Please drink responsibly

What’s my drug of choice?

Well, what have you got?


I didn’t know until Saturday that the lead singer of Alice in Chains died of an overdose in 2002.  I read it without surprise, but sadness anyway.  Dirt is one of those albums.  I don’t play it very much, partly because I don’t play much music from the early 90s anymore, and partly because it’s a very intense album.  More so now that I know that Layne Staley died of the addictions he described on that album.  The article I read about Staley’s death in, was talking about the EP Jar of Flies which is 20 years old this year.  Jar of Flies is good, but Dirt towers above it (in my humble and worthless opinion).  One of the reasons it is so good as an album is because the grand, queasiness of the guitar so suits the nightmarish lyrics.  Another reason is because of Would?

Am I wrong?

Have I run too far to get home?

Have I gone

And left you here alone?

If I would, could you?

Would? is one of those songs I always return to.  It ends on a provocation.  If I would, could you?

Yes, I could.

Most of us probably could.  From time to time.  People can get pretty low, and the urge to enter the flood again can be pretty strong.  Layne certainly could.  It says on Wikipedia that he tried rehab 13 times.  Not of course that everyone wants to leap on the heroin band wagon, but there are plenty of other drugs around; alcohol being the most widespread, cheap and lethal.


Last weekend I went to collect rubbish on the long strip of grass leading into the town belt near my house, but I ran out of plastic bags after 30 minutes.  I had seven plastic shopping bags and I filled them all.  In 30 minutes.  Mostly I filled them with bottles.  Behind a couple of pine trees there had been a party.  I collected 50 bottles, a 1.5 litre bottle of Jim Bean, a six pack of beer cans, and about eight cardboard boxes that all the bottles and cans came in.  Also, of course, plastic bags, cigarette butts, bottle caps, and plastic sachets for legal highs.  Looks like it was a big night.  I hope they had a good time, after all, who – when they were young – didn’t want to go out with their mates and drink and talk shit out under the starry, starry night among the pine trees?  The only thing that went wrong is that these guys thought they could just leave all of that rubbish behind.  I say “thought”, but looking at the evidence it seems unlikely there was much ability to think left at the end of the night.

Most of them probably got away with it.  I mean, I imagine the morning after was pretty horrific but they escaped unharmed and more or less the same.  Good luck to them, and good luck to the one among them who will probably struggle with the bottle for the rest of their lives.

Booze must be the hardest addiction because booze is everywhere.  My grandfather struggled with that addiction.  Jesus it must be hard living with an unquenched thirst, and all around you are people with their snouts in the trough.  Laughing it up.  Looking sideways at the non-drinker.  What are ya?


In January this year I went to the same strip of land with my daughters to clean it up for the first time.

We worked over an area probably 50 metres long and about 15 metres wide.  It took an hour and it filled three shopping bags.  It was satisfying to remove so much plastic and glass and cardboard and paper from a bank of trees, but it was also a little depressing….

It was while I was living in Japan that I realised that we as a race are more likely to destroy the planet not in a nuclear apocalypse but through the desire to have disposable chopsticks or individually wrapped biscuits.

At that time I said I was going to contact MPs and the companies making all of this packaging.  I did the first of those things.  I sent an email to the Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, and to the Labour Spokesperson for the Environment, Moana Mackey.  Mackey’s office never replied.  The office of Amy Adams did.  I wrote asking what had happened to the New Zealand Packaging Accord.  One of the people on her staff said:


“Voluntary product stewardship schemes can help to address packaging waste” but, let’s be honest, on the whole voluntary product stewardship schemes probably don’t do that.  Small business can’t afford it, and big business needs to give a shit.

Amy’s staffer goes on to say that this scheme allows them to recognise and accredit people like Fonterra for their recycling in schools programme, a programme I believe they created because of all the waste they were about to create with their hundreds and hundreds of thousands of single serve milk cartons in schools programme.  When Fonterra can get accredited for recycling waste that it is needlessly producing I feel like recycling itself might actually be being used as a con.


Of course it hasn’t been utilised.  What we have here is a regime that hands out carrots, and uses no stick.


On the other hand it wasn’t the government or the liquor company that made those party animals on the piece of public land down the road leave behind 50 bottles, bottle tops, and a half dozen plastic bags and cardboard boxes.  It was the party animals.

And it was two kinds of desire.

The first desire is simple.  It was the desire to get wasted.  The desire to crack a few open and stagger about the trees one night with some mates.  It seems like a desire that is built in to most of us.  Maybe not all of us, and maybe not wasted, but definitely to loosen the collar a little.  It doesn’t hurt most of us, but for some it is a curse that torches their life.  Russell Brand talks about the addict very well, and he also talks about how addicts need to be treated by the health system and not the justice system.  Watching the sudden illegalisation [sic] of legal highs over the last week is how I imagined it felt to watch prohibition come to town in the past.  Some celebrated and some shook their heads.  There is some chance, perhaps not a huge one, that people like Staley and Seymour-Hoffman would still be with us if we had a different attitude to drugs and drug addiction.  Neither of them, aside from the drug use that criminalised them, were criminals or “wastes of space” sitting around on the dole in their underpants.

The second desire you can see on that hill where I go to collect rubbish is the desire to buy things, and this is an addiction that afflicts us globally.  It is enormous and complex and seemingly unstoppable.  It touches on every aspect of our lives as capitalism does.  It is in the pizza boxes, and the plastic bags, and the takeaway coffee cups, and the plastic wrappers, and the juice cartons and bottle tops that end up – at best – in the dump, and – at worst – in the trees, the gutters and the sea.  How we stop this addiction to things I don’t know.  It’s an awful problem that untreated will lay waste to us.  To all of us, and our generations to come.

The police went with McCallum and her husband to Staley’s home, “When police kicked in the door to Layne Staley’s University District apartment on April 19, there, on a couch, lit by a flickering TV, next to several spray-paint cans on the floor, not far from a small stash of cocaine, near two crack pipes on the coffee table, reposed the remains of the rock musician.” The article also stated that the 6’1″ Staley weighed just 86 pounds when his body was discovered.

At the moment we have nothing.  At the moment those of us who are concerned about it – all of it, the government’s part, industries part, and our own part as citizens – are like the man standing at the bar with an unquenchable thirst who can’t have a drink, and all they get from their old mates is a sideways glance.  A man in suit, with a nice fat watch, leading the call from the other side of the bar: “what are ya?” as all the braying idiots fall in behind.

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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō

One thought on “Please drink responsibly”

  1. Completely understand your angst with rubbish being left. I discovered a few years ago when taking my science students to a Fonterra Science Road show that they make their milk bottles out of recycled plastic. A lot of manufacturing producers though these days use a concept known as “Green Wash” involving clever marketing to make you think you are purchasing environmentally friendly packaged or produced products. As with so many things today all is not what it seems. No wonder the primary students theses days are being taught Inquiry. How to look deeper into things and think deeper about actions and consequences around a thematic unit of study. As a society we can longer be naïve and take things at face value. As for rubbish, as a kid we were taught to pick up litter, and bin our own. Fondly recall collecting glass soft drink bottles and taking them back to the corner dairy for a cash refund which was used to purchase lollies of course! Good on you JP for being a considerate and caring citizen and teaching your children to be so too.

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