Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why U.S. Drug Policies Should Be Based on the NES Game “Narc”

Looking for a way to reform how America responds to drug trafficking? A 1990 Nintendo Entertainment System release gives us the perfect solution. 

Among today’s youth culture, the general consensus is that the “War on Drugs” has been a big, fat, racist, ineffective cultural misstep that’s done nothing but drain taxpayer money and ruin the lives of the nation’s urban and rural poor. It’s not drugs themselves that have decimated the nation’s impoverished enclaves, they say, but the institutionalized jihad against drugs that has truly resulted in the plight of so many millions of Americans. Because, as we all know, it’s NOT the fact that meth and crack turn people into slobbering, one-track-minded maniacs with no respect for the social code that’s the problem here -- indeed, legalizing all illicit substances and commoditizing them, the popular thought goes, is what would really remedy our culture’s ills. The generational support of decriminalization of drugs is so widespread, that official language seems to have been co-opted, Orwellian style: take one gander at this suspiciously confrontational Wikipedia entry on Singapore’s incredibly strict drug laws…especially the key reference point at the end, in which the term “drug” appears to have been softened into the kinder, gentler euphemism of “therapeutic goods.”

Call me a bit old-fashioned, but methinks that’s a load of bullshit, and then some. As someone who has actually LIVED amongst the meth and pill-addicted, I can tell you quite sincerely that the rub here ISN’T Johnny Law roughing up rubes, but kinda’ the reality that mind-decimating substances lower the culture’s inhibitions, dissuade them from upholding cultural norms like “having a job” and “being there for their families,” and give the drug addicted and the drug manufacturing a strong incentive to never attempt to alter their lives through legal activities. If you honestly believe this so-called “War on Drugs” is the actual problem, perchance you should take a ride through the foothills of Appalachia, were pill pushers and crank salesmen live in absolutely chaotic squalor, sans impediment from law enforcement whatsoever.

While being in support of tougher drug laws in this day and age makes you slightly less popular than a cross-burning baby seal clubber, I believe it is CRUCIAL that we, as a collective culture, get our respective acts together and address the nation’s ongoing drug epidemic as the serious, criminal blight that it is. For far too long, we’ve prided ourselves on a solutions set that entails the decriminalization of low-level possession, all the while exonerating drug runners from their nebulous behaviors due to “addiction” and “economic isolation.” Well, if you ask me, enough is enough, folks, and it’s time we swung all the way back around and once again got T-O-U-G-H on drugs.

Community-based drug treatments are ineffective shams, and mandatory minimums do precious little to keep the majority of traffickers off the city streets. Clearly, the hyper-liberal solutions AND the hyper-conservative solutions ain’t working, and while the most promising evidence-based drug addiction solutions are unlikely to ever be implemented in the U.S., that’s not to say we can’t get a tad more aggressive in our enforcement policies. And the best part? We already have the perfect template in front of us to reframe the nation’s drug laws; ladies and gentlemen, I present to you “Narc” on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

For the uninitiated, “Narc” began life as a hyper violent, anti-drug-use arcade game, which, ironically, was later remade as a crappy “Grand Theft Auto” clone in the mid 2000s with a strong pro-drug-use message. Of course, the most popular iteration of the title was the NES port, which, while somewhat stylistically different from its arcade inspiration, is a fairly faithful adaptation, nonetheless.

I went back and played “Narc” the other day, and I realized that, within all of that frenzied, 8-bit, button-mashing mayhem, there actually were quite a few policy recommendations to be found throughout the game (which, oddly, was censored by Nintendo to remove ALL references to illicit drugs, despite the game itself being the most blatant anti-drug propaganda this side of “Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.”)

So, what lessons can we, as a nation still struggling with an ongoing drug problem epidemic, learn from this 25 year old video game? Well, here are four key takeaways from the title that I believe could go a long ways in solving some of America’s contemporary drug addiction and trafficking woes…

Lesson Number One:

To combat America's drug crimes, we need a new breed of cop. A super-cop, if you will...

It's glaringly apparent that today's DEA agents are not equipped with either the right personnel or the legal leeway to get their respective  jobs done. All of that nonsense about "habeas corpus" and "non-lethal" restraint is clearly preventing drug cops from doing what they need to do to keep our cities safe, and in "Narc," we see a downright glorious remedy to the ailment: it's time to create a new kind of cop, with much more jurisdictional power. 

