Sunday, January 5, 2014

Free Merry Jay: A True Science Fiction

By Biko Agozino

Once upon a time there were two brothers, A and B. Brother B never killed anyone, never hurt a fly (no kidding) and has to his credit, written testimonies by medical experts who swear that he is a proven healer of the sick. Brother A kills an estimated six million people worldwide every year. Imagine that you are an alien from outer space who came to visit the earth with love and peace. Earth officials detain you on entry and strip-search you to make sure that you are not trying to smuggle in the dangerous brother inside your donkey. 

When you ask them what the fuss was all about, they tell you that they are rationally searching for a very dangerous brother to lock up for public safety. Then you ask the earth officials: which brother have you rationally chosen to lock up for public safety, brother A or brother B? The earth officials tell the Martian not to play smart because the law is universal and applies everywhere. By the way, who do you people lock up on Mars, the leaders of the world ask the Martian.

The Martian might surprise us Earthlings by saying, ‘You think that I am stupid or what? Of course, since there are no prisons on Mars, we prefer to lock up no one', she may say. How disgusting, say Earthlings. People must be afraid to walk the streets on Mars if that is how you run your society. We had better deport this alien before she corrupts the minds of our legislators. Some men rush at the alien and she said, ‘Hang on, hang on, which brother do you earthlings lock up for your public safety?’

The people of the earth look at each other and shrug their shoulders. ‘Brother B, of course’, they chorused. The alien was shocked beyond words to learn that people around the world allow brother A, who was a proven genocidal maniac, to walk the streets free and even with welfare subsidies from public funds but with only tiny-prints written warning on his forehead saying that he was a mass killer. Amazingly, brother B, who never killed even a fly and who is reputed to be a healer, was the one locked up and banned from the streets in order to protect the public.

Can you guess who is the brother A and who is the brother B that we are talking about in this true story? When I tell my students that this is a true story, they do not believe me and ask if aliens really exist. I answer that I was actually classified as an alien myself and that this was stamped on my passport as proof that aliens exist. But no, the true part of the story does not refer to the proverbial Martian, and yes, it refers to the fact that leaders of the world are waging war against completely safe Brother B while promoting a genocidal maniac like brother A without any shame. I am not making this up. Guess! You give up?

Brother A is known in his gang as the Notorious Big Toba, aka Tobacco and brother B is known among musicians and creative people as Merry Jay, aka Marijuana. Let us join Russell Simmons, NAACP, voters in Washington and Colorado states, a city in Maine, 18 states with M&M laws for medical needs and countries like Uruguay, The Netherlands and Portugal and picket the leaders of the world with placards saying: Free Merry Jay! Free Merry Jay! No More War Against the People! We can use education to get people to say no to stuff and leave responsible adults to choose what to consume in their homes without being a threat to others.

This will allow the government to raise revenue by taxing the trade, allow citizens to create fair employment and decent wealth, allow doctors to prescribe a safer drug for those who need it, deny the drug gangs their lucrative monopoly over which they fight and kill thousands, and this will save money for law enforcement which will gain more public support by going after the real bad guys.

Sadly, a former pro-democracy activist, now a governor in Nigeria, was quoted recently as saying that he would seize the land of peasant farmers if law enforcement agents find marijuana growing on it - a law that was made by brutal military dictators that he had campaigned against in the past. If the farmers grew tobacco, they might even get subsidies for the 'cash crop' in a state where the deputy governor just died of cancer. Free Merry Jay!

Similarly, the Constitutional Court of South Africa in 2002 denied a legal license to a lawyer (under apartheid laws that are still on the books) who was convicted of possessing dagga even after he pleaded that his religion as a Rastaman required him to use it for religious sacrament. Apparently, Mr. Prince would be allowed to practice law even if his office was located in the tobacco-smoky bars where dangerous but legal alcohol is fueling the violence in South Africa. Free Merry Jay and end the war on Africans in the guise of the war on drugs! Free Merry Jay!


