DDN March 2022 March 2022 | Page 20


It ’ s simple , we either believe in protecting society or we place an individual ’ s rights before all else .



Just when you thought it was safe to read DDN again ... I ’ m back ! Harm reduction is as much a chronic relapsing condition as addiction , and after being hopelessly involved in harm reduction for far too long I ’ d decided I deserved a sabbatical , maybe even a permanent vacation .

So , I ’ m on sabbatical / vacation minding my own business and everything is tickety boo , but early in 2021 I started to feel uneasy . Something was bugging me and I couldn ’ t figure out what . This seemed more than your average pandemic blues , and I noticed the unease intensified whenever I watched the news or read a newspaper . Everyone feels mildly nauseous while watching the news these days , so I put it down to general anxiety . But this felt different .
Epiphany and diagnosis finally came while watching the Beeb ’ s one o ’ clock news with , of all people , Andrew Bridgen MP
Why are widespread libertarian views on issues like vaccine passports usually at odds with the same people ’ s opinions on drug prohibition , asks Nick Goldstein
discussing public health laws in the form of vaccine passports , which he harrumphed were ‘ a major infringement of civil liberties !’ I was fairly amazed by his attitude , as anyone who ’ s been arrested , charged or even imprisoned for breaking another of those public health laws , like , I don ’ t know , a drugs offence perhaps would be .
Ironically , I remember , back in the day , meeting my old friend Jimmy on his way to court . I asked how he thought it would go and he replied ‘ nothing good ’ s going to happen . Whatever happens my civil liberties will be flouted ’. He was joking , but the judge saw it differently and told him so – while flouting his civil liberties . This was long before Mr Bridgen saw the light , so no one was there to question the court ’ s approach to civil liberties and public health .
Public health laws are government , at various levels , trying to improve the health of the general public with policy and legislation involving environmental health , community health and epidemiology , among others . Public health laws are never popular because they amount to a blunt tool that inevitably limits behaviour , but up until recently they were accepted as necessary for the greater good . Public health laws have been introduced for a wide range of issues ranging from tobacco and alcohol use to zoning and quarantine laws and , of course , drug prohibition , employing policy tools from taxation to criminalisation . No one likes being fined or jailed , but public health laws and the penalties they engendered were accepted as necessary – the price we all paid to be part of a society . That was until recently . You see Mr Bridgen ’ s not alone in his re-evaluation of the relationship between the state and the individual , and its impact on public health . Mr Bridgen is just one of what appears to be a growing group of people with a very libertarian take on events – a whopping 126 MPs voted against the public health legislation around vaccine passports . MPs across the political spectrum voted against enacting a law the primary aim of which was the protection of their constituents ’ health – ranging from Jeremy Corbyn ( natch ) to Sir Graham Brady to Caroline Lucas . They were cheered on by a large section of society , from hardcore anti-vaxxers to lapsed Nazis to aged socialists all protesting public health laws as infringements that compromise their liberties .
None of these people seem to have considered how their attitudes to public health might impact other areas – like drug prohibition . I mean , we have laws to protect everyone ’ s health . You can ’ t claim that one deadly disease should be prohibited and punished with criminalisation and then claim another should be ignored because action infringes your liberties . It ’ s simple , we either believe in protecting society or we place an individual ’ s rights before all else . It appears that a little consistency in our elected representatives ’ attitudes to public health laws is asking too much .
I guess on the plus side that inconsiderate comments from our political masters regarding the iniquity of public health laws and primacy of civil liberties reveal a sea change in attitudes to the ethos of the state and the individual – or to put it another way , you can ’ t talk shit about rights without it impacting on other areas of public health policy , like substance misuse treatment . With a little luck this change of attitude and growth of libertarianism might spark a wider discussion on civil liberties and public health laws . Well , I feel a lot better for working out what was bugging me . Now ... back to my sabbatical .
Nick Goldstein is a service user
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