If somebody drowns at a surf life saving carnival, as has sadly happened in the past, or a young student dies during a football match, there is normally a massive response – from the organisations involved, from the media and from the public at large. The emphasis is very much on preventing a similar situation happening in the future.
These days a drug-induced death at a music festival is almost the norm and whilst it serves to focus on the call for pill testing and other harm prevention measures, the overall reaction is bordering on the callous. There’s not only a complete lack of action on the part of governments to oversee even a trial of pill testing but punters continue to take the risk and buy their black market drugs in what has become a virtual lottery of death. The fact that ‘only’ 13 or 14 young Australians have died at music festivals as a result of illicit drugs seems almost an acceptable statistic – if you are prepared to take the odds of it ever happening to you.
Drugs are purchased from neighbourhood dealers, friends and acquaintances – right at the end of the chain of supply. In many ways, this is often very sociable with your dealer a good buddy and confidant. But what about the actual origin of the pills and the people that cook them up? History quickly tells us that they are not the nicest folk around – outlaw motorcycle gangs, international drug cartels and other ruthless and often murderous criminals.
In 2014 former police detectives Roger Rogerson and Graham McNamara, currently spending the rest of their lives in Long Bay gaol, executed 20 year old Jamie Gao in a Padstow storage locker in a drug deal that went very wrong – for all involved. The horrific crime shocked Sydney but in numerous Latin America countries, this type of crime is now commonplace.
It’s no secret that the insatiable worldwide demand for cocaine, amphetamines and other illegal drugs has reaped havoc throughout these countries with countless murders at the hands of cartels and associated criminal groups. The death toll in Mexico alone stands at well over 125,000 with tens of thousands still officially missing. Refugees from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras flood the US/Mexico border as Trump bellows for his multi-billion dollar wall to be built. America can’t stop illicit drugs from entering the country but they will do their best to keep out the hapless whose lives have been irrevocably disrupted by the filthy trade.
Bring on the pill testing trials at music festivals but how about a bit of ‘conscience testing’ as well. We live in a world where the ethical supply of goods and services is very much a priority, whether it’s the regulation of sweatshops knocking out cheap clothing in Bangladesh or the sourcing of coffee and chocolate to avoid the exploitation of producers. In the hedonistic world of music festivals, it seems few currently care where their MDMA and other supplements originate – let alone their chemical makeup.
Let’s set up a conscience tent, adorned with the grizzliest photos of bodies dumped on the outskirts of Juarez in Mexico (over 700 murders in 2017), of decapitated corpses and teenage children shot through the head because they refused to cooperate with the cartels. Add to this a video display of the squalor of the refugee camps on the US/Mexico border and the tragic faces of hundreds of thousands of displaced men, women and children throughout Latin America. And closer to home maybe some footage of the tarpaulin wrapped body of Jamie Gao being fished out of Botany Bay.
All a bit sanctimonious? I don’t think so. This is the real tragedy of the global drug trade – happening right at the source. By the time the drugs reach the streets and music festivals of Australia, all this is conveniently overlooked. If pill testing does become the norm perhaps it could be combined within the conscience tent, bedecked with a horrendous display of mangled human corpses, there to remind us that all in this world is not doof doof and chemical bliss.