You’ve heard it, all too often. It’s “The War on Drugs”, “The War on Crime”, “The War on Cancer”, “The Culture War,” etc. The rhetoric is supposed to convey the importance of a particular “War” and how powerfully we are going to tackle it.
Instead, they exaggerate the status and nature of the conflict they are engaged in, and they trivialize the concept of war while doing so. There are still people living today who lived through World War II particularly those who did so in Europe or Russia – sorry, America,
you had it cushy during that particular conflict. One attack on what was essentially a military base might have riled you enough to get you into the Allies, and it might have been a sneak attack and a sucker punch but it was a *military base* and your civilian population basically didn’t feel it much. Not like the poor people being herded like cattle across the Old Continent. You were obnoxious about some things – but the Japanese internment camps, as terrible and indefensible as they were, were hardly on the scale of an Auschwitz or a Belsen or a Jasenovac, and most of your happily oblivious population (the non-Japanese ones) just went about their business as usual, mostly. Admittedly you can call that ancient history now.
It isn’t as though there weren’t other wars since then, though. Smaller ones here and there, with people shooting at each other. You know. Lebanon. Korea. Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. Syria.
All those lovely hospitable places where people die in rubble and blood. It isn’t as though people don’t know what real war is, or what it means; it’s just that they are far enough removed from one, for the most part, in the everyday existence of a peacefully settled citizen of the good old US of A that they become… stories. Things they read about in the papers, or maybe glimpse in horrifying videos. But things that don’t touch them, personally. THEY are not the ones doing the
fighting or the running or the dying. They are not the ones who can’t get food, or clean water, or medicine. They just click their teeth and say how horrible it all is, and then they go look at cat pictures on the Internet.
But the “Wars on…” phrases come out sounding properly gung ho, properly feisty. Hey, look, there’s this “bad thing” – let’s “declare war” on it.
Except that somehow things become horribly perverted in the execution of this stuff. The “War on Drugs” became the war on some drugs, but not others; you met with worse consequences in that war if you were somebody connected with crack than if you were someone who elegantly
snorted coke at high-society parties. Right there you have the divide, plain as day. What were you fighting here? Because the users of the more refined coke were largely rich and white and the crack people were largely poor and black – not exclusively, but statistically significant in terms of the ratio – you weren’t waging a war on cocaine. You were waging a cultural war on that part of society you perceive as being “worse”.
You aren’t fighting the drug. You’re fighting the cultural moiety that you think is a danger to the society you wish to pretend you exist in. And there is zero evidence that marijuana is inevitably a “gateway” drug because if it were there would be SO many more heroin addicts out there then there actually are.
Because grass has the rep, everything about it is slammed – including the uses for hemp that have been in place since time immemorial – making rope, or making paper (thus saving trees), or the literal analgesic properties which have become increasingly open with the concept of ‘medical marijuana’ now – with people with legitimate pain needs being permitted to use MJ to alleviate that pain. And yet there are still people being bundled into jail because they are nabbed with a pocketful of weed.
I’m not pro-drug. Far from it. I have never been NEAR any, nor been tempted – not even weed. I know what it smells like because people smoked it at my university campus at some point or another and I would recognize the smell – but I’ve never partaken, and part of that is just a rejection of the whole smoking thing (my dad was a lifelong smoker. Tobacco smoke did not agree with me. Therefore smoking became something I never even wanted to try…) I will freely admit that I am an addict, though – I mainline coffee and I once went cold-turkey without coffee for too long… it wasn’t pretty. (Please don’t start a war on coffee…)
But I do think that the various “Wars on…” have gone the wrong way for too long – that people who have no intention of “dealing” to anyone have been stuffed into jails rather than care centers where their addictions could be dealt with. Places which have gone about this with a bit of sanity have got MUCH better results than in America. Go research Portugal. Legalizing a lot of the ‘small stuff’ that will land you in jail – like they did with legal weed that you can buy in stores now – would go a long way to alleviate the problem.
