Took me over a year to write it, three months to edit by myself and two amazing editors and about 56 drafts or so later it is DONE.
I appreciate your support and hope you will read and like it.
Image (c) Ideas With Ink
Once there was a boy, who dreamed of traveling the world, seeing landmarks and landscapes. On the drive to school, he always annoyed his parents with never-ending stories about faraway seas and lands filled with sailors and camels. At the dinner table, he read passages from the World Heritage Website; he even made his own list with the things that he wanted to see, so he could check it off when he visited them. He searched for flight tickets and planned detailed itineraries. Soon enough just around his thirteenth birthday, his dream came true and the plane whisked his dad and him to Europe.
On his journey through Spain, Portugal, and Morocco the boy discovered three cities: Barcelona, the playground of architects; Porto, which was filled with dynamic urban colors, and lastly – Fes, where birth, life, and death in the form of three mountains danced in circles, holding hands. The four elements made the landscape: the air was scented with jasmine and cedar; the earth felt grainy and Mars-like; fires flickered on dark nights and treasured water sang in fountains.
It is here, on this forum of summer, learning from the works of Gaudi and Picasso the boy found himself lost in the architectural mazes, not facts, – beauty was seen in a bailaora’s flamenco dance, the wind of adventure caressed his face and the voices of medieval battles filled his ears. In the Sagrada Familia, the boy felt overwhelmed with the heaven-high rooms and a dozen turrets, which rose into the sky like the tower of Babel and Casa Battlo shone like a glorious beach with it azure colors and shell-like fixtures.
The boy and his dad traveled through the heart of the subcontinent, where Don Quixote had fought his battles, through the towns of Andalusia, past abandoned castles, green meadows with cows grazing. And it is in Porto, the city of dreams which were born from the union of sky and earth, the boy’s geographical mind and traveling soul connected giving him a new take on his dream of traveling.
For the first time the teen did not talk about facts but imagined cavaliers racing through the plains, and pilgrims walking through forests. The father, who drove, had his eyes on the endless road and the son, the careless passenger, stared at the open plain. The scenery was meditative and the conversation was winding on different topics as the road itself. They both enjoyed traveling through the countryside, but moreover the journey through their thoughts and memories of the past and hopes for the future.
Now the teen was not just an observer, but the mountain climber, who was reaching for the zenith, training as an astronaut to sail through the Milky Way and claim stars. Finally, he understood, that the destination does not give a meaning to the journey, but rather the journey gives purpose to the destination.
And so, moved by his experiences, he was sending goodbyes to childhood and opening a fresh chapter. The beauty in the world was appearing in front of him and connecting architecture, history, emotions and nature in one big story: the story of his emerging teenage life.
Mental illness has plagued people since the beginning of humanity. It is a generic term for many common illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, and OCD. Hereditary plays a central role in mental illness, but it can also be developed from traumatic experiences, such as violence, neglect, and stress. Nonetheless, the symptoms are often exacerbated by a person’s surroundings, such as boarding schools or military bases, due to limited human interaction or isolation from home. In times prior to the 21st century, globally, people suffering from mental illness were deemed “crazy” and relegated to spending the remainder of their lives hidden from society in mental asylums. Today, however, particularly in developed countries, people have access to advanced health care including diagnosis, medication, and counseling to improve their condition (Carney). Mental illness has been portrayed in literature and movies such as the “Perks of Being a Wallflower”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and the “Heart of Darkness” which was written by the Polish born British author, Joseph Conrad, who wrote in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This novella is about the experience of Marlow, the protagonist, who traveled to the Congo by ship and observed atrocities of the white traders on the natives, committed notably by a man named Kurtz, whom Marlow befriended. In his novella, Marlow described Kurtz as a ruthless man, and in turn, the Russian trader described Kurtz as having struggled with mental illness. Marlow’s experience with the doctor, his feelings of solitude on the ship and his description of Kurtz and his struggles suggested that mental stability was a major challenge for European colonizers in the Congo.
Prior to embarking on his journey to the Congo, Marlow visited a doctor in England. The appointment with the doctor is rather insightful on how mental illness is explained as the doctor believed that Marlow was crazy for desiring to visit the Congo and explains his view about why he personally would never go. He states “I am not such a fool as I look, quoth Plato to his disciples” (Conrad 11). This citation brings up the idea that this journey is precarious and the doctor with all his expertise realized it could only result in tragedy and misery. In a sense, he brought up the idea that the trip and the jungle would create “madness”, stating ‘‘in the tropics one must before everything keep calm’’ (Conrad 12). It is important to note that while the doctor brought up the term “madness”, without the foresight of modern advancement of the diagnosis of mental disorders, it is a sort of umbrella term encompassing a variety of mental illnesses. Also, the doctor questions Marlow if there was “ever any madness in your [Marlow’s] family” (Conrad 12)? Marlow’s response is rather key to the stigma of mental illness at the time, as Marlow replied he “felt very annoyed” (Conrad 12), by the doctor’s probing, perhaps, because he felt the shame and awkwardness elicited by the question and the topic of mental illness in general. Later in his journey, Marlow reminisced about the doctor’s warning and how his hypothesis became reality for him. Marlow explained “I remembered the old doctor—’It would be interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot.’ I felt I was becoming scientifically interesting” (Conrad 21). Marlow after having witnessed tremendous white-on-black cruelty, and as he was adjusting to a new lonely life, felt that the doctor’s words were becoming increasingly accurate. Marlow’s time in the jungle contributed both to his madness and sadness according to himself and similarly, his time on the ship created moments of mania and depression.
