4/20 Fiasco

4/20, a day unofficially recognised as a celebration of all things marijuana, a day to light it up and get high and other such shit. Look, I won’t even ATTEMPT to use the colloquial terms, I’m so square I could lie down flat and get a decent job as a spirit gauge. Point is, if you smoke weed, or even if you just have a general interest in the world beyond your bed, you know what 4/20 is all about. We all have our own ways of celebrating it, though I myself spend it celebrating my brother’s birthday that falls on the same day, but I think the weirdest recent recognition of the day was Snapchat’s Bob Marley filter, a photo filter for selfies that superimposed Bob Marley’s face onto yours and darkened your skin tone to match. Yeah, that does sound weird when you look at a literal description of it. Is this harmless fun? Well…

I want to put up a disclaimer and say I recognise the connection between Bob Marley and marijuana, I’m not an idiot, and my opinions on this are not influenced by the fact I have never smoked anything in my life, closest I get to smoking is salmon. As a liberal man, I support the legalisation of marijuana, it is far less harmful than alcohol, which is legal, and its criminalisation is the result of an idealistic and unenforceable war on drugs, started by our forefathers and fuelled by myths and ignorance. Marijuana is not a gateway drug or chemically addictive substance, it doesn’t blacken lungs or turn you into a violent lunatic, it is a plant that happens to have recreational benefits when set on fire, nuff said. Furthermore, my opinion is in no way influenced by the choice of Bob Marley, I’m not hating on the dude, I am not an avid fan but I do like his music and appreciate the cultural influence of the man. So, with that established, let me explain why personally I’m taken aback by this poor move by Snapback. Cue the non-PC outrage in the comments.

First of all, let’s face it, this is blackface. No, don’t bullshit me, don’t come out with “It’s not blackface, it’s…”, it’s blackface. You are taking a non-black face, putting a black face on top and playing it up for a laugh. Jim from IT is a white dude living with his mother who listens to Weird Al and Stereophonics, his weekends are spent modding Skyrim and he is most certainly not a famous rastafarian musician. Didn’t like that stereotype? Guess what? Black people don’t appreciate the making of Marley into a stereotype of a laidback black man with dreads and a funky hat smoking weed, he is a cultural icon. Snapchat has a history of struggling to accurately represent diversity, evading questions about the percentages of employee races in their company by saying they don’t think of people as numbers. I mean, amen to that but y’know, we kind of need numbers to make sense of what we’re doing, not looking at your bank balance is not the same as making the situation more financially manageable, trust me.

Bob Marley, as a man, was more than just a dude who got stoned and this filter, that immediately slaps his face on yours just because it’s the 20th April, reduces his legacy to his drug habit. Bob Marley was more than just a man who loved his weed and yes he campaigned for its legalisation but that was not all he did, he fought for peace and the fair representation of minorities, he opposed a system that dehumanizes us all but one that especially dehumanised people like him. The music he became famous for showed a love and respect for his culture and his faith, the lyrics of which resonated with the pacifists inside us and went on to influence not only a genre of music as a whole but generations of peaceful protests after him. Also, Marley didn’t smoke weed just for shits and giggles, he did it as a spiritual exercise of meditation, a means of understanding himself.

“When you smoke herb, herb reveal yourself to you. All the wickedness you do, the herb reveal itself to yourself, your conscience, show up yourself clear, because herb make you meditate. Is only a natural t’ing* and it grow like a tree.”

*Source uses ‘t’ing’ instead of ‘thing’, reflecting his accent, I have not changed this text

Read that and understand the difference between what you think he cared about and what he did care about. We far too often recall Bob Marley as just that reggae guy who got high a lot and this filter does nothing to combat that, all it’s done is said “Umm, 4/20, Bob Marley right?”, like some sort of bad joke.

Now, a counter-argument you might have for me is that Bob Marley’s family themselves approved this idea right? Well, hate to break it to you, they’re not the sole representatives of their heritage, it’s not like them saying “It’s not blackface” will make every other black person shrug and walk away like it’s not a problem, who are they to speak for everyone and tell them it’s not offensive or not perhaps cheapening the legacy of a national treasure into a joke? Marley’s image wasn’t a construct like the image of Elvis or Motley Crue, it wasn’t a style picked out to be memorable, he wore the clothes of his spirituality and his culture, making them into easy jokes for stoner humour is like making a Jesus filter for people on Easter. By the way, imagine the shitstorm we’d get if there was a whiteface filter to commemorate a dead white person hey, as a cheap joke no less? World AIDS day, we get Freddie Mercury tashes on everyone. The Marley family are, for want of better words, money-grabbers, licensing the Bob Marley image to everything under the sun they reckon would sell better if it had his face on it. I personally find that disgusting and a forewarning to my children if I ever become famous, if I die and you memorialise me by selling Old Man Wolfe branded soap, I’ll come back from the dead and wash your skulls out with it. Soap. Fucking soap. The man made an entire cultural history of music mainstream and known to the world and his name is stuck on a bar of hemp-scented soap. Fuck me.

