Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do

Part V: WHAT TO DO?

My kind of loyalty was to one's country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death.
Mark Twain

Education, Not Legislation


The only fence against the world
is a thorough knowledge of it.
JOHN LOCKE
1693
IN ORDER TO MAKE intelligent choices, we must have accurate information about the potential consequences of our choices. Learning about those potential consequences—how to maximize the positive ones and how to minimize the negative ones—is the essence of education. True education is not deciding what is right or wrong and then convincing the student of the wisdom of the decision. That's propaganda. True education says, "Here are the possible rewards; here are the potential risks; here's how to maximize the rewards and minimize the risks; you make the choice."
Nowhere do we need true education more than in the area of consensual crimes: it seems as though all we've had for the longest time is propaganda—both negative and positive. Society teaches us that committing consensual crimes is always bad, wrong, dangerous, and deadly. The indulgers, on the other hand, teach that society is entirely wrong, that there are no risks, no dangers, no down sides. Neither of these polarized points is valid; neither is true education.
Much of what passes for drug education, for example, is not education at all, but simply scare tactics; terrors for children. The idea (as one popular billboard depicts) that snorting cocaine is the same as sticking a pistol in your nose and pulling the trigger is absurd. One famous television commercial shows an egg being dropped into a frying pan heated to at least 3,000 degrees; as the egg fries and burns, a voice-over says, "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs." Come on. This is not only untrue and misleading; it's a waste of good food.

There is no slavery but ignorance.
Liberty is the child of intelligence.
ROBERT G. INGERSOLL
All this propaganda is as transparently silly as the supposed documentary films from the '30s: Sex Madness, Cocaine Madness, and the ever-popular Reefer Madness. In these films, ordinary, healthy (but, one must admit, terribly boring), young men and women are driven insane by, respectively, sex, cocaine, and marijuana.
One television commercial sponsored by the Partnership for a Drug Free America shows a wholesome young ghetto child having to jump over fences, run down alleys, and hide behind trees in order to make the journey from school to home without being caught by the drug dealers and forced to take drugs.
Another shows photographs of Janice Joplin, John Belushi, and River Phoenix. The announcer pipes in: "We were told celebrity endorsements help sell things." Then the title "Partnership for a Drug-Free America" flashes on the screen. This is an especially irritating commercial because if drugs weren't illegal, these people would not have died of accidental overdoses.
This modern-day misinformation can cause a person to conclude about all education efforts, "I know what they're saying about this is wrong; therefore everything they say is wrong."
A government that lies to its people divides itself: some people believe everything they're told and others believe nothing they're told. Both attitudes are dangerous to the health and well-being of a nation. The misinfomercials from the Partnership for a Drug Free America only show those already ignorant of drug use how right their righteous position is, while further alienating those who know that eggs in frying pans and children hiding behind trees have nothing to do with drugs.
Who pays for all this propaganda? Who finances the Partnership for a Drug Free America? Some of its contributors could be said to have vested interests in not making additional drugs legal.

The highest result of education
is tolerance.
HELEN KELLER
According to The Nation,

The Partnership for a Drug Free America received $150,000 each from Philip Morris (Miller beer and Marlboro cigarettes), Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser) and R. J. Reynolds (Camel) over 1988–91. Other contributors: American Brands (Jim Beam and Lucky Strike), Pepsico, and Coca-Cola. Contributing pharmaceutical companies included Bristol-Meyers Squibb, CIBA-Geigy, Dow, DuPont, Glaxo, Hoffman-La Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, Schering-Plough, Smith-Kline and Warner-Lambert.

It's not just the Partnership for a Drug Free America propagandizing; media over the years have thought they were somehow helping by spreading scare stories as fact, or by dramatizing extreme cases of abuse as though they were everyday occurrences.
Two 1967 Dragnet episodes are a perfect example. (These weren't the gritty film noir episodes of the 1950s, but the technicolor episodes of the '60s. Film noir was better.) Jack Webb, the producer, director, star, etc., must have considered himself a one-person war on drugs. In one episode, Detective Sergeant Joe Friday takes a night-school class in "sensitivity training." No one in the class knows he's a cop. One of the participants admits to having taken drugs. Friday thinks he sees marijuana in the man's notebook. He arrests his classmate. The man is sent up the river. Meanwhile, the teacher of the class is outraged. People were encouraged to open up, to share, to be vulnerable and honest, and along comes an unannounced policeman who arrests a class member for doing just that. The professor wants to throw Friday out of the class. Friday asks for the class to decide: he'll give his point of view, and then they can vote. What follows is an impassioned speech (well, as impassioned as Jack Webb could get) about the dreadful things that he, as a Los Angeles cop, has seen drugs do to people. The speech goes on and on, one horror story after another. The class, initially hostile, sees the light, and votes to let Friday stay. If this were high school, they probably would have elected him class president.

