Archive | May, 2017

Phelim Kine on Duterte’s War on the Poor and Human Rights | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about Duterte, extra-judicial killings, and the Davao Death Squad. Phelim Kine from the Human Rights Watch gives us facts on crime statistics in Davao and Duterte’s drug war. We discuss what people need to look out for as these human rights violations might become more common as the threat of martial law looms.

Posted in Media, Podcast, Politics, Society, Video0 Comments

Intolerant of Intolerance

Civil rights are not a matter of religious opinion or personal preference. If you seek to deny others their civil rights, you are a bigot.

Scientific facts are not a matter of religious interpretation or parental prerogative. If you seek to deny others—especially your own children—education, then you are denying them a basic human right. And if you disbelieve in science despite the evidence available and reasons apparent, you are suppressing truth and spreading disinformation.

Your choice

Reproductive Health, sex education and science education, divorce and gay marriage—these are all civil rights issues. Denying others their choice is denying them their civil rights. In contrast, allowing other people their civil rights—specifically Reproductive Health, divorce, and gay marriage—does not curtail your own freedom.

  • If you want to refuse the health and economic benefits of contraception and responsible family planning and if you stubbornly believe that an abstinence-only approach works despite evidence to the contrary, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you refuse to believe in sex education after learning all the facts and if you refuse to believe in the science of evolution and natural history after learning all the evidence and how it is the foundation to understanding and making sense of this world, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you disagree with certain music, literature, or other forms of art because of their message, then you can simply choose not to watch or listen. That is your choice and your loss.
  • If you refuse divorce and want to stay in abusive, loveless, and failed relationships, or if you want a priest to have the power to refuse you annulment of your marriage, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you want to miss out on your friends’, your siblings’, or your children’s joyous weddings simply because they are gay or lesbian, that is your choice and your loss.

None of the proposed laws on Reproductive Health and sex education, divorce and gay marriage will stop you from voluntarily practicing your religious beliefs.

But what I cannot abide by is when you seek to deny others their right to Reproductive Health, sex education and science, divorce, and marriage equality before the law regardless of gender. That is simply oppression. That is simply bigotry. My friend, my kin, I do not want you to be a bigot.

Nor do I want you to prejudice your own children. Your children are individuals, guaranteed to have the same civil rights and choices as everyone. They should not be denied the information, the education, the science, the rationality, and the access necessary to make their own responsible choices when they come of age.

Science and reason are not a matter of religious interpretation or parental prerogative. These are truths that all people—even children—have a right to access, which are a necessity for making responsible and informed decisions.

Education is a basic human right. It is wrong for parents to keeping their children ignorant or misinformed about sex education, literature, philosophy, evolution, natural history, cosmology, plate tectonics, and other fields.

Sex education needs to be taught at schools by professionals trained for the job. Evidently, Filipino parents have failed to educate their children about sex for generations. For many Filipino parents, the only thing they fear more than the possibility of their children (and younger siblings) having premarital sex is confronting them about it. Most youths learn from the media and their peers. Just as abstinence-only policies have failed to foster responsible parenthood, so have ignorance-only policies failed to foster young adults who are empowered about their reproductive rights and responsible about sex. The Reproductive Health bill and Sex Education are necessary because the status quo has evidently failed us.

Truth is truth and it is not for religious schools nor home schooling parents to subvert. There should be no exceptions to any religious institution as to how sex education or even mandatory pre-marriage counseling (as already required under the existing Family Code) is conducted or implemented.

We should love our children regardless of who they were born to be or what personal informed choices they make as adults.

Full Disclosure

I confess, I don’t discriminate. I have friends and family who are either gay, lesbian, separated, together from previous marriages, single mothers, etc. I may not know exactly what it is to be in their place, but I do know what it is to be friend and family. It means standing up with them against prejudice. You can’t be friends or family to someone while denying them equal rights.

