200 blog posts! I can’t believe that in only 18 months I have now written 200 blog posts! Although, they weren’t all written by me and I must thank Alex Driscoll for his 32 articles that he has written for the Music Roundup. I would also like to thank Liam Toolan, Sam Zweck, Aniket Panesar and Bryton Johnson for their guest articles over the past year.
To celebrate reaching 200 blog posts, I thought I would revisit the very first article that I wrote on this blog.
The title of the article was: ‘Logical or Judgemental? – Drug use’
Here is a link to that article: https://thelevinelowdown.com/2017/07/17/logical-or-judgemental/
Now, this article was actually written in July 2017 (I had a 2-year period after this post where I didn’t write anything).
I wrote this article after a camp at my school. The camp involved going into the city and spending three days visiting different places that help to protect the human rights of the most vulnerable members of the community. I got to listen to people tell their stories of how they became homeless, their struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, and the volunteers and staff who give up their time to help others.
Looking back on this experience, this camp changed my life. I live outside the CBD in a very safe and secure area. I don’t have to worry about food, water or shelter, and I am fortunate enough to be able to enjoy other benefits such as education, employment and travel. This camp took me out of my comfortable bubble. It took me to places that made me feel uncomfortable. However, through this discomfort, I was able to break through that bubble and explore ideas and opinions I had never considered before.
In the article, I talk about how my opinions on drug abuse changed through the duration of the camp as I learnt about harm minimisation. This approach is focused on reducing the adverse health, social and economic consequences of alcohol and drug use, rather than the current punitive approach which seeks punishment. Harm minimisation changes drug abuse from a crime to a health issue, and it allows for targeted support that enables people to overcome their addiction. Over the past 4 years, my belief in harm minimisation as a strategy has only increased more and more as I’ve continued to read, learn and listen to others.
Furthermore, the camp inspired me so much that I spent the next few weeks reaching out to different groups that I had met during the camp and asking them more questions about their role in the community. One afternoon, I spoke to Guy Cooper, who was the Head of Community Management at the Wayside Chapel. I asked him what I thought was a very reasonable question,
“If I give a homeless person money, won’t they just spend it on cigarettes or drugs? When I give someone money, I want them to spend it on something which will help them move forward and buying drugs isn’t helpful.”
Guy’s response to my question has stuck with me for the last 4 years, and I’m sure it will stick with me for the rest of my life. He said,
“That’s a very logical question, but not to the person sitting on the ground. This question is just another way of judging someone because of how they are.”
My question seemed reasonable. My question seemed logical. But, my question was incredibly judgemental and failed to acknowledge the causes of drug abuse and homelessness.
Homelessness is not a choice. Homeless people don’t dream about living on the street with a drug addiction, but sometimes it can happen in ways that are entirely out of their control. If they go and buy drugs with that money, well that is okay. It is better than them going and robbing a store to get money to pay for the drugs, which is what often occurs when they run out of money.
Or, the other option is so simple. If you don’t want to give money, you can make a difference by just having a conversation with a homeless person. When tens of thousands of people walk past you every day, and then one person comes up to you and says, “Hello, how are you?”, it can not only make someone’s day, but it could change someone’s life.
After 200 blog posts, the one major thing that I have learnt is the importance of speaking to others. Whether it be talking to others to inform them about issues in our world, speaking to others to generate support for legislative changes or merely having a conversation with someone because you value them, the power of our words is so great. However, with that power, we have a responsibility to use them to lift others up and make positive changes in whatever communities we are a part of.
I’d like to end my 200th blog post with how I ended my 1st blog post,
“All that I can say is be non-judgemental to people because it is not their choice to be living on the street, but be kind, gracious and generous. If you were living on the street, I think you would appreciate that.”