Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cultural-Spiritual aspects of Narcotics.

It is obvious that the root of the decay of our society is a cultural / spiritual one, namely the inability to deal with the grim reality of our materialistic existence.
It is evident in our drive to escape that reality through our “entertainment” industry (movies, TV, video games.....), Mind altering Drugs (legal and illegal), spectator sports, extreme sports etc.
The devilishness of the situation is that those seduced in to this escapes are not the dull conformists, but the rebellious and potentially promising individuals who are led astray, (unconsciously) searching for a more spiritual world view. Our society’s cultural poverty, specifically our educational institutions offer them stones instead of bread.

According to Rudolf Steiner humanity in its evolutionary path had once atavistic clairvoyant capabilities which where lost in order to develop intellectual thinking, individuality and freedom, eventually as a result getting mired in extreme materialism. In our time we are challenged to overcome materialism by developing a modern path of conscious clairvoyance through meditation. Obviously this requires a lot of willpower and discipline, qualities which in our time are very difficult to achieve.
At this point of evolution where humanity has in its hands the freedom and power to destroy our planet it is a matter of survival to again build a bridge between religion and science, changing our approach to nature and the spiritual reality behind it.

Living in the Drug-War zone.

Every week our facilities are inspected by a Drug enforcement officer, to verify that there are no Drugs included in our banana shipping containers. Obviously a joke, should we be in the Drug-trade then a little “improvement” to the miserly monthly salary of +- US$200.00 would close his eyes.
While there is a growing amount of drug-consumption on the island, the Dominican Republic and Haiti are mostly regarded as stopovers for drugs en route to North America and Europe. Corruption and weak legal system have converted the island of Hispaniola into a drug trafficking paradise.
Even in our rural area drugs are traded and consumed, and the violence that goes along with it has taken civil war aspects. Amid all the poverty there we see the latest models of luxury cars with price tags over US$ 70,000 driven by young men who do not look like they could read a newspaper.
There is a civil war going on, in a small country like ours with the size and population density of Switzerland we read about 10 deadly shootings every day, most of them drug related!

The Global illegal Drug trade is one of the largest, the amount of money that has to be criminally laundered is enormous, in our country it distorts the economy by inflating land prices (making it impossible to buy farmland and paying for it out of production), Businesses one can not compete with and large construction projects (high rise towers and shopping-malls) which stand empty for years.

Many objective arguments for legalisation have been raised by leading thinkers, however for politicians who have dared propose it , it meant he end of their careers, a notable exception is Gustavo de Greiff former Attorney General of Colombia. (It did also cost him his job!)

Exetracts from a Conversation with Gustavo de Greiff former Attorney General of Colombia.

Toward Drug Legalisation:
The only path to ending narco-trafficking is drug legalisation: that is to say, the regulation of its production and sale. That is the thesis maintained for almost ten years by Gustavo de Greiff, who says that legalisation doesn't have to produce a rise in the consumption of drugs and, in fact, will end the violence, corruption and the progressive breakdown of society caused by narco-trafficking.
According to de Greiff, it is precisely drug prohibition what provokes this violence, as well as the commerce, is its illegal nature, producing enormous profits for drug traffickers and corrupt authorities, a business that will be difficult to stop as long as there are consumers.
"The police arrested the drug traffickers, dismembered cartels, confiscated property, destroyed laboratories, intercepted drug shipments and, in spite of all that, nothing happened in the general panorama of the drug fight, because it kept coming to the consumer markets, among those, the most important, in the United States. The business is so profitable that if you disintegrate one cartel, other narco-traffickers take its place in the market."

The Harms of Prohibition
Beyond the street violence and the disintegration of the social fabric, narco-trafficking causes an unmeasured enrichment of the traffickers and also the corrupt officials, he stressed. "A prohibited business can not have success without the collaboration by authorities who close their eyes to the transport or sale of the drug in exchange for money or favors, the same in producer countries and consumer countries. The corruption reaches individuals at all levels of authority, from the police, to the Customs officers, intelligence agents, airports, maritime port managers and, of course, the politicians," he commented.
De Greiff stressed the importance of legalisation of the business, transport and sale of drugs so that the business stops being so monstrously obscene, and to convert it into an ordinary business that additionally will produce taxes that can be invested in the good of society.
At the same time, he underlined the billions of dollars that are spent annually to repress drug trafficking that will then be able to be dedicated to other goals.

