Friday, October 21, 2005

On Drugs

I want to talk today about Drugs, mainly of the consciousness-altering sort we inhale, snort, or inject into our veins – which is to say the Drugs we outlaw. The essence of our War on Drugs is captured in the now-famous photo of the late Fat Elvis – hollowed-eyed and bloated from gobbling down huge mouthfuls daily of Valium, Dexedrene, Placidyl, Percodan, Seconal, and the whole family of tranquillizers – being made an honorary narcotics agent by the late Richard Nixon.

Most Real Americans support the War on Drugs, notwithstanding the bleating of the pusillanimous pussyfooters who say our drug policies infringe on individual rights and freedoms. These nattering nabobs of negativism say that the right to consume any narcotic is something that has been taken away from us. They are indeed correct, for until the turn of the twentieth century there were no proscriptions on narcotics. In that sense, we are less free than were our grandparents and great-grandparents. But how free are we anyway, and have we ever truly been free?

* * *

In 1963 the British film director Michael Apted went to a school playground and interviewed on camera a number of seven-year-olds whom he’d randomly selected. He asked them about their lives and recorded their answers, incorporating them into a documentary called 7 Up. Every seven years thereafter, he tracked down those same children and put them again on camera while they talked about how their lives were progressing. The resulting documentaries – 14 Up, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, and 42 Up - showed the children talking at the different stages of their lives, enabling the viewer to compare each child with the teenager, then adult he or she was turning into.

The theme of Apted’s lifelong project was whether the child portends the sort of adult he or she will turn into. Looking at all the children in this cinematic project, we can see why they turned into the adults they became. They show that the future adult is adumbrated in the seven-year-old child. Also, none of the children moved out of the social and economic class they were born into. Working-class children became working class adults, and upper class children became upper-class adults, but all thought they’d been the authors of their lives, that they’d become the people they wanted to become.

Admittedly, Britain has a more rigid class structure than does the US of A. But even in the US of A are things much different, given that the gap between rich and poor has been steadily growing over the last twenty years? Apted’s documentaries show that who we become is determined more by our heredity and environment than anything else. So then, how free are any of us to become all we can be?

If we, as individuals, are mostly un-free, how free is the society which shaped us, and of which we are indelibly a part? Can a society made up of un-free people be free? And judging by how conformist we are in speech, mannerisms, dress, habits, and values, are we not un-free? And do we really want to be free? If we do, why is it that as soon as we are through with school or university and are finally earning enough money to live freely, we almost immediately set about becoming un-free through getting married, buying a house, taking out a morgage, then having children, thereby embarking on a life of unremitting loveless drudgery? Perhaps a free society is one in which each person is free to choose their own form of slavery.

* * *

You may be asking: What has all this to do with Drugs? Well, if our society is free, then each person would be free to consume whatever drug they want, whether marijuana, hashish, cocaine, LSD, heroin or whatever. However, if we accept that we, as individuals, are un-free, and that our society is, as a consequence, also un-free, then our drug laws which render conscious-changing drugs illegal make absolute sense.

Why only conscious-changing drugs? Because if enough people consumed conscious-changing drugs, like LSD, marijuana, hashish and all the rest, they might start questioning the status quo that legitimizes the power of those set in authority over us, and all they pronounce. Do you think George Bush could have gotten away with all he has gotten away with if the American people imbibed consciousness-changing drugs en-masse? It’s important to understand that outlawing consciousness-changing drugs preserves the status quo, and thus serves the interests of the ruling class.

* * *

Our drug laws and the War on Drugs they’ve spawned have a certain beauty to them because they give us the best of all worlds. Listen, if you need to imbibe the narcotic of your choice you can always get it because Market Forces rule, whereby demand creates supply. Most of the world’s conscious-changing drugs are consumed in the US of A, which is consequently the main market for the drug producers in Colombia where cocaine production has more than doubled since 1990.

The War on Drugs has also helped keep unemployment down at levels that won’t cause the people to become restless, since we are throwing more and more drug offenders into jail, and therefore out of the job market. Each year the numbers of jailbirds in the US of A rises healthily, so there are now more than two million of them. That’s right, two million. Now, this may not mean much to you, given that Smart Young Men with gelled hair and designer stubble, like to bamboozle us with numbers. But how about if I tell you that the numbers of jailbirds per head of population in the US of A are the highest in the entire world, and are over five times what they are in the other industrialized nations.