MOTHER: People just don't
understand the boy.

SGT. JOE FRIDAY: San Quentin is full
of people hard to understand.
DRAGNET
An even more amazing Dragnet episode tackled another drug. A young man has his head stuck in the sand, one side of his face painted blue, the other side painted yellow. He is carrying a pocketful of sugar cubes. He is babbling about seeing the "pilot light" at the center of the earth and then believes he is becoming a tree. Guess what drug he is on? Based on the cubes in his pocket, it is either a sugar rush or LSD.
Yes, the scientist in the lab confirms it is LSD. The scientist in the lab seems to know a great deal about LSD, although his specialty is forensics. (According to Dragnet, there is precisely one scientist in the entire Los Angeles Police Department. He was played by the same actor, week after week.[*FN] This scientist could answer every question, from "What kind of gun could make a hole that size in a man?" to "We found this goldfish on the floor of the victim's apartment. Can you check it for fingerprints?")

[*FN] That this same actor occasionally played a judge on Dragnet might have caused some audience confusion, except when he played a scientist he always wore white and when he played a judge he always wore black.

The scientist, as it turns out, doesn't know that much about LSD after all. Although he looks very authoritative in his white science-coat and is surrounded by the paraphernalia of scientific investigation, not one of the "facts" he reveals in his five-minute lecture on the horrors of LSD is known to medical science. Although we, the audience, now know LSD is a Truly Bad Thing, the boy cannot be arrested: alas, there is no law against LSD. "I sure hope they give you boys something to fight with out there real soon," the scientist says. Friday nods grimly.

CRIMINAL: You made a mistake
and I'm not going to pay for it.

SGT. JOE FRIDAY: You going
to use a credit card?
DRAGNET
The boy is now back to his normal self. He wipes the blue and yellow greasepaint off with his mother's handkerchief. His parents want to take him home. Not so fast: Friday wants to book 'em. "I happen to know there is no law against LSD," says the father. Friday looks frantically at his captain with a look that says, "I want to book him. I already said, `I want to book him.' Please, help me find some way to book him!" The captain, an old hand at all this, says, "Book him on a 601." While the boy is taken to juvenile hall, Friday's voice-over explains a 601. It has something to do with suspicion of intent to commit conspiracy to corrupt your own morals in a way that is particularly disagreeable to Los Angeles police sergeants.
When the boy is released from juvenile hall, he commits the worst sin in Joe Friday's book: disrespect for Joe Friday. The boy has the nerve to call Friday "Sherlock." From his look, it's obvious that Friday doesn't know what the boy is talking about, but Friday knows it's not good.
Meanwhile, two teenaged girls are at police headquarters. They apparently spent the day "tripping." One of them describes how she watched Los Angeles melt; either that, or she stumbled into a movie theater showing The House of Wax. The girls show us what it's like to "come down" from an LSD trip. It looks like a combination of nausea and bad menstrual cramps. Not at all appealing. Oh, by the way, they purchased their LSD from the boy.

HUSBAND: [About wife]
Lousy, sloppy drunk.

SGT. JOE FRIDAY:
Don't knock her. She had a
good reason to drink.

HUSBAND: Yeah, what was that?

SGT. JOE FRIDAY:
She was married to you.
DRAGNET
Six months pass. The captain comes in and hands Joe Friday a booklet. It is a new law declaring LSD a "dangerous substance." Joe Friday is like a kid at Christmas. The captain is Santa Claus. "When does this law go into effect?" Friday asks, eyes ablaze. "Forty-eight hours," the captain tells him. These men are high, truly high. They've just gotten a fix of the drug they love most: control. Forty-eight hours. Just enough time to roll out the (dum-da-dum-dum) dragnet.
In search of the boy, they visit an LSD party. It looks something like Laugh In's cocktail party, but much slower and without jokes. Friday calls some uniformed police. They arrive within thirty seconds. (Ah, the good old days.) Everyone at the party is arrested. Talk about a bad trip. The boy, unfortunately, is not there. Fortunately, however, a pharmacy calls in: they have just sold 1,000 empty gelatin capsules to a young man fitting the description of the boy. (What happened to his sugar-cube method of distribution? And here Friday has been asking supermarket managers all over Los Angeles to report excessive sugar cube purchases.) Friday goes to the pharmacy. Yes, after being shown mug shots, the pharmacist (who has precisely one shelf with about twelve bottles of pills on it) gives Friday the address of where the capsules were delivered. (Which means the boy came in, ordered 1,000 empty gelatin capsules, which must weigh about five ounces, and then said, "Here, deliver these." Yes, this boy was clearly on drugs—or the scriptwriter was.)
The landlady happily provides Detective Friday with a passkey. Friday enters (apparently having no use for that seven-letter four-letter word: warrant) and finds a friend of the boy, who says of the boy, "He kept taking more and more pills. He kept wanting to go far out, far out, far out . . ." "He made it;" intones Friday, "he's dead."
Dum-da-dum-dum.

