Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are more powerful than we can imagine.

Archive for January, 2013

Organised crime and the case of drugs

It is no surprise organise crime plays a huge international role in the lives of everyone across the world. I mean everything in the world, from the shoes you wear to the weed you smoke, is based on a range of factors, such as availability, stock labour etc. What this also implies is there is availability of these items and there are the means to acquire them. So in other words, if there’s a shortage of something in the world, people will find a way to get it either way. Watching the news about whether we should legalise drugs or not has inspired me to analyse the workings of organise crime, its intricate details and hopefully that will lead me on to things such as arms and drug trafficking. Hopefully also it will leave you with a wider context and an opinion which is well informed.

So the global market is a world of acquiring things and suiting the needs and wants of people. It means people’s needs change but also the way they acquire them also changes and this is displayed in a number of factors:

It’s important to emphasise that organise crime and black markets, in general, emerge out of a constant theme of prohibition. This is expressed as a common theme through history, whether it’s alcohol or drugs prohibition. This is because people generally want things that give them some sort of satisfaction or suits their needs of leisure, escapism from the hardships of life, hedonism etc. Therefore, they’ll seek them around legislation or the confines of the law. This is a key theme with organise crime: things do not stay within the confines of regulation; they adapt and change. For example, in places where prohibition is huge, the black market thrives. A good example can be Eastern Europe during the cold war because it was the spectrum where drugs were smuggled, and traded, from South-East Asia through to the Middle East, and into Bulgaria etc. The fact little is still acknowledged about this subject is due more to the relativism of our time than the fact it didn’t exist. Due to the isolation, socially and politically, of the Warsaw pact countries, there wasn’t much attention by Western Medias and therefore, coinciding with the ideological conflict the cold war bought, there was a lack of means to prevent drug smuggling from happening. That’s just one of the many cases which represent the relativism and adapting nature of the international spectrum.

It also illustrates the way in which organise crime goes beyond the regulation of national and international law. Generally, after an extent, many of these organised crime syndicates, including businesses, are able to by-pass laws because of the influence and wealth things like the black market brings. It also means this isn’t a clear cut matter. Many of these crime syndicates are able to gain influence, financially and socially, and therefore begin to interlink itself with legal institutions. A very good example can be the fact the drugs trade was used to finance the world banks out of the recession (as has been said by Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN office on drugs and crime). What it suggests is that this isn’t something which is new, in fact it’s long been part of a series of intricate, intertwining, complicated factors which have developed over a long period of time. Of course, with a business worth £352 billion, it’s no surprise that the possibilities created by the ambiguous boundaries are appealing. Generally, it becomes a matter of who holds the most influence and who becomes the influencing factor. It is no coincidence that, for example, art theft is not stigmatised because people do not feel the need to pay attention to something that does not influence themselves in their daily lives. On the other hand, what does that imply for needs in general? Since the purpose of art is to display something that goes beyond the person’s needs.

The intertwining between organised crime and everyday life has its effects. I will be using the example of informal sectors through history to justify this assumption. Through history, there has been a common theme of authorities using informal means to achieve their objectives, when it has often gone outside their jurisdiction of authority (though back then the moral, political and social boundaries were not understood as they are today, and shouldn’t be- it’s called contextual analysis). During the English civil war, pirates were paid for and utilised by the Parliamentarians against the Royalist. In fact, that’s where pirates originate, they were former soldiers who were no longer paid and therefore became bandits or mercenaries.

Another example (my main one I will be using) is the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire was (read a book people!…only joking) the last great Middle Eastern empire with its capital being Constantinople or modern day Istanbul. It claimed itself to be the successor of the Roman Empire in an Islamic form. What is important is that the Empire was huge (look up the size) and therefore logistically, as it expanded further, it was more difficult to sustain itself socially and economically. As a result, through the 17th and 18th centuries, the Empire began to hire bandits, and autonomous warlords, to defend parts of the Empire where their authority was weak. This was by giving them full autonomy, paying them and letting them do whatever they wanted. Now, I can’t begin to explain what I mean by ‘full autonomy’. These bandits would kill, pillage villages, rape etc, and more importantly get levies (taxes) from the population. How does this contribute to organised crime you ask? Firstly it says the boundaries were a lot more blurred and ambigious back then; secondly, it shows the Ottomans would use informal means of keeping control when they’re authority was lessened, unavailable or absent. A very good example is the Balkans, which I will be going onto now:

During the 19th century, nationalism spread to the Balkan region of Europe (south eastern Europe) and once intermixed communities began to separate themselves based on ethnicity and linguistics. A this occurred, nations such as Greece, Serbia etc, began to declare independence. This is where the organised crime bit comes in. These people (such as the greek ‘friendly society’ which consisted of merchants and intellectual) would pay the bandits previously mentioned, to fight for them. A very good example is the Greek freedom fighter kolokotronis. He was Albanian and couldn’t speak Greek; however he fought for Greece (just as he and his father fought for the Ottomans) and became a general in the Greek army afterwards. That’s another theme, through history, these bandits or people, who we categorise as in organised crime now, eventually become integrated into the state they fought for and were given high positions. Kolokotronis was given the position of general because he demanded it and because the Greek government couldn’t pay him. Greece isn’t the only example. The United States used the same tactics against the British, with most of the founding fathers and fighters being previous landowners and generals under the British, for example George Washington fought against the French in the ‘seven years war’. The point is, whenever things have gone out of availability of past legality, the informal sector has been used as an alternative:

Which brings me on very conveniently to the current drugs situations. There’s a huge drug issue in Britain and there’s people I know who do drugs on a daily basis. The drug issue, as has been mentioned, is a matter of wants and needs. If people want it, they’ll find means and ways of getting around legality to get it. Drugs have been tolerated in Britain for the last twenty years and there’s been no display that it’s done the speculative harm people think. Of course, it depends on the drug, but then again, everything that alters the chemical balance in the body is a drug. Anyway, as it depends, the extremes of the drug will display the wants and needs of the people who want it, depending on how re-creation or quick the addiction becomes. That’s why, for example weed is more tolerated than heroine. This is where the question of legality comes in. The whole ‘should drugs be legalised’ is a complicated one and it depends on factors. If there’s a large population which is addicted to heroine, for example, and we go to war and get blockaded, there will be a large number of addicts who get cold turkey, meaning the black market would soar. The other aspect is, with such a high possibility of addiction, the drug would do more harm than good. On the other hand, ecstasy or weed, when taken in moderation, do little harm (in the hands of experienced users). So it’s complex.

Maybe legalising it isn’t as bad as we think. Legalising it means we can regulate it, which means we can regulate what substances go into it, which means drugs could possibly become less harmful if legalised. The potential is that we can create substitutes without the harmful effects of the substances and honestly, would you trust drugs which have been regulated and tested, or ones from a backstreet somewhere by a person you just met (I would go with the former). Legalising drugs would also mean, as the market gets regulated, there would be a hug profit to make (possibly one of the largest profits that you can get). We’ll have to see; meanwhile I hope this has been inquisitive for you and told you things you didn’t know.