So this post is going to be very different to my usual posts. I had planned on discussing the human population and the direction it is taking us in but I had an idea after my first paragraph that seemed far more interesting. The paragraph below is how I started and the rest is what I ended up doing with my time:
As a species it seems we are facing an ever increasing number of threats which can range from climate change to wars to our gradually depleting supply of fossil fuels. Many of these issues that we face have one very obvious cause that seems to be viewed as a taboo topic: our population. When we hear a discussion about global warming taking place it is very rare to hear a solution to be ‘limiting our rapidly growing population’. In fact if you were even to suggest that we limit how many children one person can have (or more accurately: the number that a couple can have) you’d probably be chased out of your village with pitchforks or burnt at the stake.
Unlike my other blog posts, I decided to do a little “research” in the form of asking random people the following question: “Is it immoral to suggest that we start limiting how many children any one person can have? If so, why?” I was asking this because I was curious about what people thought. I’m in two minds about it (which was originally going to be the focus of this post but it’s now a discussion for another time I think) but I decided to keep track of the responses so that I could get a sort of overview. Here is what I found:
When asked the previously mentioned question 38% of people believed it was immoral to control the number of children people can have, 59% didn’t view it as immoral and 3% were undecided. This was out of a sample of 100 people. Since I wanted to look at why people viewed it one way or the other, I also kept brief notes (as well as some direct quotes) of what some of the responses were. I found there were two main reasons that people viewed it as immoral: the first one was to do with freedom while the second one was largely to do with the nature of such a proposal. In regards to freedom, I found that many of those questioned viewed it as a human right to choose how many children you have. One individual stated:
“The United States is philosophically built on the idea that people get to live their lives their own way without government coming in and interfering, as long as that person is not materially harming another person. The government’s job is to prevent people from hurting one another, not to come in and coddle citizens and tell them what to do.”
With others saying: “Yes it is immoral. You have no right to interfere in another person’s lifestyle and reproductive choice.” and “Because what other people do is none of your fucking business!”
Those who had been concerned with the overall idea had mentioned the political aspect of it. Aside from how blatantly oppressive and authoritarian a move this would be, the issue of the societal effects were also raised i.e. that there would be too many children and elderly people in comparison to the working adults of the country after a generation or two. One person even described such a move as a “slippery slope” which of course it would be because if the government can control your reproduction, then what is next?
Considering that the majority of people asked did not view it as an immoral move, there were surprisingly few comments on why this was the case. Many were aware that air pollution and climate change in general were largely due to the rapidly increasing population. There were even a few people who pointed out that in fact it is immoral NOT to go ahead with a plan like this due to the damage our species is doing to each other, other animals and the planet itself as a result of our reproduction rate. One person even took a more personal angle (which may have been an insight into his own childhood) and stated that having lots of children in itself is immoral because each child gets less and less attention as an individual and instead becomes part of a larger group. I found that China’s one child policy was seen as too strict and was in general a flawed idea but that allowing two children would be the perfect amount.
So after this first little survey, I got a little carried away. As you may or may not have noticed from my other posts, I don’t exactly agree with the current drug laws and I view the war on drugs (if you can call it that) as a complete failure. So when I found many people responding to my questions with statements like “people get to live their lives their own way without government’s coming in and interfering, as long as that person is not materially harming another person” and “Yes it is immoral. You have no right to interfere in another person lifestyle” or even “Because what other people do is none of your fucking business!” I couldn’t help but wonder if people would apply this same view about freedom of choice to drug use. I decided that I’d start off with something a bit more in the middle so rather than asking about drug use, I merely asked the following question to a different set of 100 people:
“Should it not be a basic human right to explore your own consciousness by whatever means you choose? Provided you don’t bring harm to others”
You’ll notice that I left this question fairly open. While I was asking with drug use in mind, I didn’t say it specifically and the question remained open enough that it could include such things as meditation or praying. Again, I asked 100 people (purely to make the percentages super-easy to work out) and I got the following results: 80% answered ‘yes’, while 18% answered ‘no’. There were also 2% of people who were undecided or didn’t really know how to answer the question. I also decided that I would once again keep track of any general statements or in some cases, direct quotes.
In terms of the opinions the ‘yes’ group had, many were immediately aware that I was referring to drugs. I have to say that I enjoyed reading some of the responses, some of which were as follows:
“If you take LSD you will become peaceful and non-conformist which will tear down the very fabric our society is built on”, “Exploring your consciousness through any outlet – whether it be drugs or an activity is acceptable. Like obviously, you shouldn’t go around raping kids to release your inner consciousness but what the fuck is smoking a little weed going to do.” And “Actually, I could live with a controlled drug use system. Unfortunately socio-political conservatives exist.” Many simply viewed it as a victimless crime and even those who knew that drugs can cause harm, seemed to be for the idea of some sort of retreat or something where an individual could go to take drugs. The reason I worded the question in such a way was because I wanted to stay away from the idea of recreational drug use and stick closer to a more spiritual aim from taking such substances. Before I move on to some interesting moments I had with the ‘no’ group I’d like to point out that quite a few of them started out by answering ‘yes’ but as the idea of drug use slowly dawned on them, their answer swiftly changed, usually followed by some form of statement that condemned anyone who touched drugs. While there were some well-formed answers such as “Most humans lack self-discipline and even the willpower to do anything. If you give people the easy route, they will destroy themselves.” Or “Just because it doesn’t hurt someone doesn’t make it a basic human right. Suicide isn’t a human right!” (to which someone interestingly replied “it should be!” There were also a high number of just plain ridiculous responses which certainly added to my entertainment: “Yeah join ISIS for that”, “Go to rehab, druggie!”, “Taking drugs isn’t exploring one’s consciousness” and last but not least “Go away, hippies!”