First off, the old DEA agent garb has to go. A black uniform, a couple of batons, and a plastic shield? Please, that's not going to stop the animalistic dope peddlers that clog America's gutters and trailer parks. What we need is what "Narc" envisions, an army of police officers rocking bright pastel hues, wearing motorcycle helmets and doing their job with their bare arms exposed, just as our Founding Fathers wanted. Similarly, those old SWAT vans and cop cars won't suffice here: what we require are bitchin' sports cars, that are the direct color wheel inversion of the uniforms the police personnel wear. I think we can all agree: when crack rock-snorting Captain Planet villains start stacking 200 foot tall pillars all over our bridges, the old cruiser just ain't going to cut it to keep us safe. 

Lesson Number Two:

The way we punish drug criminals in America is far too lenient. Harsher penalties...much harsher penalties...are now called for. 

One of the absolute most important things "Narc" demonstrates is the need to grant greater jurisdictional powers to DEA agents. Currently, the only thing DEA agents are allowed to do is arrest people, which isn't enough by any stretch of the imagination. What we require are cops that have the legal ability to circumvent drug crime the best way they deem fit, and if that includes shooting homeless people with rocket launchers because they won't get out of the way...why not give 'em said abilities? 

Drug criminals, clearly, are among the most dangerous kinds of criminals out there. They walk around the alleyways of our towns and villages, clad in their Beat Poet regalia, launching heroin needles the size of bedposts at random individuals. If you think handing out a cute little citation is going to get them to change their ways, you're just fooling yourself. If we really want to solve the country's drug woes, we've got to follow the lead set by "Narc" -- forget three strikes and you're out, we need to be eyeing "one strike, and you're guts will be splattered all over the sidewalk." 

Lesson Number Three:

By cracking down on drugs, we're also cracking down on various other forms of crime, which are closely tied to the illicit substance trade.

Drugs, like the intangible hand of Satan himself, touch upon virtually every kind of evil that a society must deal with. Take a look at the city streets in "Narc" -- all pot-hole-riddled purgatories, where XXX theaters and liquor stores dot the landscape like cancerous furuncles. And let's not fool ourselves, folks: when drugs get into the equation, even more crimes are sure to follow suit. 

Since the drug trade requires cutthroat opportunists, perhaps its not all that surprising that it attracts those that are already involved in nefarious doings. Take for example, the level in "Narc," in which local drug runners have convinced homicidal, knife-wielding clowns to serve as city watchmen, or the level in which the opening of a marijuana greenhouse leads to a fleet of heavy-artillery-lugging Vietnam veterans moving to town and randomly shooting up anything and everything that moves. As "Narc" clearly demonstrates, the associated risks with the drug trade are too dangerous to ignore: today, it's homeless junkies shooting up next to dumpsters, and tomorrow, the whole damn state will be overrun by pipe bomb-tossing scientists. 

Lesson Number Four:

It's time to go after the heads of drug cartels, no matter how imposing they may appear.  

The ignorant may look at "Narc" and disregard it as hyper-conservative propaganda. Well, know-it-alls, as fate would have it, "Narc" actually concludes with a indictment of big business trafficking as the core of the nation's drug woes. You see, it's not the peddlers and users and traffickers that are most responsible for America's descent from World Superpower to Socialist Dope Smoke Utopia; rather, it's the heads of multinationals, who use their economic clout to mask huge shipments of illicit goods into the hands of American babies. What "Narc" tell us is unmistakable: if you ever want to rid the U.S. of A of its drug problem, you're going to have to relentlessly pursue the heads of the operations. 

Oh, I know: going after such figures may be daunting, especially when you realize that most drug kingpins are eight foot tall "M.O.D.O.K.s" wearing Cuban pimp hats that can shoot fireballs out of their mouths. Even scarier, I suppose, is the game's contention that the Pablo Escobars of the world are actually gigantic skull demons, who can only be killed after being shot one million times with missile launchers. That said, this daunting task is pivotal to combating the drug plight that rots all of the country: and as an economic bonus, we'd also be privy to all of their gold bullions, which always keep locked in a card-protected safe within their inner sanctum.

No one is going to call the "Narc" drug policy plan easy to implement, nor is anyone likely to call it an easy sell for today's drug-weaned masses. However, as violent crime in America continues to plunge, perhaps it's worth a grassroots putsch in peacetime, as the proliferation of new wave drugs that turn people into gangrened lepers slowly make their way into America's quaint villages and towns. 

To some, the "Narc" model may be a bit extreme, but in these times, "extreme" is precisely what we need to turn the tide in the "War on Drugs." Time to decriminalize and focus on rehabilitation, you say? Poppycock, as we all know it's nigh time to once again get tough on crime -- Nintendo-style.

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