I confess, I myself come from the majority in the Philippines. I was born to a Roman Catholic family. I even belong to the currently unfairly advantaged sex; I am a straight man. On the other hand, I am a minority in one crucial aspect; I do not need government help to afford responsible family planning or access information about my reproductive rights like most Filipinos. Many Filipinos do, hence the need for the Reproductive Health bill. And it is a dire need. The Philippines has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The Reproductive Health bill only seeks to provide the poor the same choices and information that the wealthy Filipinos already enjoy, nothing more. But why should

I, a straight guy from the middle class, care about the civil rights of others? Because a republic isn’t just about the rule of the majority. It is also about respect and tolerance for all, most especially minorities, even ones whose lives you disagree with or cannot comprehend.

I confess, I do come from another kind of majority: the majority of Filipinos who support Reproductive Health, are tolerant of gays and lesbians, and are understanding of the realities and complexities of married life. This despite most Filipinos being Catholic.

I confess, it comes easily for me to support Reproductive Health, divorce, and gay marriage because these do not threaten the sanctity of life, the sanctity of my marriage, or my manhood for that matter. I was born this way, and nothing can change that. It is not a choice; my gender is a pillar of my identity. And evidently that is the way for all. Oppression can only drive a person to hide their identity, not change it, as centuries of repression have failed to change people’s genders. People will be who they are, regardless. People will love who they love, regardless. However, being a bigot wouldn’t be me. It is not natural for anyone to deny others equality. More importantly, supporting civil rights not only frees the oppressed, it frees the oppressor. There is no neutral in the battle between right or wrong. Those who fail to act and testify against wrongs committed to others are accessories and accomplices to it.

I confess, there are beliefs and lifestyles among the people whose civil rights I defend that I do not share. But I also know that neither agreement nor understanding are necessary. None of us owes anyone an explanation when we all are in the constant process of self-discovery and realization. Even the ones we have loved for years constantly surprise us. We do not need anyone else’s permission to be ourselves. We only owe it to each other to tolerate one another, to allow one another the freedom to pursue happiness.

So what about your beliefs? Shouldn’t these be tolerated as well? Not if they impose on the lives of others. You just can’t claim that your religious sensitivities are offended every time you disagree with someone so you can shut them down.

It was your choice to be offended, not theirs. They are just being themselves. For as long as they are not forcing their choices on anyone and are not spreading hate, violence or lies, all people have a right to be who they are. Do not deprive others of the same freedoms you enjoy.

Science and Reason

Before you criticize, oppose or support anything, know and read about it. It seems obvious, but many apparently don’t.

With the Reproductive Health bill, opponents criticize it by claiming it “legalizes abortion” and “imposes an ideal family size.” Read the bill in its entirety and know that it says nothing of that sort. In adherence to the 1996 Philippine Constitution, the Reproductive Health bill reiterates its support in protecting the health of the unborn.

Then they claim that some forms of contraception such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and “morning-after pills” that prevent conception even a few days after unprotected sex are also abortifacients. IUDs and morning-after pills work by not only preventing fertilization—the fusion of sperm and egg—but also implantation—the adherence of the embryo to the wall of the uterus. American and British laws define the beginning pregnancy and the conception of human life at implantation, hence the classification of IUDs and morning-after pills as contraceptives, not abortifacients.

Doctors, bioethicists, law experts and theologians of several religions define implantation as the beginning of human life for several reasons:

  • The ability to create embryos in vitro (such as in test tube babies fertilized outside the womb) has proven that fertilization does not automatically result in pregnancy. Only after implantation does an embryo’s existence have an effect on the mother’s body. It is only upon implantation that a fetus receives oxygen and nutrients from the mother to grow into a human being. It is at this point when the fetus cannot survive except within the woman’s body. Any rights granted to it must come at the expense of the pregnant woman. Note that to be pregnant—which is to be implanted—means risking one’s life for nine months to bear a new one.
  • Majority of fertilized eggs do not go on to become infants. With unprotected sex, embryos are often formed that never undergo implantation. If fertilization were to be defined as the conception of life, then countless souls have been killed without knowledge or intent.
  • After fertilization and implantation, an embryo can segment to become identical twins—separate and distinct individuals who, despite their similarities, develop their own personalities, experiences and decisions and possess their own unique DNA, fingerprints, etc. If segmentation defines the start of an individual with an indivisible soul, then an embryo prior to the stage of possible segmentation cannot be defined as an individual.

