Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
On the morning of November 7th, a woman police officer attached to the Police Tactical Unit faced a 55-year-old man brandishing a knife on a busy MTR concourse. The male, surnamed Chow, was stopped for questioning. He pulled the knife from his bag and lunged at the officer. She issued a warning to drop the knife. Her colleague also issued a warning. Both warnings went ignored. Chow continued to advance on the officer waving his knife. The officer then opened fire with a single shot. Chow collapsed with a gunshot wound.
This sequence of events comes from media reports. I’m told that CCTV coverage of the incident affirms the story. If true, this is a textbook example of how officers should respond. Legally and morally the officer is justified in her actions.
I carried a gun on duty for 34 years. Had a culprit done this to me I'd have no hesitation opening fire. I owe that to my family, the public and my colleagues.
Chow remains in hospital. And surprise surprise, media reports say he has a criminal conviction for assaulting police officers. Thus his attack would appear to be part of a pattern of behaviour.
None of this stopped a legion of Monday morning quarterbacks, armchair warriors and self-serving politicians from heaping bile on the WPC and the Police Force. It’s as if they’d rather see an officer dead or injured than the commendable outcome of this case.
To his great credit, the Commissioner of Police has come out in complete support of the officer. And so he should. Other senior officers have, likewise, shown unwavering backing to this brave young lady.
Leading the charge of criticism is a legislator, James To Kun-san, a so-called democrat. Listening to Mr To you’d think he was an expert in unarmed combat, firearms and the use of force. Except he’s not. He’s a pudgy, stumbling figure and an opportunist grandstanding little-man. He is also a lawyer, yet he appears to have no respect for evidence nor due process.
A chorus of unjustified and fabricated denunciations came out about this incident. It’s disgusting to watch that those leading this are members of the legal fraternity. You’d think they’d have the common decency to await the official enquiry. At least take heed of the compelling evidence already available. Unfortunately, our so-called democrat politicians lost their collective decency some time ago. The only truth for them is their distorted opinions.
It's evident that Mr To desires to politicise the incident. Ever since the failed Occupy movement, he and his cohort have taken every opportunity to badmouth Hong Kong, and it’s Police Force.
Mr To fronted Chow’s family in a press conference. The family appeared with their faces hidden behind masks. Why? One can only speculate. They went on say it was normal for their renovation worker father to be carrying a knife. Well, yes I’m sure it was. But it’s not normal when stopped by the police to pull that knife out and threaten the officers.
The armchair critics are having a field day suggesting that the officer should have used a baton or pepper spray. These assertions are nonsense. Officers have seconds to react or face possible death. A generation brought up on video games and movies has no concept of how to tackle real violence. Many of their comments and observations reveal a profound ignorance. Take a look at these clips; the reality of knife attacks and knife vs handgun.
Likewise, it is suggested officers carry Tasers. Again, the lack of knowledge and understanding is breathtaking. Tasers don’t always work, and indeed, when someone is wearing a heavy jacket, the Taser can prove useless.
As regards the suggestion the WPC was reckless to open fire on a crowded MTR concourse. That view ignores her training, the assessment she made and the fact that she executed the shot with precision.
The scenario that unfolded on November 7 appears very like an incident that occurred in July 2005. It would be useful to remind Mr To what happened on that occasion. On that day, Constable Chu Chun-kwok, stopped a 30-year-old man acting suspiciously in the street. The man suddenly produced a small fruit knife and slashed the officer’s throat. Constable Chu chased the man for about 20 metres with blood spraying from his wound before collapsing. Later the culprit was arrested. He claimed he’d panicked.
Constable Chu remains bedridden to this day. Is that the outcome Mr To and Democrats would have preferred for this officer? Instead, she went home safe to her family. Meanwhile, a convicted criminal with a track record of attacking officers remains in hospital. That for me is a fair outcome.
If the version of events portrayed so far proves true, then the officer deserves our praise. Any reasonable person viewing the facts would concur. Of course, many see matters through their distorted prism and are unlikely to change course.