Anonymous said...

This is terrible, and crazy

Odozi Obodo said...

Ent? I hate to disagree with you, they are not mad, they are rational. But as Thomas Merton observed, it is the sane ones that we need to beware of, not the crazy ones who are so busy being crazy, they have no time to plan how to build a weapon of mass destruction and press a button, and kaboom! Rationality without compassion leads to the holocaust, according to Bauman.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous has opened the way for critical engagement with the issues raised by Dr. Agozino's essay. Inseparable from any analysis of policy is the question of labeling. Who gets to label whom? What is the relationship between who is doing the labeling, the exercise of power and object of the label? Is the use of the same label, such as ?crazy?, equivalent between oppressor and oppressed? And, what is the content of the label in terms of social-history? Of course I won't seek to answer these questions, but it puts the appellation of "crazy" front and centre. Anonymous' missive is devoid of a scholarly response, being little more than a distraction from the urgent need to examine and change the rational application of an irrational policy; the dis/missive, however, draws attention to the way that "crazy" can be rationally used to question irrational public policy. I won't educate Anonymous any more than is deserved, but I think he/she ought to read Thomas Szasz's The Manufacture of Madness, and in particular focus on his biographical sketch of Benjamin Rush. What will become clear is that Rush, the chief founder of US psychiatry was a lunatic running the asylum. As an aside, Rush?s contemporary, George Dubyah, famous for growing hemp, well his enslaved Africans did, would be appalled at the present policy. My point? Dr. Agozino has not gone far enough. The rational application of irrational policy is not "crazy"; rather, as to marijuana laws, founded on INTENTIONAL moral indifference to the suffering caused to African Americans, it is an act of EVIL. Terrible and crazy? Welcome to the ward! - "Call me Crazy"

Odozi Obodo said...

'Call Me Crazy' Anonymous, I think that you and I are not completely in disagreement with the statement by Anonymous 1: 'This is terrible, and crazy'. The terrible part agrees with us that the policy of wasting lives for profits might be rational but the costs are terroristic. It is the crazy part that I disagree with because the policy-makers are overwhelmingly sane (crazy bald heads like Rush not withstanding) and may even be motivated by the desire to do some good (as Jeffrey Reiman suggests in The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison) but they keep failing to do any good at a huge cost: it is a Pyrrhic defeat!

Anonymous said...

Dear Odozi,
I see the point of our difference. Let me to elaborate what crazy means a bit before I move to reject it altogether, which what I intended in original post. If we refer to the work of Philip Zimbardo or Robert Hare, we will see that the leaders of most Westfalian and neo-liberal states, corporate executives, the captains of industry and a descending order of elites demonstrate classic psychopathologic tendencies to the extent they rationally pursue their goals at the expense of others and the environment. What do we call ordinary citizens who are serial killers or mass murders: crazy; assuming they have no method to their madness are not rational in pursuit of their aims. The difference between them and our war-mongering police makers and profiteers is that they are labeled and dismissed and crazy. But like Eichmann, who rationally (ie., "sanely") applied the policies of the Nazi regime, slaveocrats or Leopold of Belgium who rationally (ie., "sanely") pursued capital accumulation and dealt death on a world shattering scale, can we not say that they are crazy? The word "crazy", in the case of our discussion, is meant in my mind to indicate the EVIL nature of rationally pursuing irrational policies. So, if "crazy" too much confuses the point, I think EVIL leaves less to dispute when, I think, we concur on so much else. Call Me Crazy

Odozi Obodo said...

Dear Call Me Crazy, I am in agreement with you that them crazy - the crazy Baldheads especially. However, if we explain their rationalism with too much emphasis on their craziness, we diminish their responsibility. If we use the principle of evil instead, then it becomes relative since one man's delicacy could be another man's puke. Perhaps the principle of social justice is more applicable here.