Death as a concept was introduced by a slightly batty friend of my parents who had been asked to babysit. I don’t remember all the details, I just remember her earnest explanation of war and how everyone was eventually going to kick the bucket. I wasn’t ready. (I’m still not ready.) My parents came home to a five-year-old wailing her head off. I don’t want you to die! They never asked her to babysit again.
Realizing no one lives forever was my version of being told Santa Claus wasn’t real. Now that I knew life was finite, I dedicated the rest of my life to finding ways to prolong my time on earth without adding unnecessary risks. Ha! I wish. I don’t smoke and I drink very little, but my true vices are sugar and salt. Both of these are just as likely to steer me on my way to kingdom come while a dozen nutritionists look on in horror, but what a way to go, eh?
Two weeks ago, Siquijor went from a quiet, untouched paradise to a scary, dangerous place. Two promising young women were cut down in the prime of their lives, all because a crazy bloke was running around tripping balls, leaving devastation in his wake. It hit very close to home, because this is the sort of thing that is only supposed to occur in a gritty metropolis, not a magical, carefree island like Siquijor. Most of the time we shrug off these scenarios, believing they will never happen to us or anyone we know. Then tragedy strikes and it suddenly feels like we’re all just waiting for a piano to fall on our heads.
I don’t care too much for the term “war on drugs,” because it sometimes detracts from what matters. It’s not just about the drug itself, who’s providing it, and who’s allowing the whole mess to proliferate. “War on abuse” would be more apt, because it’s the misuse of the substance that’s at the heart of the problem.
This war is not new. People know that drug abuse is bad. The information is out there and has been, for decades. It is an established fact that too much of anything, even ketchup, is bad. Substance abuse has torn families apart, wrecked friendships and ruined lives. There shouldn’t be a grey area when it comes to abusing anything, be it substances, finances or authority.
It’s a good thing a spotlight has been cast on the abuse of drugs – both illegal and pharmaceutical – and the toll it takes, but when did we become so incapable of managing ourselves, the government feels it has to step in? When did our battle cry become “save us from the evils of crystal meth, oh Philippine government?”
This is not a nanny state. Looking to a higher power to take major responsibility for the war on drugs, when that higher power is already caught up in navigating the obstacle course of Philippine politics – with its reams of red tape, pork barrel land mines, and the double whammy of corruption and incompetence – amounts to nothing more than a hail Mary. It’s a battle we are likely to lose if we decide that killing is the best and only answer. So far, it is an answer. Not much of one, but it’s something. To some it’s an attractive solution because the results are instant, but killing causes too much collateral damage for it to be the definitive answer to a very difficult problem.
The war on abuse starts with us. We have a duty to govern ourselves, too. This is about us as individuals, and how much accountability we are willing to shoulder. The president cannot be held solely answerable for eradicating the irresponsible. No one is holding a gun to our heads, forcing us to partake. It’s the choices we make that makes all the difference.