Mr To claims himself a Christian. It’s not Christian to condemn someone for seeking to protect the sanctity of life. If I were a believer, I’d assert a fiery afterlife awaits Mr To. Meanwhile, he's judged for his deceit in this life. Also, Mr To is not worthy of the protection that Hong Kong police officers provide him.
Lastly, a misquote from a movie. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain matters to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very protection that this officer provides, and then questions the manner in which its provided! I would rather you said "thank you" and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest Mr To you pick up a weapon and stand a post.
The old guard of liberal-centralist politicians in Europe and the US are struggling. They can't understand the world that they helped create. Hillary Clinton continues to rake over the coals of a failed attempt at the US presidency. It's evident from her recent remarks that she still doesn't grasp why the US electorate didn’t vote her to the office. Yes, I know Hillary won the popular vote. That's not the point; she lost the election.
Meanwhile, her kindred spirit Tony Blair is continuing his campaign to derail Brexit. For Tony, the messiah complex overrides rationality. Why express surprise that Blair engages in an activity that seeks to undermine the democratic will of the people. After all, this is the man who maintained deceit throughout his entire time in office. Then with a concocted litany of lies brought on the untold slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people.
I disagree with Brexit. Nonetheless, the majority voted for it, and that’s the deal you get with democracy. Although, Brexit is not proving to be Brexit. That’s another matter
Left unaddressed, the rise of anti-immigrant, anti-internationalist sentiment, which has shifted the political balance within Europe, could have grave consequences. Clinton has finally woken up to that fact.
In a spasm of concern, the Guardian newspaper is running a series of articles that seek to understand why people have rejected the centralist-liberal agenda. They’re also somewhat lost because their grand dominant narrative is no longer so grand nor commanding. The voters have taken a different tack.
As usual, the media is seeking to label the phenomena. They have to give it a definition, and then you can deconstruct it. Populism is the word all the journalists and academics are struggling to tie down. As far back as 1969, academics at the London School of Economics saw populism as an evil spectre haunting the earth. The only problem is no one can agree what exactly is populism.
Even after loads of study, relentless discussion, the academics remain baffled. Of course, why bother with a definition. To me populism is pure; it's the people exercising their democratic right to take things in a different direction. The fact that people are angry with the elites and prepared to speak out is not something that should be a concern. We should embrace that.
Except that our friends in the Guardian appear anxious at the increasingly illiberal masses and the views that they are expressing. Well, who's to blame for that?
Let's review the broad sweep of political history over the past three decades. For starters, capitalism has stalled for a fair number of people. It’s not producing the benefits it promised as wages are stagnant and housing unaffordable.
Then we're led to war by falsehoods. The invasion of Iraq and the later geopolitical mayhem was all for nothing. As he seeks to shore up his collapsing legacy, Tony Blair talks about bringing down an evil dictator. Meanwhile, he earns a crust these days working for other dictators. Plus, there are many dictators out there that our Tony ignored or did business with. The public was misled, the soldiers paid the price, and the people of Iraq are still suffering.
Next, we have the financial crash of 2007/2008, which started in the US and spread its contagion across the planet. In this jolly little episode, the poor folks are paying for the lack of regulation. Meanwhile, the big guys with the money, the very people who caused the crash, walked away with their pockets lined. All this sanctioned by their political friends on both sides of the Atlantic. Let’s remember that Hillary took vast sums from the folks who caused the crash.
Tony Blair also needs to be accountable for his covert immigration policy that opened the UK door to anybody who wished to enter. This policy, coupled with the later manufactured refugee crisis, has had a disastrous impact across Europe. Media images of refugees struggling to cross the Mediterranean stoke public sympathy. When children are involved, it's heartbreaking. Yet, the truth of the situation is more complicated. Many, if not most of these so-called refugees are economic migrants.
It’s worth pondering the question why is this now unfolding across the whole of Europe. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to open the doors to refugees from Syria triggered a crisis within the EU. This move sparked the rise of the anti-immigrant groups. She justified her decision in principled terms against the backdrop of Germany’s history. But does that mean all Europe must atone for the errors of the past to subvert its culture by allowing the world to enter unchecked?