Some even make the ridiculous claim that every sperm is a life. If that is so, then every act of sex is mass murder since the millions of sperm in ejaculated semen all die save for the single one that successfully fuses with the egg cell to form a fertilized embryo. And that’s if fertilization occurs. Often no sperm succeeds at fertilizing the egg and most fertilized eggs do not go on to be infants.

Those who cite “natural” family planning-only policy fail to note that it has simply failed to work despite years of implementation.

Those who cite the cost of implementing Reproductive Health avoid considering the cost of not implementing it: the cost in lives, in health and the economic cost of building more hospitals, homes, schools, jails, and cemeteries on a finite amount of land.

Those who see the Philippines’ environmentally unsustainable population growth as a positive fail to mention that natural resources are finite and that even renewable resources diminish when abused beyond their capacity to recover.

Worse, they see the Philippines’ unsustainable population growth as the solution to declining populations in industrialized countries. Migration has already robbed the country of its talent. Work overseas has already broken so many families apart and exposed so many Filipinos to racism and abuse. Nonetheless, the Reproductive Health bill does not in any way stipulate any means or programs of population control. It only provides the masses choices and information already available to the privileged in the Philippines.

Showing One’s Character

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health not only oppose IUDs and morning-after pills but also contraceptives that only prevent fertilization and not implantation. They oppose condoms—the only contraceptive device that protects against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS as well as accidental pregnancies. They also are against sex education and knowledge empowerment of young adults. Their definition of conception is but one of many arguments used against all of reproductive health, responsible parenthood, and gender empowerment.

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health continue using the false specter of “abortion” and “population control” for disinformation and fear mongering despite these being clearly absent in the bill. They also question the science behind it and imagine fantastic conspiracies.

Tellingly, those opposed to the Reproductive Health do so despite the fact that the bill simply affords the poor the same choices and information that wealthy Filipinos already enjoy. These opponents who rabidly denounce the bill had curiously stayed silent for the many years that their privileged class enjoyed these same choices and information.They claim to be “pro-life” but they do not want to foot the bill to truly alleviate poverty, uplift the lives of the masses, and empower women regarding their choices in a meaningful, long-term manner. Charity donations and other public relations and tax deduction gimmicks during holidays and disasters evidently do not substantively alleviate poverty.

Tellingly, those who claim contraception promotes promiscuity ignore that accidental pregnancies, premarital sex, and corruption have long been rife in the Philippines despite 400 years of conservative Roman Catholicism, first forcibly introduced by the rapacious Conquistadors during the time of the murderous Spanish Inquisition. Four hundred years of Inquisition-era Catholicism has evidently done little to make “Good Christians.”

Tellingly, this alarm at liberties already enjoyed by some spreading to all characterizes not only those who oppose Reproductive Health but also those who are against gay marriage, divorce, science education, and sex education as well.

Tellingly, those who denounce gay unions and divorce for supposedly defiling the sanctity of marriage were curiously silent for the decades that spousal abuse, arranged marriages, marriages for convenience and appearances truly made a mockery of the institution.

Tellingly, those who see sex education and science education as a threat to their “prerogative” as parents don’t see inculcating their own religious beliefs upon their children as an imposition.

Tellingly, those who oppose Reproductive Health, gay marriage, divorce, science education and sex education tend to see themselves as devoutly religious, rejecting any facts that run counter to their beliefs.

Tellingly, when engaged in discussion and debate, those who oppose Reproductive Health, gay marriage, divorce, science education, sex education, and other civil rights sometimes comment derisively, “masyado kang matalino (you are too smart).”

Tellingly, Church authorities have threatened those who support Reproductive Health with expulsion from Catholic institutions and excommunication, the same sentence they meted out to famous truth-tellers such as scientist Galileo Galilei who insisted that the Earth revolved around the sun as evidenced by his telescope, Martin Luther who exposed the corruption within the Church as it sold indulgences that“absolved”the wealthy of all their sins for a fee, and Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal who exposed how priests used religion as a tool of oppression by engendering unthinking docility and submissiveness.

