“The Princess and the Ice Monster”
Image by Hachiimon @ Deviant Art
Or, for a much more edifying, fond and generative depiction of ice use among
In 2004 I wrote this piece (click on the link) that tried to figure out why the neoliberal state is so invested in drug enforcement despite all the evidence against its effectiveness as a public health measure.
Waking up to news today of NSW police officers engaging in obscene racial vilification and abuse, trolling the Facebook page of NSW Green MP Jenny Leong (who recently introduced legislation to stop the use of drug dogs in NSW parliament), I’m both alarmed and horrified at how prescient my analysis was.
All the signs indicate that the NSW government is doing whatever is can to funnel consumers into the Star Casino – one of the only venues in inner Sydney that is exempt from the NSW lockout laws. One mechanism they are using is the Sydney Lockout; another is the police use of drug detection dogs – among other, unprecedented, police powers.
In my piece, Recreational States: Drugs and the Sovereignty of Consumption, I try to work out why the neoliberal state is keen to give licence to and profit from once “immoral” forms of consumption (like gambling), but remains so intent on policing and punishing other forms of consumption deemed illicit (like drug use).
The term I use to describe these operations is ‘exemplary power’. Have a read, and if you’re as worked up about the current situation as I am, one way of developing and consolidating your thinking is to undertake research and training in cultural studies.
Or just get out onto the streets and protest while we still can.
Monday 4 April, 2016
7 – 9pm
The discussion will be facilitated by Kane Race, author of Pleasure Consuming Medicine and an organiser for Unharm. There will be lots of opportunities for audience participation, input and discussion.
Excited to be participating in a discussion about the governmental assault on Sydney nightlife next Monday, next to Don Weatherburn and Murray Lee, (among others, tba). Slightly terrified, but I will feel a lot safer if I wear my Darlinghurst-issued ‘safety first’ helmet I found in the gutter on the way home from Mardi Gras festivities last weekend. Details below: Please come along if you can!
14 March 2016
Join us at the Sydney Institute of Criminology where a panel of diverse speakers will explore the Sydney Lockout Laws: the science and statistics, the impacts, and conundrums and trade-offs in regulating the night-time economy.
Since being introduced, Sydney’s Lockout Laws have been contentious, and have highlighted a range of concerns about Sydney’s night-time economy, including safety, alcohol-fuelled violence and crime, civil liberties, entertainment and enjoyment. This panel event canvasses some of the debates in the community. It will discuss: what is the evidence for and against the laws? How are they impacting the community? What is reasonable and unreasonable regulation?
This event is hosted by the Institute of Criminology, Sydney Law School, The University of Sydney. 2016 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Sydney Institute of Criminology, and this panel event is the first in a schedule of events that showcases the contributions of the Institute to public debate, research and policy.
About the speakers:
Dr Don Weatherburn has been Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in Sydney since 1988 and is an Adjunct Professor with the School of Social Science and Policy at the University of New South Wales. He has published on a wide range of topics: including drug law enforcement policy, liquor-licensing enforcement, the economic and social correlates of crime, criminal justice administration, juvenile recidivism and crime prevention. He has also published three books: Delinquent-prone Communities, Law and Order in Australia: Rhetoric and Reality and Arresting Incarceration: Pathways out of Indigenous Imprisonment.
Professor Murray Lee is a Professor of Criminology at the University of Sydney Law School. He is the author of Inventing Fear of Crime: Criminology and the Politics of Anxiety (2007), co-author of Sexting and Young People (2015) and Policing and Media: Public Relations, Simulations and Communications (2014), co-editor of Fear of Crime: Critical Voices in an Age of Anxiety (2009), and editor of the scholarly journal Current Issues in Criminal Justice. He is author of over 50 book chapters and refereed journal articles. His current research interests involve fear of crime, policing and the media, ‘sexting’ and young people, crime prevention, confidence in criminal justice systems, and the spatial determinants of crime.
Associate Professor Kane Racefrom the Department of Gender & Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney has published widely in the areas of drug use, sexuality, HIV and public health; and is recognised for his contribution to HIV prevention and policy in Australia and internationally. Kane is a founding member of the Association for the Social Sciences and Humanities in HIV and a member of the editorial advisory boards of the International Journal of Drug Policy, Contemporary Drug Problems, Biosocieties, Culture, Health & Sexuality, and Sexualities. He is an active volunteer for Unharm, an organisation devoted to drug law reform and making drug user safer, where he has played a leading role in efforts to mobilise queer community around this issue recently. His book Pleasure Consuming Medicine: the Queer Politics of Drugs (Duke University Press, 2009) examined how moral and legal distinctions around drug use are bound up in the moral policing of citizenship. He has lived in the inner east of Sydney for over 20 years.