Meanwhile, our virtue signalling celebrities don't miss an opportunity to tell us what to do. Harry Potter’s mum J.K. Rowlings, Saint Bob of the Geldof, Gary Lineker, Emma Thomson plus assorted other super-rich folks encouraged the UK to take in more migrants. But wait a minute. Rowling’s has three huge estates and loads of land as her disposal. And the number of refugees she’s taken in is zero.
None of these self-important, well-heeled lovvies has stepped forward to accommodate anyone in their plush homes. Instead, the so-called refugees get dumped amongst the most depressed communities. There they over-burden already stretched public services to inflame sentiments. So Hampstead and Kensington are off the list, but not Rotherham and Luton.
Of course, mass immigration raises cultural and security concerns as well as fears of economic displacement. If you raise any heckles about this you are immediately smeared with the racist or even Nazi label. Hence the relentless media trope that populism is the rise of the far-right. The constant frivolous use of the racist label only serves to marginalise people and build the walls of polarisation.
The media have a defence. After all, they say, these populists are angry, frustrated and resentful types. But, they forget that the same is said of most left-wing groups and the various tribes of SJWs. I’ll grants you that populism is an anti-elitist set of views. And in that sense, it’s no different from the left.
So while poor Hillary and Tony fret, the people have spoken by rejecting their narrative. Fed up with deceit and outright lies, the ‘basket of deplorables' have said: “Sod you”. Polarisation and fragmentation are the new norms. People are seeking to protect what they have. They play identity politics and dig in. What Hillary and Tony can't get their heads around is that their policies planted the seeds that gave rise to the current state of affairs.
Unless the media and the liberal elites drop their relentless labelling and attacks against anyone who questions their agenda, nothing will change. Only one thing is certain; the finger pointing will continue.
Yesterday was international men's day. Also, in an unfortunate confluence of events, it was international toilet day. I wonder if these two celebrations are connected. Indeed, the radical feminists would like to see men flushed down the toilet. They talk of ‘toxic masculinity’ - watch this to hear true toxicity.
Unfortunately, their agenda is now reaching into UK education policy to deny boys support. Motivated by perverted revenge, the radical feminists are pushing their beliefs too far. This is horrifying.
We shouldn't be surprised by this sort of thing. For years the victimhood feminists have spread their bile and hate-ladened agenda. They've relentlessly worked the media. To them, all men are brutes and rapists. While all women are victims. In their distorted minds, masculinity should be criminalised as a threat.
Separate train carriages and women only public spaces are the demands. Rather than recognising the danger to them as a policing issue, they leap instead to labelling. Every husband, boyfriend, grandfather, boy and uncle is a suspect. Instead of calling upon the vast majority of decent men to protect them, they’d exclude all males.
Of course, the hard data blows the feminist case out the water. Assertions that all men are culprits and not victims is a blatant lie. For starters, estimates suggest that 40% of domestic violence is against men. Much of this under-reported violence lays hidden because men feel a social stigma. The data also shows that women are much less likely to face criminal charges for assaulting their partners. So much for always being the victims.
There also exists a massive under-reported mental health problem amongst men. Each day in the UK 12 men take their own lives. Seven out of ten murder victims are men and 90% of street sleepers are men. A staggering 95% of the prison population is male. Plus, men are a lot less likely to access psychological therapies than women.
Across many jurisdictions, family courts operate in favour of women, and against men. A study in the USA found most attorneys (94% of male and 84% of female attorneys) said that judges exhibited prejudice against fathers. In the vast majority of cases, women get custody of the children in a process that sidelines dads.
By driving men out of families, something the radical feminist seek, they perpetuate a circle of trouble. Again, the science is irrefutable. Boys growing up without a male figure are more resentful, angry, lack motivation and are underachievers. These boys as young men join gangs, engage in substance abuse and drift from crisis to crisis.
