Okay, not really. We’re not all brilliant chemists turned meth gurus. Not even half of us.
But Latin America has its share of Walter Whites, people forced into criminality by some dire situation. An illness in the family. No food. No home. No opportunities.
America is on drugs. It’s the world’s top consumer in marijuana and cocaine, and it just so happens that growing coca and cannabis is something Latin America is good at. And so if you live in a part of the world that, as a result of certain policies, doesn’t offer you much opportunity to eek out a living, why wouldn’t you take a drug easily produced in your county and sell it to the addicts of another country — especially if that other country is a major reason you’re forced to be a drug dealer in the first place?
I’m not saying that the people in the cartels are good people, just as no one would call Walter White a good person. The product they make and distribute has destroyed lives, destroyed families, destroyed friendships, destroyed communities. My own father is an addict, and his drug use robbed him of his family and robbed his children of their father. For as long as I live I’ll be tortured by the possibility of what might’ve been had he never touched the stuff.
And sure, the cartels, like Walter White, have lied, cheated, stolen and killed to secure their empires. That makes them morally reprehensible.
But can we blame youngsters in Latin America for adopting a life of crime to provide for themselves and their families? Can we blame Walter White for transforming himself into Heisenberg? The cartels sell a product in high demand in the United States, one of which is relatively harmless. And the other, cocaine, like meth, is highly addictive and highly destructive, but I’m sure you or I could tell at least a dozen stories of lives being ripped apart by liquor or beer. What makes the local liquor store less dangerous than a dark corner on Chicago’s West Side? What makes Ronald McDonald less deadly than El Chapo or Walter White?
Heading into its final episodes beginning with Sunday night’s long-awaited return, fans are still debating the bad in Breaking Bad. Does Walter present such a diabolical personality because he makes and sells meth? Or is it because of all the other shit he has to do to secure his enterprise?
The same is debated about the cartels and the people who report to them throughout Latin America. I highly doubt the gunmen, drivers, drug mules and dealers grew up with the dream of being part of society’s underbelly. Only the most inhuman person would be okay with killing and kidnapping for a living. And because the drug wars have pulled in so many people from all walks of life, it’s safe to say that there are many involved who would much rather make their money doing something safer, gentler and legal.
American society may not have created the likes of Heisenberg, but it surely had a hand in his birth. Walter was a poorly paid teacher with cancer who couldn’t pay his medical bills without putting his family underwater. How many people in Mexico, Honduras or Colombian are in comparable situations?
The bad in Breaking Bad is the society that would convince some of its members that robbing and killing are good options.
If America is serious about seeing peace in Latin America, then we have two paths: either drastically cut back on the amount of drugs we use or decriminalize drug use entirely.
But if Americans are going to continue using drugs as much as they do and continue criminalizing drug use as much as they do, then they make Heisenberg’s existence practically inevitable.
[Photo: Jacob via Giant Fire Breathing Robot]