Thursday, July 15, 2010

Of Drugs and Decontextualization

Anything can be decontextualized. It’s a tactic used every day by those who would sway us to some alternative point of view. Without trying to get too deeply into the weeds of meta-consciousness, all truths are filtered through our own particular sets of personal, institutional, and cultural biases. But some biases are more apparent than others.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency has it’s own sets of biases, and, given their mission, that’s understandable to some extent. According to them, the US war on drugs is a success. Cited as proof, they claim that they’ve reduced cocaine use by “an astounding” 70% during the last 15 years. So I get that they have a vested interest in making such a claim. But that doesn’t mean I have to like the fact that they apparently think I’m stupid.

Personally I’m not particularly fond of things that alter my consciousness. My need for rational control is way too strong to be tolerant of things that deprive me of it. But one doesn’t have to be particularly intimate with drug culture to know that cocaine ceased being a glamorous drug after the demise of the “cocaine cowboys” of Miami in the 1980’s. Cocaine has long since been supplanted, first by crack, now by methamphetamine. Drug trafficking is the single fastest growing business globally, followed distantly by human trafficking according to the UN.

So just who does the USDEA think it’s fooling? That international flow of drugs is primarily going to a single destination: the United States of America. A success? Let’s measure that success by some broader objective measures than the reduction of cocaine use. How about we measure it by its cascading effects. Phoenix AZ is now the US capital for kidnapping. In the world it’s only second to Mexico City. It’s convenient (and incorrect) to blame illegal immigrants. It’s our demand for drugs produced outside of the US that is the root of that problem. We can attack the supply chain all we like, but so long as the demand exists, the supply will meet it.

But the extent to which domestic cascading effects are problematic, these pale compared to the disaster that awaits us as Mexico becomes a failed state. We already have a lively debate throughout America over illegal immigration. The nexus of our drug policies combined with growing resentment over undocumented aliens consuming US public goods looms close on the horizon, potentially turning a major domestic problem into an international catastrophe. Imagine, for a moment, what it will mean when the status of immigrant is changed to that of refugee. Envision, for a moment, camps established all along our Southern border to accommodate the inflow of people trying to escape the chaos of a failed Mexican state that has torn itself apart over the illicit drug and human trafficking trade.

Drug (and human) abuse is not a domestic law enforcement problem. It is a national security problem. The supply side solution is not to try and destroy the supply; but rather to control it. If we cannot curb our appetites, we can at least attempt to feed those appetites in a way that does not threaten the stability of our nation and our neighbors.

Filtering out the side effects of our drug and immigration policies is no way to deal with issues that are so important to our national stability or that of our neighbors. Such decontextualized proofs of success as the reduction in cocaine consumption is simply insulting the intelligence of those who actually bother to think about this issue in bigger terms than simple law enforcement. Consumption of drugs produced outside the United States isn’t a simple matter of addiction or consenting adults enjoying some mind altering experience. It’s a violation of our security as a nation by contributing to the destabilization of a neighboring nation and to the humanitarian disaster that organized drug and human trafficking has brought about. It is tantamount to funding insurgency or terrorism, and it should be treated in that manner. Such treatment demands new solutions that may seem contrary to our improvident notions of morality, but I, for one, would rather see our actions feed the addictions of my own countrymen by controlling the supply, than utterly destroy the nations and lives of those who aren’t.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that each succeeding drug of choice in recent years has been more addictive, destructive and fast-acting than the last (cheaper too). It takes a few years for cocaine to destroy one's body and brain; a year or two for crack to do the same; and meth will kill you in less than a year if you work at it.

Heroin is more pernicious but has always chugged along as a minority-interest bass line to the frenetic guitar solos of the aforementioned stimulants, mostly because it's a downer opiate. Coke/crack/meth heads take to it in order to take the edge off when they've had their fun.

Meth is a bit of a different beast. At first it was mostly domestically produced, and a lot of it still is, but as you imply it's in the free wide-open spaces of power-vacuum Mexico that it's produced and exported to the US in industrial quantities. And a lot of the Ecstasy pills (mostly these are amphetamines anyway) your club kids pop come from Canada, don't forget!

You've mentioned marijuana before, but this is much more of a domestically produced drug. Apparently a third of the world's pot is grown in the United States. This makes sense: compared to pills and powders the stuff is bulky, smelly, and goes stale - it makes more logistical sense for people to grow sell and use locally. And for the most part it just makes people slow, stupid and hungry - permanently so if they keep at it long enough, but it certainly won't kill people as quickly as a bad coke or even alcohol habit will.

If you remember the crack panics of the 80s and 90s, the furore lasted longer than a lot of the actual addicts did, since many of the chickenheads stupid enough to do it were dead in a year or two of the "epidemic" starting. I keep waiting for meth to peak and roll back for the same reason, but there seems to be an inexhaustible source of chickenheads willing to get hooked on it, compared to 20-30 years ago. Meanwhile, apparently cannabis use is stabilizing and even declining in North America.