“Cocaine is a carburant. Cocaine is a devastating, terrible, deadly energy. There never seem to be enough arrests. Policies to fight it always seem to miss the mark. As terrible as it may seem, total legalization may be the only answer.” – Roberto Saviano, ZeroZeroZero
I believe in the power of words.
Today many books are being published, including books that should never be published, but these books will not last and will never become more than personal anecdotes.
I like to read books that do more than just entertain. The books I enjoy dispute or question our perceptions of the world, perhaps even our perceptions of who we are. These books make us see the world differently.
Italian writer, Roberto Saviona’s, ZeroZeroZero, is such a book. This book is catchy, but never without activating the reader’s critical sense, for example, by confronting the reader’s illusions and naivety about what is actually going on in the world. More importantly, this book is reliable due to its thorough investigation that includes official reports, statistics, and interview with police, etc. It reveals our contemporary capitalistic history as seen through the lens of cocaine: the influence of cocaine, addiction, disposable pushers and mules, money flow and launderers, private soldiers, etc.
Cocaine is intertwined with capitalism, and vice versa, which illustrates the moral decline seen in capitalistic societies. Capitalism needs cocaine to satisfy its continuous need to grow.
In addition, the usage continually grows as more and more people use cocaine to keep up the pace of capitalism. Saviona states, “The faster the world moves, the more there’s cocaine; the less time there is for stable relationships.” Cocaine is today’s drug. According to Saviano, cocaine is everywhere. It is for everyone. “The guy sitting next to you on the train uses cocaine, he took it to get himself going this morning; or the driver of the bus you’re taking home … your son … your boss …”
You take cocaine to work harder, not party harder … and then everything collapses.
Furthermore, the cocktail of criminal activities and money (i.e. the amount of money you do not count but weigh) makes the moral = zero, zero, zero. The general moral is corrupted by drug money. It’s tempting to see the title, ZeroZeroZero in that light. However, the title doesn’t actually (at least not directly) refer to a lack of morals. Rather, it refers to the purity of the flour that you use for making Italian bread. The closer to zero, the more pure it is. Zero is the purest cocaine, the white gold.
Saviano tells the story of Columbian drug cartels in the 70s with Pablo Escobar and in the 80s when new, more violent leaders emerged. The Columbians killed each other with sticks, guns, chainsaws, and acid, while the Mexican cartels slowly took over. Today, Mexico is the country with the most powerful drug cartels. This power is not due to Mexico’s production (Columbia produces more), but it is due to the cartel’s distribution. Mexico distributes cocaine to the biggest consumer of all, the U.S., and this distribution provides power.
Saviano encourages the reader to acknowledge that reading is a powerful act. “In the Book of Revelation Saint John writes, ‘And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.’ I believe, that the readers need to do this with words. Put them in their mouths, chew them, so that the chemistry they are made of can work inside us, can illuminate the dark night and draw a line between happiness and pain.”
What kind of life would we like to live? What kind of life would we like to pass on to future generations? Are you aware of the amount of people suffering because you need an energetic fix every Saturday?
After reading about the extreme bestiality of these cartels, I was both fascinated and frightened. It was nightmarish reading. These drug lords believe that it is their right to live as they feel. A softer example is when Saviano wrote about Griselda, the most ruthless female drug trafficker. “She liked to choose her men, and if they didn’t go along, they were dead. One time a kid, younger than her, attracts her attention. Griselda wants him and fixes her eyes on him. He avoids her gaze, but Griselda insists. So the kid heads to the bathroom, and she follows, going into the women’s room. ‘Help!’ she starts screaming. ‘Help!’ and the kid comes running; maybe that weird woman is sick. Griselda is waiting for him, naked from waist down. ‘Lick me’, she commands. The kid steps away, his back to the door, but Griselda takes out a pistol and repeats, ‘lick me.’ So he does, the barrel of her gun glued to his head.”
When does contemporary society’s quest for happiness and profit make us sick?
The book also addresses new questions of trust. Who can you trust in a world where many people seem to have a price? Cocaine is a lucrative business, so lucrative that the drug cartels can bribe the kind of people we so-called normal citizens put our faith in, including police officers, attorneys, politicians, and, of course, businesses.
Are capitalism and crime the end of democracy? Are they closely related? Is this book a warning? It is.
Saviano ends his book by saying, “As terrible as it may seem, total legalization may be the only answer … it hits where cocaine finds its fertile terrain, at the law of supply and demand.”
I believe he is right. Legalization could be the answer. Read the book, and decide for yourself.