August 26, 2020
Drug War Ideology:by Ballard Quass
the modern superstition
Consider the following superstitious statement:
My brother fell off a riding lawn mower, hit his head on a rock, and died. Ever since then, I've been working tirelessly to outlaw riding mowers and rocks.
The statement is superstitious because it blames inanimate objects - in this case mowers and rocks - for something that was caused by a lack of wisdom and education. Had the brother had the knowledge and experience to use the riding mower correctly, he would not have fallen off the mower, whether a rock had been nearby at the time or not.
Now consider the following statement:
My brother died by taking an overdose of drugs. Ever since then, I've been working tirelessly to outlaw drugs.
It's the exact same reasoning as above.
The speaker is blaming inanimate objects. But the death in question was caused by the misuse of those substances, not by the substances themselves. To blame the substances is merely a superstitious response, worthy of the pre-logical cave persons of yore.
That's why the drug war is the ultimate case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. In order to make the world "safe," we villainize any illegal substance that we associate with a death. But because we've identified the wrong villain - the drug itself rather than the lack of education that led to its misuse - we end up making the world a far more dangerous place.
Take the case of Leah Betts in England. She died after taking an Ecstasy tablet. Of course, the immediate superstitious drug warrior response was to crack down on Ecstasy use. Everyone ignored the rational fact that the death was caused by a lack of education - a lack of education about the proper use of Ecstasy (the need for proper hydration during strenuous activities such as rave dancing).
And what was the result of the crackdown? The hitherto peaceful rave scene became a shooting gallery as dancers switched from Ecstasy to crack cocaine and fentanyl.
That's what happens when we employ the superstitious reasoning referred to above. We always make things worse. Outlawing drugs would only make sense in the above case if drugs served no purpose but to kill those who use them, just as a riding mower need not exist if its only purpose is to kill those who ride on it. But like riding mowers, drugs can have many uses depending on the context. While it may feel good to scapegoat ecstasy, our doing so deprives millions of depressed and anxious people around the world of a godsend treatment. But that's the price we pay as a society for our superstitious outlook, which insists that criminalized substances can be labelled evil without regard for the way that they are actually used or misused.
That's why I depict the drug warrior as a benighted caveman on this website, because the drug war way of thinking is superstitious. It vilifies substances in cases where the real villain is a lack of education.
The drug war ideology is superstition. It is therefore the philosophical problem par excellence of our time. It's an ideology that could not pass the "snicker test" if the westerners who championed it understood the basics of logical reasoning, specifically the important difference between efficient and final causes as described by Aristotle over 2,000 years ago.
The Drug War Comic Book
On Sale here January 2021