I see part of the problem as how the whole gender argument has played out. The prevailing radical feminist belief is that by socialising boys as girls, you can suppress their masculinity. The result is a softer man. This postmodern nonsense has no basis in fact, and the outcomes are counter to expectations. Anyway, the research is in. Gender is not a social construct. Social factors may have an influence, but we remain hardwired to a specific gender. Thus forcing boys to play with dolls is bullshit.
Layered atop this is the false premise of a male patriarchy dominating world affairs to the disadvantage and suppression of women. I wish someone had told Tina Atkinson this as she beat up boys at my secondary school. Apparently, she didn’t get the memo nor did my mum or sister. This insulting idea does nothing but downgrade women through a claptrap theory of no merit.
These radical feminists ignore history, biology and a great deal of research. This stuff proves societies need ‘masculine’ men, not pseudo-men assigned their behaviours by women. When the wolf is at the door, it's the males who normally step up. That's when the masculinity comes into play. That, and getting spiders out of the bath.
The desire to see boys succeed is just not there. One British education advocate recently stated, “People do feel cautious about men and boys because it is seen as speaking up on behalf of a privileged class." Or is it the case that the female-dominated education sector doesn't allow it?
How many men are working in UK primary schools? Only 15% of primary school teachers are male, and that number is falling. Thus, those essential male role models are not there. Kids are being denied the opportunity to witness men and women interacting in positive ways.
Then there is a whole raft of studies to show that teachers inflate the grades of girls. This is attributed to girls being better behaved in class with teachers rewarding them. How does this play out in the real world, when employers discover that these girls are not as capable as their grades suggest? This sort of thing devalues women and is unfair to men.
It's also notable that the radical feminists steer well clear of certain subjects. For instance, I don’t recall them gathering in Rotherham to protest the rape of white girls by British-Pakistani men. Nor did they front up on the TV discussion shows to raise cries in pain for these poor white girls. I can think of no other example of genuine rape culture. And yet the feminists got their knickers in a twist because some Hollywood celebrity had her naked photographs hacked. Their silence about Rotherham, Telford and elsewhere exposes deceit. For them, only white men should be held to account.
I doubt many hard-line feminists drop in here to catch up on what a white middle-aged man is thinking. On the odd chance they do, here’s a suggestion. Something has upset you, and I feel sorry you carry around such nonsense in your heads. Please give us a break from your doctrine. Go away to educate yourself by studying the peer-reviewed evidence. And stop talking about men as the enemy of women. As a husband, as a father and as a son, I don’t recognise the basis for that statement. It’s insulting to the many women and men who function to raise a family.
I’ve been trying to draft this blog all weekend. Things are moving so fast it’s out of date ten minutes after I settle on it. I hack my way through the thicket of detail, then something else pops up. With such a febrile atmosphere, I can't keep up. What a cluster!!
The title of this piece has changed several times. I was going with ‘The longest suicide note in history’ or ‘Hotel California - you can check out, but you’ll never leave.’ I guess ‘Mayhem’ sums it up.
Do I have to ask - was it worth it? Is that the best that she could get after all this back and forth? Let’s be honest; the Brexit deal is no deal. It’s not even a fudge. Instead, it's a mix of half-measures and kicking 'the-can-down-the-road'. While Mrs May has gained grudging respect for her tenacity, an enormous challenge lies ahead.
The European Research Group, a pro-Brexit entity, gives its assessment here. It’s a neat summary that makes the point why the deal won’t go through.
The EU won’t budge either, and they smell blood. After all, the UK started this nonsense, so why should they give in? If I were them, I’d sit tight to watch the UK implode. All the bile and rhetoric thrown their way counts for nothing because Britain is a deeply divided nation. Soon it may be asking to hold everything in abeyance.
All these shenanigans have exposed the complete ineptitude and weakness of the current crop of politicians. The Tory boys are not prepared to bite the bullet and dethrone Mrs May. Instead, they snipe from the sidelines, play petty games while refusing to join the race. Anyway, millionaires Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson will not suffer too much if the economy collapses. Their behaviour is nothing short of deceitful.