Marlow experienced difficulty in the jungle as well as on the ship. On his journey to the Congo, he experienced a deep feeling of loneliness and depression. He explained how he noticed a man firing at an empty coast “There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives—he called them enemies!—hidden out of sight somewhere (Conrad 14)”. Marlow having noticed the lonely ship firing brings up a parallel to him having been alone on this boat among many individuals due to the isolation he felt on the ship and a longing for his life to be interesting. Furthermore, there is a sense of social anxiety, Marlow encountered on a new boat with people he didn’t know while going to a country he had never visited before. He described this feeling as an “isolation amongst all these men with whom I [Marlow] had no point of contact” (Conrad 14) especially due to his fear of being eaten by “cannibals” on the ship. Eventually, when the ship landed, Marlow lost his anxiety and excitement for new experiences and fell into a meaningless routine of waking up, working, eating and sleeping. Marlow explained the daily boredom as “I went to work the next day, turning, so to speak, my back on that station. In that way only it seemed to me I could keep my hold on the redeeming facts of life (Conrad 23). With little ambition and hope, Marlow had begun to go insane largely due to the same routine involving duties on the ship. If he and his crew sailed the boat they “wouldn’t be able to tell where we were going to – whether up or downstream, or across – till we [Marlow and his crew] fetched against one bank or the other – and then we wouldn’t know at first which it was” (Conrad 42). The sense of the unknown surrounding Marlow’s little world created a deep sense of anxiety and isolation for Marlow and his crew members in the vastness of nature. Marlow also felt alone being a white man in a black land where he couldn’t communicate with the natives. Towards the end of the novella, Marlow began experiencing paranoia and the sense of being alone in this world which strengthened with time. For example, when Marlow was lecturing the pilgrims “they thought me [Marlow] gone mad” (Conrad 43), but these experiences faced by Marlow were also felt by his compatriot Kurtz.
Kurtz, who was an ivory trader as well as an owner of a trading post, committed horrendous cruelties, such as displaying severed heads of native Congolese people on stakes by his house. Ironically, his cruelty instilled fear into the natives but he was viewed as “godlike” by many of them. He often struggled with moments of being happy and then sad, likely this today would be diagnosed as bipolar disorder. In his happier moments, he presided over his trading post and in his sad, depressive moments, he simply “wandered alone, far in the depths of the forest” (Conrad 55). A Russian trader who befriended Kurtz explained how Kurtz struggled with his emotions, fears, and that “nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites” (Conrad 50). The rites are signs of his “godliness” among the natives which he received through immense brutality in the prison-like jungle setting. This gave Kurtz an exalted persona achieved through fear making him narcissistic, as well as paranoid of being usurped by figures such as the General Manager. These deep feelings of rage were shown apart from brutality on the natives such as when Kurtz threatened to kill the Russian over a small amount of ivory. The Russian explained of Kurtz’s invincibility and psychosis in his mind having stated Kurtz “could do so [kill him], and had a fancy for it, and there was nothing on earth to prevent him killing whom he jolly well pleased’’ (Conrad 56). The ideas that Kurtz was in a sense superior to all is related to his notion that others are lesser than him due to his race, gender, and social status. In one low depressive moment, Kurtz felt unhappy and “he struggled with himself, too. I [Marlow] saw it—I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself” (Conrad 66). Kurtz alternated between a persona of invincibility and that of a depressed man. On his deathbed, Kurtz exclaimed “the Horror! the Horror!” (Conrad 70), which probably alluded to his atrocities and his inability to control his Machiavellian urge, partially due to his mental state.
Concluding, mental illness is described in the “Heart of Darkness” as being caused by isolation and homesickness, such as being on the boat and in the jungle for European colonizers. Mental illness to Conrad would have simply been a madness, unlike today where there are different types of mental illnesses and extensive diagnostic tools. Connections to mental illness are found throughout the SPS community such as having a LINC day devoted to this issue which took place last term. The portrayal of mental illness is rather common in literature as well, such as in “The God of Small Things”, where Estha struggles with PTSD after being molested by the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man. Mental illness has been extensively documented such as when many soldiers returned from war they suffered from PTSD for the remainder of their lives (Longworth 1-7). Conrad’s descriptions of mental illness as a “madness” is rather different to its understating today. Unlike a form of ostracization, today when someone is afflicted they are often helped.
1. Carney, Caroline. “Personality and Behavior Changes – Mental Health Disorders.” Merck Manuals Consumer Version. Merck Manuals, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2017. <http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/overview-of-mental-health-care/personality-and-behavior-changes>.