I’m not just out to be a stick in the mud but I feel that making this filter was in poor taste, it’s harmless fun to the white would-be hippies amongst us but to those who share in Marley’s heritage, their sacred herb and an icon of their society is being made into a comic fad to amuse idiots. This will all be swept under the rug before the week is out and Snapchat won’t face any real backlash, nor will the Marley brand lose any customers for a lack of integrity, and that in itself is disturbing. We all, in 2016, just blinked at a show of blackface. Bob Marley, forgive us. Please please please forgive us.

A Pint of Bitter

Trigger Warnings – None really, very light mentions of drug use/abuse

Early post, off out tonight to celebrate my birthday with some friends, one of whom is moving away before my actual birthday and that’s why the celebrations were moved forward a bit. I’m not going off down the pub, despite everyone attending being old enough for that to be an option, I don’t drink, as I’ve probably mentioned, but I figured this was a good opportunity for me to have my say with regards to the drinking culture of the British people

Now there’s plenty to be said about the detriments on society caused by alcohol, how it’s clearly much more dangerous for your health than say marijuana and here in Britain it causes so many fights and punch-ups because it’s very easy to get very drunk and with a healthcare system like ours, you’ll be patched up before going back to work on Monday, given a slap on the wrist and sent on your jolly way. America doesn’t have that issue as much, mostly because Americans have guns and are a little less brawl-happy than the British pub-goer because they know their opponent could pull a weapon. Anyway, that’s not the article I’m going for here, badmouthing booze in Britain is an act of heresy and I’m sure this one paragraph alone will earn me the scorn of anyone in my area partial to a pint, thinking I’m some nay-saying wet blanket who drinks lemonade whilst knitting myself a scarf

I’m actually more interested in the very casual but committed relationship people have with alcohol. David Mitchell had a soapbox rant about this, largely the inspiration for this article, and he hits the nail on the head by comparing a pub experience to a coffee shop experience. I’ve said before coffee shops are not as full with intellectuals and scholars as you might think, it’s more Hipster ground now (Yes those are still a thing, I think) but even so, a coffee shop experience is perhaps an hour of sitting around with a drink, talking, getting bored of what each other has to say and leaving. Done, painless. A pub, not so much. I hate standard pubs with a passion really, lots of uncomfy furniture and conversations with people who gradually get less and less eloquent the more they drink, who then either make a fool of themselves, become aggressive or cry morosely for nothing until eventually vomiting and looking for some way home via taxi or sober friend. Thankfully, I don’t drive, or at least, don’t drive with friends who like to drink a lot, or I’d be the designated driver for life. I know you can always just have the one and leave but lots of people prefer to make an evening of it and that’s just not something you’d do in a Starbucks or Costa, who wants to spend that long in one place that only serves light refreshments and drinks? ┬áPub patrons apparently, they’ll live off Carling and pork scratchings to enjoy the banter and odd game of darts or pool, I could maybe have a drink and a game but after that I’d get bored and go home

By all means, this is just my opinion, the opinion of a sober man. I’ve drunk alcohol before, don’t get me wrong, a few kinds in fact – wine, vodka, Jager Bombs (I was a bartender, a customer didn’t like the idea of a tea-total man serving him so bought me three and demanded I down them before taking his actual order), cider – it just doesn’t do much for me and I’m against imbibing large quantities of something that impedes brain power. I like my brain, being intelligent is a big part of what I am and if that was replaced with slurred words and vomiting, that leaves me with a lot less of my personality to go on to make a positive impression of myself. Alcohol is a drug, a socially acceptable one at that which makes any boring situation into a more interesting one, that’s why hours can pass quickly when you’re drinking but they’ll crawl by when you’re sat there with a cup of coffee or a glass of squash and so if anyone invites me out to the pub or to a party which is just “It’s us lot all in one room drinking alcohol and listening to music”, I roll my eyes because I won’t be drinking, because I don’t want to, and I’ll miss out on the biggest part of the fun. Imagine this scenario with smoking weed or snorting coke, you don’t partake in it, you sit watching other people do it whilst you’re sat with a standard cigarette or snorting… umm… sherbert? Talcon powder? I don’t know what the substitute for that could be but you get my point

Carrying on with David Mitchell again here, he asks if our society is in denial that our social activities and interactions revolve around being slightly pissed. I wonder too, it’s not as much fun being the sober guy at the party or in the club, everyone is so loose and stupid and I’m sat there with Dignity sat on one side and Anxiety on the other going “Well aren’t you a stupid twat? You gonna dance with the cute blonde? No, thought not. Tosser”. I mean I could try getting drunk but given the number of mental barriers I enforce on myself not to do a lot of things, being drunk would undo that and a lot of people would then come to realise that without those barriers in place, I might be a total fuckwad. I’ve come a long way and had to invest a lot of hard work in holding back things that aren’t kind to say or indeed overcoming my violent history so I don’t want to take the risk of getting totally trollied, punching someone in the face and calling them every single foul thing I’ve ever wanted to call them, because I’d remember doing it eventually and then I’d never look at myself the same way again

There we go, I’m afraid of what alcohol might help me discover about myself. I like to think I’m a good guy but maybe that’s because I try to be, maybe deep down I’m a piece of filth. Still, as it stands, British socialising does revolve a lot around drinking – clubs, pubs, bars, parties – it’ll be curious to see who heads for the bar tonight in my birthday celebration and how a sober social activity plays out