Why is violence becoming the new drug in Colombia?

Daniela Guzmán Martínez argues that Columbia has a history of violence intoxication. Photo: Diana Diaz (Flickr)

Daniela Guzmán Martínez argues that Colombia has a history of violence intoxication. Photo: Diana Diaz (Flickr)

THE CULPRITS IN the armed conflict in Colombia have left more than 6 million victims behind them. The country has to keep on fighting for the eradication of the cultural intoxication that is staining its contemporary history.

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

Hannah Arendt

The word intoxication has been widely recognised in all cultures as the abuse of any substance that alters the normal state of the body and the normal development of a person. Campaigns worldwide have been promoted in order to fight this phenomenon, to prevent people from falling into it and to inform about the consequences from it. These campaigns have also raised awareness about the fact that continuous substance intoxication can turn into the deadly path of drug addiction or alcoholism. However it can be considered that reducing the definition of intoxication to the use of drugs or alcohol might be too simplistic, as there might be a third type that has a longer healing process and probably causes more fatalities than any other around the world.

Violence: The new addiction

Cultural intoxication can be understood as the consumption of negative cultural signals causing an adverse reaction of euphoria, also know as dysphoria, in which a state of mind is dominated by feelings of indifference towards the surrounding world and where the body, the nervous system and mind are affected. In this particular case the injustice, impunity, terror and violence have turned into the new addictive substances. The outcome is unfortunately not just addicts or patients in rehab centers but the most cruel and brutal victimisers ever known.

For more than six decades Colombia has been oppressed by ceaseless conflicts between the government and the armed rebel groups. According to the State Unit of Victims this bloody war has left the unimaginable total of 6,431,981 reported victims from 1984 to the date. All of them targets of one or several of the harmful war strategies of these groups, which include among others: forced displacement, massacres, selective assassinations, explosive mines, kidnapping, bomb attacks, sexual abuse, threats, confinement, child recruitment and enforced disappearance.

But who is behind these atrocities?

As mentioned before, there is a relatively high number of armed groups proliferating terror campaigns in all the national territory. However the paramilitary groups, known as Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia or AUC, and their organised crime organizations have won the dishonourable recognition of the cruellest victimisers in the country. These subversives are without a doubt addicts to war and irreparably intoxicated by the violence that for years has tainted the history of the country, leaving behind millions of victims with wounds that do not heal.

Unfortunately, and contrary to other types of intoxications, this one does not have a rehab plan or even a feasible healing process. Javier Osuna, Colombian professor and journalist specialising in Conflict and Paramilitary Groups, indicates that the case of Colombia shows a reality where the society is the one intoxicated and so an integral repair process must be done to stop the continuous implementation of these violent strategies.

His argument is valid when recognising that cultural intoxication is a human condition that has been able to permeate all levels of the Colombian society. Although the normal citizen has fought unstintingly to recover the national mind from these recurrent and disastrous episodes, the media, and the ineffectiveness of the government in terms of justice and the lack of success in ending this nerve-frazzling armed conflict have encouraged these criminal predators to continue consuming the drug of violence.

Seeking justice – an enemy in the rehab process

The continuous bombardment of news about atrocities carried out by paramilitary leaders, has blinded the civil population in terms of comprehending the real magnitude of their crimes and has caused the collective amnesia of their existence. According to the investigative website Verdadabierta.com the actions of only these men have left 6,686 registered victims, six massacres and nearly 70,000 people internally displaced in Sucre, their area of influence.

However the justice system in Colombia has opened the window for what many people refer as impunity, which undoubtedly has a negative impact in the recovery of a society intoxicated by an unstoppable war. In 2010, Alias “Juancho Dique” and “Rodrigo Cadena” where sentenced to eight years in prison, the maximum term for imprisonment for the paramilitary covered by the Law of Peace and Justice installed in 2005. This means that in less than four years the people responsible of unimaginable violence will be freed.

Although the discussion regarding this legal initiative is endless, there must be a wake up call to the society in general. There is an immense need for the Colombian society to step aside from the bystander role it has had in the past decade and take action in order to help the healing process from this unconscious intoxication it has lived with. As mentioned before, we need to copy the strategies incorporated worldwide to fight substance abuse and alcoholism because we cannot afford the return of these addicts to violence without having prepared and informed the population about the harms this recurrent consumption can bring for the future generations.

By Daniela Guzmán Martínez

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