On the other side of the house, I have no idea what is the Labour Party’s position on Brexit. Of course, Jeremy Corbyn is taking the opportunity to attack Mrs May from every angle. And yet, we do not know what he would do differently. It's fair that he will seek the advantage and you can't fault him for that. Yet, at some point, he must tell the country what he would do. We wait with bated breath.
So where do we go from here? I suspect the endless round of debating and political infighting will continue. There’s no end in sight.
I’m not going to predict Mrs May’s future. She’s confounded all the pundits. She's fighting her corner with a tenacity that is beyond my expectations. Let us remember she's a diabetic with a punishing workload. Place stress atop that, and you've got to admire her fortitude.
The great British public can complain all they like. As they look around for a culprit to blame, then turn to the mirror. The failure to engage and understand the ramifications of the Brexit decision is shocking. At times it seems for the majority of the public, soap operas or the life of some minor celebrity is all that matters. Everyone knows the winner of the Great British Bake Off. How many understand the details of Brexit? They can tell you who is leading on Britain's Got Talent, but how many can name the leader of the Liberal party? The politicians thrive on this ignorance.
It's often said that Britain lost its way after the Suez crisis. That may be. Yet, it's possible to make an argument the nation lost its mind in the trivialities of celebrity culture and social media. Can the British people continue to dodge the consequences of their actions?
At breakfast this morning in Shanghai, a Chinese student offered his insights. I summarise his thoughts ... “The UK economy will stall, social-order will erode, and you gain nothing from this endless polarisation of your society. Taking charge of a decaying edifice is no prize. How desirable is your democracy now?” He has a point. As the knife-crime cull of youth continues on the streets of London and lines lengthen at food banks, how is it looking? Pretty grim.
Have we reached peak stupid yet? Probably not. If Mrs May falls, the UK is heading for the cliff. A delay in Brexit will be necessary, if the EU agrees. If not, the UK may crash out. That will be interesting to watch.
One positive effect of Trump is that he’s energised the electors to come out to vote. The recent mid-terms saw the most massive turnout in 50 years. That’s a positive. Perhaps the British public can wake up instead of wallowing in TV tripe.
This week is going to be make or break. It takes a brave soul to predict an outcome. I'm not even going there.
You’ve got to laugh. This week Hong Kong took another lashing at the United Nations Human Rights Council. I laugh because I can make a persuasive argument that we enjoy the highest levels of human rights in the world. And yet, if you believed the activists, who deliver their opinion-heavy verdicts, you’d think we lived in a Gulag.
It’s the usual crowd of naysayers. A convicted criminal, self-appointed guardians and a few agenda-driven types. None of them stands-up when exposed to scrutiny. Please don't apply the term ‘independent or balanced’ to this motley crew. Behind their overblown prominence is a false idea that these groups are representative.
Human Rights Monitor illustrates the point. This group sometimes appears at demonstrations with the protestors. Then when it suits, they switch to a monitoring role. Its members don reflective vests as if this confers upon them some special status or power. They then wander around monitoring the police. I’ve yet to see them criticise the actions of violent protesters or defend the human rights of the cops. In their world rights only flow one way.
Human Rights Monitor comes with particular political point of view. There is nothing wrong with that. Except that it's never mentioned when appearing on the international stage asserting their ‘independent’ opinion.
Even the worst aspects of the criticism that these groups level at Hong Kong look trivial when compared with what’s going on elsewhere. Fair enough, bring up your concerns but get a sense of proportion. To me, there is a depressing absence of rationality as ‘human rights’ is pursued by these zealots as dogma. We all know where doctrine leads.
The UN Council itself is hardly above criticism. In the past, its hosted known terrorists and displayed a biased attitude in its reports. It’s not the court of final appeal on human rights. With no monopoly on deciding standards, it’s a talk-shop, where allegations are made without much substantiation. At least this week it had enough sense not to have its findings dictated by Joshua Wong (yes, he of the hunger-strike between meals fame). Young Joshua wants to appropriate the UN Council’s report for his purposes. His rejected attempt caused the usual hissy fit.
