Monday, 13 February 2012

DRUGS, GUNS AND POKER MACHINES


A young man is shot dead in Buncrana (55 degrees North, 7 degrees West). He was previously forced to leave his Derry home (54 degrees North, 7 degrees West). Speculation is rife that his murder is the action of an anti-drug vigilante republican group. The vacuum in policing in Northern Ireland is cited as giving space and opportunity for such murderous activity.

In a global context, the use of violence to respond to social and political problems, to assert power, to suppress dissent and to seize and maintain control over communities and populations is widespread.

In Syria, state forces continue to uphold the Assad family regime, delivering bombardments and shootings, focused on the city of Homs (34 degrees North, 36 degrees East). Sectarian aspects of the violence in Syria recently spread into Lebanon. Attempts by external Russian, Arab and Western powers to intervene in Syria, flounder on their conflicting self-interests. 

Sabre-rattling increases in volume between Argentina and Britain, regarding the Falkland Islands (51 degrees South, 59 degrees West). With a Tory-led coalition in power in London (51 degrees North, 0 degrees East), echoes resound of the dreadful period overseen by another Tory-led government in the early 1980s.  

Thus, it is not surprising that some people consider that acts of violence offer a viable solution to social problems in relation to drugs. Each such instance is a manifestation of a public failure. Fear and threat underpin this failure. 

Murky relations between police, security force personnel, paramilitaries, drug dealers and users complicate matters. At base, is a near-hysterical relationship with drugs that are currently non-legal.

Dependency on drugs, both legal and non-legal, is widespread. There are no clear-cut approaches to the problems such dependency causes. In a context of threat from people engaged in violent responses to such problems, communities and populations are stunned and rendered inept.

Someone somewhere is benefiting financially. It is a trade after all, and trading is about making money. In the sense that this trade promotes dependency and addiction, thus contributing to degradation, it is itself a form of violence. It opens the way for the direct violence of threat, expulsion and murder.

In a farcical aside to the murder in Buncrana, two poker gaming machines were shot up in bookmakers in Derry on the same night. No one has claimed these actions. Speculation centres on them as symbolic anti-gambling gestures.

As with drugs, where the legal and non-legal trade in them is a scourge, so also is gambling, in all its forms.

But shooting at problems, either murderously or symbolically, will not sort them out. What next? Pharmacists and Bingo-players?

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