Atanu Dey On India's Development

A great rant from The Agitator.com

| 8 Comments

A well-written rant warms the cockles of my heart. And when the rant is against gross stupidity, crass ignorance, and idiot politicians pandering to the mindless bigotry of the public, I feel envious and wish I had written it. Here’s one for you — A Letter I’d Like to See (But Won’t) — if you like that sort of thing. But first, the background:

The Olympic swimming sensation Michael Phelps, who was photographed inhaling from a marijuana pipe, has lost a major sponsorship deal and has been suspended from competition for three months. [Feb 5th, NY Times]

Below the fold is an extended excerpt from the rant, for the record:

So go ahead. Ban me from the next Olympics. Yank my endorsement deals. Stick your collective noses in the air and get all indignant on me. While you’re at it, keep arresting cancer and AIDS patients who dare to smoke the stuff because it deadens their pain, or enables them to eat. Keep sending in goon squads to kick down doors and shoot little old ladies, maim innocent toddlers, handcuff elderly post-polio patients to their beds at gunpoint, and slaughter the family pet.

Tell you what. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll apologize for smoking pot when every politician who ever did drugs and then voted to uphold or strengthen the drug laws marches his ass off to the nearest federal prison to serve out the sentence he wants to impose on everyone else for committing the same crimes he committed. I’ll apologize when the sons, daughters, and nephews of powerful politicians who get caught possessing or dealing drugs in the frat house or prep school get the same treatment as the no-name, probably black kid caught on the corner or the front stoop doing the same thing.

Until then, I for one will have none of it. I smoked pot. I liked it. I’ll probably do it again. I refuse to apologize for it, because by apologizing I help perpetuate this stupid lie, this idea that what someone puts into his own body on his own time is any of the government’s damned business. Or any of yours. I’m not going to bend over and allow myself to be propaganda for this wasteful, ridiculous, immoral war.

[Hat tip: Cosmic Variance.]

  • ram

    Atanu,

    Are you suggesting Michael Phelps is right ? I hope not

    Any public figure like Michael Phelps, or Rajnikant or Amitabh Bachhan have to realize that once they become a public figure , what they do in their own time , to their own bodies , is just not his own business. They have entered stardom and what they do influences millions. So it IS the government’s damned business, to see to it that their behaviour creates no bad followers

    Related to the same topic is the smoking ban by Ramadoss.
    I know personally of people who have taken to smoking (not marijuana though) just because they wanted to look like Rajnikant in his style. Ramadoss was right in his on-Screen smoking ban (politicians could be right too :-) ). But others dont think so

  • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

    ram:

    The letter is not written by Phelps. It is just a rant by a blogger who wishes that Phelps had responded that way.

    Yes, I do support the rant — as I indicated, I wish I had written it.

    I find your view, that public figures lose autonomy and come under some different set of moral and ethical standards, abhorrent and distasteful.

    The basic ethical principle is that people own themselves. They have a right to being left alone. Nobody can dictate what another person does to his or her own body. The first step on the road to tyranny is interference in other people’s personal lives.

    Since you brought the matter of smoking, I will speak to that. Smoking is a harmful activity that harms the smoker. One can reasonably restrict smoking in places where others will be harmed due to someone else’s smoking. But whether or not an adult smokes is nobody’s business.

    I believe that just a few minutes of reflection should convince an adult that personal liberty is the first and most important principle upon which any decent society has to be based. If that’s missing, there is little hope for any development–economic or otherwise.

  • ram

    But how do you control ~14 year old kids from trying to emulate Phelps. Now he has a larger than life public figure, and obviously many would want to be like him.
    Doesnt he automatically get the additional responsibility of playing a role model.

    People should realize that in a society , no one can just live for themselves. If you are contributing to the society thats great and you deserve to be appreciated, Similarly If you are eroding or decaying the society you have to be punished. I think that is what is governance is for. What Phelps got was far less that what he deserved

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  • prateeksha

    By what ram says, supposing we don’t know anything about them, one infers that young people, especially teenagers, don’t have a head of their own. And, cannot be taught to think for themselves: what’s beneficial, what’s harmful, and so on. And that, when they grow up to be adults they merely display conditioned reflexes, of the most superficial kind.

    “People should realize that in a society , no one can just live for themselves. If you are contributing to the society thats great and you deserve to be appreciated, Similarly If you are eroding or decaying the society you have to be punished. I think that is what is governance is for.” <– if this isn’t moral policing, what is it?

  • girishsv

    Atanu,

    Agree that the government has no right to regulate what an adult injects into his/her body, but this comes with the caveat that the individual should not expect the government to foot the bill for any medical issues that arise out of the individual’s choice.

    What if an individual overdoses and has to be taken to the Emergency Room ? Many states (in the US) require that patients be treated irrespective of their ability to pay. Why should the taxpayer be left to foot the bill in such cases ?

    What of the larger social impact of drugs being available to teenagers – what’s the government’s role here ? Saying that it’s up to parents to ensure that their kids don’t do drugs is easy – but when a teenager sees his peers shooting themselves up, it’s a bigger motivator to start than any parental advice.

  • mayuresh

    Girish,

    Absolutely spot-on in saying that the government should not foot the bill for misadventures of an adult with smoking / drugs addiction or even alcohol. And yes, people who are diagnosed with cancer due to smoking / liver damage due to alcohol consumption have no right to government funds.
    However, taking this to its logical end, is the government responsible for a person who suffers from a heart-attack due to obesity? Or a coronary heart blockage? Or for that matter, a person who suffers from jaundice due to drinking bad water. Actually, we can argue for the jaundiced person saying (s)he could not afford clean water, but what abt the others?
    We probably need to invest time and research into coming with a solution for this issue. But yes, I would want to lean on your side and say that smokers/drug addicts/alcoholics do not deserve medical treatment on taxpayers money. Let them spend their own money to get treated for such diseases

  • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

    girishsv:

    Yes, the government has no right to control the people in activities that have no consequences for other people. Now if the government decides that it will pay for the self-inflicted harm of some people — and then claim that it has a right to control all people in all sorts of areas, I think that it is basically using an excuse to control people.

    My position is straight forward. Leave me alone and I will leave you alone. I don’t want the government to give me things (and we must remember that the government actually does not give anything that it owns — it merely takes from Peter to give to Paul) and I don’t want the government to take things away from me. Getting some material benefits (that too taken from others under threat of physical violence — which is what the government essentially does) in exchange for giving up liberty is a fool’s bargain.

    I don’t know about the others, but I would rather not get “free” treatment from the society if to get that I have to live my life under the dictates of society.

    I know there are places in the world where the people do trade in their personal freedoms for a few freebies. They are called socialist states. Life is hell in these places. I do wish we had open borders so that people would be free to decide which system they want to live under: as free people with no expectations from the government, or as slaves who are forever beholden for a government handout.