Poor people can be blamed for all failures in society - part 1

A report published in the UK claims it shows that poor people gamble more than rich, and thus some (all?) conservative people claim the culture of poor people, rather than betting companies, is at fault. It seems about 4-times less people gamble in rich rural areas of southern England compared with northern cities (= poorer region) and with London areas with high levels of unemployment.

1) Gambling

The results of the report about gambling, should these numbers surprise? Many years ago, when PM Thatcher was the iron boss, people protested against the closing of mines which were mainly located in the north of England and thus people were showing their anger for loosing their jobs (many people called the strikers lazy and said their protests showed they didn't want to work. But would lazy people protest against loosing a job?). The region never fully recovered afterwards and became poor.

I can imagine that when people earn only a few hundred pounds or euros a month as some people do (it seems some people have to live from less than £60 a week, not too low according to one minister although people also get money to pay for housing), it is tempting to gamble in the hope one may double its income by winning a little or in the best case become very rich. Certainly when one lives in an area where few jobs are available and gambling seems to be the only way out of poverty, apart from leaving the area where one was born. Of course, rich accuse those people for thinking they can become rich without working. But how many people become rich from working, let alone when little work is available, unless they cheat? Sometimes you need luck to get the winning job or the right parents to become rich. And is it only the poor who gamble?

Of course, many "old rich" don't visit public gambling shops as they consider themselves too good. But they too gamble (e.g. horse racing although they may call this knowledge of horses). Also "new rich" gamble but mostly they don't do it in the new area they moved too (maybe because they want to meet their old friends but more likely because they don't want their new friends may see them gambling).

Indeed, most gambling shops are in poorer areas. The shop owners claim this is because property prices are lower and thus shops are easier to rent. Further, councils in poorer areas seem to grant permits more easily as it generates revenue for the council (although it seems that poorer areas are simply powerless to fight the multibillion-pound gambling industry) while in "posh" areas it is often more difficult to get a permit, therefore in the latter fewer if any gambling shops are present (here revenue for councils come from exclusive (expensive) shops and offices). And thus people living in "posh" areas have to spend money in the gambling shops in the poorer regions while it seems as if people living in those poor areas spend their money on gambling. Although, probably not many people earning very large amounts of money go to those gambling shops where in general only small amounts can be won in comparison with their wages. That doesn't exclude them playing the lottery (is gambling) as then many millions can be won (for some too little to bother playing for).

As a result, problems related to gambling are mainly located to poorer areas. Indeed, people may loose large amounts of money (few hundreds can be disastrous when ones has little) and become addicted to gambling and angry, in the worse case they loose everything and even become homeless (here a story). But the rich, as long as they earn larger amounts of money than they loose, can compensate for their loses (thus loosing work may be disastrous for them, making them too homeless and forcing them to live in poorer areas).

Another reason mentioned why poorer people seem to gamble more is because many are unemployed and thus have nothing else to do. Thus it should be the duty of governments to provide work (certainly when governments caused the unemployment after closing the mines) as then fewer people are unemployed. Many with a job blame those without that they are responsible for their own poverty. But as the above example shows, many people become poor because others decide people loose their job. Today, as again many people are loosing their work (even those with a permanent job are no longer save in many countries), I wonder how many more people may start gambling as "they have nothing else to do" while living on peanuts and hoping for a better life again?

On the other hand, although some rich may gamble in poorer areas, many others gamble at home or abroad in "posh" casinos for much larger amounts of money. Thus, although the report seems to suggest that mainly the poor gamble and the rich do not waste their money, reality is probably much more mixed.

Indeed, rich people can go abroad (Las Vegas is well known). Newspapers report sometimes how some wealthy people gamble away vast amounts of money, although some win. Furthermore, a few years ago the British government allowed mega-casinos and I can't believe these are intended many for the poor although some parts may. Indeed, casinos are much posher than small gambling shops and much larger amounts of money are gambled. Maybe smaller gambling shops are bad news for large casinos and thus some politicians want to close smaller gambling shops so business in mega-casinos may flourish? And there is also online gambling.

But even in business it seems powerful people gamble as we experienced some years ago (and still) when certain investment bankers gambled so much it bankrupted some banks while other banks had to be rescued. If you gamble the whole day with money from others that result in you getting rich, would you still want to gamble at the end of the day, risking your own money?

Thus, governments should first ask themselves who does the betting: the poor or maybe also the rich? Indeed, maybe we see poorer people gambling while the big gambling goes on where most of us never come? And local councils have the possibility to restrict the numbers of gambling shops although it would be stupidity to close them all as this will increase illegal gambling, thus uncontrolled and without taxes (= income) for governments while enriching criminals. Therefore, it may be better to limit the amount of money one can bet each game so losses will be smaller?

