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Drugs, Rock Music and Developing Countries
Examining the effects of imported rock music on developing countries and its impact on violence and drug abuse is by no means a simple or straightforward task. One important factor is that this type of music overwhelmingly appeals to young people under age 30, and these are often the majority of the population in many developing nations, especially the Middle East and North Africa. To be sure, because of poor social and economic conditions, many of them cannot speak English and are not able to afford imported music or other cultural products. These types of imports most affect urban upper and middle class youth, who are also most likely to use the new Internet, social media and satellite TV technology. They have a great deal in common with their Western counterparts in that they are attracted to the rebellious nature of this musical form, and with the drug use that goes along with it. Among this group, drugs like marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamine will be used socially within peer groups, although only a small number of these could be considered addicts. Other drugs like heroin and crack are more associated with impoverished groups, and with all the usual problems of crime, gang violence, prostitution, and domestic abuse. Rock music is most certainly not the major cause of drug abuse and violence in these societies, which often have severe problems with poverty, unemployment, corruption, lack of education and social services, and political oppression. Indeed, violence, drug abuse and addiction are more symptoms of these social and economic problems than their causes. Furthermore, in repressive regimes in the Middle East and other areas, young people attracted to the rock and heavy metal scene are often the targets of official and unofficial violence by the state and religious authorities. For many youth, then, this type of music offers both an escape from an unbearable reality as well as hope for the possibility of social and political change.
From the perspective of the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the glorification of drug use in music, mass media and popular culture has been a major problem for decades. In the 1988 UN Convention against Illegal Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, there are provisions against "glorifying drug abuse and promoting a drug culture" (Ghodse, 2008, p. 78). Another report from the INCB ten years later criticized "the rapid and growing spread of messages in the environment promoting drug abuse," and recommended that the media should develop voluntary codes of conduct "to promote opinions and attitudes against drug abuse" (Drug Demand Reduction, 1998, p. 5). Parents, schools, community groups and peers all influence attitudes toward drugs, and law enforcement measures to reduce the supply would always be ineffective if education and treatment did not simultaneously reduce demand. At the same time, the INCB called for more regulation of the Internet, but opposed all efforts to liberalize or decriminalize possession of narcotics. Honduras, Venezuela and many other countries in the developing world have laws against inciting drug use through music, films, posters, banners of the Internet, and "by far the greatest influence on many young people in developed countries as well as in some developing countries is the promotion or at least tolerance of recreational drug use and abuse in popular culture, particularly in popular music" (Ghodse, p. 80).
Drug abuse among women in developing countries affects their children and other family members, while they are also victimized by substance abusing husbands, boyfriends and fathers. In developing countries, "poverty seems to contribute to substance abuse, and substance abuse exacerbates poverty." It also leads to legal problems, loss of productivity, and industrial and traffic accidents (Carovino, 1995, p. 153). Women drug abusers are often driven into prostitution to obtain drugs like heroin, crack and methamphetamine, and in some areas up to 80% of them test positive for HIV. One study in Honduras found that the children of women drug abusers were more likely to be homeless and to have problems with substance abuse themselves (Carovino, p. 156). Even so, "the fact remains that many more men than women abuse drugs" in the developing world. Drugs and alcohol are frequently associated with domestic abuse of women and children, usually by men who were "unemployed or had no fixed employment" (Carovino, p. 158). In developing nations, drug addiction "results in explosive social violence" (Nazrul Islam, p. 63). About 4.7% of the world's population age 15 to 64 uses drugs of one kind or another, including 150 million marijuana users, 30 million who use amphetamines and 15 million users of opiates such as heroin. Addiction to opiates is a "catastrophic national problem in Bangladesh, which is close to the Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle where 90% of the world's opiates are produced (Nazrul Islam, p. 65).
In Africa, marijuana and amphetamines are the most common illegal drugs, while heroin, morphine and opiates are in Asia. In developing countries, drug users under age 20 mostly use cannabis and inhalants, but "the highest level of illicit drug consumption is in the 20-44y age groups" (Nazrul Islam, p. 70). Users often feel that "drug use enhances their experience of listening to music that elevates their mood and improves a sense of communication with their peers" (Nazrul Islam, p. 69). Frequently they come from poverty and violent family backgrounds, from which drugs and music offer an escape. Others use drugs because of peer pressure, mental health problems or the general stress of modern life. Political and economic instability in the developing countries along with the breakdown of traditional social orders also contribute to drug abuse. Ecstasy (MDMA) is widely used at discos and rave parties in both the developed and developing world, while there is constant "glamorization of illicit drug use through pop music culture, television and film portrayals" and popular singers in Southeast Asia "use cannabis products as a mood inducer during their performances" (Nazrul Islam. P. 69).
Internationally, the United States is by far the leading exporters of popular culture, including television, films and music. This business is controlled by large, multinational corporations and is worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year, although it also tends to undermine local cultures in many developing nations. By the end of the 20th Century, six large multinational conglomerates controlled 70-80% of all record sales in the world. Of course, cultural imperialism always faced certain limits such as resistance in the developing countries and the fact that their audiences were not necessarily passive consumers. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, local reformers developed their own forms of rock music, often combined with local genres. In addition, "consumption of imported culture is severely restricted to the ruling elites, often hardly touching large sectors of the poorest in society" (Stroud, 2008, p. 92). Pirating of CDs and DVDs is also common in countries like Brazil, China and Turkey, and illegally copied versions of imported music sell for one-fifth the retail price. Pirating also undermines local record producers even more than the multinational giants, though.
In Brazil, only one of the six largest record producers is locally owned and surveys indicate that imported rock and pop music always outsell Brazilian records. Starting in 1986, Rio de Janeiro constructed a small city for its Rock in Rio festival, inviting rock groups from all over the world, especially Britain and the U.S., but also featuring some Brazilian rock groups as well. Like many other developing nations, Brazil has invented new rock forms like samba-rock and samba-reggae in an "unapologetic mixture of local and international styles." Young Brazilians view imported rock and rap music as "symbols of empowerment in their relations with the ruling classes," which is a very common attitude among youth in most developing countries (Stroud, p. 103).
From the 1990s, the explosion in use of the Internet and satellite television has increased access to Western mass media exponentially, including conglomerates controlled by Rupert Murdoch and Time-Warner. Music channels like MTV and VH1 found an audience all over the world and in 1994 young people in authoritarian Singapore protested when the government tried to ban MTV because they regarded local music programs as "unexciting" (Kamalipour and Rampal, 2001, p. 2). Even in extremely repressive countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, where governments openly block Western TV and Internet, people install illegal satellite dishes and Internet connections, and now the developing nations also "experience the sex, violence and drug culture long decried even in the West" (Kamalipour and Rampal, p. 3). In Mumbai in 1994, parents in a high-rise apartment building dumped their TVs out the windows because they were "frustrated with increasing promiscuity among their teenaged children." In Pakistan in 2000, the Taliban even began burning television sets as "satanic" devices (Kamalipour and Rampal, p. 4).
To be sure, sex, drugs, violence and rock music can also be local products rather than simply imports from the United States. Those who oppose globalization as a form of cultural imperialism often fail to…[continue]
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