You got to know the rules
before you can break 'em.
Otherwise, it's no fun.
SONNY CROCKETT
MIAMI VICE
After the commercial, we are told that a coroner's inquest found the boy died of an LSD overdose. (Barbiturates are mentioned somewhere in there, parenthetically.) Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for the first and only time in history, LSD kills.
Dragnet was famous, of course, for Joe Friday's sardonic and ironic comment just before the final dum-da-dum-dum. In keeping with that tradition, here is my sardonic and ironic comment: Detective Sergeant Joe Friday stoically acknowledged defeat and celebrated victory in precisely the same way. He lit a cigarette. According to the American Heart Association, cigarette smoking is the #1 cause of heart disease. Jack Webb, a life-long smoker, died of a heart attack on December 23, 1982.
Dum-da-dum-dum.
A hipper, trendier show for the hipper, trendier '80s was Miami Vice. It was so cool to catch drug dealers. The only burning question, however, was: how did Crockett afford thousands of dollars in new designer clothes and other hip paraphernalia each week on a Miami detective's salary? Yes, it was cool to put the bad guys away, but never forget the most essential American lesson: There is nothing cooler than money.
Films such as The Gene Krupa Story perpetuated the myth that, if you even tried marijuana, within six months you would be hopelessly addicted to heroin, which, as everyone knew, meant an agonizing death in the gutter three months later—but only after pulling everything and everyone you ever loved into the gutter with you.

I've over-educated myself
in all the things
I shouldn't have known.
NOEL COWARD
As millions of Americans learned, that domino theory, like the one about Southeast Asia, isn't true.
The purpose of education is to make the choices clear to people, not to make the choices for people.
Cigarettes are readily available, seductively advertised, and you may even be offered one from time to time, and yet, the vast majority of the American public simply chooses to say no. Only the most unbalanced person would respond to the friendly offer of a cigarette with, "What? Are you trying to get me hooked? Are you a recruiting agent for one of the tobacco companies? You should be put in jail!" The answer is simply: "No, thank you," and people go about their business.
Cigarette consumption has dropped dramatically in this country during the past two decades, and it's not due to government restrictions or prohibitions. The kingpins of the tobacco industry were not rounded up. A tobacco czar was not appointed to arrest and prosecute all the tobacco lords. A person caught selling a cigarette to another did not have his or her home confiscated and was not sent to jail for tobacco trafficking. Habitual cigarette users ("nickies") were sentenced neither to jail nor to mandatory rehabilitation programs.
No. Cigarette consumption in this country has dropped thanks to one thing: education.
Education has caused people to think of cigarettes as hazardous, not glamorous. The federal government played only a small part in this educational process (in the person of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. Dr. Koop was to cigarettes what Ralph Nader was to Corvairs). The educators were, for the most part, nonprofit organizations funded by voluntary donations—the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, and several others. Their factual information was picked up by the media, and the attitude of an entire nation changed in a short time.

Education's purpose
is to replace an empty mind
with an open one.
MALCOLM S. FORBES
(The tobacco industry, of course, continues to claim that cigarette smoking is good for you. The Tobacco Institute claims that all this smoking-is-harmful nonsense is merely a conspiracy engineered and paid for by the people who make those "Thank You for Not Smoking" signs. My favorite no-smoking sign is, "If you're smoking in here, you'd better be on fire.")
Calling unreasonable scare tactics education only produces some people who are unreasonably scared and other people who are unreasonable. Trying to wipe out drug abuse with the commercials from the Partnership for a Drug Free America is, as Alan Watts put it, "Like trying to kill mosquitoes with a machine gun." As Maria Montessori wrote in The Montessori Method,

Discipline must come through liberty. . . . We do not consider an individual disciplined when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt pointed out,

Knowledge—that is, education in its true sense—is our best protection against unreasoning prejudice and panic-making fear, whether engendered by special interest, illiberal minorities, or panic-stricken leaders.

Or all three.

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