Saturday, June 18, 2011

Symposium on the War on Drugs, Day 1 (6/17/11)

Maureen Taylor, MWRO
Yesterday (June 17) and today, Michigan Welfare Rights is hosting a symposium commemorating the war on drugs. Last night's presentations, questions and comments covered the range of individual drug use (that is, what drives people to use drugs) and how people who use are treated by the criminal (in)justice system to the broader, systematic use of drugs by the ruling group in its attempts to defeat and control entire populations.  [Study, for example, the use of opium in China by European nations to break its back or crack/cocaine to destroy the black power movement].

I gleaned several lessons from yesterday's (Friday 6/17/11) presentations, questions and comments:
  1. Study history.  It is important to have an understanding of the historical context in which things emerge.  The historical context may be studied at the national and global levels.  Or an individual may study the role of drugs in her/his family history. The bottom line is that examining history allows one to learn the conditions under which drugs were introduced into a region, population or person's life.  It allows one to identify the outside forces that brought the drugs in (or facilitated their introduction).  And finally, studying history puts one in a position to identify/admit to the internal factors that contributed to the drug use; in other words, what conditions, beliefs, habits held by a population or individual made it/her/him susceptible to drug use and subsequent addiction.
  2. Identify the source of the problem and solve that.  One young lady spoke emphatically about the importance of understanding what drives people to use drugs in the first place.  In her work as a counselor, she discovered that all the women she counseled around illegal drug use/addiction were victims of some form of abuse in their lives, particularly sexual abuse and rape. Many more people use legal and prescription drugs to cope with the many stresses of their daily lives. And such drugs as alcohol, which is far more damaging to people/families/communities than most illegal drugs, are promoted widely in the media. This speaker recommended that one solution each person could implement in her/his daily life is to take time to talk with people.  Most simply need someone to listen, someone to care, someone to help through especially difficult moments without judgment. 
  3. Do not participate in your own oppression.  Another important lesson came from a few symposium participants.  The essence of their message was to not participate in their oppression by using drugs (to harm oneself) or by selling them (to harm others).  Drug use - prescription or not, legal or not, alcohol or other forms - numbs the mind-body-soul complex, deadens feelings, and helps people to do nothing to change the conditions that have them in the position where they see self medication as a way out.
  4. Another, very important lesson came at the end of the evening.  In the course of one person's comments - wherein he advocated for the legalization of all drugs - another challenged that line of thinking.  The person said that at some point we have to stop making excuses for what we do.  Stop accepting the idea that using and selling drugs is the logical and acceptable outcome of hard economic conditions.  It is not.  Study history. Learn what happens in societies dominated by addiction. China was devastated with the imposition of opium by European nations. At one point China had to close its borders and run out foreigners to stop their people from poisoning themselves with this. We have to end the relationships with those who mean to cause us harm.
  5. Finally, Maureen Taylor closed with we have to stop shying away from action because the opposition seems too big. Isn't the future worth fighting for? (I added this last piece)
I will post a summary from today's (6/18/11) gathering a bit later.

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