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Part III: War without end.
In the first part of this series, I discussed propaganda as it related to the popular cult film Reefer Madness. In the second part, I discussed "do-gooder-ism"; that seeming need some people have to put their noses into the business of their fellows. In this part, I want to look at a strange phenomenon; the declaration of war against concepts.
In the mid to late thirties, the movie Reefer Madness, other exploitation movies, and a campaign by William Randolf Hearst and Harry J. Anslinger eventually rendered the use and possession of marijuana illegal in the US. Mr. Anslinger became the first official "Drug Czar". With the naming of the first Drug Czar, the war on concepts began.
Onward Christian Soldiers
Of course, a war not only needs a Czar; it also needs soldiers. As I pointed out in the last article, due to some genetic anomaly, some people are driven to be do-gooders. These do-gooders become the foot soldiers that join the fight for the side of "good". Who better to be these foot soldiers than people who not only have a talent for do-gooder-ism, but also are members of a religion that encourages this reprehensible human trait? To my mind, you couldn't pick a better group of busy bodies than those that claim to be christian! Of that lot, those of the evangelical bend are easily the most pernicious and nosy!
This should be surprising to no one. From about the time that the Holy Roman Empire was brought into being by the acceptance of (and forced obedience to) christianity by Emperor Constantine in 313AD, it has had a militant and bloody history. Given the propensity for do-gooders to spring from christianity, what better group to be the foot soldiers in the initial drug war?
If you need further proof, keep in mind that Reefer Madness was originally produced by a church group. While producer Dwain Esper produced other exploitation films in the same vein as Reefer Madness, had the church group not popped for the initial production on Tell Your Children, Reefer Madness wouldn't even exist.
Therefore it is fair to lay the war on drugs on the actions of numerous "christian solders". While it is true that christianty doesn't have the market cornered on do-gooders and do-gooder-ism, history bears out the truth that the first war on something other than a country (or group thereof) was brought about chiefly by the acts of christian do-gooders, and the propagandists preaching to them.
Wars Without End: The Butcher's Bill
A bad precedent was set that day. The drug war opened the door to the incredibly American idea of declaring war on a concept or thing other than a foreign country. Since the drug war began, we have also declared war on hunger, racism, poverty, and of course, terrorism to mention a few.
Drugs are still a social problem. Racism is as prevalent as ever, and just as popular. Poverty and hunger are pandemic in America, the richest country in the world. The war on terror is completely pointless. Making war on a tactic of war makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Declaring a war on a concept is a complete waste of time. It turns what might otherwise be an easily solvable, or at least less serious situation into a matter of life or death. While it can be argued that the above listed concepts we are at war with are matters of life and death, it can just as easily be argued that the last thing one needs to fix something like poverty is to declare war upon it.
What do people hope to be achieved by declaring war on something such as poverty? On what do you declare said war? Do you set lose another Robin Hood upon society? Do you shoot down the rich, lay waste to Fort Knox, and distribute that booty to those in true financial need? Do you nuke the "poor side" of your town? How does one wage war on poverty?
I would think it would be much easier to use a livable welfare system with job rehabilitation, and other services specifically designed to abate poverty and give jobs to people that want and need them. The job rehabilitation would be there to help people change careers, and survive the inevitable education time required to learn new (and perhaps technically advanced) job skills. Perhaps it's just too simple to work, but I'd think that taking constructive steps as listed above would bear much more fruit and be immeasurably better than declaring war on poverty.
But what do I know? I used to think that honesty was the best policy. I used to think we were a nation of laws, not men. I am obviously wrong about those things. Maybe I'm just too simple a creature to understand why we must declare war to solve a problem.
Setting Dangerous Precedents
By declaring war on concepts, you keep the word "war" alive and active in the public psyche. After a time, the word begins to lose its raw and bloody reality. People forget that the first goal of war is killing the enemy by whatever means necessary.
Therein lies the problem with declaring war on concepts and things. There is no yardstick with which to measure success in war other than the amount of corpses lying about when the gun smoke clears. How do you know you have won the day when fighting a concept?
Technically speaking, there is no winning a war on concepts. Poverty has existed since man first devised trade by way of money. Hunger has been a perennial visitor to our world since life began. Drugs are a big business, both for the doctor and the pusher alike. They will be around as long as Homo sapiens continues to dump feces on the planet. Terrorism has existed and will continue to exist in us as long as our reptilian brain exists. All of these concepts are immutable; an indivisible part of reality. Working to abate them as problems is one thing. Declaring war on them is another thing entirely. One option will work like a charm. The other will become a joke.
The Earning Of The Green
There has to be a reason why we continue to do dumb things like declaring war on concepts. It can be seen that the war on drugs has helped the bottom line of the American Judicial System. I hear and see people quoting the statistics of the damage wrought upon society by drugs; things like seventy percent of the people in prisons are there for drug related charges. That is usually followed up by saying that because of this glut of humanity rotting behind bars, those who are committing violent crimes are gaining early release, along with the less or non-violent drug offender.
Let's take a moment to look at the judicial system, shall we. A long time ago, human justice was done quickly. It was required that for societies to continue to grow, those that go against the rules of said society were to face punishment in some form or fashion, from being ostracized, to banishment, to death. The only idea was protection of the greater social good. This worked well enough to keep us banded together as we moved along the time line of reality.
Eventually, someone discovered that people would pay to keep themselves out of trouble, and away from the worst of the punishment to be meted out on them. At the same time, it was discovered that the amount some people would be willing to pay to avoid punishment would be very good for the bottom line of those who decided to be the payees. Hell, that kind of money could pay for a city's existence. Some people discovered you could debate points of law, and make even more money for yourself. Thus was born the lawyer.