Associate Professor Julia Quilter is a graduate of Sydney University, UNSW (LLB) and Monash University (PhD). Prior to joining the University of Wollongong in 2010, she spent ten years practising as a solicitor and barrister, working mainly in public law and criminal law. She worked at the NSW State Crown Solicitor’s Office and was the Special Counsel to the NSW Solicitor General and Crown Advocate, appearing as junior counsel in constitutional and criminal law matters in the High Court, NSW Court of Appeal and NSW Court of Criminal Appeal. Shespecialises in research and teaching on criminal law and criminal justice policy. Her research focuses on criminal law responses to alcohol-related violence and ‘one punch’ fatalities, sexual assault, the operation of public order laws and the law’s treatment of intoxication. She is a regular media commentator on criminal justice issues, and a co-author of Criminal Laws: Materials and Commentary on Criminal Law and Process in NSW (Federation Press, 6th ed, 2015).
Time: 6-8pm (registration and refreshments from 5:30pm)
Cost: Free however registration is essential
Contact: Professional Learning & Community Engagement
Phone: 02 9351 0248
I’m at NSW Parliament at the moment participating in the Sydney Drug Roundtable organised by state and national MPs who have assembled an impressive group of leading figures in the drug and alcohol field in NSW
Reflecting on the points made by various participants and the examples they have given has made me think about the affective dimensions of care, policing and government more broadly.
Working on the (generous) assumption that police are concerned with the quality of their relations with citizens and want to promote “order” and harmonious relations within the community, there must be ways of making police and authorities aware of their own implication in the production of these relations and their affective qualities: e.g. trust, mistrust, contempt, respect, feelings of inclusions/exclusion, goodwill, aggression, etc.
The practices available to authorities are wide-ranging, of course, and the ones they adopt in a given situation make all the difference:
Sniffer dogs for example not only exacerbate drug harm, but position police as moral detectives and citizens as suspects, fair game for hassling at any moment. Despite recent deaths at music festivals (complete with massive drug dog operations) police have bullishly rejected the possibility of allowing pill testing at dance events: Imagine wanting to enhance the agency of citizens to look after themselves. Unthinkable!
Meanwhile the recent ads for roadside drug testing in NSW reveal little interest in encouraging safer driving, but are bent on reasserting the power of police to discredit people on the basis of any drug consumption. (The tests themselves are unable to measure impairment and have been known to pick up traces of drugs consumed well before the driving event – days in some cases).
The ads are clearly designed to threaten and scare citizens for their presumed moral transgressions: not simply intoxicated drivers, but anyone who might be inclined to smoke a joint or use illicit substances occasionally. They smack overwhelmingly of the desire to intimidate. Just take a look! (There is no escaping it): The aggression is dumbfounding.
As police and civil experts know, there are other ways of addressing and engaging with citizens that promote trust and safety and generate more friendly and co-operative relations. Indeed, the concept of “community policing” is premised on precisely such principles.
The history of collective experience in the fields of HIV and drug policy consistently demonstrates that the penalization, punishment and criminalization of disapproved behaviours (like risky sex and/or drug use) is counterproductive. Criminalization alienates people from authorities and produces paranoia, distrust, and evasion of the very services that are entrusted with the task of caring for citizens. This is why the decriminalisation of drug use is such an urgent priority.
The use of punitive strategies in relation to matters of public health alienates people and produces evasion, avoidance, contempt and aggression towards authorities. After all, these authorities are institutions whose existence is premised and justified by the desire to improve the health and welfare of the population and care for citizens. They were never designed, not should they operate as, repellents.
A question that needs to be posed more expansively and taken on as a key priority, then, concerns the affective climate that social authorities want to promote. There is a choice here: the government can choose to promote the goodwill of citizens by anticipating and expanding their agency, or it can treat them with contempt by belittling and intimidating them, and then just sit back and watch the results. They won’t be pretty.
If you treat people with contempt, they rapidly lose respect for you, and either retaliate aggressively or withdraw from further engagement entirely. Until social authorities understand the implication of their own practices in the making of particular affective climates, they will be locked into their stubborn attachment to enforcement, which rebounds with escalating violence.