Harm Reduction

It’s been almost a year since I came back. I am filled with new ideas and open eyes. It’s not a secret to anyone that this world does contain harmful thoughts, actions. People tend to cling to a higher moral standard trying to minimize that harm, was it through religion or another form of idealism.

During last month or 2 I have ignited a series of blog entries. I have thrown the idea of minimizing the damage when the youth try to break the law in Saudi and date. Not that I encourage such acts, but if the youth are going to take the risk of “dating” they should at least be safe and protect themselves as much as possible, and I am not talking about the harm from the authorities. This, I heard, has caused some mixed responses. I can guess some were supportive of the idea of leaving behind their ideal and harm reduction; the others probably would like to keep up with the ideal, and choose to risk those who choose otherwise to the most extreme of punishments.

When tackling “harm reduction”, 2 older experiences and issues should be mentioned. The first would be the distribution of clean needles for use with hereon in the Netherlands; Also, the free distribution of condoms at health center in some states in the USA. Both of these “problems” has caused controversies that are still in the air. The reason why clean needles are distributed in the Netherlands is because transmission of disease through unclean needles has increased. Hereon in still illegal, but people are using it regardless of law. So to decrease the transmission of disease, clean needles are distributed. I am sure a lot of conservative Netherlanders are very upset about such actions. The same is happening in the United States as well as some other countries. Condoms are distributed to stop the transmission of disease in college campuses as well as other areas. That is what I call “Harm Reduction”

“Opponents of the plan charge that condom distribution will encourage increased teenage sex. That does not seem to be the case in parts of the world like the Scandinavian countries where sex education and birth control are more readily available. And studies in the United States repeatedly demonstrate that our kids are already “doing it” at younger and younger ages without protection.” – Alan Singer. [4]

I have commented to a blog entry by America Bedu [1], where I suggested a dating guide for Saudi women as a harm reduction method. That suggestion has caused American Bedu as well as other bloggers too, Hning and Clouddragon are just a few, to comment on the original post on their blogs [2] [3]. I have read some of these blogs, and I thought that it really didn’t reflect the idea I was trying to communicate as well as I hoped. I wanted to educate the public on hard reduction and bring the concept mentioned above to our society.

Even though I think that complete avoidance of dating in the Saudi society in its current form should be avoided, I also think that the current methods of encouraging that are failing. Teens and young adults, and maybe grownups are not convinced. It’s evident when observing the current youth culture. This is also evident with a little spying on people’s public profiles on Facebook. Young adults are doing it anyways. I have also heard a lot of stories of rape, blackmail, and sexual and emotional abuse going on, especially to young women. The majority of these stories are not even told, because of the harsh cultural perspective on such actions. Because of such culture, even the police, or religious police, keep those a secret, because they think it’s for the girl’s own protection. Women are left psychologically scared for life, because they can’t communicate. A solution you ask? Well this is where my idea comes in. I would first of all reform the methods, that are obviously failing, of encouraging “not falling” into the unsafe “dating” that is going on. Furthermore, I would like to empower individuals who choose to commit by offering a modern, reasonable, safer alternative life choice. In addition to that, I would like to do harm reduction through optional education. We have to address how to get people to stay away from such unsafe, or how my American friends would say “Sketch”, environment and situations.

Obviously Saudi has become part of the new world order. A considerable amount of young has chosen to comply with the “higher” level, not necessarily in morals, culture that is imposed on members of the world community. The culture that encourages people to eat McDonald’s, Drink Starbucks, watch Hollywood, wear jeans and Nike, and date. Well I won’t go into a debate on why this is bad, even though I do fall for it every full moon, but I would have to say that the clash of these 2 cultures is very apparent. Following that “universal, Hollywood” culture is very discouraged in Saudi Arabia, since it conflicts with a lot of the strict morals of the culture, as well as some ideals of Islam, which is the law of the land here. I am not talking about the consumerism, but talking about the morality of it. Casual dating, sleeping around, or fooling around (even with safe sex followed), drinking and drug use, acceptance of homosexuality, and the freedom of women exploiting themselves. For a lot of people, following this globalized culture is not a choice; people follow it for a lot of reasons. The issue here is now why people follow it, or if it’s a good culture or bad, but that they are following it. People are only educated on how to reject it in Saudi Arabia, but not educated on how to work with it around. It will not just magically disappear, and the problems and conflicts it will bring will only grow.

So, an update to the education system to not just focus on completely rejecting the “higher” culture, but to work with it, is a must. That is to guarantee survival of our local culture, cherished by most. The harsh education method of “just say NO” is old, crumbling, and covered with dust. I can’t make undocumented claims that drug use has increased between the young recently, but I have noticed more people using hashish in my surroundings. To me, that’s another indication that “just say NO” education is failing. The concept of NO has to be backed up by hard evidence from trusted sources. I know a lot of people personally who do drugs just to prove that it’s not as harmful as it’s portrayed in education systems. The young just doesn’t like to be lied to, so tell them the truth, but I guess telling the truth is not always easy, since it always conflicts with someone else’s business.

Crises are planned for in software engineering, and should also be planned for in social engineering and the construction of societies. So, what if “free will” kicks in, and a person chooses to ignore the education system’s recommendation? Optional education outlets should be available, through private sectors if needed, to educate more on how to minimize the damage of integration between the local and the global cultures. A more educated, truth based education, biased, and scientific, hard evidence based approach. This I recommend covers all taboo topics from drug abuse, violence, sexuality, security and policy. A place for people should be provided for them to go to for help if things go wrong, so that more social and physical harm could be avoided. For example, if a girl gets raped, blackmailed, I think it’s impossible for her to go to a government agency, like the police, or the religious police, or even family. This place might already exist, but more care and education to the people of its existence and services should be widely published and available.

The blog entries I was told to ignite only scratches the surface. They also come from a very deep emotion, but if not studied well enough, and could cause some misunderstanding and violent backlashes from an already strict society. This is not an ideology war we are trying to wage; I just want everyone to be safe and alive at the end.

I still hear some people mention that “She was asking for it” whenever a rape issue or story pops. It’s sad how a person can still think that another person would want to scar and hurt themselves for life. How just because a person can’t control themselves (because of weakness) that he has the right to take someone else’s freedom. Its madness when you think about it logically. Yeah the culture and the morality of the land prohibit scandalous behavior; that is not an excuse to devastate a person’s soul through violence and rape. It never is.

Links:

[1] http://americanbedu.com/2008/12/05/saudi-guide-to-dating-%E2%80%93-what-every-male-female-should-know/

[2] http://clouddragon.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/clouddragons-ultimate-dating-guide/

[3] http://hningswara.blogspot.com/2008/12/extreme-saudi-girls-dating-guide.html

[4] http://people.hofstra.edu/alan_j_singer/Publications/Newsday/ND%20Condoms.pdf

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