2. Carney, Caroline. “Mental Illness in Society – Mental Health Disorders.” Merck Manuals Consumer Version. Merck Manuals, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
3. Conrad, Joseph, and Paul B. Armstrong. Heart of Darkness: Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton, 2017. Print.
4. Longworth, Sarah Young. “Trauma and the Ethical Dilemma in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.” (2006): 1-7. University of North Carolina Wilmington, 2006. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
Being a woman in India has its challenges especially if part of the lower class. Many women face struggles from conception, such as female infanticide, and during adolescence, especially in rural areas, are given away along with their dowries to often abusive husbands and in-laws. Many of them face difficulties in simply leaving their homes, which is usually not the case in Western society, including high rates of sexual assault (Udas) especially on the streets and in public transportation. An example of this is a case in 2012 where a woman in Delhi, named Jyoti Singh, was brutally assaulted by strangers on a bus with a metal pole, and eventually succumbed to her injuries. After her death, there were many protests in India regarding the status and security of women (Borde). Nonetheless, progress has been made since India’s liberation in 1947, women have acquired more rights and protections such as a women-only car on the Delhi subway trains (McCarthy) and the legalization of abortion in 1971 (Angloinfo). Indira Gandhi, the first and to date the only female president in India, furthered women’s rights, particularly by being a role model to women and girls (UCLA).
Arundhati Roy was born in 1961, in Shillong, a town in North-Eastern India. She grew up in this period of rapid social and economic change, especially after the age of two when her parents divorced, and she moved in with her brother and mother south to Kerala. Her semi-autobiographical novel, The God of Small Things, published in 1997, describes the lives of the Ipe family in a town called Ayemenem in Southern India (Adams). In her novel, Roy addresses the problems women face in India, such as marriage, domestic abuse, raising children, and divorce (Roy). Being a woman in Indian society, as shown in The God of Small Things, is seen as uncomfortable, and precarious, as shown by Mammachi’s decision to remain in a sadistic relationship with Pappachi; by Ammu’s life story in not being educated, leaving her abusive husband, and struggling emotionally; and by Rahel being interrogated and judged by Comrade Pillai about being divorced and childless.
Mammachi struggled her whole life, especially throughout her marriage with Pappachi. He beat her frequently with a bronze vase and she often ran out of their house in Delhi. Being a woman with children, she felt hopeless and was stuck in this cycle of domestic abuse. In Vienna due to Pappachi’s work, after her music teacher believed she could be a professional, Pappachi forced her to stop the lessons and smashed her violin. This was because he was envious of other’s triumphs, especially with his wife being a woman and someone who was unequal to him in his opinion. Later on, when Chacko stopped the beating, Mammachi began her infatuation with him, as she needs a man to be a “repository of all her womanly feelings” (Roy 160) since her identity and importance were determined by his love. At Pappachi’s funeral, she cried because she “was used to being beaten” (Roy 49) and her self-worth was tied to him and his importance in society. She gave up the control of her factory to Chacko because she felt he is a better leader than her since he was an educated man. Mammachi accepts that Chacko brought women over for his manly needs, but she despised Margaret, because she stole him from her.
Mammachi also resented her daughter, Ammu, for falling in love with Velutha and having a satisfying sexual relationship. Unlike Chacko, she was chastised as a woman for having womanly needs, unlike his manly needs. As a woman, as a mother, Mammachi was frustrated with being stifled her whole life, but ironically towards the end, she just accepted her destiny being a mother and wife and the limitations imposed by society such as having to stay home.
Ammu had been marginalized her whole life. Her father had physically abused her as an adolescent alongside her mother. After graduating from high school in Delhi, she moved to Ayemenem since her father “insisted that a college education was an unnecessary expense for a girl” (Roy 19), so she had “to wait for marriage proposals while she helped her mother with the housework” (Roy 19). Hoping to escape her misery, after seeking permission from her father, she spent the summer in Kolkata. While there, she met Baba, whom she married to escape Ayemenem, and she moved to a tea plantation. The two ended up having fraternal twins: Rahel and Estha. Threatening to fire Baba, Baba’s boss asked him permission to sleep with Ammu, but when Baba demanded her to sleep with his boss, she refused, and he hit her before she defended herself. This soon became a cycle of domestic abuse, of “drunken violence followed by post drunken badgering” (Roy 42). As soon as the children became part of the abuse, “Ammu left her husband and returned, unwelcome, to her parents in Ayemenem. To everything that she had fled from only a few years ago. Except that now she had two young children. And no more dreams” (Roy 42). However, Ammu having children in this society meant she would become a stay at home mother. Ammu being divorced with children limited her employment and marriage opportunities, and she had became further marginalized in a society where simply being a woman is a liability.
