Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. – Ghandi
Any form of advocacy is bound to seem futile at times. It quite often is completely futile, as it has been in the war against the war on drugs. You have to remember though; we cannot win if we do not fight. A loss can be a lesson; accepting defeat in advance prevents any kind of progress at all.
Recently Proposition 19 in California, a voter-sponsored initiative to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis products for recreational purposes, was soundly defeated at the polls. Many people within the advocacy community thought this was going to be the first major blow struck for the movement. It wasn’t. It seems like it never is, no matter what we do. Unfortunately, people got their hopes set so high that they are now disappointed and disillusioned with the fact it was defeated. They cite polls that suggested it was positioned to pass. They cite precedent whereby such initiatives have led to serious progress.
It doesn’t matter what the polls said! We got hammered, and we’re just gonna have to get up out of the mud and keep going!
They should have accepted up front that it would probably fall on its face and have been prepared to make the next move right on the heels of such a defeat. You don’t stop boxing because your opponent got a nice jab on the end of your nose. This is a fight: A long, protracted, vicious fight for our own freedoms. The fight to free the slaves was long and hard-fought. The fight to gain democracy from the hands of despotic imperialists was long. Every fight worth fighting is going to take determination and a willingness to die trying. Every cause worth espousing is likely to ruin your own life and you won’t see progress in your lifetime. If you aren’t prepared for this reality, you should probably just hang up your “activist” costume and settle in for a long and mediocre life watching reality television and smoking your bong in secrecy.
While I do blame the media in large part for presenting marijuana advocates as a bunch of slack-jawed, unintelligible stoners with no ambition to speak of; we don’t help ourselves by letting those sorts of people front the movement all the time. I would like to state, as a Canadian, that I do not in any way support the “Marijuana Party” or its completely stereotypical image. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Just because you like dreadlocked hippy-girls in ponchos doesn’t mean they don’t scare the hell out of right-wing fanatics. Those right-wing fanatics are holding all the cards, so we better learn to play by their rules.
Whenever I have tried to suggest more “strategic” means through which legalization could be achieved I am met with the same attitude from many in the community. They quote their “rights”. They claim that fascist bastards must be met head-on and never capitulated to in any way. They say it is a fundamental issue of principle. They like to say they “shouldn’t have to” do this by subterfuge and clever strategy. There is a single overriding flaw in this thinking.
It doesn’t matter how “right” you are so long as it continues to be a crime to cultivate, distribute and consume cannabis products.
We are going about this all wrong. We have to stop worrying about what is “right” and start considering what is effective. Who cares how we win so long as it happens? The Neo-Conservative movement doesn’t care if they obtain victory by fair or by foul. As a result, they are leading the race to dominate the common paradigm and the rest of us are sitting on the sidelines crying about the lack of reason left in the world. This strategy is not effective. Ask Barack Obama how “playing nice” and “standing on principle” is working out for his Administration. He is going to go down in history as the most impotent president to ever hold office if he doesn’t strap on a pair of shit kickers in the next two years and get things done – by any means necessary.
Marijuana advocates are not known for being the most organized bunch. The same is true of any counter-cultural movement. It’s not the tight-ass suits that get involved in activism. Tight-ass suits, as stuffy and irritating as they are, happen to be really good at putting ducks in a row. This is a question of logistics.
Proposition 19 should have been seen as a single move on the chess board rather than the singular ultimate battle. There is no ultimate battle. Even if we win the fight for legalization: It’s probably going to go back and forth for a few years before the concept of legal recreational cannabis catches on for good. Every great victory must be repeatedly snatched from the jaws of defeat. Activism isn’t easy. Freedom isn’t free. You have to look to men like Marc Emery, who knew damn well that he was baiting the bear by selling pot seeds in the United States from Canada. He accepted that it was entirely possible, probable even, that he would go to jail for what he did.
Nelson Mandela fought for equality even though they tossed him in a cell for 25 years. Marc Emery is facing several years in an American federal prison, something which most people couldn’t imagine setting themselves up for. Marc isn’t exactly your stone-hearted warrior type either, he has sacrificed much and put himself in the heart of darkness in order to make his case. In China the protest movement and Falun Gong have faced imprisonment, torture and even death for their cause. You have to be willing to suffer, or maybe even die if you wish to effect social change.
I am calling upon all marijuana advocates not to mourn the loss of Proposition 19 as a loss, but mark it as yet another stepping stone towards victory. Wading through an ocean of blood and tears defeated the Nazis. Despotism always dies hard. Marijuana Prohibition is symptomatic of a form of despotism. The powers that be want us in fear. They want us to cower. They want us to shake and beg for their protection. Anything that is such a powerful prophylactic against the effects of fear and stress is the enemy of tyranny.
The battle for legalization isn’t just about legislation and regulation of complex molecules. It is the fundamental fight for the right to self-determination. As such, it’s going to get messy. The same way it got messy at Tiananmen Square. There are going to be many, many losses, and many martyrs for the cause like Marc Emery before we see victory.
It’s a lot like baseball. In the movie A League Of Their Own, Tom Hanks is faced with one of his players sobbing and crying over being yelled at for her mistake. He says something that I think applies here.
“There’s no crying in baseball!” There’s no crying in political activism either. There is only suffering, struggle, hardship and pain. These are the sacrifices we must make if we wish to see a better tomorrow where future generations of pot smokers will not be hounded like criminals and forced to hide out in dark rooms with the windows covered over in order to enjoy their recreational drug of choice. People get to sit in pubs and enjoy a glass of beer all the time and studies have shown that is far more harmful than cannabis. Prohibition of alcohol was beaten by grit and determination – it is going to be the same for weed.
Check out J.J Mcdubie’s blog and music on Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/smokeandmoonbeams