You will hear that many of the Hong Kong activists aspire to the US as their model of a free society. This is in part because of ignorance. Most have never lived in the US, nor experienced the reality of life there. Don’t get me wrong, the US has much going for it, but it’s not the nirvana they seek.
On a practical level, if Joshua Wong conducted himself in the US as he did in Hong Kong in 2014, he’d likely suffer a bruising experience. I was there and up close when the NYPD was dealing with the aftermath of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park. It wasn’t pretty. Compared to the NYPD, the measured Hong Kong Police response during Occupy was benevolent.
As a discussion point, it may be helpful to balance the ‘human rights’ record of Hong Kong against the US. Let’s start with democracy. The US has it, although the systems favour those with the 'cash-to-splash' on campaigning. In turn, that means the big corporation weald considerable influence. Hong Kong doesn’t have full democracy. It’s a small circle election dominated by commercial interests. Different approach, but sounds familiar.
The courts in both places remain nominally independent. In the US the judges at the top are political nominees. The corrosive nomination process for Judge Kavanaugh exposed the political influence in the US judiciary. In Hong Kong, Beijing has the final say through the National People’s Congress interpretations. Although rarely used, this gives Beijing a veto. Thus, both systems have a political dimension.
Erosion of press freedom is the standard mantra of the activists. I’ve asked this question several times ... “Can you cite me a specific example of a story or commentary suppressed?" I'm still awaiting an answer.
Naturally, allegations about dark forces operating behind the scenes garner headlines. But I’ve not seen a tangible example of a killed story. We know that journalists face pressures. That's not unique to Hong Kong. I've not seen a Hong Kong reporter have the microphone snatched away yet.
By any measure, Hong Kong has a robust press corp. They are vigorous in their activities although lacking professionalism at times. You only have to look at the ‘Apple Daily’ or the so-called ‘Hong Kong Free Press’ to witness agenda-driven reporting. Likewise, the US has a multitude of campaigning media outlets holding the government to account. A tie on that one.
I’d also put forward the following proposition. In the Internet era suppressing stories is near impossible. Currently, the Internet is hosting revelations about the terrible treatment of a deceased Hong Kong TV star. Hong Kong journalists are staying away from the story. Not so the Mainland media outlets. Is it that Hong Kong journalists lack courage? I don’t know the answer to that. Only they can tell us.
Nonetheless, questions remain. The disappearing booksellers rightly raised heckles. A kind explanation would be Chinese agents operating beyond their brief to stifle subversive books. The 'who will free me of this turbulent priest' defence. Whether this is the case, it remains a disturbing episode.
The Victor Mallet affair appears more about crossing a red-line and giving sinecure to the independence movement. The Foreign Correspondents Club wantonly taunted the government with consequences bound to arise. And there have.
In daily life, I can make a strong argument that Hong Kong citizens enjoy freedoms well above those of Joe Average in the US. For starters, our kids are free of fear of getting gunned down at school. They go to school to learn, and that doesn’t cover how to deal with an ‘active shooter’ on the premises. As a Hong Kong parent waves a child to school in a morning they can be certain little Charlie won’t die from a hail of bullets. Can a US parent be as assured?
In the US, there are 120.5 guns for every hundred residents. Hardly a week goes by without another mass shooting. Bars, cinemas, shopping malls, offices and schools all feature. A Washington Post study found over the past two decades more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus. This year 32 school shootings took place with 90 injuries and 43 deaths. At times it looks like the US is at war with itself.
In the main Hong Kong enjoys freedom from the tyranny of violent crime. The streets are safe, public transport is safe. People go about their business unfettered. Our prisons are run in a humane manner. The staff and prisoners don’t face routine threats of violence or intimidation. The Hong Kong Police are civil, subject to close scrutiny and effective in keeping people safe.
Unchallenged protesters march here on a weekly basis. They disrupt traffic flows, block the pavements and create noise. Everyone gets on with it.