Rahel, Ammu’s daughter, remained at home, even after Ammu left the house after being banished by Chacko after his daughter Sophie Mol’s death. Nonetheless, Rahel lost contact with her brother who was returned to their father. Rahel was also isolated from Ammu, who left her with Mammachi and Baby Kochamma, looking for work to eventually be financially able to take care of Rahel. Growing up after age seven, Rahel was isolated from her mother and brother and was expelled from several schools. Later on in her life, she joined an architecture class in New Delhi, where she met an American named Larry. Then, she married him and moved to his homeland: “Rahel drifted into marriage like a passenger drifts towards an unoccupied chair in an airport lounge. With a Sitting Down sense.” (Roy 19). Rahel married Larry because she wanted to get away from her boring, sad life and escape India and her past experiences. He eventually divorced her because “when they made love he was offended by her eyes” since “they [her eyes] behaved as though they belonged to someone else”, perhaps “someone watching” or “looking out of the window at the sea or at a boat in the river” (Roy 20). Rahel constantly reminisced about the past, and Roy brought up the boat to show the night when Sophie Mol drowned, a traumatizing event for her even as an adult. Roy wrote the following about Larry: “He didn’t know that in some places, like the country that Rahel came from, various kinds of despair competed for primacy. And that personal despair could never be desperate enough” (Roy 20). Rahel as a woman in India was stifled by the lack of opportunities and she faced a conundrum of whether to give up her dreams or try to succeed and move forward in life. She ended up working odd jobs after their divorce as a waitress in New York, and then as a night clerk at a gas station near Washington D.C., where she observed much violence, eventually moving back to Ayemenem. Upon her return, she met Comrade Pillai with whose son she spent time as a child. Comrade Pillai mocked her for being divorced “as though it were a form of death” (Roy 124) and not having children as he thought “that this generation was perhaps paying for its forefathers’ bourgeois decadence” (Roy 124). Comrade Pillai simply valued Rahel for having a husband and children and not for her own attributes. Like her grandmother and mother, Rahel was pressured by family and society to become a wife and a mother, although unlike her predecessors as a woman, she was allowed to get an education including university.
In conclusion, being a woman in Indian society poses challenges due to patriarchal traditions and constraints. Many women are essentially treated as second class citizens. In India, women lack rights, which are present in most of the Western World, such as the ability to own property (Jain 9-10) or be in a gay relationship (Choudhury). As a society evolves and modernizes, women in general gain a sense of empowerment (Welzel and Alexander). For example, in Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, the pretty girl who grew up as a second class citizen became a famous model, starred in a TV show, and owned a business in Pakistan (Hamid). Today in many South Asian countries, women have achieved great success on the world stage as actresses and models, notably Freida Pinto and Priyanka Chopra (Times of India) and activists such as Malala Yousafzai (Nobelprize.org.). It should be mentioned, however, that Roy’s story is simply one viewpoint of a vast country with over a billion people. Many men in India do not beat their wives and many women in India can attend school and university. Where a woman lives in India in some causes contributes to whether she is a victim of domestic violence, particularly due to a north-south divide with women living in South India, notably Kerala with higher gender parity (Misra). Nonetheless, as a country modernizes, the role of women becomes more significant as students, as workers, as politicians, and as businesswomen (Welzel and Alexander). As Gandhi said, “The day a woman can walk freely on the roads at night, that day we can say that India has achieved independence” (Karthik and Sivasubramanian). Until that day, whether it be in 2020 or 2050, but not in 1947, India will not be freed from the grasp and chains of British colonialism.
1.Udas, Sumnima . “Challenges of being a woman in India.” CNN. Cable News Network, 12 Jan. 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
2. Borde, Lianne La. “India’s Daughter: The gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh.” Life Death Prizes. Life Death Prizes, 17 Feb. 2017. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
3. McCarthy, Julie. “On India’s Trains, Seeking Safety In The Women’s Compartment.” NPR. NPR, 28 Mar. 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
4. “Termination of Pregnancy and Abortion in India – India.” Angloinfo. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
5. “Manas: History and Politics, Indira Gandhi.” Manas: History and Politics, Indira Gandhi. UCLA, n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
6. Adams, Tim. “Tim Adams speaks to former Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy about global politics.” The Observer. Guardian News and Media, 11 July 2009. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
7. Roy, Arundhati. The god of small things. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008. Print.
8. Jain, Dipika. “Women, property rights and HIV in India.” Exchange (2006): 9-10. Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Web. 6 Mar. 2017. <http://www.bibalex.org/Search4Dev/files/292431/122954.pdf>.
9. Choudhury, Chandrahas . “New hope for India’s gay-rights movement.” Al Jazeera English. Al Jazeera , 3 Feb. 2016. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
10. Welzel, Christian , and Amy C. Alexander. “Empowering Women: Four Theories Tested on Four Different Aspects of Gender Equality.” UCI School of Social Sciences (n.d.): 1-40. UCI. Web. 6 Mar. 2017. <http://www.democracy.uci.edu/files/docs/conferences/grad/alexander.pdf>.
