There was Jonathan, a 16-year old teenager in the Philippines. He was from a broken home where love no longer held together a family. There was poverty that kept food from the table and from the mouths of his brother and sisters.
Jonathan saw the last of his father as he stormed out of their shanty by the Pasig, drunk on cheap liquor to numb the pain of failure. He was a jobless man fired from his work by a corrupt boss and he had no food for his family. He was a useless, broken man, his dignity was taken away.
So Jonathan dropped out of school to find work. But there was no job without a high school diploma. There was nothing for him but to go to the local drug pusher and sell the illegal stuff for a profit.
A little of the crystal grains could give the body a lift from depression and misery, banish hunger in an empty stomach and alleviate the pain of the poor in dire and deprecated slums. Poverty is the best drug pusher of all time.
Jonathan was the distributer of the medication that could alienate the pain and suffering of some of the poverty-stricken and misery-filled people of the slums. Crystal meth, called shabu, brings a short-lived hour or so of happiness and total forgetfulness for many. It brings the spurt of energy to others so they could work longer and ease their body pain.
The addicted have fleeting moments of paradise that give away to a worst misery than before they turned the crystal grains to smoke and inhaled. They crave the bliss of forgetfulness once more the desire that ruined their already wretched lives comes again. They are more helpless than ever. They are the ones needing help and recovery and a chance at life again.
There are others who use the crystal meth as do the natives of Bolivia that chew the coco leaf to help them endure the hardship of mountain living and exhausting work. It is necessary for them.
For the poor and dwellers of the slums, the ruling elite provides no escape, no hope no future or salvation from the scrapheap of sadness. The poor have no help to ease the pain or heal the wounds of a life without purpose for hundreds of thousands.
The rich and the rising middle-class sniff and inhale the crystal meth and other illegal drugs in the luxury of their plush homes and high-rise condo apartments. The filth and wretchedness they leave far below and see no need to pity the poor as they struggle to survive.
For the irresponsible rich, the poor are the no-bodies of this world, the pests are always with them they say with disgust. The jobless, the hungry and the sick are seen by them as the wretched of the earth, the inhabitants of slums, the dirt of humanity and undignified dwellers of the tar-pits of poverty.
The ruling class ignores them and does not reach out a hand of mercy or open a way to escape. For some of the poor, crystal meth was and is their only escape. It gives moments of ease from the burden of their struggle to survive.
Jonathan saw meager earnings. His earnings were enough to buy a kilo of rice, a few Ligo brand fish in a can and a handful of vegetables. It was food for the fatherless family.
His customers were equally poor as he was. There was Benny, the pedicab cyclist who pedaled fifty kilometers a day it seemed for a pittance. He didn’t own anything besides his t-shirt and shorts and worn down flip-flops that he got on a garbage tip.
He worked all day and earned a pittance for his children. He pedaled through the narrow back streets of Manila in the shadows of the towering condominiums of the filthy rich, the cool shadow is the only thing for free.
He needed a sniff of shabu to keep going that extra hour to bring home his half-kilo of rice and vegetables for the family and stop the crying of the little one.
And then it started. The word went out that they were useless criminals with shrunken brains without rights or dignity. They were to be eliminated, eradicated, massacred. The killers came dressed in hoods and riding cars and they hit the hovels with guns drawn and ordered the pedicab drivers to lie face down. They shot them dead and Benny was one of them. Now there is no one to bring the rice and vegetables and the baby cries all the time with hunger. He had no chance to explain his side.
Then the motorbikes came roaring down the narrow alley-way and Jonathan was the target. They killed him too with an assassin’s shot to the head. His mother screamed and all his brothers and sisters cried for a week and still do when they have no rice.
In the hovel beside the stinking smell of the Pasig, a river that was a cesspool of filth and dirt, he lay in a plywood box. The river flowed on through a city of death where four thousand have been killed and they are still counting. Jonathan was just one more gunned down on suspicion of a crime. He had no chance to plead his case.
It was a hard life in the city slums where death came slowly with malnutrition and disease but now it is a city of sudden death. A relief, say some. As each body is carried away in a plastic bag somewhere well-fed citizens applaud and cheer the killing spree and says: Well done. There is blood on their hands.
Now we see the death of dignity of this once proud nation that stood as best as it could for rights and freedom. The nation’s dignity is being killed day by day and lost in the fog of a war-on-drugs which is another way to rule by fear.
Rev. Shay Cullen is a co-founder of PREDA.org - a nonprofit dedicated to the welfare of children.