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health include a plagiarist, the unapologetic family of the late Ferdinand Marcos, ousted dictator who instituted corruption in the Philippines, and the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that has been accused and convicted of endemic sexual abuse of minors and well as the systematic and leadership-sanctioned coverups of these cases.

Tellingly, those who are anti-Reproductive Health and anti-gender-equality have wished us ill and even dead. We have endured name calling and threats, disinformation and fear mongering. Anti-Reproductive Health zealots also see natural disasters and misfortunes as collective and indiscriminate punishment, as if those who were most affected deserve it. And yet when the same misfortune falls upon them, they see it as a divine test. In many aspects of their thinking, they lack both rationality and compassion.

Tellingly, we who support civil rights continue to engage in argument, dialogue, and debate. To attempt to communicate is to presume intelligence and humanity in one’s opponent, hence this message.

Nonetheless, the time is upon us when we all must come to a decision that determines our character and our relations. Will we be bigots and truth deniers, or will we be emancipators and truth-tellers? Will we be opponents, or will we be friends and family? I simply cannot tolerate bigots.

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, RH Bill, Science, Secularism0 Comments

Filipino Freethinkers Meetup, Saturday, May 27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venue: Uno Morato
Garden Area GYY Building, #1 Tomas Morato Ave, Quezon City
Waze link: http://mobile-web.world.waze.com/en_GB/meetup/location?h=wdw54nm22
PWD Friendly? Yes
Date: Saturday, May 27, 2017
Time: 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Topics:
– Guest Speaker: Renee Juliene M. Karunungan: Beyond Polar Bears: Impacts of Climate Change and Climate Solutions
– Modern-day Slavery [https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/lolas-story/524490/]
– Love your friend but hate their social media presence [http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/05/social-media-friendship-impact.html]
– Banning feels from ads [http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/hashtag/content/611187/fast-food-giant-pulls-uk-ad-over-child-bereavement-complaints/story/]
– Raunchy topic of the week

After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.
Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0928 872 0020 / 0920 975 0092

* Newbies are welcome, and admission to the meetup is free. (Note: this does not apply to the food and other activities we may be having)
* Early birds get to play board/video/party games with the group.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.

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The War on Drugs is Even More Misguided Than You Think

The War on Drugs is Even More Misguided Than You Think

It’s come to the point of parody now that anyone caught criticizing Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs is described as someone who supports drug crime. When the drug war’s death toll is brought up, the conversation inevitably descends into insinuations that you have forgotten about all the victims of the rapists and murderers hopped up on drugs who have gone on rampages throughout the Philippines, making all those Facebook commenters living in Riyadh and working at the Krusty Krab fear for their lives. Or something like that.

Even critics of the drug war concede that drug use is so life-destroying and conducive to crime that, while it may be that the war on drugs is being waged wrongly, we still need to take aggressive steps in stamping out the drug menace. This concession reflects just how deep anti-drug propaganda has seeped into public consciousness. But, once we look at the evidence, we will see that 1) the depiction of drug use as “one taste, forever hooked” is deeply flawed and 2) the link of drug use to violent crime is tenuous at best.

The government has been lying to us about drug use figures, but they have also been lying to us about the very nature of drug use. By looking at the scientific evidence and uncovering the untruths we have been sold about drugs, we also reveal the profound injustice of the drug war and how contradictory it is to any lasting solution.

 

What is addiction?

According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” While, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes “substance abuse disorder” as taking large doses of a substance longer than the intended period (e.g. Fentanyl use outside of prescription).

Substance abuse disorder is also characterized by a conscious desire by the user to cut down on use, though they spend more and more of their time to try and acquire the substance. Key to its definition, drug use is considered substance abuse disorder when it prevents someone from performing their major social roles due to activities associated with trying to acquire the substance or due to the use itself of the substance.

There is some evidence of genetic links that may predispose a person toward increased drug use, such as relatively higher tolerance to substances. And, on the matter of “addictive personalities,” although personality traits such as neuroticism and low conscientiousness may have some link to eventual drug use, there is no strong evidence that personality traits can be used to predict drug use.

 

How do drugs work?

The pleasurable effects of recreational drugs stem from how they trigger dopamine production in the brain. Dopamine is not in itself pleasurable, but it is involved in many neurological events that regulate emotion, motivation, and pleasure.

