In his piece on Thursday in The Drum, Jonathan Green asks what of the victims of heroin traffickers Chan and Sukumaran, had the two succeeded in smuggling their product into Australia?
Green points out that the traffickers made a “Faustian” pact, the reality of the death of others against their own enrichment: the most brutal and callous entrepreneurship imaginable.
There’s no contesting that fact. Yet if we’re going to discuss profiting from the misery of others, more than half the human species will be found guilty of that Faustian pact. If these millions (billions?) of guilty face the fate of Chan and Sukumaran, the planet will be drenched in blood, a good deal of it the exsanguination of people in high places.
While it’s de rigueur to focus attention on the drug trade as the cause of suffering and death from which others make enormous financial profit, the list of such businesses is long, many of them are legal and many of them are state sanctioned, from the war machines of the Western world, to the liquor outlet that sells more alcohol to the already drunk who then get in a car and kill innocent bystanders.
And this is only thinking in terms of profiting from death. What about the myriad other forms of misery inflicted on one human by another for profit that results not in death, but in a tormented life? Then think about what we do to other species in the unrelenting search for profit, and the prestige, comfort and power profit brings.
That Chan and Sukumaran should be singled out from all the rest for execution makes little sense.
It is one of the awful realities of victimisation that justice is rarely commensurate with the crime.
Chan and Sukumaran chose to deal drugs, knowing that fatalities would result. Users choose to buy and use them, knowing the risk they take with their lives and the lives of those who love and care for them. These ghastly transactions take place in a society that is wilfully blind to its own stupidities in the matter of illegal drugs, such as how that illegality is determined and on what prejudices it is based, and the resulting failure of that society to combat both the trade, and its devastating effects on so many lives.
In other words it is a systemic failure, and the system as it currently functions enables a marketplace for the plying of the deadly business.
I have no truck with celebrities unconvincingly claiming “I stand for mercy” in the matter of Chan and Sukumaran. Not because I want those two young men to die such ghastly deaths. I don’t. But as Green points out, where are the celebrities when thousands are put to death in the US, China, Saudi Arabia, and where are the celebrities when foreign nationals are tied to posts for execution in Indonesia?
And where are the celebrities when yet another user dies a solitary death because a government refuses safe injecting rooms, and needle exchanges, and leaves its young to die alone in filthy gutters?