Or . . . Are we just kidding ourselves?
Just a short post this time. It should take you less time to read than to drink a cup of coffee.
The topic is the use of illegal drugs in the community, but don’t be put off by that. I won’t stay there long. My point develops from a couple of drug abuse statistics, but goes beyond them to ask questions that nag at me from time to time. I don’t have an answer to them. Maybe you do?
First, however, the statistics:
Just over 10% of Australians use Cannabis regularly. About 3% are Ecstacy users and just over 2% use Cocaine on a regular basis (United Nations 2014 Drug Report).
The most recent data I could find on the Australian Crime Commission web site showed 102000 Australians arrested for illicit drug offences in 2012-13.
If large numbers of drug traffickers are prepared to risk jail to make truckloads of cash there is obviously a market. The United Nations Report says 10% of the Australian population are regular Cannabis users. That is no small consumer group.
Who are those then that are buying and using the stuff? Is it people just like you and I, or is it outsiders? Degenerates? People not like you or I?
Neither Sue nor I are users. That’s two. I’ll take it as given that few if any of our immediate friends are either. Are we a representative sample? I have no idea. Maybe it’s something to do with demographics? Then again I’m not so sure. It’s obvious alcohol abuse does not run along demographic lines. Why should abuse of other drugs? I can make assumptions and generalisations about drug users but are these based on fact or fantasy?
The thing that I find really disturbing about the above statistics is that they don’t sit comfortably with the narrative that has our community supporting its law enforcement officers protecting society from evil depraved drug traffickers and users. That doesn’t stack up. If 10% of the community are regular illicit drug users then law enforcement officers are battling a significant proportion of the community they are supposedly protecting. Following this line of thought, at what point is the community operating as a sham; giving lip service to law enforcement at the same time as embracing the behaviour law enforcement is fighting?
Am I overstating the case? I hope so, but I suspect not. I have no proof, but if you accept that there would be a higher proportion of illicit drug abusers in younger demographic groups, then our community does face a specially difficult existential problem.
Are we serious about the prohibition of illicit drug use? Or is it something we think we ought to be serious about but our hearts are elsewhere? When I think about it, there’s something very human about these questions. Isn’t this how we operate? Don’t we all have principles we espouse yet ignore when it comes to how we live?
Who are we really?
Who are our neighbours? Can we have a viable community where a significant proportion of it embraces a culture its own law enforcement officers wage war on?
Prohibition doesn’t seem ever to really work with us pesky humans. Does that mean we should abandon attempts to curb illicit drug abuse? Does accepting and caring for victims of illicit drug abuse mean normalising or affirming the destructive culture and values underlying that abuse?
Difficult questions for me to answer.