Duterte’s bête noire, shabu (or methamphetamine), also has other associated effects that contribute to its popularity such as: increased alertness and suppressed hunger. You can imagine why such a substance would be popular among people who need to be awake for long hours for work that pays them barely enough to eat. It is little surprise then that the vast majority of Duterte’s victims are poor. He himself has dismissed the drugs of the wealthy like coke and heroin as “not as destructive to the mind” as meth. And that is the issue at hand, isn’t it? Drugs are supposedly so bad that they destroy the mind. Duterte says that drug users are the “living dead.” We’re supposed to believe that drug users’ minds have been so thoroughly corrupted that killing them in drug operations isn’t a loss to the country.

This idea of zombie drug users has taken hold even in the minds of drug war critics, but there is practically no evidence that this is the case. While some drugs such as meth, ecstasy, and mainly the very much legal alcohol are neurotoxins, Yale University School of Medicine’s Sally Yates says,

Yes, addiction changes the brain but this does not doom people to use drugs forever. The most permanent change is memories.

Withdrawal from drug use may be harrowing as the body adapts to the abrupt loss of substance it had grown dependent on. But, some of its worst symptoms are the result of bringing back things that predate the drug use itself and may have even motivated drug use: mental illness is no longer self-medicated with the drug, chronic pain comes roaring back, and severe malnutrition is no longer hidden.

 

What causes drug addiction?

It may be self-evident that drug use causes drug addiction. One hit and you’re hooked for life. This image of the forbidden substance is illustrated by the classic experiment of making rats choose between a button that supplies them morphine and a button that releases food and water. This classic experiment’s result: the rats loved morphine so much that they kept pressing the morphine button until they died of starvation and overdose.

Conclusion: drugs are so bad that you get hooked on it until it kills you. So, our Dear President was right all along!

However, the psychologist Bruce Alexander found severe issues with this experimental design. Mainly, he asked, why didn’t the rats have anything else to do? They were locked up alone in cages and only had food or drugs. To challenge the classic wisdom, he created Rat Park.

In Rat Park, rats were no longer alone. Rats are deeply social animals. This is one of the reasons we use them as model animals, after all. Their behavior and brain structure are similar to humans in many important respects. In this environment, the rats were given the same choice: drugs or food. And, what Alexander found was that even if you force-fed rats morphine and even if they were undergoing withdrawal symptoms, they preferred the company of their other rats and they suffered their withdrawal symptoms together.

The skeptic might say, these are rats. What about people? Fortunately, or unfortunately, we have had a real-life analog of Rat Park.

During the Vietnam War, heroin was widely available to US servicemen. Up to 20% of them self-identified as addicted to heroin. And yet, 95% of these “addicts” went home without relapsing into drug use. This seems completely contradictory to the walking dead description Duterte had for drug addicts. So, how did this happen?

The treatment regimen for these servicemen focused on addressing the physical dependence in Vietnam. The only time they returned to the US was when they had lost the physical dependence on the drug. Leaving Vietnam removed the environmental context of their heroin use. They were able to reintegrate into their communities and they no longer had their surroundings reminding them of their drug habit.

 

Is addiction a disease?

The prevailing view of addiction is that it is indeed a disease. It is defined as a disorder by the DSM, after all. However, many scientists have come out to challenge this view. In the paper Addiction: Current Criticism of the Brain Disease Paradigm, Rachel Hammer and her co-authors wrote,

“…the lack of a molecular diagnosis is a point of criticism for opponents and a source of frustration for scientists.”

In other words, it is actually hard to pin down what addiction looks like from an objective biological standpoint. And, even if we do consider addiction as some kind of disease, it is actually a very treatable one. Most people who use drugs eventually quit.

In the paper Addiction and Choice: Theory and New Data, Gene Heyman of Boston College collected data that showed that remission from drug addiction had extremely high rates for cocaine and marijuana. Contrast this to alcohol dependence, which, as you can see from the graph can reach an average of 20 years for just 50% of dependents to quit. We will learn more about this hypocritical attitude we have toward alcohol later.

