You are an addict because I SAY you are dammit!

by Responsible Choice · 0 comments

Cannabis users are often demonised‘I have long been interested in classifications of people, in how they affect the people classified, and how the effects on the people in turn change the classifications. We think of many kinds of people as objects of scientific inquiry. Sometimes to control them, as prostitutes, sometimes to help them, as potential suicides. Sometimes to organise and help, but at the same time keep ourselves safe, as the poor or the homeless. Sometimes to change them for their own good and the good of the public, as the obese. Sometimes just to admire, to understand, to encourage and perhaps even to emulate, as (sometimes) geniuses. We think of these kinds of people as definite classes defined by definite properties. As we get to know more about these properties, we will be able to control, help, change, or emulate them better. But it’s not quite like that. They are moving targets because our investigations interact with them, and change them. And since they are changed, they are not quite the same kind of people as before. The target has moved. I call this the ‘looping effect’. Sometimes, our sciences create kinds of people that in a certain sense did not exist before. I call this ‘making up people”. – University Professor Ian Hacking, 2006; ‘Making up People’.

Ever hear of self fulfilling prophecy?

Where you are told that something will happen and, because you have been told it will, you unconsciously, or consciously, set out to make it happen. You make it happen because you were told to essentially.

The perspective presented by Hacking is influenced, as our much welcomed commenter Nicole eluded to, largely by the works of philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucalt who gave rise to the terms Biopolitics and Biopower. Maurizio Lazzarato, social theorist and philosopher commentedBiopolitics is a strategic relation; it is not the pure and simple capacity to legislate or legitimize sovereignty. According to Foucault the biopolitical functions of ‘coordination and determination’ concede that biopower, from the moment it begins to operate in this particular manner, is not the true source of power. Biopower coordinates and targets a power that does not properly belong to it, that comes from the ‘outside.’ Biopower is always born of something other than itself“.

Now what has this got to do with analysing cannabis as a legal alternative to alcohol as a far safer recreational drug? Plenty.

Let’s say that Joe Blow is walking down the street. He’s had a hard week and all he wants to do is kick back and enjoy his weekend. So he has visited his good mate, who we shall call “Cannabis Facilitator”, or CB. CB hooks him up with some sticky cannabis buds. It just so happens that Joe just got paid, he’s cashed up and he splurges, trying to economise and buy more so that he saves more. CB is happy to oblige and offers a reasonable discount for the bulk purchase. Thus he has a truckload of buds on his person.

Stay with me now.

On his way home Joe is stopped by the police who deem him to be worthy of stopping. After some questioning, Joe is subsequently searched. Maybe it was the sweat beads that began forming on his forehead that prompted the search, maybe it was the smell of sticky buds about his person. Either way, said sticky buds and Joe are taken to the station and he is charged with being in possession of a commercial quantity of cannabis, in that the cops thought he was going to sell it because he had so much. So much for economisation hey Joe?

Anyway Joe is tried, convicted and sentenced. He spends time in jail. He was once a recreational user of a psychoactive substance other than alcohol that he felt was a much safer and healthier alternative for him.

He is no longer that.

He is now a felon. A crook. A druggo. A user. A pothead.  An addict. A convicted criminal.

He has just been ‘made’ in Hacking’s use of the word. He comes out of jail a changed man. He has been made, through this process, into someone he was not before. He is a crook now isn’t he? He’s a user now isn’t he? A druggo? Society has judged him to be abnormal, in that his decisions have not been in line with the defined norm and has outlined a list of attributes that provide him with a classificatory structure he, and society, can use to redefine what kind of person he is.

So what’s a criminal druggo supposed to do again?

That’s right!

TAKE DRUGS AND COMMIT CRIME. And so he does. Overly simplistic you might say? Perhaps. However Hacking’s point is that by labelling people and their social behaviours comparative to the arbitrary ‘norm’ we, and by that I most definitely mean government and society, make new ones from the old. Hacking has a particular interest with schizophrenia in this regard. Label someone as having multiple personality disorder and you give them guidelines on a way to ‘be’.

Any ‘made’ or ‘unmade’ (that’s my one right there) people want to comment on this one?

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