I recently viewed the film Flight directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Denzel Washington in the title role. While the acting was first rate, I found the theme of the film, like most commercial productions, to be lacking. However, looking at the problems with this film made me look at the plot of this production in a different light.
The film portrays a talented airline pilot who battles against his addiction to drugs and alcohol. This pilot was flying a plane that had defective mechanical problems. Because of his extraordinary skill, he managed to save the lives of most of the passengers.
However, the press, his employer, as well as the government responded to this heroic effort by making the pilot the scapegoat for the plane crash. They all responded with righteous indignation about the fact that the pilot was intoxicated when he was flying the aircraft.
The problem with this story is that it has been done so many times in the past, and that most of these efforts fail to look at the causes for drug addiction in this country. In my opinion, this problem needs to be looked at as a social problem and not as a problem to be solved, or not solved, by the individual who is addicted to chemicals.
First, we can look at the problem. Anyone who lives in the United States has a better chance of going to prison than citizens living in any other nation in the world. Half of the individuals in prison are there because of drug related charges. The number of African Americans convicted of drug related offences is grossly out of proportion to the percentage of African Americans who use or sell drugs.
While college students are paying astronomical tuition fees, most of these same students consume huge amounts of alcohol. One would think that with all the money spent by these students for their education, they would find their studies to be compelling. If these studies were compelling, why do many students feel the need to drink themselves to oblivion?
Today the U.S. armed forces are carrying out of war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is one of the primary sources of opium in the world. The U.S. government also has excellent relations with the governments of Mexico and Columbia. Much of the economies of these nations has been dedicated to exporting illegal drugs to the United States.
Cuba used to be a major supplier of drugs to the United States. Since the Cuban revolution, the illegal drug trade from Cuba stopped. The United States government has enforced an embargo against Cuba since the revolution.
Drug addiction, Capitalism, and Malcolm X
So, what does all this have to do with the causes of drug addiction? The answer is that capitalism makes life for working people alienating. People hold down jobs so a tiny minority of the population can live in affluence. The number one priority of corporations is to provide profits for the owners. This drive for profits gets in the way of providing goods and services to the workers who produce all these goods and services.
Denzel Washington also starred in a film about the life of Malcolm X. Malcolm also had a problem with drug addiction. However, Malcolm developed a perspective where he understood that society was the cause of the problems in the Black community. He argued that Black people had the potential to advance a political movement where they would take control of their communities.
By advancing this political course, Malcolm convinced many people to have pride in themselves, and to be a part of the struggle to transform the politics of the world. Malcolm argued that he was not about teaching people about their oppression. He worked to teach people about their heritage, their humanity, and their worth as human beings. He said that when you do these things, then you will get action.
For me, this is the compelling story that needs to be told about how to fight drug addiction. In other words the struggle against drug addiction is no different from the struggle to liberate humanity.