February 25, 2004 | Peter

Violence and Drugs

It was a pretty ordinary 4 Corners this week on bank robberies – too much trying to get the victims crying, too little evidence and analysis (ah, standards are dropping at the ABC) – but it is interesting to see a serious debate on violence emerging in Oz. Violence, especially by males, is of course the ugliest aspect of the myriad social changes brought about by socioeconomic change, and now being discussed, even by politicians.
It would not be too great a statement to say that western masculinity is in crisis. Traditional roles are being undermined – more by socioeconomic change than any feminist ideas – and males increasingly find themselves without the basic skills to prosper in the 21st century. There are lots of reasons for this shift, and if the issue is treated seriously and discussed with empathy, much good could emerge from a basic rethinking of male experience and gender relations generally.
The 4 Corners program pointed out that drugs are behind much of the growth of violent crime. Criminals steal to pay for drugs, the drug industry is violent, and criminals are often on drugs when they commit crime, which makes it less predictable.
In WA the police acknowledge that most property crime and much violent crime is related to drugs. A complicating factor is the state’s population of young Aboriginal males who are all too often poorly educated, unemployed, angry, bored and prone to crime and violence. Drugs, or other forms of mind-altering substances (like solvent sniffing, which just rots the brain), are often a factor here as well.
Everyone knows that current drug policy – criminalisation – does not work. It does not deal with why drugs are so popular, how to deal with addicts or how to minimise resulting crime, and it corrupts and clogs up the law enforcement system. It creates a market that ensures that the drug pushers will remain wealthy and the users poor, and the rest of us nervous. It also ensures lots of people will overdose and die.
The basic alternative – treating drugs as a public health issue – has not been tried. I am not saying it is simple, but I am saying that a basic paradigm shift in how the matter is dealt with is long overdue.
I read a lot of history, and sometimes I read about certain practices (like executing human beings for stealing or making young children work in mines) and I wonder “What were they thinking?!” The point is that strange ideas about right and wrong and power and public order prevailed over a rational, and humane, consideration of the actual matter at hand. One day historians may well look back on the way we mis-handled the great 20th century drugs industry (increasingly mass produced from global sources, like most ‘legal’ drugs), and I suspect that’s what they’ll wonder too.
If we deal explicitly with drugs we will deal with much of the cause of violence. Then we can focus better on the other causes.

Posted by Peter at 1:49 pm | Comments Off on Violence and Drugs |
Filed under: Uncategorized

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.