The higher players of the drug war
Is the drug bust really affecting the power set?
I was sitting at a dive bar in New York one night beside my date, and a copy of The Post was in front of us. A well-known, wealthy financier, married to a reedthin, glamorous, toast-of-high-society sort of woman, had just been ordered to perform X number of hours of community service after admitting to a hit-andrun offense in which he left an injured man lying on the street.
He had to plead guilty, my date, who knew the wife, told me. He was high on coke, and if the case went to trial, that would all have been revealed. So he did what any smart businessman would do: he settled.
I’d like to think that drugs are the great equalizer, in the sense that no matter what you take and no matter how much you pay for a gram, an ounce, or a bag, the drug abuser ends up looking pretty damn awful after a while. Wealthy or indigent, your skin looks terrible, you’re either bloated or emaciated, your eyes unnaturally dilated or catatonically glazed.
But even in the world of drugs, it seems, there are class distinctions, hence the rise not just of designer drugs to cater to the welloff, but of cheap but quick highs to cater to the less fortunate—rugby and the apparently ubiquitous shabu. As the ongoing spate of extra-judicial killings tragically demonstrates, even the poor need their fix; unfortunately, it is much easier to shoot the stoned and defenseless than the intoxicated and lawyered-up.
There is a tendency to glamorize upmarket drugs and vilify the more pedestrian ones. Mention cocaine and a sophisticated backdrop appears: glittering parties, endless champagne, beautiful women, dapper men, a yacht, a private plane, a sleek automobile, a private collection of exquisite art. Even Pablo Escobar—who apparently didn’t touch the very powder he pushed up into nostrils everywhere—traded up as soon as he could with the obscene profits from the cocaine trade, with his wife very quickly developing a taste for extravagance and luxury.
Now, mention shabu and the images that come to mind are distinctly downmarket, grimy, grubby, grasping. The subliminal message? This is the drug you take when you can’t afford to get high in style. All you have to do is tune into the nightly news to confirm this. Among the gunned down are lowly tricycle drivers and construction workers and the unemployed, whose uniform is the kamiseta or worn T-shirt pocked with holes, faded, threadbare shorts, and rubber slippers. They are just one among the masses. One among the teeming, incessantly reproducing, yet chained to poverty masses. No yacht parties here with endless champagne. No tuxedos, either, or silver platters to serve the drugs in. Of course, this conjecture is highly inflammatory and—roll of the eyes, please—elitist. But it’s no less true. Even when it comes to drugs, our country is still rife with class distinctions. The thing is, a high is a high is a high. And it’s fleeting.
But is it really worth it? Not at the risk of losing your looks. Because I’m shallow that way.