Life and death

After my first week at the MDHG, I had already accumulated more so-called ‘office stories’ than in many other jobs combined. After all, street life is full of life, and if ‘remarkable’ wasn’t such a dull description, I would say it’s filled with remarkable characters.

On the other hand, before that time, I had only dealt with a limited number of deaths: my elderly grandparents, a few close friends, and a handful of acquaintances. At the MDHG, things are different. There are periods when, with our black humor, we joke that we won’t need to write anything new for the upcoming Spuit 11 because it could be entirely filled with In Memoriam pages. Unfortunately, we’ve recently had to employ our morbid humor quite often to cope with all the losses, as we had known many of these individuals for years.

A large portion of these people were dedicated to helping others in similar situations after having spent time on the streets themselves. Often, they received only expense reimbursements, yet they were driven by an inner sense of justice. Without their experience and expertise, changes in the technocratic systems would be challenging, thus their contributions cannot be overstated.

Through our In Memoriam pages, we also honor those who worked towards better drug policies. Some of them I only met a few times. During Cannabis Liberation Day, I interviewed former Prime Minister Dries van Agt about his role in the tolerance policy. Conversely, about 25 years ago, the cannabis activist also active in Amsterdam, John Sinclair (about whom John Lennon wrote a song due to his arrest for cannabis possession), interviewed me for his radio show. It was a fun conversation, live from the terrace of a coffeeshop. I regularly attended meetings with Koert Swierstra at the Stichting Drugsbeleid (Drug Policy Foundation) and was always impressed by his knowledge and clear reasoning, while I have never personally met Erec Kozàr as far as I know. Nevertheless, he cannot be overlooked in this magazine due to his significant contributions to the European legalization organization Encod. Erec, a German, struggled with a mental disorder and, unsure of himself, called the police, who fatally shot him with four bullets in the ensuing situation.

The causes of death of those we lose often complicate the grieving process. In two cases, a police investigation was launched due to suspected crime. In several instances, people chose to end their own lives. I strongly advocate for people to have the right to make that decision themselves, but since it often occurs in silence, one inevitably wonders whether it could have been prevented. And whether that would have been better.

There’s often not much time to dwell on all the sad news. Because Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, life goes on, and all the injustices that they, too, faced are far from being resolved. Thus, we gladly support those who are still here and continue to write articles about what is wrong in everyday life.

Because you can’t do anything about death, but life can still be shaped.

Dennis Lahey, director of Advocacy Group Drug Users MDHG

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