Sunday, July 13, 2003

Drugged Out.
The issue with drugs is obviously one that motivates people, judging by the feedback on the issue. I’ve read comments people posted on Bristol Indymedia about the whole issue and getting bogged down on the issue of racism and stuff. Here’s my two pennies on the matter; We can’t blame nationalities for the drug problem. On the streets of St.Pauls most of the dealers might be Jamaican, but most of the junkies are British. Both are needed to create a drug problem. It’s people doing it, irrespective of their origin.

So who’s fault is it?

The police?

Ironically, because of the laws of supply and demand, the better the police become at interrupting the supply the better the price the dealers get for their drugs. As less reaches the streets and as the demand has not changed, the more the dealers can charge. In addition, the police generally get the least efficient dealing crews as they are caught easier, so weeding out the competition and acting as a kind of gang-related natural selection. The police are not to blame for this problem.

The Yardies?

While at the moment they might be in the frame in St.Pauls, they are just the latest in a long line of groups aiming to make money from the trade. I am aware to those who’ve been the victim of Yardie crime this is no comfort, but Britain can and does breed it’s own gangs and if the Yardies weren’t in St.Pauls then somebody else would be. Capitalism abhors a vacuum. Because of the drugs illegal status, the only enforcement comes from violence both to control the inner gang hierarchy and the payment from junkies. In a world were violence is the only form of negotiations, its little wonder the rest of the community suffer the fallout. The Yardies are a nasty symptom of a systemic disease.

The Junkies?

To any resident of St.Pauls, pasty-faced junkies roaming the streets like a zombie film out-take is a common sight. It only takes a few junkies, with their constant demand for fixes, to create a problem totally out of proportion to their numbers. The area is dotted with half-way houses, homeless shelters and hostels. All a ready base for the demand side of the drugs equation. (I doubt Clifton has many such places). Are they to blame? Like the dealers, they are in the frame, but every society in history has a mind-altering substance ingrained in the culture and there will always be those who succumb to it. Their reasons for addiction might be legion, but the end result is the same. It is how we choose to deal with this inevitable human trait that is the important issue, as we can never rid ourselves of it.

The Politicians?

I’d say yes and no to blame. Yes, their lack of thought and action on the problem has partly lead to our current problems. They have presided over a system that for over 50 years has (with slight variations) enforced prohibition and today, after all that exertion, drugs are cheaper and more accessible than ever before. (You can’t help but wonder if their new found zeal for drugs is motive by the news that the middle class are now getting addicted to crack too?) On the one had they shake the hands of people like Colombia’s president Alvaro Uribe dismissive of their collusion with the very drug dealers he’s supposed to be stopping. Indeed, many government intelligence agencies actually become dealers themselves, and do the politicians bring them to book for being part of the problem and not the solution? No - they either can’t or wont. Ultimately, the politicians with a nod-and-wink to the countries supplying the drugs and the total failure to grasp the nettle, are only allowed to be so incompetent because we let them get away with it.


The problem and solution rests with us and getting there will not be easy. But then living in a dealer-junkie hyper-market is not easy either. If you hate the drugs problems in your area and you’re not involved with a community group then this lack of action only helps the dealers. If you don’t do something more than complain, then your absence is the junkies invitation.

I’d like to see all drugs decriminalized, to wipe the dealers business model away at a stroke. I’d like to see community drug centers were the junkies in our areas get free crack and heroin. (I’d rather they got it for free than mugged someone to pay). These centers aimed at both treatment and rehabilitation would be community run , employing local people and be situated all over the city (yes in Clifton too). I’d like to see strong autonomous community organizations working together to fight the causes of the crime.

What would you like to see and what are you doing about it? It’s time we faced the reality that after over 50 years of failure, looking to the same tired old solutions is a dead-end road. We’re the ones who live with the problems day in day out, we’re ultimately the only ones who can solve them.

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