 

Are addicts mindless slaves to drugs?

“Ang unang mawala dinha ang cognitive. Mokalit ug istorya, murag boang kay wala na lagi. No sense.”  (The first to be gone is the cognitive. They talk suddenly like crazy persons because their cognitive sense is gone.)

Our President said this. And, I hope at this point you have been convinced that Duterte is no expert on drugs. I hope you are being slowly weaned away by the evidence from this notion that drugs are so especially life-destroying that they turn people into zombies focused only on feeding on more drugs. And since drugs are quite evidently possible to quit, perhaps we should start asking ourselves what is it about society that is driving so many people to take drugs in the first place. Because, it is not simply due to the alleged brain-meltingly addictive properties of drugs.

The neuroscientist Carl Hart conducted experiments on this very idea of the drug-addled meth fiend, this boogeyman so frequently paraded by Duterte and his disciples. Hart housed meth addicts in a hospital ward and gave them the option of taking pharmaceutical grade crystal meth doses throughout the day, or the delayed reward of collecting money by the end of the several week-long trial.

Every day and at different points of the day, Carl Hart would offer the study subjects: meth doses, $5 gift cards at the end of the trial, or $5 cash at the end of the trial. And, contrary to what we were supposed to believe from Duterte and other purveyors of the drug zombie myth, majority of the subjects chose money or vouchers.

In a variation of the study, Hart would up the dosage at levels unknown to the subjects. And, while increased levels of meth persuaded the subjects to start choosing meth again, the favorability of this choice disappeared with higher levels of cash/gift card offers.

Thus, Carl Hart was able to show that “addicts” are actually capable of rational decisions. It is just that the high drugs give is also something they consider. Whether they use meth to delay hunger, to stay alert for late night work, or to space out from the troubles of their lives, meth gives them something of value. And, if you offer them something of equal or greater value, they can rationally make that judgment, even it means delayed gratification.

 

Do drugs lead to crime?

Duterte ran on drugs and little else. There was the side narrative of fighting the oligarchs, and we heard people clearly unfamiliar with the word trying it out for the first time during the campaign period. Of course, Duterte himself comes from a political dynasty tied to various other oligarchs, including the Marcoses. It doesn’t get more oligarch-y than that. Today, nearly everything, from terrorism to human rights activism, has been linked to drugs and drug money by Duterte and his administration.

Despite the government’s own numbers saying that there were 1.7 million drug users in the country, Duterte has gradually inflated these figures up to the current 4 million figure. The basic implication Duterte and his followers make is that drugs users are rapist murderer fiends who will slash your face in their drug-addled haze. On that note, critics are enjoined to have a taste for themselves of what it means to be a victim of an addict since we are so inclined to defend them. But this basic implication of drugs ⇒ violent criminal does not stand up to even the most casual scrutiny. In Between Politics and Reason, Eric Goode of the Stony Brook University wrote,

“Even the fact that drugs and crime are frequently found together or correlated does not demonstrate their causal connection.”

This basic tenet of science may be too abstract, but it is critical to any drug enforcement policy. If drugs aren’t the cause of violent crime, maybe we should stop responding to it so… violently?

In the paper Dynamics of the Drug-Crime Relationship co-authored by Helene White
and Dennis Gorman, some of the findings they wrote would be completely alien to the common wisdom in Duterte’s administration. Their study found that most drug users never commit any crimes, except for the obvious crime of possession. And even for those involved in crime, it was not drug use that initially got them involved in crime.

And while the sha-boogeyman eternally haunts Duterte’s nightmares, it’s actually alcohol that is most associated to pharmacologically motivated crime. Because of what we know about the terrible results of Prohibition, nobody suggests banning alcohol. And yet, we are doing the exact same mistakes for other kinds of drugs. In the paper Psychoactive Substances and Violence, Jeffrey Roth wrote,

“Of all psychoactive substances, alcohol is the only one whose consumption has been shown to commonly increase aggression.”

