By Dr. Suresh Kurl
I have worked with individuals involved in drug culture. They would barter their grocery bags for drugs, rather than taking them home to feed their hungry children and then would return the next day to plead for money claiming their cash was stolen.
As Registrar of an Appeal Board I was once threatened with an injection of HIV/Aids contaminated blood and other time with a call threatening to blow me away if I did not deal with his appeal favourably right away.
As Member of the National Parole Board, I came in contact with thieves, counterfeiters, bank robbers, drug traffickers, rapists, paedophiles and murderers. Skilled in deflecting issues, justifying unacceptable behaviour, expressing self-serving guilt and remorse, they gave me a crash course on drugs and violence.
Reading their case histories was like entering a mine of tangled psychological and psychiatric details, medical, family and social history. They were the horoscopes of crimes and their contributing factors, and lengthy court judgements. Here I would focus only on the relationship between drugs and violence.
Mostly, an offender justifies his/her socially unacceptable behaviour for a variety of reasons, especially when he is under the influence of intoxicants. The ingestion of substance causes its consumers to become irrational, irritable and over confident. He is easily provoked, feels challenged or threatened when questioned. Intoxicants freeze his most valuable human asset – his Conscience.
Drunk drivers; They are dime a dozen. They are a category of criminals, who object to being identified as criminals. Sometimes, this category even includes those who are out on the streets to protect you and me from other drunk drivers. I had several occasions to interview these offenders. I used to tell them that when they drive under the influence they do not drive a vehicle. They drive a loaded missile without a navigational map.
Drug-Alcohol Addicts: Many times I heard from parole applicants that the next morning when they woken up they found one of their friends, they had partied with the night before, lying in a pool of blood. They did not have the clue what happened to him. Who killed him and why?
The fact was that they knew everything about their friend’s death, but were unwilling to tell the investigating police about it. For the fear of being accused, being tried and convicted, they chose to plead black outs – too drunk to remember. Nevertheless, a life was lost.
Experts call it “Psycho-pharmacological violence.”
An individual commits violent crimes, not necessarily to commit murders, but to obtain money to feed their addiction. In such cases, a theft or bank robbery is pre-planned. He goes out to commit a break in or rob a bank armed. He would carry a tool to open the doors or intimidate, not to kill. When the sound of breaking in wakes up the owner of the house, a screwdriver or a fake gun becomes a weapon to intimidate and force the owner into submission.
If the homeowner is a woman a sexual assault could occur resulting in several offences, back to back – unlawful entry, commit a burglary, assault with a weapon and a sexual assault. At this point the primary objective to rob takes a turn. He does not feel like running away without eliminating the witness to his crimes. Once again a life is lost.
Experts call it, “Economic compulsive violence.”
The category of “get-rich-quick-schemes” through the sale and purchase of drugs involve violence, as a basic ingredient of doing business. Threat, intimidation and physical assault are tools of conflict resolution, and loss of life is collateral damage.
Experts call it, “The systemic violence.”
The category of counterfeiters is not supposed to include violence. It is paper work – print dollar bills and launder. Murders do occur in this business, but only when it is necessary to silent a squeaky partner.
Let us note that individuals, who use drugs, are not necessarily violent, and those who are violent are necessarily not user. Violence for professional assassins is a control weapon to be handled without contamination by intoxicants. Targets missed due to shaky hands or blurred vision could be a fatal mistake. Such cases distinguish between cases of criminal negligence, manslaughter, second degree murder, and the murders that are pre-planned and well executed.
Also note that the relationship between intoxicants and violence is not the same as between gasoline and fire. For intoxicants to trigger violence we need a few extra ingredients to stimulate the transition. We need to brew intoxicants with certain personality traits such as, poor self esteem, low tolerance for frustration, a high sense of entitlement and demand for instant gratification etc.
The question is how do we develop these traits? The answer could be in certain types of growth deficits.
Gender Conditioning: Charity begins at home. Our parents and guardians play an active role in shaping gender identity by telling and demonstrating that males are supposed to be strong, dominant and leaders, whereas females are supposed to be nurturing, weak, passive and submissive.
Domestic Violence: A child traumatised by parental violence in his family is likely to grow up to be a violent or a very timid adult.
Child Abuse: I recall spending a lot of time explaining to my clients the difference between “Child Abuse” and “Child Discipline”. What was discipline to them was abuse in Canada. A majority of the inmates I remember were victimised by their parents, step-parents, and the weekly changing partners of their parents. An inmate told me how his mother behaved towards him when he told her that her boyfriend had been sexually abusing him. He said she hit him for lying and began to cry.
Exposure to Social Violence: Social Violence is an everyday occurrence in our lives through television, movies, print media, computer games, even music.
Role-Modeling: Aggressive behaviour is viewed as an effective means of dealing with frustration or as a means to problem solving and therefore adopted and applied by children/siblings as a method in their own conflict resolution.
Peer Pressure: A need to belong to a club, team, group, or gang among young people in particular remains a constant pressure on them. These organisations provide status; build self-esteem and gratification though gangs provide something extra. They provide money and drugs, and DEATH.
Poor education or no education: Lack of education not only contributes to a low level of standard of living, anxieties and low self-esteem.
Unemployment: It could happen for a number of reasons, especially in a culturally and linguistically different society. All of these factors contribute to growth deficits. And this is what Hillary Clinton means by, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Dr. Suresh Kurl is a South Asian Community Activist, a former university professor, retired Registrar of the BC Benefits Appeal Board (Govt. of B.C.) a former-Member of the National Parole Board (Govt. of Canada), a writer and public speaker.