WAR ON DRUGS
movie “Traffic” by Steven Soderbergh is a film which deals with several
aspects of drug trafficking and drug abuse. The movie has three different
simultaneous plots that come together. One part is the national level which deals
with drug trade between the Unites States of America and Mexico, another is a mid-ground
focusing on a mid-level distributor who has just been arrested and the third is
the individual level.
first plot of the movie takes place in Mexico where two police officers arrest smugglers
in a truck full of cocaine and end up impressing a high level official General
Salazar. He later asks help of one the officers, Javier to capture a hitman,
Francisco Flores who works for the Tijuana drug cartel lead by the Obregon
brothers whom he was trying to take down. Javier succeeds. He later hears
Francisco being tortured for information about the key members of the Tijuana
cartel. They are later arrested and Salazar is name the drug czar of Mexico. Later
Javier learn that Salazar himself is working for a rival drug cartel, the
Juarez cartel which is why he wanted to Tijuana cartel out of Mexico. Javier’s
partner Manolo is later murdered by drug lords for informing the U.S Drug
Enforcement Administration. Javier then cuts a deal with the FBI and passes on
insider information on the Juarez cartel in exchange for electricity in his
neighbourhood for children to play at night instead of getting themselves into
is assassinated for selling out the Obregon brothers. Salazar is exposed,
tortured and killed.
second plot alternates between Washington DC and Cincinnati. An Ohio judge
Wakefield is appointed drug czar of the US. However, his sixteen-year-old
daughter Caroline is a drug addict. Wakefield is determined to win the war
against drugs. She is arrested when along with others, she dumps an overdosed
class mate outside a hospital. Her drug abuse spirals out of control leading
her to stealing and prostitution. She runs away from a rehabilitation centre to
end up with her drug dealer. Wakefield and his wife blame each other for the
problem. Wakefield taunts his wife about her teenage drug abuse and she blames
him for being over invested in his work. Wakefield later quits his job to
support his family.
third plot set in San Diego, where a mid level drug distributor is under
federal investigation. Montel and Ray, DEA investigators are collecting
evidence against Carlos Ayala, who distributes drugs for the Obregon brothers. They
arrest Eduardo Ruiz who worked for Ayala and convince him to testify against
Ayala. Helen, Ayala’s wife who came from a poor background and married rich had
no idea about her husband’s work. When she learns where their money came from
she hires Francisco Flores to murder Ruiz, the chief witness in the
investigation. When Ruiz escapes Francesco, she poisons Ruiz. She cuts a deal
with the Obregon brothers to make her the sole distributor of their cocaine in
the US. Ruiz is killed. Ayala is released and they go back to their life. The movie
ends with Montel coming into their home and starting a fight as a cover to bug
Carlos Ayala’s work desk. This shows that their might be some hope for the government
to win against the drug lords.
main themes in the movie are drug culture, military corruption, police
corruption, conformity, crime and deviance.
main question we need to ask is why do the above mentioned themes occur?
break it down; people commit crimes for various reasons. It can either be for
the survival of the self or out of greed and to make money. Survival of the
self can also be broken down into a number of categories. It could either be
physically or emotionally.
speaking about anomie developed by Emile Durkheim, he stated that it was the
breakdown of social standards necessary for regulation of behaviour. When a
social system is in a state of anomie, common pre conceived values are no longer
existent and new values have not developed. In such a society, many members
feel despair and lack purpose. For example, if an individual was forced to
produce a particular entity but lacked means to do so, he or she would enter
into a state of emotional frustration leading them to consider all options
including crime. Caroline from the movie is an example of anomie. She, however
does not lack any physical resources. She is given everything from money to a
good home to a great education. She has good grades, is involved in multiple
extra curricular activities and comes across as the model student. However, she
lacks her parent’s love and attention and feels cut off from society. She is
lost. Her achievements to purposeless to her and thus, drugs to her seem like
her only escape.
theory is the Strain theory, which in criminology and sociology states that
social structures in society puts pressure on individuals to commit crime. As mentioned
earlier, individuals seek to acquire power. However, those individuals who are
not born into it and have no other means to acquire it, particularly members of
lower classes end up resorting to crime to acquire it.
part of the General Strain theory which states that a major motivation for
crime is negative treatment by others. For example, revenge. Strain leads to frustration
and anger which turns into revenge. An example of this would be Carlos Ayala
who finds out that his friend had plans to take over his wife and business once
he was imprisoned and has him killed. Not every mistreated person responds with
crime but it is a factor.
puts pressure on individuals to achieve particular social goals which may lead
to crime. An example of this can come from the movie “Simran” where a socially out of place girl coming from a poor
Gujarati family background wishes to own her own home in Atlanta where she
lives with her family. She works hard but gets rejected for a bank loan and
gets addicted gambling when visiting Las Vegas with her cousin. She wins 2000
dollars in a stream of beginner’s luck. She found a man attractive but was
rejected due to her looks. She spends all the money to look nice in expensive clothes
and gets a makeover. The man later pays attention to her.
experiencing financial problems, the gambling gives her a new sense of
achievement as does the money. However, she ends up losing all her savings and
is unable to buy her house. She goes back to try and win her money back and
ends up taking a loan from a dangerous loan shark which she also loses. In a
haste to be able to pay back the money she robs a number of banks and later
with that income of cash makes bigger heists. However, the main reason she ends
up in this lurch was because of her desire to live up to societal standards as
well as to have enough money to take care of herself and her family. She also
receives only discouraging words from her family and is also subjected to her
parents’ marital problems. All in all, she lacks emotional support and gets
sucked into crime.
it is society which puts a large amount of pressure on individuals to live up
to particular standards and if they are unable to do so or find it difficult,
resort to other means.