Further, White and Gorman conclude that it is drug market forces that motivate drug-related crime. Since drugs are illegal, people in the world of drugs create their own shadow economy, complete with pseudo-police and pseudo-states to enforce, which lead to turf wars. Rather than drugs causing crime, it is the very illegality that is most to blame for the violence. But that is not even what drug war cheerleaders are most worried about. They incessantly point to the provably false link between drugs and non-organized crime.

It is also important to note at this point that as Duterte escalates law enforcement response to drug use, so too does the response of the drug market escalate. If the police can kill a mayor in custody, jail a senator with the collusion of convicts with little motivation to tell the truth, abduct a Korean national and murder him in the national police headquarters, execute people and plant drugs and guns without consequence, there is practically no incentive for drug users to ever cooperate. Your death warrant has already been signed. What is left for drug suspects when the cops are at their door but to try to escape by any means necessary?

 

What can we do?

While Duterte has openly mocked the idea of drug decriminalization and while its proponents may point to Portugal as a model of drug decriminalization. We must note that drug decriminalization will not address drug use. It may deescalate violence. It may kill the drug black market. It may decrease drug deaths. But, even Portugal’s experience shows drug use remained identical to neighboring countries.

The UK Home Office found that between the very strict drug laws of Japan and the lax rules of Portugal, “We did not in our fact-finding observe any obvious relationship between the toughness of a country’s enforcement against drug possession, and levels of drug use in that country.” That is to say, Duterte’s tough on drugs stance actually does very little to address drug use. At that point, we might question the justification of the innocents murdered in the drug war as “collateral damage,” when the drug war itself does not even address the issue of drug use. If “drugs corrupting the youth” is Duterte’s motivation for the drug war, the evidence shows that he is not solving the problem in any meaningful way.

It is clear that while decriminalization is no silver bullet, neither is waging a protracted war against drugs. Our response to the drug problem must take into consideration why people go into drugs in the first place and how the criminalized supply of drugs subverts capitalism into a primitive form. There is no simple answer, but we need to have solutions that go beyond what has already taken the lives of thousands of Filipinos.

 

The war on drugs is not just ineffective, it is counter productive

The issue of drugs has been exaggerated in many respects and ineffectively responded to. What the evidence shows is that people resort to drugs as a rational response to personal and social problems, such as poverty, hunger, and mental illness. The trouble is, these are not problems you can shoot your way out of. They are not issues you can solve in three to six months. But, then again, neither was the war on drugs.

Rather than address the social problem of drugs, focusing on the illegality of drugs has made users vulnerable to black market forces as they lose the protection of the state. Worse, they become victims of the state itself as it tries to fight a war that has been failed by more capable states. Compounding this, drug users are vilified by their fellow citizens, leaving them with little else to turn to except fall deeper into the very social isolation that led them to resort to drugs in the first place.

Drug war. What is it good for? The answer is increasingly looking out to be: absolutely nothing.

 

Addendum

The research shown here is not meant to discount the personal experiences of people with drug-related crime. Rather, the studies here give a wider view of how much blame we should levy on drug use, which is: not that much. The strength of the research by scientists such as Carl Hart is precisely rooted in the controlled environments they create in order to isolate variables and to minimize unforeseen effects of extraneous events such as: the influence of other people and material circumstances of the subjects. These studies allow us to focus on matters that can actually address the root causes of crimes.

Once we have realized that drug use is usually caused by social problems, we can focus on creating programs that allow drug users to reintegrate into society and find productive livelihoods in the formal economy. We have to address why people use drugs, and why people enter the drug black market. As long as we leave people in the margins, they will fight to stay alive, even through illegal means.

The plural of anecdote is not data and Facebook comments do not carry more weight, however many, than a controlled study. For every drug user that rapes or murders a neighbor, there are many more who have done the same and didn’t use drugs, or were drunk from alcohol, which research shows has a stronger link to violent behavior. Singling out all drug users for the crimes committed by some is not very different from targeting all undocumented immigrants in the United States because of their perceived criminal nature.

We are living in a dark chapter in Philippine history. There is an active democide happening at this very moment. Duterte has already functionally dehumanized drug users in the country. Thousands, if not millions, celebrate the murder of Filipinos every night in the streets. But, if we continue to shed light on the great injustice of the drug war, perhaps we can at least make it a brief chapter.

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