Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On history repeating itself

To this day, when you google my name, what pops up after my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles (and some other creepy websites promising to give out my phone number, pet names, and blood type after paying their fee) is this snippet from the January 2001 issue of the DanceSafe newsletter.  I don't know how it is still this popular (I've had much greater accomplishments than being quoted in a newsletter since), but my quote is especially ironic in light of recent events.  This week, local news (and now also national news) are ablaze with a story of a 15 year old girl who died after overdosing at a legal-venue-rave.  The official story is that she inadvertently drank Ecstasy-laced water from a friend's bottle, but even LA water doesn't taste bad enough to make this a believable scenario.  Whatever the case, though, it breaks my heart that the same tragedies continue to happen a decade on, and we don't really know how to prevent them.  What ISN'T helping is the reaction from the people stuck dealing with the consequences: ER doctors call for an end to raves at L.A. Coliseum.  In a twisted turn of opinion, this suggestion is the exact opposite of my (then-controversial... god forbid anyone support "going commersh" back then) comment.  All that's going to do is push raves back underground, where it's a lot harder to create a safe environment (i.e., no on-site EMTs that can have young women rushed to the hospital).

Rather than going through this cycle again over the next decade or so (face it, kids will rave.  You take away their legal options, a black market will form, and it will be all the more unregulated and unsafe), I think it is time for the people running these events to take some of the responsibility.  Yes, I'm sure throwing events of this scale is hard, and I don't know the half of what goes into it, and finding ways to prevent a bunch of teenage schmucks from sneaking in drugs just isn't very high on the to-do list.  But we can't leave it up to the kids, or even their parents.  Teenagers are notoriously bad decision-makers, and parents more often than not are not only uneducated, but also clueless about their kids' activities.  Do you really think mom dropped them off looking like that?  Chances are that is not how they left the minivan.  I mean, maybe they did, but I know my parents had rules, and yet I can't tell you how many times 16-year-old me "spent the night at Keli's house" only to find myself in an abandoned downtown Detroit warehouse, inhaling asbestos and making bad choices.  So for the times parental supervision and the emotional and cognitive maturity of teenagers fail us, I think the entities responsible for event promotion, media coverage, and discussion should step up and take some initiative.  Maybe a required crash course in "avoiding potential harms of drugs" that people have to click through before being able to purchase their tickets.  Maybe on-site peer education.  Maybe blogs that focus on ways to be safe, in addition to their DJ reviews and the inevitable creepshow photo galleries of teen asses.  Maybe just less of a laissez-faire atmosphere (I don't mean policing, but when MCs have to get on the mic and tell people to stop acting like assholes, people are acting like assholes.  Make it clear from the get-go that that won't be tolerated).

Any way you cut it, what I find the most unacceptable notion of all is exemplified in news story paragraphs that start like this: "Although many partygoers consider ecstasy to be safe,...."  Why have people not picked up a more nuanced understanding of this over the past decade?  And while I applaud thought experiments about future improvements, I wonder, who is going to actually take the initiative, and what is it going to look like?

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