Before the city of Maastricht chose to pursue marijuana prohibition policies they first asked a team of researchers to examine what impact it would have. The researchers found that the proposed “membership” system for coffeeshops, which included banning all non-residents from going into establishments, would have disastrous effects on the cities public safety, health, and economic situation. In response, the government demanded new research with results that would support their new mission to shut down marijuana cafe’s that have existed since the 1990’s. Today there are a several municipalities that have adopted this prohibition policy that is scheduled to go national by January 2013, and the results are already being felt. Nicole Maalsté is a researcher from Tilburg University who has been examining the issue of drug policy and coffeeshops in the Netherlands over the course of several decades. She joins me on today’s podcast to explain what her work has revealed and just how the relationship between politics and research has led to a startling reality on the street level.
Over the past 3 weeks I have been in Portugal helping my grandparents with daily life during a trying series of complications that often come with old age. During that time Ive strangely found myself watching television, specifically programming from the more intellectual Portuguese state television RTP2. While washing dishes one night I heard a familiar Brazilian accent and looked over at what was a clearly older and slightly weaker Lula da Silva. The former 2 term Brazilian president was being interviewed about his life, his presidency, his country, and the world in general. He spoke about how his thinking has been impacted by his successful battle against throat cancer. He spoke about injustice and inequality in different parts of the world, including in Brazil. And most impressive for me, he spoke with a clarity and wisdom you’re rarely allowed to see in the world of international politics.
This got me to thinking about the wisdom and freedom to speak that comes with no longer being the leader of a nation. Every now and then, a president or a prime minister steps down, and suddenly it is like a weight has been lifted and a light shines upon them. In the United States, Jimmy Carter has long been the voice of unwavering criticism and honesty about the state of the world and the shortcomings of is own presidency. Nor he or Lula are the first of their kind, but listening to someone who led such a large and dynamic nation during a period of such immense change, in addition to having survived the near loss of his voice (and life), is quite enlightening.
Critics will say – he (and all former leaders) are still and always will be politicians. Lula himself says this. But the office of the executive seems so often to paralyze and silence the true voice of the person elected to that position. Perhaps you can’t speak truth to power when you are the power. But if anyone in this world were looking for useful information based on unique and qualified experience, look for the former presidents who still care about the world and have finally found the nerve to tell it like it is. They can help advise both leaders and citizens of this world, to learn from their mistakes, and look critically at how our world is being run.
Note: I will subtitle the interview and post it in the coming week as a video entry.
When it comes to drug policy and coffeeshops in the Netherlands, we rarely hear the voices of those who work behind the counter and see how things work (or don’t work). Nel has lived and worked in the coffeeshop world for over 5 years and in that time he has seen the daily routine of the cannabis industry and the politics that revolve around it. What he knows is not the political theater that so often gets reported on in the media, his story is the reality that somehow does not always trump the growing list of myths that surround cannabis in the Netherlands.
Last month there was a big to-do in South Africa over an art piece by Brett Murray, depicting president Jacob Zuma posing in a Lenin-style look to the future along with his penis being clearly visible. Protesters have called it everything from disrespectful to racist, culminating in one enraged person attacking the artwork, damaging it, and closing the exhibition (or is it back already? I haven’t heard the latest)
Zuma has long been a contreversial figure, especially when it comes to sex and sexuality. He has had 6 wives and from them a grand total of 20 children. More infamously, he was acquitted of rape in 2005. Throughout his political career in some way sex or sexuality has always been there, either in the background or the foreground. This would seem to be the grounds for which the artist chose to prominently include the president’s penis in the image.
Many disagree. They see these matters and personal and not subject to public criticism. They also feel the president of the nation deserves respect and not to be made a caricature of. But they don’t just disagree and write about it in the media and express their opinion in the many forums available to people today. They take it further and seek to have such images banned and follow that with all manner of accusation about the intentions of the artist. Its a familiar theme in a world that has become very much about not just expressing an opinion, but stopping others from expressing their perhaps less popular opinion. Everyone is very busy being offended, and they demand someone else get in trouble for their alleged suffering.
Im neither South African nor a real artist, but I think there’s a global message in the events taking place around this work. Therefore I’m making sure “The Spear” is available on this site… enjoy – or don’t.