Fear of Legalisation
One of the great difficulties in bringing about legalisation is the fear by the population that drugs will be easier to obtain and raise the number of users. However, the fact is that although drugs are prohibited, they are reachable by any individual in any city of this continent who desires them, he remarked. "Drugs are already everywhere, except that because they are prohibited, small consumers that should be treated as patients go to jail - the bad joke is that nobody is rehabilitated in jail.
In this sense, de Greiff used the example of the legalisation of alcohol in the United States, which ended the business of the large mafias involved in it, and did not produce a rise in consumption.

The Farse of the Drug War
Another of the obstacles to legalizing drugs are all the individuals involved in the corruption, said de Greiff. "As has been said, all the agencies involved in repression and monitoring, as well as the politicians: Some because their jobs would be eliminated, and others because they would stop receiving the benefits of narco-trafficking through bribes. Their business would end."
He cited examples that have been publicly exposed of police who seize drugs but only declare half the volume and sell the rest.

De Greiff mentioned, at the same time, the political game that is played with the numbers of arrests and seizures, that the governments use to publicize their own success in the drug war and to continue justifying the repressive policy, "when, in reality, there is no such success although they imprison more and more drug dealers, since the drugs continue flowing in the same quantities to the consumer markets."

The government most interested and invested in the policy of the drug war and at the same time is its grand promoter, he said, is the United States government, which has used the policy to subjugate the countries of Latin America. On one end they use the "de-certification" process. On the other end they use political and military intervention, more and more, to try and maintain domination and protect the warehouse of cheap natural resources for the United States.

Decriminalization and the Benefits of Legalisation
However, he stressed that decriminalization is not enough: It would only avoid that the consumers go to jail or that the dealers have a more peaceful consumer, but it will not end narco-trafficking nor the current corruption by authorities who enrich themselves at alarming levels while those who suffer are the consumers and the general population.

The solution of the problem of drug trafficking is legalisation of drugs, he repeated, and he specified that legalisation doesn't have to mean sale in open markets but, rather, the regulation of the business, the production, the transport and sale, with permits for each activity, control over the quality of the product so it is not adulterated, and legal limits such as not selling drug near educational institutions, not advertising their sale in the media, etc., and always accompanied by prevention campaigns against abusive consumption and offering medical treatment to addicts.

The full report appears on the internet at http://www.narconews.com/Issue25/article537.html

Monday, February 11, 2008

“Flying like a Hawk”

A dream I had since childhood, flying the clouds, free like the birds in the sky!
From Ikarus over Leonardo da Vinci’s model man has had that dream, but only modern technology in fabric design has made this possible.

Since several years I am now Paragliding, flying a sort of oversize parachute which is foot-launched from a hillside with wind updraft.

If the conditions are favourable one catches thermals (warm vortex drafts which eventually form the clouds when reaching cooler air) which can carry you up to cloud base, I have flown over 2,500 m over ground, a exhilarating experience, absolute silence besides of a gentle wind humming in the strings of the glider. Often one circles together with birds in the same thermal!
As we are living close to a favourable mountain range, I can be in the air 40 minutes after leaving home, flying for an average of one hour.
With favourable conditions and skill one can make longer cross country flights, my son Sebastian for example made the Dominican record of 75 Km. (he is also the champion of the height record he accidentally let himself be sucked in to a cloud and was propelled to a height of 3,700 m. returning to ground wet and shivering from the cold, but happy to be alive!).
It definitely is an addictive sport, maybe also a substitute for meditation (like taking drugs) ?
My maximum flight duration has been 4.5 hours and 55 km X country distance.
After 5 years of flying, averaging 100 one hour flights per year, it is still every time an adventure to launch, just that step in to the void and the air, leaving the “illusionary” safety of the firm ground behind you! I imagine that this is good preparation for dying, learning to let go of this world!

Is it safe ? No, there are serious accidents, some deathly, but that is all relative, I take more chances driving on the road in the Dominican Republic, one must trust destiny (or ones guardian angel)!

Paragliding pilots (male and female) are a special breed of people, from all segments of society, all strong individualas with very good observation skills (something one has to develop interpreting the many (also invisible) conditions needed to successfully fly the thermals, like cloud-formations, wind conditions, land geology and soaring bird activity).

The flying activity has also some nice social aspects, in our area (which is rural and poor with few opportunities to meet people sharing ones cultural background) we meet many visiting pilots escaping winter conditions in the North.
The paragliding community is relatively small and one starts to know and meet each other on the flying sites all over the world.