11. Hamid, Mohsin. How to get filthy rich in rising Asia. London: Penguin , 2014. Print.
12. “Priyanka Chopra caught in an ego clash with Freida Pinto? – Bollywood actors who will never be friends.” The Times of India. The Times of India, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
13. “Malala Yousafzai – Biographical”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 6 Mar 2017. <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2014/yousafzai-bio.html>
14. Misra, Udit. “How India ranks on gender parity – and why.” The Indian Express. The Indian Express, 04 Nov. 2015. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
15. Karthik, T. S., and K. Sivasubramanian. “Safety, an illusion.” The Hindu. The Hindu, 18 Oct. 2016. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
When you slash your wrist, you are slashing the tires of your soul.
We are tenants in our own hearts.
Oppression has a face but no voice.
There are good parts of hell and bad parts of heaven.
We buy months in dozens.
Mine the depths of my life.
Your eyes are an airport.
Relive life vs unlive.
Cages live in birds. Houses live in people.
I am inside my skin but outside my soul.
Earth is a carousel and we are the workhorses.
She moved from the child-hood to the mother-hood and then back to the child-hood.
Yesterday sells roots Today sells compasses Tomorrow sells wings.
Death was a fisherman so God became a lifeguard.
The person who designed the city of youth built the city of death.
Souls mate then abort hate.
There’s an elevator to heaven from the top of the glass ceiling.
If you’re under the ceiling you have to take the stairs.
God and Death are film critics judging the movies of our lives.
They sleep through most of them.
Tone-deaf people aren’t color-blind.
Gender is a blender in the race-case.
Bread-winners make a dough using the bill-mill.
To open a heart you need to lock a mind.
Life is a metaphor but love is a simile.
Curiosity is a scaffold of imagination.
A little glimpse on how (and why) my first Book of Poetry and Flash Fiction TIME CAPSULE came to life and what writing meant and means to me. SHARE YOUR STORIES in the comments, if you wish:)
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The first time someone asked me if I wanted weed, I was a freshman in high school. I have never tried it, partially due to the fear instilled in me by my parents and teachers, and through personal experience I have learned how it has destroyed the lives of many of my peers and people I know. Many of them are high-school dropouts, addicted to heroin or cocaine, or with criminal records- all because they decided to take that first joint. When Justin Trudeau was elected as the Prime Minister of Canada, and Head of the Liberal Party, in 2015, I was dismayed that the key part of his election platform was a promise to legalize marijuana. In a country where most Aboriginal people are incredibly marginalized, and where highly-qualified immigrants struggle to find stable employment, it was a shock to me that smoking a joint legally should be a top priority and take resources away from improving the lives of millions of disenfranchised people in Canada.
Nonetheless, cannabis today is part of the cultural fabric of Canada; even Trudeau himself has admitted to smoking pot along with 20% of all Canadians in 2014 (Evans). There is a yearly celebration held on April 20, commonly known as 4/20, a day of “half celebration and half call to action” (Johnson), where many Canadians smoke pot openly and protest for marijuana legalization. In high schools and colleges, smoking pot for the first time is a rite of passage for many adolescents in attempting to make friendships and solidify social status. It is important to note that “anyone can become an addict”, no matter what social status, race, gender or social class, the person is (Stories by Teens). Often, pot has been seen as the “green gold” of Canada, but in actuality, it is a highly addictive substance with serious health side-effects.
Marijuana is a drug, that is sold as a mixture of one or many of the following items: dried flowers, leaves, seeds, and stems from the hemp plant and is usually green, gray or brown in color. It is grown globally typically outdoors but in colder climates such as in Canada, it is grown indoors. Cannabis is consumed by smoking using pipes, vaporizers, and cigarettes, or it is added to foods and beverages, such as the ubiquitous “marijuana cookie” (Volkow). Recreational marijuana currently remains illegal in Canada, although, Trudeau pledges to change this.
The Liberal Party plans to legalize recreational marijuana by July 1, 2018, for all those 18 and older nationwide (The countdown to legalization begins). Trudeau’s mission to legalize marijuana is primarily focused on three goals: to curb the illicit activities of drug cartels, to end criminal convictions for possession up to 30 grams of weed, and to regulate the quality of the substance. Critics of Trudeau’s plan mention that legalizing pot has many undesirable consequences, particularly on young adults, as it is a gateway drug for harder narcotics and is linked to decreased cognitive ability, mental illnesses, and physical problems.
Legalizing marijuana holds several benefits to society such as the containing of drug cartels that provide the majority of narcotics to Canadians (Canada Border Is Drug War’s Second Front). Cartels often source marijuana from people who grow pot in the basements of houses, particularly in urban areas, such as Toronto (Illidge), as well as importing from abroad mainly from Latin America. By buying from these criminal organizations, the consumer provides them the “money to carry out brutal violence, including murders, beheadings, kidnappings, and torture” (Lopez). To compare this, buying drugs from cartels is similar to purchasing non-fair trade coffee as the consumer makes a conscious choice when buying to continue supporting the pain and suffering of others. When the government legalizes marijuana, the bulk of the revenue from cannabis sales would likely go into funding government programs, instead of into the hands of cartels. For example, after legalizing recreational pot in January 2014, Colorado has received “more than $150 million in taxes from legal marijuana sales, including nearly $50 million from a specific excise tax that directs funds to school construction projects” from January to October 2016 alone (Huddleston). By following in Colorado’s footsteps, tax collected from the sale of recreational marijuana could generate significant revenue for the Canadian government. This revenue could have a tremendous positive effect on Canadian society, and especially on adolescents, as the revenue windfall would likely fund schools, transportation projects, and hospitals. Additionally, legalizing marijuana would diminish the control of cartels and eliminate resources for policing, laying criminal charges, and sentencing for possession of under 30 grams of pot.
