Not as user friendly as well-worn folklore concerning the benefits of having two birds in your hand ( aside from the inevitable guano ), or the joys of saving pennies ( soon to be removed from circulation ), or even the specious argument for augmenting your health insurance by eating apples ( it may actually be a clever sales pitch by apple growers ), but sage advice nonetheless.
People in this province can identify with the sentiment behind the adage. The British Columbia political scene is little more than a recycling bin as voters take turns electing NDP or Social Credit/Liberal/ Insert-right-leaningcentrist-party-name-here governments expecting a change, only to get fed up and throw the bastards out a decade later when they discover that the passengers are the same no matter how flashy the paint job is on the clown car.
The new flavour of the month, of course, is just a rebranding of the same group of empty smiling faces and backroom hacks who were tossed from power 15 years earlier. And so the cycle continues.
Looking at the bigger picture using a much longer time frame, another ignored pattern of mistakes from the past is once again unfolding in Canada and the United States.
In the early decades of the 20th century, the temperance movement used its hefty political clout to lobby the governments in both countries to ban the production and sale of alcohol to the public.
The resulting prohibition era did not exactly unfold as the tee-totallers expected.
Instead of watching a utopian society unfold on a continent freed from the influences of the booze demon, the new laws had the opposite effect.
Just as taking away a toy makes a child want the plaything more, banning booze made liquor incredibly popular. By making alcohol illegal, the governments of the day effectively created the best marketing campaign for booze the world has ever seen. Whether the temperance folks ever had the support of the majority of citizens quickly became a moot question as ordinary folks sought out new sources of alcohol.
With the big brewers and distillers out of the game, not surprisingly it was the criminal element who quickly stepped up to fill the void. Soon, everybody knew a bootlegger or two who could provide the booze while the criminal gangs fought bloody wars to control the business. There were corrupt cops, smugglers running liquor across the border and gun battles in the streets over turf.
Sound familiar? Canadians came to their senses first and prohibition was repealed in British Columbia in 1921.
By 1927, most Canadians were free of the prohibition yoke and were well positioned to join in the booming booze business south of the 49th parallel.
It took another five years for the Americans to follow suit and in 1932 the criminals went back to more traditional business pursuits such as robbing banks, operating gambling schemes and running for political office.
Governments permitted the sale of alcohol again and promptly taxed the living bejeebers out of it. Now the only illegal booze is created by guys with hyphenated first names who operate stills near cricks and hollers.
Heck, today there are businesses where you can brew your own beer – as long as the government gets its cut.
So almost 80 years after the end of prohibition – 91 in British Columbia – what have we learned? Not much, as the ongoing crusade against marijuana shows.
Our society is once again dealing with the whole prohibition grand slam complete with corrupt officials, smugglers running weed across the border and gun battles in the streets over turf.
Last month, police were brought in to close off streets in Vancouver to accommodate the annual April 20 marijuana festival known as 4-20. The fact that so many people are opposed to the law that partaking in the illegal indulgence of marijuana is an unofficial civic holiday shows the war on this particular drug is a waste of time and resources.
Just as the American forces in Vietnam failed to win the hearts and minds of the people of that country, it is doubtful the prohibition of marijuana has much of an ideological foothold among the general population of North America.
While older citizens still support the ban, I would humbly suggest the antiweed message is lost on those born in the 1950s or later – and it’s becoming less relevant with each succeeding generation.
So using history as our guide, perhaps it’s time to rethink the whole marijuana prohibition. Legalize it and tax the heck out of it. It’s not a perfect solution but it beats swerving to avoid bullet-riddled bodies in the streets.