The UN Council talks about safe drinking water and sanitation. Those are a given here. Can the people of Flint, USA, be as comfortable? Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity sit high on the list of freedoms the UN Council cites. Hong Kong is near the top of that list with 1.8 deaths per 100,000, for the US the figure is 18.8. Likewise for infant mortality; Hong Kong’s rate is 2.7 deaths per 100,000, the US 5.8.
Of course, I'm cherry-picking my data. Nonetheless, I can supply a raft of figures across education, opportunities and health care that make a case for Hong Kong’s premier status.
Most of the activists attacking Hong Kong’s human rights operate with prejudices against the Mainland. Their motivation is to find a scintilla of evidence then blow it up. This is then used for political leverage. That strange creature ‘proportionality’ appears beyond them. Like all zealots on a campaign, there is a reluctance to engage with facts. Especially when facts are an irritation.
Granted Hong Kong is not beyond criticism. Far from it. But, nothing comes from these distortions. Those lambasting Hong Kong display a numbing conceit. I ask them “If Hong Kong is so bad, why are you still here?”
I'll start with an admission. I may have smoked a cannabis joint at university. I say may because it came around at a party and I’m not sure. Having consumed a fair amount of Southern Comfort and beer (never a good mix) I can’t recall the exact details. I do recall inhaling, unlike a certain US President. Furthermore, it’s impossible to have noticed any effects. My system was buzzing with alcohol.
That is the extent of my illicit drug consumption. These days my drug of choice is a decent single malt. Also, I’ve learnt to moderate my intake. Well, a clear head in the morning is something to be treasured.
Having steered two daughters through their teenage years with constant warnings and seen the terrible consequences for those who succumb, I’m reluctant about relaxing the law.
Thus, the recent announcement that Canada is legalising the use of cannabis raises mixed feelings. Let me state from the outset, no one should object to the medicinal use of marijuana. Under the control of medical professionals, applied in measured amounts it has considerable benefits. The medical evidence is strong that cannabis can relieve pain for people living with cancer to ease chemotherapy.
It’s also known that marijuana can worsen bipolar conditions, thus its a mixed story. On the medical risks, pot is less harmful than alcohol.
Recreational use of cannabis is more problematic. Like alcohol, this issue is an issue of moderation. Anyway, Canada has since October 17 legalised recreational use.
This decision appears in part due to the law being more observed in its breach. Even Jordan Peterson asserts this is a sound justification for relaxing the rules. I don’t agree. Taking things to an extreme, would we repeal the laws on murder because the practice became popular. Nor, am I confident that this isn’t part of creeping change with no red lines.
Indeed, I agree there are many valid arguments to support relaxing the law. Taking the drug trade out the hands of criminals is a substantial reason. That’s the most persuasive argument I can see. The government can then tax the activity to the benefit of the public coffers. Never missing an opportunity, Hong Kong hosted a cannabis investors forum this week. Cannabis is a new exciting commodity.
Also, relaxation of the law will allow a better-informed customers to understand what they’re consuming. Canada stipulates packaging must provide details on the marijuana strain and its strength. This labelling includes a disclaimer about the health risks associated with pot.
None of these positives can’t suppress my suspicion that legalising recreational use will invite a new set of problems. The long-term health impacts of cannabis remain in doubt. Likewise how the drug will change behaviour is an area that needs exploring. Granted most pot-heads are mellow types yet you wouldn't want operating complicated machinery.
Stepping back to take a broader view, I'm anxious that any relaxation opens the door to feed into a culture of impulsive pleasure. The libertarians talk of rights and freedom, and these are important, yet, responsibility must come into play. I do not see much of that discussion.
Nor are we talking about the cost of overindulgence? It’s the sober citizen who will need to pick up the pieces. The cops, the doctors, the nurses and paramedics are likely to feel the first impact. Later the courts and families get hit. Could we be asking ten years down the road was it wise to cross the line?
