Societies are coined by their rules. Rules evolve, grow, diminish, change, are abolished or introduced. Rules reinforce a certain mindset or, a certain mindset reinforces a rule.
Some shift in the public opinion, new scientific findings, beliefs, political aims and rules are changed. This isn’t bad at all. It is just important to remember, that rules have grown, and are constantly outgrown.
In his book Chasing the Scream Johann Hari describes the circumstances in which a new set of rules came into existence. The Prohibition of certain drugs, like cocaine, heroin and marijuana, which are now illegal in most countries around the globe. Before the Prohibition these drugs were sold freely and there were many products which contained them in small amounts.
Johann Hari shows, that this Prohibition was a Choice. It was made, promoted and reinforced by people with a certain mindset and certain aims. Shockingly racist ideas and actions where at the heart of the Prohibition: Drug use was attributed to black people who were allegedly behaving antisocial or even criminal in its wake, “forgetting their place”. White drug users weren’t prosecuted likewise. Billie Holiday, one of the greatest artists of all time, was prosecuted and died due to the treatment she received.
Johann Hari doesn’t belittle the potential harms of drug use. On the contrary, he focuses on them. He has himself witnessed what harm drugs can do to a person. But he also shows, that by the way we treat addiction, we add to that harm rather than diminishing it.
The Prohibition of drugs never grew out of its unscientific, preachy, socially cold and racist foundations. A lot of the things we believe to know about drugs are myths created by people who wanted to wipe addiction from the face of the earth.
In his book Johann Hari shows it is high time to question the Prohibition of Drugs, which by now has evolved to a War on Drugs with thousands of deaths, among law enforcers, drug distributors and innocent bystanders alike.
I recommend this book for everyone with five paws. It is the most important book I have read this year. The book has been published in german by S.Fischer: Drogen, die Geschichte eines langen Krieges.