Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Danger, Protection and Poppies

During my interview on the H2O Network, we discussed how the War on Drugs has led to all sorts of restrictions being implemented in the name of saving us from making bad choices. Omo Yemaya asked about what I had learned while writing and researching Power of the Poppy and what lessons I would like my readers to take away from the book.

One of the big ones was this: if we give our legislators the ability to regulate heroin, we also give them the ability to regulate aloe vera and other natural supplements. If we trust them to protect us from the terrorists who want to fly planes into our buildings, we shouldn't be surprised when they try to protect us from the "terrorists" who expose unsafe, inhumane and unsanitary factory farming practices.  Like any ally (spiritual or otherwise) our leaders need to be watched closely and treated with caution.  We all know that oxycodone or morphine use can quickly spin out of control. We need to remember that the same is true of government.

Another is this: all the laws in the world cannot triumph over the law of supply and demand, or over the Darwinian laws of natural selection. There will always be people who use mind-altering substances, and there will always be people who abuse them. Our efforts to discourage them through punitive means are doomed. From 1914's Harrison Narcotics Act to the present day, we have tried to criminalize drug abuse out of existence. We have succeeded only in creating powerful organized crime cartels, persecuting doctors, and feeding a prison/law enforcement complex that seeks ever-greater power in the name of "protecting our children."

Perhaps someday we will see a politician honest enough to say "Some day, somewhere, some lone zealot will succeed in blowing himself up on a crowded subway or on an airplane.  Our present trend of virtual strip-searches and toddler pat-downs cannot take away that risk: it can only take away our dignity. We are not even sacrificing our liberty for safety: we are giving it up for the illusion of safety. We cannot protect ourselves from Black Swans and anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something." The folks who are leading the war on drugs are also leading the war on terror. Ask yourself what they gain from your acquiescence in their schemes and what their "protection" is costing you.  Because that is another lesson which Poppy teaches: everything has a price and every action has a consequence.  No ally works for free and any ally will promote its interests over yours.