The US of A, with just 5% of the world’s population, has 25% of the world’s jailbirds – one in four, thanks in large part to the War on Drugs. If we legalized all drugs we would have to let out large numbers of jailbirds who would forthwith have to look for work, thus crowding out nice folks like me and you.

The War on Drugs and the jailbirds it has spawned have been good for those who are building the jails to house them. Jail building has in fact been one of the fastest growing sectors in the US economy. Other beneficiaries of the War on Drugs have been those who make guns and helicopters which the US government buys in large quantities to give to Colombia – now the third largest recipient of US military largesse – so that the Colombian army can persuade the cultivators of cocaine to cultivate something else.

But it doesn’t quite happen this way, since the cultivators of cocaine are doing quite nicely thank-you, and have money to persuade the Colombian army to look the other way and even safeguard the cultivators. Some of the Colombian army’s higher-ups have even gone into the drug business themselves, and so a sort of spiraling circle has begun to form, whereby providing more guns and helicopters begets more growing of cocaine, which begets more guns and helicopters to eradicate it, which begets more profits for the makers of the guns and helicopters. The American taxpayer’s money is being put to good use.

The War on Drugs, by inflating the selling price and thereby the profit margin of drugs, has opened up opportunities for young men from under-privileged backgrounds to get rich quick through providing drugs to those who want them. By so doing, they follow in the footsteps of Horatio Alger and his pursuit of the American Dream. So, to any young man who has grown up on the wrong side of the tracks and can’t get a job, I say: Go into the narcotics business. Sure, it could land you in jail, but the essence of entrepreneurship is the willingness to risk. If you succeed you will find yourself awash in riches undreamed.

Isn’t this so ineffably beautiful you could cry?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mother Earth Strikes Back

A tsunami which killed over 200,000 in south east Asia; hurricanes in the southern USA which temporarily put New Orleans out of commission; and now an earthquake in Pakistan which may have killed upwards of 40,000. Are these furies nature’s revenge for the environmental depredations carried out by the human animal?

Whether this has been the worst year in the history of the globe for natural disasters is arguable, but it may well have been among the worst of years, and there are still ten weeks to go in this one. So, does all that’s happened so far this year arise out of what we’ve perpetrated on Mother Earth and her environment? It would seem that the recent hurricanes in the southern USA came out of global warming, since scientists warned some time ago that a warning sign of it would manifest in the Caribbean basin. Now it has, since the number of hurricanes has doubled in this area over the last thirty-five years.

Is the current warming of our globe merely an impersonal cyclical phenomenon that occurs every few hundred or thousand years as some of our men of science assert, or is it because we are spewing too much guck into the air and chopping down too many trees? And if the current global warming is the sole result of us spewing too much guck into the air and chopping down too many trees, will the problem be ameliorated sufficiently and in enough time if we merely spew less guck into the air and chop down less trees as proposed under the Kyoto treaty?

Environmental despoliation is a function of economic poverty. The billions of people who live in fetid slums and otherwise exist on the proverbial smell of an oilrag merely to survive yet one more day, are not in frames of mind to worry about global warming – an issue of concern mainly to well-fed urban yuppies fortunate enough to live in the industrial democracies whose denizens account for merely 10% of humanity.

So unless we eliminate the poverty of these billions, and do it quick, we are certainly doomed, for governments will only be disposed to change their environmental policies if their subjects demand that they do so. And even were this to happen, we would only change from being certainly doomed to almost-certainly doomed, since our numbers are still increasing although now at a slower rate. So there will still be ever more of us in future generations to spew ever more guck into the air and chop down ever more trees.

What, then, about the shifting of subterranean tectonic plates which caused the south-east Asian tsunami, and earthquakes like the recent one in Pakistan? How about that they express Mother Earth’s protest at what we’re doing to her? What if Mother Earth has a consciousness of her own, and is furious at what's being done to her, and so, through causing earthquakes and tectonic plate-shifts, is expressing her displeasure in the only way possible?

This may sound bizarre to you who have swallowed wholesale the official received wisdom that the Cartesian-Newtonian paradigm of a dualistic mechanical clockwork universe is infallibly true, despite a plethora of evidence that it isn’t. Since this paradigm would reject Mother Earth having a mind of her own, you will, if you’re normal, be chortling into your beer at the very suggestion that what you were told in school may not be true. So, go on and laugh.

But remember, it is the fools who laugh.