Currently, possession of marijuana is illegal and can lead to a criminal conviction. In Canada, generally, unless someone is a minor, convictions remains on their permanent record (Consolidated Federal Laws of Canada, Controlled Drugs, and Substances Act). In some respects, having a conviction for robbing a person and possessing a few ounces of marijuana in your pocket can close the same doors. Individuals with criminal convictions, including for possession of pot, are barred from entering most foreign countries (including the US) and are unable to obtain good employment opportunities specifically where a criminal background check is required. To emphasize this point, Thomas Mulcair, head of the New Democratic Party, a political party on the far left, expressed his dissent that Trudeau smoked pot as a sitting Member of Parliament and has never been charged, while many average Canadians have had their lives destroyed due to this. Mulcair explains “why is it fair for him [Trudeau] to have nothing and for a young person who does the exact same thing to wind up with a criminal record that’s going to follow them for the rest of their lives” (Maloney)? Most importantly, however, there needs to be a conversation in workplaces along the line of how “Alcohol is legal, but you can’t drink it on the job.” In a society, where more harmful substances than cannabis, such as alcohol are legal, it is necessary for Canadian society to evolve as marijuana becomes legal, and to recognize, when and where using pot is appropriate (Futch). For example, a teacher drinking alcohol during school hours is considered inappropriate, although at a party it is socially acceptable. However, there is a difference between enjoying oneself and negatively impacting the lives of others, and the Trudeau government vows to enact more stringent legislation to avoid this, for example, by penalizing those driving under the influence of cannabis, and those providing pot to adolescents under the age of eighteen (The countdown to legalization begins). Trudeau also plans to not convict those under eighteen if they have less than five grams of pot in their possession. By legalizing marijuana, the government’s decisions would impact many people, including youths, in many ways in that they would no longer have to deal with job and travel rejections due to pot possession convictions, although those who have been already convicted would not be able to have their records expunged (Maloney). Apart from people avoiding criminal records for possession, legal pot would have uniform quality which would be enforced by the government.
Finally, illegal marijuana in Canada comes from “unknown sources with no quality control” (Friscolanti). As cartels have largely monopolized the marijuana market, growers are at their mercy to supply a cheap product that the cartels can then turn around and sell at the highest prices in order to maximize profit. The current marijuana operation is focused on cost and profit rather than health or quality, often resulting in many growers cutting corners such as using harmful chemicals and pesticides. Many cartels, often sell pot by weight and therefore blend it with inexpensive ingredients like sawdust. The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper in Canada, conducted a study examining the quality of recreational marijuana in illegal dispensaries throughout Toronto. Out of nine samples examined, “three samples tested positive for bacteria, in numbers that exceeded federal standards, and one of those also tested positive for potentially harmful mold” (Robertson and McArthur). Bacteria and mold can lead to many illnesses and infections, particularly affecting the lungs (Volkow). If the government were to legalize and regulate marijuana by testing dispensaries frequently and inspecting greenhouse conditions, it would likely result in safer and higher quality production. Legal weed would change the lives of many young users to let them use pot safely without the fear of becoming ill from poor quality cannabis. To enact policy to make recreational marijuana legal has benefits to Canadian society, although there are negative consequences on the individual and society, such as stunted brain development, mental illness, physical impairment, and likely addiction to other drugs.
Adolescent brain development is negatively affected due to the consumption of pot. A study in New Zealand discovered that people who used marijuana as teens lost “an average of 8 IQ points from age 13 to 38” but IQ did not decrease in those who started taking marijuana as young adults (Hopp). While studies done on humans are conclusive, there is still statistical inaccuracy when it concerns race, gender, and socio-economic status. In another study, done on rats who were exposed to THC, the chemical in marijuana that creates the “high,” at a young age including pre-birth, as adult rats had “notable problems with specific learning and memory tasks later in life” similar to the effects of pot on humans. When a pregnant woman consumes pot, her baby is more likely to have developmental delays, although the extent of damage is influenced by many factors such as: how regularly the mother takes pot, socio-economic factors, and genetics. Nonetheless, it is important to note, that someone exposed to marijuana, consistently before the age of 25, the age when the brain stops growing, will with near certainty be affected whether it be with physical illness or reduced brain development (Volkow). By legalizing cannabis, Trudeau would in effect help many individuals deprive themselves of their full potential and intelligence. This would have major consequences for the Canadian economy as there would be a decline in a large percentage of people in their human capital and productivity and simultaneously raising the financial burden for increased medical services required to treat mental and physical illnesses.
