Victims or Criminals?

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I heard a talk on ABC Radio National this morning. I missed the start and didn’t hear her name, but she lost both her legs – in an accident or an attack, I don’t know which – and I think she said she’d once been voted Australian of the Year. Anyway, whoever she was, I particularly liked something she said: “I decided to be a survivor, not a victim.”

I liked that because victimhood is very popular these days, to the extent that there are hardly enough ordinary people left to provide succour and subsidies to all the victims. This was in my mind when I opened the online version of the today’s Adelaide Advertiser (Rupert Murdoch’s people having failed to deliver the paper version yet again!) and saw this:

icevictims

How can someone who buys and consumes ‘ice’, an illegal substance known to be harmful both to the individual consumer and to society at large, be a victim?! For crying out loud, that person is a criminal, a reprobate and an enemy of the people!

Ice Epidemic

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There seem to be news stories every day about the damage being done by meth­amphetamine (‘ice’) in Australia. Personally, I cannot understand why any sane person would knowingly take their first dose, its effects and its addictive properties being so well-known.

But within the past few days I heard that someone I know has done just this. He’s married with a young child and another on the way. He’s a skilled tradesman, employed full-time and well-paid until he was made redundant. To overcome his boredom – or so I have been told by a third party – he decided to step into the dark, tragic world of ‘ice’.

The outcome is predictable. His addiction will drive him and his family into poverty. He will become unemployable. He will become abusive toward his wife, and perhaps to his children. Eventually his wife will leave him. She will have to work full-time to support herself and her children. Her mother will have to abandon her own part-time job to look after the children.

Perhaps things will not work out as badly as this, but the risk is there. The urge to self-destruction, visiting great suffering on family and friends, seems to lurk in many hearts. I just don’t get it.

My anger is directed equally to those to make and sell this vile product and to those who become its willing slaves. And yet the addicts are often portrayed as victims. I don’t get that either. There would be no supply without demand. How can the willing buyer be less culpable than the willing seller?

The same inconsistency applies to other products and services too. How can a people-smuggler be a criminal while his/her customers are innocent victims? How can a prostitute be a victim while his/her clients are vicious exploiters? Please explain.