The Enemy is Us
by Donald R. Barbera
Another athlete is dead because of drugs. Mark Tuinei, 39, died recently, and once again American society is scratching its collective head trying to guess why. Sadly, this is an almost common scenario on the sports scene which is provides us with a microcosmic view of society overall.
Immediately following the release of news indicating that an overdose of heroin was responsible for Tuinei's death, came calls for new drug interdiction policies, crackdowns on dealers, more police on the streets and the usual cast of characters trotted out after the fact.
Somehow, the fact that America has a drug problem is always overlooked. As the number one buyer of illegal drugs in the world, it would seem that this would be apparent, but our typical response has been to blame others for the drug problem. American media groups spend a lot of time focusing on the drug problems in this country. Spurred on by self-serving political groups, selfish businesses and plain greed for headlines, our popular media, tend to tell a one-sided story when it comes to drugs in the United States. The real news is a little different.
When it comes to drugs, it seems the media's prime focus is in the minority communities of this country where drug dealing has become the number one employment opportunity for young black and Hispanic men who lack job skills and opportunities. A drug dealer is rightly considered to be scum because who else, besides corporate America, would sell you something just to make money fully knowing that it could kill? Still, with as much damage as they do, I believe drug dealers are catching a bad rap.
If you listen to the popular press, you would think that drug dealers are the cause of all of the drug problems in our society. You would also have to wonder how such a scourge could continue to exist when we have attacked small countries and large countries for doing less. To understand the reality it is necessary to understand a few standard business procedures.
Like any businessman, drug dealers are interested in only one thing—money. In many respects, drug dealers are like salespersons at many of our major corporations, they market, sell, manage and do many things that are standard practice in the business world today. (Except for the money, there are no benefits.) The only difference is their products are illegal and cause sickness (cigarette and whiskey manufacturers aside) and their competitors are more ruthless than any corporate sharks. Retirement doesn't come with a gold watch but, rather, a bullet in the back of the head.
Like some salespersons, they will sell to anyone who has the price of the product whether they need it or not. It works both ways. Legitimate salespeople will sell a new car to a 15-year-old toting $40,000 in cash although they know more than likely the teenager is under age and the money probably comes from selling drugs. Money! It makes people turn a deaf ear and causes their eyes to glaze over. They become deaf, dumb and blind in the presence of money.
Recently, at a Dallas sporting goods store where my son had applied for work during the summer college break, he was asked if he had any problem selling to gangbangers and drug dealers. According to my son, he said the interviewer told him that these dealers came in at least once a week and would buy $3,000 to $4,000 worth of merchandise. They are considered top-flight customers. (By the way, my son didn't get the job.)
Banks and bankers regularly jump at the big cocaine money although laws have been passed to monitor large cash transactions. If you look on the back pages in the news, you will read about banks that are under investigation for illegal money laundering and falsifying records. It's the money! When it comes to the money, no one can see or hear. Drug dealers are all scum, but perhaps they are treated unfairly. As illegal business people they still must obey the laws of supply and demand. No demand equals no sales—which means no money. Dealers do not stay in business without customers. The market for their product is consumer driven. The market is always consumer driven. We are the consumers. We buy the products. As long as we demand it, someone will supply it. In business terms it's called the theory of "supply and demand." We demand it. They supply it. Simple. If we don't want it, they sell another product or go out of business.
Ask the people who introduced the Edsel and the DeLorean. Ask Xerox about their 8010 Star workstation. What about BETA tapes? People have gone broke guessing or predicting what people will buy and they continue to do so. It's not news, but it still happens. In our quest to be number one we sometimes make bad decisions.
The United States is number one in many areas. Our national budget is more than that of several countries combined. We also have the most homicides in the world. We also have the biggest drug habit in the world. Dealers are like a fever and a sore throat— they're just symptoms of what's really wrong
Taking drug dealers off the streets isn't the answer, although it helps for about 24 hours which is about the time that it takes for new dealer to move into the vacant territory or until the next day when the dealer gets out of jail. Drug dealing is one of the few businesses that are viable in a depressed community. The dealers are just pawns. There is a ready supply that can be moved across the ghetto board without missing a beat or a sale. When one is arrested, killed or jailed, they will be replaced by some other entrepreneur as long as there are customers out there seeking their product.
To understand why the drug problem persists we must look at ourselves and the society we live in. Our culture is saturated with violence, corruption, selfishness, polarization and classism. These are just some of the things that are affecting the drug trade in this country, add to that the breakup of the traditional family, a failing school system and social programs that don't work and it is no wonder that cocaine products have become the number one cash producing import in this country surpassing even oil, electronics and cars.
However, to watch television and movies you would think this problem is mainly in the Black and minority communities, but the reality of the situation is that white America buys the most drugs in this country. This is not a race issue. It is a values issues and the problem goes all the way to the top, including police, judges, congressmen, business leaders and even the CIA and the FBI. Recently, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) crossed wires with the CIA when they arrested several major drug dealers who were paid by the CIA.
What can be done? Nothing. As long as we look for the easy way out, nothing will change. In order to put this country back on the tracks of humanity and decency, we must first have a change of heart. We must change because we cannot afford not to. It will be hard to do.
If you're tired of drugs and the problems they cause then look a little closer to home. You'll be surprised at what you see. You'll discover where the demand for these illicit drugs is coming from and you'll be surprised when you see it's the very people you associate with every day. In the District of Columbia, hidden cameras captured license plates on video of people driving through an open-air drug market to buy drugs. The majority of the tags were from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs where upscale middle class and upper middle class whites and blacks live.
Think about it? How can people dwelling in poverty generate billions of dollars in drug money? Welfare checks don't go that far, but checks from corporate America do. For a second, lift your head out of the sand and quit letting these middle class fake you out. The only way we can break this circle is to dry up the demand by breaking our internal drug habits. The supply and the nations who supply it will eventually vanish in the darkness. They won't go quietly, but go they must and it is we who will see to it that they never surface again. It is time to kick the habit and the habitués.