2) Drugs

The same applies for drugs. Indeed, drugs are mainly sold in poorer regions because no-one wants the problems related with drugs in their own area although not only some poor people but also some wealthy and some "middle-class" people use drugs they buy (or pay others to buy) in mainly poorer regions or during parties in flats or clubs. Of these, wealthy and middle-class people often claim they don't become easily addicted because they have a job and thus they need to be sober during the week while they can use during the weekend. But are they really sober during the week or was that one of the reason they make so many errors around the time of the financial crisis? And if you are poor and living in bad conditions, don't you want to forget the world? In addition, although this can't be said without being cursed, certain drugs such as cannabis are not as harmful as people may believe or for instance almost every person in certain countries would be addicted. But because these drugs have such a bad name, we even fear using them as medical treatment, for instance to relax immobilising leg spasms from multiple sclerosis (although the city New York now agreed medical marijuana can be used and in future many more places will follow, maybe after a short backlash. There is also evidence that XTC seems to be very good for treatment of post traumatic disorder, and as many countries are involved in many wars, this drugs may one day also be accepted as a therapeutic drug that should be save when doctors prescribe it. Even morphine is sometimes used as a medicine).

I focus on hard drug in this article because we know by now that soft drugs mostly don't cause severe problems except when in the illegality because then there can't be any control on the purity and strength of the drugs. Thus, I favour a policy where people are advised not to use drugs but they are informed what they should do if they take. Because repression mainly means victims (drug users) are punished. And I am sure, when we may become too suppressive, hardly a parent will have a child who is not punished. And punishment can mean prison and thus destruction of the future.

Thus, drug problems are mainly located in certain poorer areas because dealers and their clients walk in those streets while richer areas have more police on the streets to prevent things go wrong. But often, (poor) drug dealers sell to and for people who are much wealthier, powerful and often more dangerous.

In addition, addicts often have health problems (a few years ago I saw a young man in a pharmacy, shaking until he got his methadone that he quickly emptied; I hope he was able to stop his addiction) while many other (major) problems in society are caused by drugs. Small drug dealers cause troubles as their illegal business attracts drug users both poor and rich while many users cause problems as they zombie the area looking for dealers and thus certain neighbourhoods get an uneasy feeling while small criminality such as theft often increases.

But the real problems are not the small dealers (although they are part of the networks) as many sell because they are poor and need to earn a living, but those higher up the chain. People at the top get money from an illegal activity (drugs) (and may use betting shops to whitewash the money) to finance more illegal activities such as selling weapons to ordinary people but also to terrorists, financing wars, keeping people in poverty while pretending to raise them out of poverty so people may support them.

An example is Mexico where recently tens of thousands of people have died because the (previous) government wants to stop drug trafficking. Of course, gangs (mafia) didn't want this and fought back and people were killed by gangs as well as by police and army. Police and army who tried to improve the position of citizens and reduce illegal activities were by many blamed for the killings and people demanded the government stops the war on drugs. And indeed, corruption within police and army make them not trustworthy. As a result, gangs win and thus can sell more drug, therefore their powers become even bigger. Fortunately, gangs always try to destroy each other as each clan tries to gain territory (as animals do). Then, during those wars, people demand that governments protect them. At this moment, people are starting to organise themselves in vigilantes to take on drug cartels and the government starts to fear these groups. However, while in the past mistrust between people and police and army originated from abusive police and soldiers, now there is a chance they work together to clear up the gangs. Further, governments should always punish very severely those in uniform when they misuse their powers so they will behave and thus people can trust them. In doing both, people will start to thrust again those who should protect them and thus can assume government will protect them. But it may also be possible the government will start fighting the people who try to defend themselves from gangs and corrupt police and army and thus in reality government may join the gangs in suppressing ordinary people.

But troubles don't only stay at home, also much further away drugs paid by users in one country can kill both far away and close-by. E.g. the Taliban in Afghanistan is for a large part financed by drugs grown in their country but sold elsewhere, and this allows them not only to kill people in their own country but also in the West by paying the training of suicide bombers (and as families are promised money for the sacrifice their relatives bring, some kill themselves to feed their family who live in poverty while others kill because they hate us). Again, those who sell drugs claim to help people while they are (partly) responsible for the poverty of the people by suppressing them (but if there is little corruption than people would trust governments and don't need to ask terrorists for help). But also those in the West who buy drugs allow that those who sell drugs have money to buy weapons (often in the West) to enforce poverty on others while it brings disaster upon their own society, as that society has addicts, violence and/or terror. Therefore, one can never claim drugs are good because it is not only addictive but it can also kill people who don't use unless when used as medicine (wait one moment, many will now claim that even doctors should not be allowed to use drugs such as cannabis as a medicine (e.g. to reduce pain) while recently some experiments showed that XTC may even help against post-traumatic stress although more research is needed and thus drugs can have very positive effects if correctly used). This doesn't mean some soft drugs can't be legalised and used at home as long as others don't suffer and with educations because when something is completely forbidden it acts as a stimulants to some. But certainly hard drugs should not be allowed in society although it should no longer be stigmatised as that isn't a solution either because it results in punishments for people with an addiction; still, the deaths of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and others, all dead because their addiction to drugs (for whatever reason), were very regrettable and major talents were lost but we should hope their deaths were not in vain because it demonstrated other people drugs indeed kill.