Marijuana can also cause and exacerbate mental illness such as short-term effects including feelings of paranoia, lack of awareness, and anxiety. In situations where somebody has taken pot and is anxious or paranoid, it may lead that person to dwell on suicidal thoughts, hallucinate, or self-harm. In situations where someone has become impaired, they may lack judgment and are more likely to commit a felony, such as driving under the influence. Adolescents youths are affected significantly, especially males, that struggle with mood swings and mental illnesses (Volkow). It is important to note, while many individuals use pot illegally, a poll in 2014 determined that 30% of people would use marijuana if it became legal, as opposed to 20% currently (Evans). As pot becomes more accessible, the health risks and usage would likely increase. Furthermore, cannabis has also been linked to a higher risk of depression, substance abuse, and anxiety, although more research needs to be conducted in this area (Gates). Nonetheless, there is a clear correlation between marijuana causing and exacerbating schizophrenia and the heredity likelihood of getting schizophrenia are seven times more for someone using marijuana regularly. In current patients, marijuana can increase symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations, periods of euphoria, and depression particularly in young adults (Volkow). Legalizing pot would have significant implications for Canada’s young adults, who are more susceptible to mental illnesses, especially depression, than other age demographics. Apart from afflicting mental illness, marijuana can also lead to physical impairments.
Consuming pot can also result in numerous physical ailments. Smoking marijuana can have similar effects as nicotine, on the lungs, and can lead to respiratory illnesses including pneumonia given the fact that many youths have weaker immune systems than middle-aged adults. Pot smoke contains 50% more carcinogens (which cause cancer) than nicotine smoke, and small-scale studies have proved that smoking pot can lead to lung cancer. Similarly, the carcinogens in weed when used by an adolescent male specifically, have been linked to testicular cancer. Heart disease is also attributed to marijuana usage (Volkow), as it momentarily results in the heart rate to increase by up to 50 beats per minute and thereby increasing the chance of a heart attack by 4.8 times (Bridges of Hope). Additionally, pot use increases the prevalence of having a heart attack if there is hereditary cardiovascular illness or obesity, especially that adolescents growing up today struggle with their weight and are more likely to have a heart attack than previous generations where obesity was less of an issue (Volkow). These health hazards created by pot, afflict many people, specifically young men, and by the government legalizing but not controlling pot, it will result in increased deaths and mental illness diagnoses. Pot use can not only lead to mental illness as well as increased substance abuse and addiction to other drugs.
Cannabis is usually seen as a gateway drug for experimentation with more harmful narcotics, notably heroin. While one cannot die from overdosing from marijuana, it is often seen as a stepping stone to harder drugs, which can be fatal and have more significant detrimental effects on the body and mind. In a study conducted in the US, those addicted to cannabis were three times more likely to use heroin than those who did not use weed and among youths use of heroin was significantly higher than other age demographics. Another study indicated that over 50% of marijuana users would become alcohol addicted. Robert L. DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, explains that “by establishing it [pot] as a third legal drug, along with tobacco and alcohol, will increase narcotic abuse, including the expanding opioid [including heroin] epidemic” (DuPont). The study mentioned above on rats determined that “adolescent exposure to THC is associated with an altered reward system, increasing the likelihood that an animal will self-administer other drugs (e.g., heroin) when given an opportunity”. In other studies, it has been shown that significant peer pressure and other societal factors, such as one’s upbringing, determine if a person is more likely to consume harder narcotics (Volkow). By moving forward with his cannabis plan, Trudeau needs to recognize the harmful effects of marijuana on consumers and their increased desire to find more invigorating substances to get “higher,” than using pot. When something is legalized as opposed to decriminalized, it becomes more popular, more affordable, and eventually accepted by mass society. For example, when alcohol was legalized after the Prohibition, it became increasingly popular to drink and culturally acceptable for women to drink as well (Epstein). Marijuana becoming legal could have severe consequences, particularly on youths, not only due to the effects of the pot itself but also due to opening the world of hard narcotics to the user and its more lethal consequences.
The fundamental solution to legalizing marijuana according to the Ottawa Board of Health (OPH), while curbing the adverse effects of its usage is to move the legal age to 25, as according to research by the OPH for the Canadian government concerning marijuana legalization. Gillian Connelly, the manager of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with OPH, explained: “access to cannabis can have detrimental effects on brain development and the brain develops up to age 25”. Opponents have explained that if the legal age was 25 it “would surely lead to more black-market sales of the drug” for users 25. A compromise for the legal age could be 21 as the human brain is nearly fully grown by the age 21, and young adults would be less likely to purchase illegal substances (18 years is too young for legal marijuana). The report also mentioned several other solutions: advertising and marketing of recreational marijuana should be banned as not to entice anyone, and the packaging should be non-descript similar to cigarettes. With edible pot products, the packaging needs to be childproof and have labels for use by those under the age of eighteen.
