The reasons for four days of London riots last week are beginning to emerge. And they apply equally to every big city in America.
Although the London rioters were dismissed as alienated youth with no political message – intent on taking what was not theirs, the talk has also dwelt on two other things: gang membership that many of the looters apparently enjoy, and the sense of hopelessness felt by many of the alienated and unemployed kids who took to the streets.
But amidst all the talk of a sense of belonging, and a surrogate family provided by the gangs, nobody has yet mentioned the economic impulse of the street gangs – the thing that makes them a real social menace – the drug trade. I am not talking about legal drugs here of course, the Prozac and other anti-depressants that are prescribed for up to 10% of the population. In the event of a real social breakdown, I wonder what would happen on the streets once that section of society ran out of supplies?
No, I am talking about the illegal drug trade – the massive unspoken blight on every single neighbourhood in every single city inside the so-called Free World. The media seem to have overlooked the fact that the riots were sparked by the police shooting of a small-time drug dealer, Mark Duggan. The locals who rose up in his support presumably knew he was a drug dealer. Perhaps that is why they liked him.
It is like, as a society, we have just taken the decision to hand billions of dollars every month to organised crime – a sort of finance scheme for our own social destruction. Of course you could say the same thing about the banking community. We hand them billions of dollars every month, which they distribute to themselves in the form of bonuses. And the rioters are well aware of this. But because of their vast armies of lawyers, accountants, lobbyists and PR men, no government has dared to take the bankers on.
The drug dealers, however, do not have lobbyists or PR men. When George Bush announced the war on drugs a decade or so ago, I felt sure it would fail, that the only long-term solution was complete legalisation, and state control of the trade in cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines and opiates. But perhaps it was worth one last try to see whether we could eradicate the drug cartels.
Now we have had that try, and the war on drugs has to be declared a failure. It has embroiled the West in expensive wars, like Afghanistan and costly operations across Latin America and Mexico. It has tied up our police forces and filled our prisons , but the trade goes on. Surely now is the time to accept failure.
Now there is talk of “decriminalising” drugs, but that would be even worse than keeping them illegal. Decriminalisation means stigmatising the dealer of drugs but not the user – but this would simply create a vast army of new users for the drug gangs to feed off.
No, the only possible solution is complete legalisation of all drugs for those over 18, under strict government control.
Never have we needed the revenue so badly that would be generated by legalising drugs and taxing them. Never have we needed so badly to reduce crime and free up police resources. Not to mention curbing the vast amounts of cash sloshing around the drugs economy – the unpaid tax, the misery and exploitation and the training of our urban youth into a life of crime and violence.
This is even more true in gun-toting America than it is in the UK, where I live.
My block in London was not hit up. The looters passed by a few yards away, but there was nothing for them – no fashion stores, fancy cars, food or electronics.
But they will be back – in my area and in many others around the world, as Western economies teeter on the brink of the double dip.
No wonder living off the grid looks ever more inviting. Soon , there may be no other choice available.
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