Consequences

People should be protected from becoming addicts, and thus governments should take its responsibilities. This doesn't mean that gambling or all drugs (i.e. soft drugs, smoking, alcohol) should be forbidden completely as then people will find illegal ways causing more harm. However, people should be educated about the dangers. Indeed, people can be told to gamble a certain amount, and then stop. Also the pleasures and dangers of drugs should be told. E.g. stories by people who suffered addiction such as Russell Brand (Guardian, 09/03/2013) who spoke about his still ongoing battle with his past addiction. And there should be warnings on the packaging (I still find it strange people win court battles against e.g. the tobacco industry, claiming they didn't know and the industry misled them when warnings are written on the package; also customers have responsibilities). Finally, smoking also kills others, and I don't mind a person dies because his/her own pleasure, but people who choose not to smoke should be protected from the smoke others produce (and the smell of my perfume last much longer in a smoke-free area). Similarly for other drugs: a little can be fine but too much causes troubles and doesn't make you an adult.

Certainly the most vulnerable should be protected. Indeed, children should not be able to order alcohol or cigarettes in a bar. However, I am not sure this means children can't buy the products for their parents as parents should be able to thrust their children. Further, parents should be allowed to let their children drink sometimes but mostly children will refuse as they don't like it (e.g. during New Year one can allow children to drink some soft alcohol). If it is always forbidden, then they may try in secret with friends who may encourage them to drink too much, even when they don't like it. Of course, sensible adults will never allow their children drink too young or too much. Thus, parents have a responsibility. And government should take action when abuse is noticed. E.g. children drink daily or live in a house where parents use drugs. In the worse cases, social services can decide children need to be removed from their parents although one could allow visits; during these periods parents can stop their addiction. Parents who only think about their own fun should not be allowed to damage others. The same with parents who smoke and are angry that smoking is banned in bars. I don't mind they smoke themselves dead, but they should not be allowed to be responsible for the dead of others.

Still, while I find it unfair that mainly the less-off are mentioned as problem gamblers (or drug users), mostly it is someones own decision to start gambling or using drugs even when friends insist trying as one can always try to find other friends who respect someones "No". Although some people are forced using drugs: e.g. parents used in the neighbourhood of their children while others needed a medical treatment with addictive drugs (it seems Michael Jackson became addictive to drugs after being treated with pain killers after burning his head); these of course are sad cases. Life is often more complex than it should be.

As long as people who gamble or use drugs (including alcohol and cigarettes) but do not cause troubles (they use it socially and thus within limits) or at home I don't mind as it is their own free will. However, when people cause troubles and disturb others, then the problem is no longer theirs but society becomes involved. Then they should face the consequences for their actions. That doesn't  mean we shouldn't help these people because we should. However, when people steal to finance their drug habit they should be punished, if necessary including imprisonment. Or parents loose their children when they mistreat them because we can't allow children become victims. Of course, when people want to stop their addiction, we should help as it can be very difficult to stop. But it cannot be as some people claim that people who decide to use a drug and thus risk becoming an addict should be defended as if they are no criminals when they steal to finance their addiction and as if they have no longer a free will. In general, they had a free will when they started their addiction (although there are exceptions as mentioned above). If, as some people claim, these people are indeed (mentally) ill, then they should no longer have the free will to decide whether or not they want treatment when they harm society. Thus, in general I defend treatment of these people instead of imprisonment and society should help them as often as they need help. But, after the treatment, if they decide to return to their bad habit, then they are accountable for the results, how sad their case may be. And help may be to give them some drugs so they don't need to steal and can be checked by doctors.

There is only a few types of people who can't be blamed for being addicts. As mentioned above, one are people whose parents forced them into addiction and thus are mentally ill (therefore, these children should be protected from their parents or other adults) or those who become addicted during medical treatment and they should be helped. The others are people with neurological problems such as people with schizophrenia or paranoia or people who develop dementia. Indeed, these people didn't choose to have the illness (although sometimes it is as a result of drugs use) and thus these people need to be treated. As these people often don't realise they are ill because many believe that what they experience is reality, they should have no other choice then being treated. Sometimes I hear in the media people talking about their illness and how they were left on the streets because they had to choose to be treated. How can they if the illness prevents them from thinking realistically? When cured, and then these people decide to stop taking their medicines, then they have the responsibility for doing so (if the treatment was working). This doesn't mean disrespect for these people, maybe they can be treated at home but society has the plight to protect vulnerable people and to prevent them doing evil things.

People should be able to gamble or drink, smoke, maybe even to use soft drugs (will we ever be able to stop it completely? I don't think so thus a complete stop is unrealistic). However, people should also know there are consequences for abuse. Indeed, when people cause troubles because they gamble and become addictive, then the government can reduce the number of shops. When parents want to drink or use drugs, then the consequence can be that they loose their children.

Because when people know there are no consequences, then why should they stop their behaviour, even when it harms themselves (own choice) but also others (not the other person's choice). Of course, when people become an addict, it can have a reason (e.g. years ago I heard a story of a man who lost his grandchild during an accident and became so distressed he started drinking). But still, if people then refuse help for their problems while causing troubles, then it is the societies duty to force order upon the person, even when that means prison or forced treatment (although the later is often not really a solution as the person may start again, but then prison can be a solution as then it is the person's own choice).

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