While we’re at this… tackle the root problems. People don’t just do drugs because they do drugs. There are reasons. And now we’re into the other war – the ‘war on poverty’, which is so often, in America, a war on the poor.
There are hungry and homeless out there. They are being herded out any way they can be, so that they don’t clutter the neighborhoods of those lucky enough to have a roof over their heads and the power on. Kids in the schools of a nation that likes to portray itself as the ‘richest in the world’ are literally being poor-shamed by having hot lunches whisked from them in full view of their schoolmates and fobbed off with peanut butter sandwiches. People who scramble to make ends meet – but have a cell phone because that is their only connection to the world, or a fridge, or a microwave – are mocked and savaged and excoriated for it; they can’t possibly be “poor” if they have those things, can they?
Even when thousands are living in the street in Dickensian rags, the poor in America are more easily dealt with by being ignored. There are homes standing empty, going to wrack and ruin, but god forbid that someone without a home could shelter there. ‘Imperfect’ vegetables are being tossed from supermarkets, and untouched meals thrown away by restaurants, but god forbid that someone who is hungry might benefit from that (unless they dumpster dive, and even that is frowned on and the authorities are sicced on such people).
There are constant talking points about “access” to healthcare but that access works on the same principle that someone staring into a bakery through a plate glass window has access to the bread – they can see it, they may be able to smell it, but they should never actually consider themselves worthy of a slice of it.
There are creatives who burn out every day because they are not valued or supported – and the world loses an artist, a songwriter, a poet, people who are what makes up the soul of the human race, because they can’t scrape up enough money to keep the lights on and food on the table unless they work three menial jobs which leave them no time or creative space to nourish that creative spark.
You are measured by money. If you don’t have it, somehow you don’t deserve it (because otherwise you would have had it). And society turns on you because of it. People go deeper and deeper into debt – credit card interest rates which were once considered usury are now the norm – and once on that treadmill you can’t get off. But there’s a WAR ON POVERTY. The only qualification to benefit from it, though, is that you can’t be poor in the first place. If you are… you’re on your own. Society has other fish to fry rather than take this on.
In America, Martin Luther King used to say we have capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich. Which funnels the money in a single direction, and it isn’t one which the ‘war on poverty’ can possibly be won by.
I’d like to say, make art, not war. But somehow art has begun to be perceived as something that should just exist, be free, and the creators are somehow expunged from that equation – they should be happy to do it “for the exposure”, or for a token amount.
Never mind that the wars that exist in our society can often be won in a luminous moment of incandescent communion with something that sparks joy in your soul. If we have to have a “war”, why not a war on…oh… actual WAR? A war on soullessness? Why not fight that battle – bring the human race closer to valuing something that you cannot put an actual monetary value on – like happiness? You achieve contentment, your existence improves instantly – war won, right there.
But in order to do that… we need to accept that the other ‘wars’ need to be fought differently. People with warm homes and full bellies – and by that I mean a comfortable existence, not being a bored billionaire – generally don’t feel the need for drugs or other mind altering substances (well, bored billionaires might but that’s because they are bored, and have nothing else to do…).
So winning the war on poverty wins the war on drugs. All you have to do is create a society where this is possible, not one where you are tossed onto the societal garbage heap because you can’t run sufficiently fast in our rat race existence to keep up with the Joneses next door in a manner deemed suitable by those sitting in judgment
The capitalist system behind all this… needs to be tempered with mercy. Nobody is less human than you because you are a hedge fund manager and they are not. They deserve a life too. To those who somehow think they ought to have more than their own fair share of things – stop bogarting all the world’s joy by making it something that you feel personally entitled to, to the point of actively depriving someone else of any of it, and our wars might fade away. But first we need to change our paradigm, and our thinking. Until we do, we’re at war.
With things we should not be at war with.
With the world.
With one another.