Another solution mentioned by the OHP would be a ban on usage of marijuana in public places, such as parks and restaurants as well as in workplaces (Pfeffer). Apart from enticing others to use marijuana, particularly adolescents, smoking marijuana in a public place poses a secondhand smoke risk, especially for people with asthma and young kids, who after being exposed can have impaired motor functions as well as respiratory illnesses (Esposito).
The report by the OHP also recommended the need for the recreational marijuana industry to be operated by the government to ensure health regulations are abided by, the industry could be standardized across the country, and for the income generated to go into the hands of the government rather than cartels. Finally, the OHP recommended a price system based on the amount of THC found in the various of pot. By charging consumers more money for more potent pot, most users will likely choose less harmful varieties and will be less affected by the cannabis (Pfeffer). Also, it was recommended that the price of pot remain similar to the current cartel price to avoid a significant spike in sales and usage should the price be lowered.
Several more solutions would be required to ensure the effects of marijuana are mitigated. Marijuana plants should be regularly inspected to ensure that pot is grown in sanitary conditions and that no pot is being sold illegally to and by cartels. Also, government operated marijuana dispensaries should be the sole method to purchase pot and none should be available online or through mail order to ensure the validity of the purchaser and the type and quality of the marijuana bought. Dispensaries should be located away from schools, hospitals, and rehab centers to avoid certain demographics of people: adolescents, people with mental illnesses, and drug users from easily obtaining pot or at the very least being exposed to it. It is also imperative that individual identification is thoroughly verified when purchasing marijuana including criminal and health checks. Four groups of people should be barred from purchasing recreational marijuana: adolescents, pregnant women, people with specific mental illnesses and individuals with prior criminal convictions. Youths under the age of 21 should not be allowed to purchase cannabis to avoid permanent brain damage (18 years is too young for legal marijuana). Pregnant women should not be allowed to purchase pot to prevent developmental delays in their babies. People with certain mental illnesses particularly schizophrenia should not be allowed to buy cannabis since symptoms worsen by the use of pot. Those with criminal convictions, including DUI’s, are more prone to commit a crime due to the lack of judgment caused by marijuana usage (Volkow), so they should be banned from purchasing pot. Dispensaries should also be required to maintain a database of purchasers to immediately amend their list of those who cannot purchase cannabis as well as to conduct surveys and studies on sample groups to determine patterns and problems with the cannabis sold and to determine quality.
Finally, a network of therapists and rehab centers needs to be set up in place to help those, especially adolescents, suffering from drug addictions. The current availability of rehab centers is rather limited as described by Vaughan Dowie, the CEO of the Pine River Institute, a rehabilitation center for adolescents in Toronto. He explains, “The current system is significantly under-resourced; at Pine River Institute alone we have more than 200 names on our waiting list for services”. One of Pine River Institute’s goals is to help marijuana users finish high school, (Dowie), since according to a study the “odds of high school dropout are nearly six times greater for persistent marijuana users than nonusers or casual users” (McCaffrey et. al). It is necessary for the Canadian government to invest in creating a network of affordable, accessible rehab centers with therapy to help adolescents and other groups of people with addictions of all social classes.
Globally, the usage and legality of marijuana vary significantly. For example, Amsterdam is world renowned for its coffee houses which sell pot (Browne). Uruguay is the first country to legalize pot nationwide for all those over 18 in December 2013 (Uruguay Opens Registry for World’s First Government-run Marijuana Market). Denver’s nickname, “the mile-high city,” is a double entendre for its elevation and as a city where marijuana is legal. It is a popular tourist destination for American weed tourism (Browne). On the other hand, possessing pot in Malaysia can result in 5 years in jail and planting a marijuana seed can result in a life sentence (Green). In South Dakota, Kansas, and Idaho, cannabis is illegal, and possession of even small amounts results in a misdemeanor (Do You Know Where Pot Is Legal, and Where It’s Not?). The use of marijuana crosses racial, ethnic, gender, economic, and country lines. Clearly, although pot remains illegal, the current trend is to decriminalize it (and to a lesser extend legalize it) in the developed world.
In conclusion, legalizing marijuana in Canada will likely come into effect prior to the next Federal election which will take place in 2019, well after the July 1, 2018, deadline set by Trudeau to make pot legal. The majority of Canadians support Trudeau’s plan as per a study conducted in 2012 by Toronto’s Forum Research found that “65 percent of Canadians indicated that they support either the legalization and taxation of marijuana (33 percent) or the decriminalization of the substance (32 percent)” (Mastracci). Canadian society will change once pot becomes legal. Examples of this will include: the weakening of cartels resulting in safer inner cities and the ability of households to grow their own supply of up to four plants of marijuana in their home. Alcohol, nicotine, and cannabis, when used responsibly and in moderation, can be enjoyable but when consumed without limit, tragedy can occur. The legalization of pot will benefit Canada in many ways, although critical measures to protect adolescents need to be enacted and strongly enforced. When pot is legalized in Canada, it will undoubtedly remain popular among young Canadians, but the government needs to follow the solutions mentioned above to ensure the transition from illegal to legal pot will go smoothly (Israel). If marijuana is considered “green gold,” then Canada needs to find a way to protect its people to use it and share it safely.
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