Lawyers and others in the judicial system stand to make money hand over fist because of the existence of the drug wars. Considering the amount of money to be made from fighting a war on drugs, it is clear that certain members of society stand to make huge sums of money on the suffering of people who just want to get high without alcohol.
Trust me on this. I have a case of my own pending. It's a misdemeanor charge, but in order to avoid huge fines and probation, I have to hire a lawyer. So far, this has cost me three hundred bucks (bail). The lawyer is going to be two thousand. At the final dispensation of the case, I will most likely have to pay some sort of fine and court costs. Let's say, the fine and costs is another thousand dollars. That will be thirty-five hundred bucks from one small incident...one small misdemeanor charge.
Imagine the money being dumped into the system for people with drug felonies. When I was sitting in arraignment, there were people getting slammed for felony drug offenses to the tune of twenty thousand dollar bails...just bails. Fines for these offenses are high as well. As for the cost of lawyers to get one's ass out of the sling, or at least not so tight in said sling has to be out of this world. If my charge is worthy of two grand, I can only imagine how much money would be demanded to defend one from a major drug felony; whether or not there was any violence involved. When one considers the sheer volume of people routinely incarcerated for felony drug charges, the money to be made in the war on drugs is out of this world.
Wars on concepts make money. Working to eliminate the desire an addict has to use their drugs, a much more socially aware way to deal with the drug problem, costs money. The best way to eliminate a market is to dry up the demand for the product being peddled. Clearly, working to eliminate the addiction would dry up demand for drugs. It would take the profit out of it for the pushers and the judicial system. We simply can't have that, now can we? Ending a profitable business is simply NOT the American way!
Hey, maybe that's why we are inextricably stuck in the hell that is Iraq. We could get out any time. There'd be some anarchy, but eventually, it would force the Iraqi government to actually govern. Of course, that would mean we'd lose our stakes in that oil under the Iraqi soil. We simply can't have that, now can we?
A Report Card On Our Progress
So, how has the war been going? The drug war has been fought since Anslinger and company had their first success with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. That's exactly seventy years.
So how are we doing? Follow this link to the DEA's (http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/statistics.html)facts and statistics page, and see that the numbers stay pretty constant. To me, that means that the war on drugs is a sham; a waste of time, money, lives, and other resources. That doesn't bode well at all.
Ah, but I have mostly concerned myself with the war on drugs here. Maybe the war on poverty is going better. Perhaps it is if your definition of poverty is the difference between having a million dollars or a billion dollars in one's bank account. For the rest of us saps, things aren't going so well.
How about that war on terrorism thing? Well, a cursory look at the news that Al Qaeda has reconstituted in Pakistan and Afghanistan while we have been jacking off over Iraq should pretty much tell the tale. The only things that have happened since the war on terror began is the wasting of American lives, and the making of Nuevo Riche war profiteers, individual and corporate...gee, that whole "Earning Of The Green" thing there again.
Real progress has yet to show itself. I doubt that it ever will. Until such time as we realize some bitter truths, we are doomed to fight this battle until we turn the earth into a cinder.
Bitter truth 1: The Middle East has been imperiled in some sort of conflict since time immemorial. Whether it was facing invasions from all directions, or the armies of do-gooders known as crusaders, or from the emergence of three different forms of self-righteous monotheistic religion, the Middle East is, has been, and shall remain the most politically tumultuous area on this rock. Nothing we newcomer arrogant upstarts pull is going to quell the turbulent reality of that area. It's time we swallow that bitter pill, and leave those people alone to figure things out for themselves...something that I doubt will ever happen, at least as long as we remain oil junkies! What do you expect when god promises two different "tribes" the same plot of land? It seemingly doesn't even matter that they fight over sand. Frankly, if that area is a "promised" land, god has a great sense of humor...and those that battle over that land are stupid!
Bitter truth 2:Killing is my business, and business is good (all thanks and apologies to Dave Mustaine and MegaDeth). As I said above, war is business...big business. Whenever a war breaks out, you can rest assured that someone, somewhere is going to start to feel a swelling in their wallets and bank accounts. Whether we are looking at the indecent profits made in the war on terror by Halliburton, and the profits made by the judicial system by the war on drugs, it can be clearly seen that war is good for business. Until this reality changes (it won't), we are going to be locked in worthless and ineffective wars against easily dealt with situations or "problems".
Bitter truth 3: it' easy to declare war. It's harder to deal with real situations. War implies that once the side of "good" is triumphant, all will be well in the world. This oversimplifies the reality of life. Life is filled with contradictions. Life is filled with problems that simply will not yield to us. These problems are manifold. In many cases, there are no easy answers. No amount of screaming at the obelisk will break its stone.
We can be sure that wars on concepts will remain a perennial favorite with humanity. As long as there is a profit to be made, monetary or otherwise, in the fighting of capricious wars on concepts, we are going to keep declaring them. How sad it is indeed that it's easier and more profitable for society to fight its members than it is to fix the problems that are the supposed focus of the conceptual wars.
Unfortunately, I can't end this article with the warning that the next person to be caught in the web of conceptual wars will be your child, or yours, or yours!. We are all caught up in them even now.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. In the case of wars on concepts, it is also paved with the bodies of those who have fallen fighting worthless wars over concepts. Maybe some day, society will realize that declaring war on anything or anyone should be an absolute last resort, not the first tool to be pulled from the toolbox. Until such time as the bitter truths above change, we can be sure that society will always bear the mark of wars, be they wars fought on battlefields, or wars fought on concepts.