This led me onto my third and final little survey. I decided to stick with the drug topic after my many interesting responses from those I asked in the previous question. I initially started off asking people which group of drugs was more dangerous: alcohol and tobacco or weed and MDMA. After a couple of responses I decided this was too vague a question as I don’t think anyone would dispute that tobacco is dangerous, whereas all the others are largely up for debate depending on who you ask. So instead I changed the question to the following: “Which of these 4 drugs is the most dangerous to the individual: alcohol, tobacco, weed or MDMA?”
I’m going to approach this from the opposite direction this time and instead show you some of the wonderful and not so wonderful comments that came attached to these responses. I’ll try and split these up into the categories they relate to as best I can but many were comparisons.
Let’s start with the world’s favourite legal drug: alcohol. I found many of the responses to alcohol quite disturbing. Unfortunately I didn’t keep count of how many time “alcohol is not a drug” was mentioned but if I had to guess, I’d say at least five times. Many people did in fact seem rather shocked that I’d even included alcohol in with the other three with one person asking “alcohol? Really?” Not to mention areas where people were just misinformed: “…alcohol packs a punch but it leaves your body after a day, even if it does do damage.” This of course is a very untrue statement as it depends entirely on how much you drink and ignores the fact that a heavy night of alcohol consumption can leave your body recovering from the dehydration for weeks. I mean it is a poison after all. This final one is a suitable link to our next drug: “Weed destroys lives. Alcohol doesn’t.” I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw this statement. Clearly this individual had never heard any stories about alcohol…ever. He/she certainly hadn’t seen any up-to-date statistics of alcohol related illnesses or the percentage of people affected by alcohol dependency (I mention this in one of my weed posts).
Speaking of weed, the Devil’s lettuce, Mary Jane, Cannabis…whatever you want to call it. The overall response to weed didn’t really surprise me but there were certainly some interesting comments that I’d be a fool not to mention: “All drugs should be illegal. No one in this household smokes weed. It literally causes death!” While the idea of making every drug illegal is certainly something I might discuss later on, I couldn’t help but feel the sheer impending doom that this individual believed weed would cause. The anti-weed propaganda sure had taken its toll on some of these poor souls who were coming out with statements like “weed…you can overdose on it!” Said no one…ever. We could always go for the even more dramatic one: “weed: it’s too addictive, it causes cancer and you could overdose on it.” While I didn’t expect everyone to know everything about each of the drugs, I was somewhat surprised when asked “what’s the difference between MDMA and weed?”
This seems like the perfect moment to switch onto the infamous Methylenedioxymethamphetamine which before I go on to discuss, I’d like to point out that I did keep track of how many times “What is MDMA?” was asked and I can tell you that it was thirteen times. Unfortunately for the results, many of the people asking this question had already given me their answer. MDMA did seem to provide the most mystery to those I was asking. Of those who did know of the drug, many viewed it simply as ecstasy (which I’d argue is not the case). Here is a quick summary of some of the questions I was asked in relation to it: “MDMA, is that like LSD?”, “MDMA, is that like meth and shit?”, “I don’t even know what MDMA is. I’ll go for the strange sounding one.”, “What’s MDMA? I think it’s a hallucinogen.”, “MDMA. I don’t know what it is but it sounds strong, like DMT.”, “Probably MDMA because I have no clue what it is.” There were of course some slightly more conclusive responses such as “MDMA cuts off oxygen to your system”, “MDMA can fuck you up fastest especially since its usually just meth and your dealer is lying to you cause you are fuckin dumb” or “MDMA because most of the time it isn’t pure and contains shit.” Speaking about containing shit, let’s move onto the infamous cancer-causer.
Tobacco didn’t really receive a huge response in terms of comments. I was kind of shocked to see “Tobacco isn’t a drug” but that was really the only comment that stood out. Before I share the results with you, I’ll share this one comment which an individual had attached to their response:
“No matter what you do, you die. So just do all the drugs you can and don’t give two shits!” While I don’t agree with this statement whatsoever, I did enjoy reading it. Anyway, there were 200 responses for this little survey and I’ll reveal the results to you in ascending order, just to build up suspense or whatever: In fourth place with 8% of votes for the most dangerous drug is…weed; In third place with a surprising 24% is tobacco; In second place with 28% is MDMA and last but not least with a staggering 40% of the votes is alcohol.
So that sums up my little ‘social-experiment’ that wasted several hours of my life. Before anyone feels the need to comment, I do understand that this is largely unscientific. If I were writing a report I’d point out the many flaws such as the questions themselves, the mode of carrying out the survey, the lack of participants etc. However, since this is not meant to be a scientific paper or article, I don’t have to do that. I will probably carry out similar things in the future but keeping the topics more closely related and actually writing it up a bit better. If you have anything you’d like to see asked/discussed just let me know and if it interests me I’ll happily do it. I haven’t touched on religion yet so I’d enjoy venturing through that valley sometime soon.