There are some positive signs out there. Recent studies identified significant declines in underage drinking in 20 of 28 countries. In countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Sweden, teen drinking halved. Rates of cannabis and meth/amphetamine use have also declined in the past decade.
There’s a global consistency of trends suggesting a shift in youth culture driving a change away from drugs and alcohol use. It’s speculated that kids are better informed about the risks. Many are making a lifestyle choice. They switch to exercise, eating well and avoiding alcohol and other drugs. This is a refreshing change.
It could be I'm missing the point here. The revenues from taxes that will result from the legalisation and sales of marijuana are a massive boost to Canada's coffers. Though estimates vary, recreational marijuana could generate upwards of US$5 billion in annual tax.
Thus, in part, the motivation appears to be fiscal. Yes the Liberals who are in power stand to gain by helping balance the budget. Which is troubling, because a drug policy harnessed to budgetary concerns put the government in the place of the gangs. Even Don Vito Corleone wouldn't touch the drugs trade. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is less reticent.
Events in Canada suggest that the supplies of cannabis are inadequate for demand. A roaring trade is underway. Meanwhile, we are unlikely to understand the full impact for some years. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect the unforeseen will arise and Canada may yet regret this move.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, my WhatsApp sprung to life. In a matter of an hour, I received the leaked thoughts and instructions of a senior police officer. This all tinged with a mild tirade and a fair bit of vim. Mischievous former colleagues took delight in passing on these messages. It was all jolly fun with a whiff of a scandal in the air. Except, a more pressing issue is at play here.
WhatsApp is a powerful tool. It’s become the de-facto main means of non-verbal communication across many organisations. This has positive outcomes, and yet, as always, there is a downside. And that downside can be significant. Careers can get ruined, the organisation exposed to ridicule and security compromised. That’s not to mention the whole issue of data privacy.
At first, everyone assumed WhatsApp was a safe means of communication. After all, it’s encrypted. The publicity trumpets military-grade encryption. I’m sure it is. That’s not the point. The technology is superb, it does its job and does it well. The problem is human. People can and do take copies of what people say to share it. With an anodyne conversation or a bit of tittle-tattle, there’s no issue.
But, commanding a unit through WhatsApp is a different matter. I know, I've done it. Within any command exist jealousies, with a fair bit of infighting the norm. Thus a leader takes a terrible risk issuing directives or admonishments through WhatsApp. The possibility of a leak is high. Coupled with that is the habit of saying things online that you’d not speak face-to-face.
The app gives the impression of control, in reality, the opposite is true. Merely issuing a directive or order on WhatsApp is meaningless. There is no direct contact, no opportunity to read the face of the recipient to assess whether they've understood or agree. It's a blunt tool. There is no real-life relationship, no empathetic reading.
Added to that is the possibility of misinterpretation. A face-to-face exchange allows signals to be picked up that folks are uncomfortable. That’s why evolution made us this way. WhatsApp short-circuits that process, with potentially dangerous consequences.
It’s my observation that junior staff get debilitated by their seniors regularly using WhatsApp to issue instructions, guidance and generally interfere. It removes initiative. Juniors become automatons. They await directives from someone who is not at a scene and ill-placed to take charge. In the long-term, staff development suffers. Young supervisors never get the opportunity to command, make mistakes nor learn. For me, WhatsApp plays into the hands of the lacking-confidence micro-manager.
At critical times, the impact can be severe. With many overlapping WhatsApp groups operating, disruption to the chain of command is inevitable. Officers get bypassed, contradictory instructions go out, and misinterpretation leads to confusion. WhatsApp is those circumstances doesn’t help.
As a plotters tool, WhatsApp excels. Any aspiring officer needs to be conscious that things said on WhatsApp are retained for decades. That stuff can come back to bite them. There is no escape for deniability. You are at the mercy of those holding your words.
Managers and leaders need to use WhatsApp with discretion. It's a great tool that can make life a lot easier; it's also a trap. Use this simple rule: would I send that message on a postcard? If the answer is no, then maybe you shouldn’t say it on WhatsApp. Apply that rule, and you won't go much wrong.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.