Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
The disease that is more disastrous than Ebola, TB, and HIV/AIDS combined in the world today is alcohol and the drug abuse (ADA). This is the plague that is going to silently destroy the future brains of this planet earth.
This plague used to be referred to as a mere talking point in the 19th and 20th centuries. People used to mention the foreseeable/imagined effects of the alcohol. There were countable cases in the word then which were worth quoting in the statistics. The effect of this abuse was on individuals only – it was never a society, community, or state problem. The state treated such cases as isolated incidents and on a case by case basis. The classes of citizen affected were the high society who misused their economic power to abuse mainly alcohol. Drugs were abused less as compared to alcohol. The economic activities were based on manufacturing, scientific research, and marketing the finished products. The duties drained a lot of energy from the working class on daily basis and they were left so exhausted by the end of the day to venture into any other social activities after work.
The working hours were long and often shifts. So if you worked at night you would be exhaustively asleep during the day and the reverse was also true. Another factor that restrained workers was that most of the industry was semi-automated so it took brains and muscles to work things out safely or else severe injuries would occur. There was an increased demand for cars, machines, finished fabrics and other consumables. The consumer was being enlightened daily by the marketers and there was great positive response to get the product. So, the semi-automated industry was under pressure to produce more to meet intended deadlines. The ripple effect was that the industry floor managers pushed the line workers to keep the production lines moving. The pressure was not on the manufacturing industry alone, the agriculturalists and other associated vocations felt the heat too. The demand for more labor force grew, so the sooner the youth finished formal education or technical trainings, they were readily absorbed in the hungry job market.
The competitive economics then were that the more you produced quality products/services the more profits you got. Political influence in this arena was maintained at the level of looking for markets and opening new industries but at least the political patronage at the operational level was minimal. That was the economic dynamics of the last two centuries.
Fast-forward to the early 21st century. The full automation of industries and robotics with computer chip technology meant the number of workers in all spheres was trimmed to a bare minimum. There were massive layoffs and this meant more people were becoming idle and disappointed. The unemployment rate rose to an all time high. The spending power of the population dropped and so the goods and services could not consumed at the rate they were being produced by the automated/computerized industries. The supply exceeded the demand!
This in-turn led to closures or mergers of industries or other industries totally diversified. This meant that more people were being laid off and being emptied back to the streets. Meanwhile, the youth who were graduating out of the academic/technical collages couldn’t find the right jobs, let alone any job at all. They remained in the streets adding to the numbers of the idle and disenchanted.
The business community responded to this by looking at these people in the streets as potential costumers. The business men had to produce products that were affordable by these unemployed lay-abouts. Targeting their stress and frustrations, they turned to manufacturing of low caliber (authorized) stress reliever drugs and alcohol. What used to happen in the higher society circles suddenly was brought down to the streets at affordable rates. The result was that as this idle, unemployed mass continued to consume and got addicted to the drugs. They demanded more “harder stuff”. But this demand could not be availed as the laws of the land prohibited such use other than for strict medical purposes.
Enter the drug barons with political influence. This new breed of ruthless entrepreneurs knew where to get the raw materials, who would make these drugs, and which official at the state level would facilitate entry to the market. Of course, there would be “you scratch my back, I scratch your back” which was not much of an obstacle as long as the politicians patronized the process and the market was ready and demanded volumes of these drugs and alcohol. Likewise, the drug barons smoothly facilitated the availability of these substances as long as the authorities “played ball”. What was not foreseen was that the society was losing the youth and able bodied persons to drugs and alcohol abuse at a very fast rate. Violence, rape, suicidal tendencies, capital and petty crimes, and marital and other social problems increased.
The authorities of individual states and the United Nations are now waking up to the fact that this menace is decaying society at a very fast rate. National and international legislation seems to offer very little respite. The narcotics trade is going on unabated. Poppies are crisscrossing the continents from Asia to Europe while heroin and cocaine are flying from South America to North America and other areas at tremendous frequency. The huge proceeds from the sale of these drugs are being used to finance the purchase of weapons and services to protect the drug lanes and the merchants of death are out there enjoying every dollar of it. The saddest revelation is that the future generation is being ruined by the present day greedy conglomerate consisting of insensitive political leaders, drug barons, warlords, high stakes business community, and middlemen with a very relentless spirit to continue.
The impact is that the world is becoming unstable because some of the affected leaders are slowly gaining political influence and might become political leaders and heads of state in the very near future. The nightmare is that the peace efforts we are trying to embrace today will become harder to implement given that this new breed of leaders will be at the seat of power.
Let us not allow the economics of greed and disaster to take away our youth as we shall have no leaders to lean on when we are old. It is my hope and prayer that the UN and other influential bodies would substantively take action and stump out this vice.
Dickson Swegenyi, Kenya
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2015 Session