various business practices of the profit-wielding cigarette industry. This might be a reason why we tend to accept it and turn a blind eye towards it and accept it simply as legal. A lot of profit has been made from the cigarette industry for various decades now, and the good news for the industry is that unlike oil it is not running dry.

There is another reason why the industry is openly flirting with and attracting teenagers. Their unscrupulous fear and concern lies in the fact that older generations will die out soon, and they will lose out on their regular clientele, while youth may be life-long victims whose pockets can be drained for years to come.

But let us look at some of the harmful effects of nicotine, for example, keeping in mind, however, that cigarettes are a dangerous cocktail of several life-threatening chemicals. The word comes from the French diplomat Jean Nicot who introduced it to the Western world and thrilled the aristocracy of his times.

Nowadays, nicotine actually works as quite a useful pesticide. It is again only one element of various substances that destroys a person's body. For a much more substantial and comprehensive list of negative effects, please take a look at The Effects of Smoking on the Body published by Healthline and you may not want to touch another cigarette again! I think it is not enough to have a few ads here and there warning or intimidating people of its effects and dangers, nor is it a very useful strategy to ban smoking in public places.

I do applaud those measures as a nonsmoker and somebody who is concerned of the negative effects of secondhand smoke, yet it still remains only a halfhearted measure. The practice may decline slightly, but those who smoke will continue to poison their body and destroy their lives, while everyone else keeps up the war on drugs pretending that everything else is all right and under control.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Should we really Love our Enemies?

Stabbing death of Julius Caesar in Roman senate
Although it is noble and spiritually high-minded to love those who hate us and those who wish to do us harm, I believe that in real life it is not feasible and rather impractical to downright difficult and self-destructive to actually do so. There is no doubt that one ought to love one's friends, family and neighbors, and even broader speaking the “whole gamut of humanity.” But does everyone deserve our love, do they merit it or can everyone profit from it; from our own perspective would it be advisable for us to love them all, including the wicked?

Loving one's enemies may sound good in theory and on paper and from the mouth of spiritually elevated and enlightened people, but it also depends on who and what kind of deeds of wickedness we are talking about. Would you love the man who raped your daughter or the serial killer who took the life of your son? Would you actually love the person who gleefully and unscrupulously tries their best to make you fail in life? Would you love those who commit genocide and indiscriminately kill women and children?

The problem I have is the choice of the word itself: love. As a rule, I do not think that love should be necessarily merited or conditional, meaning “I love you because you do this or that for me” or that love even needs to be reciprocal or mutual (who would love their teenage children then?). When it comes to the wicked, I think we should try to understand them, to get to the source of their pain, suffering and frustration, and we should have compassion, however difficult that may be, and tell ourselves that they are mentally insane and literally do not know what they are doing. Those people have evidently gone astray, but should we love them?

It is true that some people would benefit from love because most of the persecutors have been persecuted before, many who have been abused tend to fall into the trap of the horrible and vicious cycle of abuse. Yes, it may stem from a lack of love. But if they are curable through love, then priests and humanist psychologists with their unconditional love should be able to help them, yet in reality they fail more often than not. Are those evil people then beyond hope - and love?

When you spend time with people who are filled with hate, if they do not affect you with their pessimism, then they might purposely try to hurt you. It would be the example of the snake that bit its owner's hand. The owner complained that he had taken care of and fed the snake for a period of time, so why had it been so ungrateful and attacked him. To which the snake replied, but you knew from the beginning that I am by nature a snake, and how do you presume to change who I am.

Although we may be able to bring out the good out of certain people, this does not apply to all the wicked people out there. The example of the snake brings about another question: Should we love the ultimate evil entity itself, the devil, the enemy of enemies?

My point here is that if we are too occupied with loving those who cannot be helped, it would be a waste of time and energy. Some might say that love is an unending well and the more you dig in and out, the more you will have.

But I would rather focus on those nearest to us, loving our neighbors and all those who would benefit from our time and love. Time is of issue here as we are allotted only a little time on earth no matter who we are or how important we think we may be. Anyhow, I would rather avoid my enemies and keep them at a distance because see what happened to poor Julius Caesar!

When it comes to the evil-minded in this world, I think the religious and spiritual people and certified professionals can take care of them for all I care. They are more qualified and will take on the risks of dealing with these dangerous individuals. In the meantime, I will feel sorry, compassionate and will try to help the evil-minded as best as I can, but loving them would be a counterproductive and harmful thing.