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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN AB: Column: Open The Bar And Stop Raving About Raves
Title:CN AB: Column: Open The Bar And Stop Raving About Raves
Published On:2012-01-27
Source:Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Fetched On:2012-01-28 06:02:56

'We Don't Want to Become the City That Forgot How to Party'

EDMONTON - When it comes to the regulation of raves, two values
collide: the imperative to keep people safe vs. the benefits of
allowing individuals the freedom to celebrate as they see fit.

On the safety side of the equation, we've heard dire warnings and
scary statistics for years related to these massive dance parties.

For example, in May 2000, a city police constable, Rick Abbott, told a
city hall committee about the drug problem at raves: "'Raving exists
because of ecstasy and ecstasy exists because of raving ... the two
seem to go hand in hand."

The following year, Barbara Bishop, a parent of one young raver, spoke
out about the hold that such parties have on the young: "It's like a
cult. They're (teens) getting brainwashed."

In 2001, city council banned people under the age of 18 from attending
raves. This seemed to quiet things for awhile, but now city council is
again debating a bylaw that would end all liquor sales at major raves,
such as those held at the Shaw Conference Centre, where 5,000 young
adults dance, with liquor sales ending at 2 a.m., the music playing on
until 8 a.m.

In a report to council, public safety officials claim that as many as
70 per cent of the young men and women at raves are on drugs. Since
2009, the report says, there's been 65 overdoses at city raves,
including two overdose deaths from ecstasy consumption.

So there are serious safety concerns here, not to be taken lightly,
and council certainly does not, based on what was said at executive
committee this week. As Coun. Ben Henderson put it: "I feel strongly
that one death is too many ... We have to get ourselves to the point
where this is a safe activity."

Various councillors made it clear to deejays and promoters that if
they don't find a way to cut down on health and safety problems,
council would bring in the liquor ban.

The message appeared to sink in. Said Viet Nguyen, a concert promoter:
"If we don't take care of our guests, we won't have any."

At the same time, Nguyen wondered if the safety concerns and negative
stats aren't oversold, given the tens of thousands who attend raves
without incident. "What about the total number of people on any given
night who end up in the hospital after they've been out at a regular
bar or nightclub?" he asked.

Councillors appeared sympathetic to the notion that these parties are
good, clean fun for many people.

Councillors also recognized that by banning alcohol, you do nothing to
stop drug use, but might even be promoting it, given the desire that
many party goers have to ingest some kind of intoxicant during a dance.

On this issue, I'm with the raves. In making a defence of the right of
young men and women to both drink and dance at raves, I'll first turn
to two of my own favourite writers, the first being the 13th century
Persian poet and Muslim mystic Rumi, who understood the human need for
escape from the drudgery of day-to-day life as well as anyone.

In his Four Quartrains, Rumi wrote: "Tonight with wine being poured
and instruments singing among themselves, one thing is forbidden: Sleep.

"Two strong impulses: One, to drink long and deep, the other, not to
sober up too soon."

I'm past the age where these strong two strong impulses have much hold
on me, but I don't think it wise or sporting to unduly thwart them in others.

The second writer, political philosopher Bertrand Russell, put his
mind to what level and type of control society should place on
individuals in his book, Authority and The Individual.

Russell realized that modern people still have primitive impulses to
compete and to revel which need satisfying. At the same time, society
must control both people and groups, lest anarchy takeover. But
Russell warned against the instinct to over-regulate.

"Security, though undoubtedly a good thing, may be sought excessively
and becomes a fetish. A secure life is not necessarily a happy life;
it may be rendered dismal by boredom and monotony. Many people,
especially when they are young, welcome a spice of dangerous adventure. ..."

The element of risk can never be eliminated from the rave scene, nor
should it be, if that appetite for adventure in young people is to be

We need places, such as rave parties, where society doesn't severely
limit choice, but people are allowed to find their own limits, as the
vast majority us do in generally reasonable fashion when it comes to
drugs and alcohol.

Coun. Kerry Diotte suggested raves were being picked on because they
were "big and scary" events, but said it's better to improve their
safety, maybe with additional police officers (which would also be
paid for by the promoters), rather than put a ban on alcohol sales.
"Let's find a solution, not use a hammer on it. ... They are running a
legal business. There are going to be problems where there's alcohol
anyway, anywhere. But how would people feel if suddenly they said,
'Well there are problems at Eskimo games so nobody can drink alcohol?
It's got to be alcohol free.' Or at Oilers game. Or at rock concerts.

"I think it's an easy, knee-jerk thing to go after and just shut them
down because maybe we don't go to them. I don't go to rave clubs. But
if they're 18 and they're following rules, they've got every bit as
much right to enjoy a beer or two or three, as long as they're within
reason and there's good supervision and they're not being rowdy and
causing trouble. I don't see the big difference."

I'll leave the last word to Diotte: "We don't want to become the city
that forgot how to party."
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