17 August 2005

Seven-year-olds hooked on drink

A fantastic headline from Monday's Metro, if somewhat of a bare-faced lie. Firstly the article implies there are huge swathes of the under-eight population attending AA meetings, when it in fact turns out that an Edinburgh hospital reported a single incident of a seven-year-old that had been persuaded to drink by older children. Even for this one, admittedly concerning, case, it hardly follows from a visit to hospital that the child is "hooked on drink" as the Metro so graphically puts it. I realise newspapers need gripping stories, but it belittles real issues when the truth is stretched so far as to be trivial.

The Times has a rather less hysterical article on 7-year-olds treated for alcohol intoxication, although even here I take issue with some of the implications. The article states that a "quarter of school-age children admitted drinking alcohol every week". Now, as a child from I young age I drank alcohol; given to me by my parents. What terrible parents they must have been? Well, no, I had watered down wine with my meals and the occasional beer as I got older. See, the social issue is that when you make things taboo you positively encourage rebellious teenagers to indulge in such behaviour. The much beloved continental attitude to drink is to do with a culture where drink is not a taboo, but is integral to wider social patterns. This means that what we need is more personal responsibility from parents; they need to act as positive role models with regard to drink. The government cannot and never will be able to legislate culture.

Lastly, I'd like to see these advertisments for drink aimed at seven-year-olds and the proof for how going on at young children about drink and drugs has made a blind bit of difference to the rates of consumption of either. The light at the end of the tunnel of the 'teach them when they're younger' education programs is that there is only so young a child can be, before the whole idea has to be given up as nonsense.

08 August 2005

An anarchic anomaly

I recently came accross a site about Kowloon Walled City which was a hugely dense settlement (claimed to be the most densely populated location in the world at the time) that had a limbo like existence in Hong Kong until it was torn down in 1993. Britain and China disputed who should control and govern the land, the upshot of which was that neither did, effectively leaving the area free of state interference. The website says:

Basically the indecision and ignorance between the two countries over the occupation of KWC lead to the city's lack of government, and its inevitable self-organization [my italics] and problems with crime and drugs.
Without knowing any of the political background of the authors of this site I thought it interesting that they thought the self-organisation of the Walled City was inevitable without government. Perhaps they meant it in a derogatory way, in so far as the people of the city were forced to self-organize, but even if that was their intention it does show that humans have a remarkable capacity for self-organization as a community without government having to tell them how.

Obviously as an Anarcho-Capitalist I am not particularly concerned about the 'drug problem', I'm sure the biggest issue in the Walled City was drug-lords created by the very government policies that are supposed to eliminate them. As to the crime rate without state police to help out (and excluding 'drug problems') the website goes on to say:

Chan Pui Yin arrived in Hong Kong from Chiu Chow [China] county in 1947, opening his own herbal medicine store in KWC eight years later.

"Once I'd settled here I found that there was less crime in it than outside. Although the police were not around there was a volunteer group to help keep the peace. It is a bit like back home in the villages of China - a harmonious state of anarchy. I don't really want to move."
The inhabitants were mainly poor migrants, especially dispossesed Chinese, and so had limited resources yet they managed to collectively create this impressive structure. Kowloon Walled city obviously had its fair share of problems, poor rubbish disposal systems being a major one and the lack of natural light in some areas, although this is a general feature of a lot of Hong Kong's high density living. However, the point remains, essentially a city of up to 50,000 people peacefully existed in a state of anarchy for over 100 years until the do-gooder government decided to tear it down and throw these people out of their homes.

06 August 2005

A belated quote...

"By definition you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber."

John Howard
Australian Primeminister

You're right there, John!