There is a photo of my older brother on the shelf behind my desk. It has been taken in a hospital. There is a handle hanging by the side of his head so that he can pull himself up. My brother is standing (or is he sitting on the bed?). He is smiling because he is holding his newborn daughter in his arms.

The father has a proud gaze, which I recognize in myself. The small baby lies safely tucked under his right armpit, meticulously wrapped in a white terrycloth hand towel. I can make out some of the caption on the black T-shirt my brother is wearing: Frankie Says Relax.

Exactly why Frankie from the pop group Frankie Goes to Hollywood said ‘relax,’ I don’t know. But I have often thought about whether the message was more one of resignation or resistance. I have looked at the message on this shirt as if it was some kind of meaningful sign, no doubt because my brother died barely two years after this photo was taken.

A writer must say ‘yes’ to life, to all forms of life. The writer is loyal to that which happens, because the moment is important. Each moment is filled with life.

I accept that things are how they are now. My brother died at age 26 as a result of an overdose. In the last photo I have of him, the caption on his T-shirt says “Relax.” This is not resignation. On the contrary, it is a rallying cry against the moral decline of our times. There is a strong resistance in relaxing—or doing nothing—in a society that rushes thoughtlessly and often without any meaningful direction.

Why did my brother die?

It’s been many years now since my brother died. Since then, I have thought a lot about life and death, especially about the fact that some people die before their time.

There is no doubt this does not happen as part of some great cosmic connection, but it does nevertheless feel as if some people die too soon. In this mistrust of life itself, there is perhaps a concealed appeal to relax into complete resignation. In any case, there is a wish to understand what it was that killed my brother.

I have never asked why my brother died. The answer is almost too obvious. He died because he wished to take some heroin that unfortunately had been mixed with rat poison; which, because of some random biker war or another, led to a drop in supply that could not match the demand. My brother was not the only person to die during that period of time. The police told me that two or three heroin addicts died for the same financial reasons.

Instead of asking why, I chose to punish the guilty with words. Restore the balance between life and death. Words can bring my mind back and forth; to deduce and abduct, as if I were a cross between one of Umberto Eco’s monks and a pipe-smoking detective from London.

My brother died because the product he ingested was, and still is, illegal. Just like cocaine, speed, amphetamines and ecstasy, heroin is a prohibited substance. It is a crime to use it.

It is not prohibited because it can make some people sick or dependent on it. If that were the case, then chocolate, beer and marshmallows would also be illegal. I have seen an adult vomit after having eaten an entire bag of marshmallows, after which she drank a Coke.

No, narcotics are prohibited because some rich backers don’t want to spoil the balance—the only balance that they know—namely that between supply and demand. The drug backers do not consider the balance between life and death, only the mass of all the money that they weigh rather than count.

Supply and demand are what killed my brother.

The fence is the same as the thief

Economy is about the distribution of scarce resources. One way of making something scarce and exclusive is by raising the price. One gram of cocaine costs one unit to manufacture, but can be sold for the price of seven to eight units. That’s good business.

Many people in the U.S. and Europe are willing to pay a high price for various narcotic drugs, because these give them the feeling of possessing some extra gear—a bit like the elite cyclists (or other athletes) who take performance-enhancing drugs, which gives them an extra gear. They can make it up the slopes faster, but not down, as descents are about courage and technique.

Narcotic drugs are also expensive because so much cash is needed to pay protection money to protect one’s interests. Police, politicians, bankers and customs officials need to be paid so that production and distribution can be kept both hidden and well-oiled. Those who manufacture and distribute the drugs must also protect themselves against the competition, and that kind of security is expensive, as it requires weaponry and many soldiers.

At the time when my brother was still alive, I learned at school that the fence is just the same as the thief. This was my first introduction to morality’s basic values. If you don’t want anyone to steal from you, then don’t make it attractive to be a thief; for example, by buying the kind of products that a thief would steal.

For instance, the other day, while I was waiting in my mother-in-law’s fishmongers next to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, a guy came in with a Burberry jacket that reminded me of something that Albert Camus would have worn, and thus also something that I would wear myself. He wanted to sell the coat to me, and despite the fact that I will no doubt never be able to afford a cotton coat from Burberry, I politely declined. It was stolen.

Money or bullets

I write this because the last time I was in Copenhagen, I chatted a bit with one of Vesterbro’s hipsters, as he sat and rubbed a bit of tofu out of his ample beard. He was saying how he sometimes snorted a couple of lines. “You know, only on the weekend.”

He said, “I didn’t shoot anyone.” But that’s not entirely correct. He has. And so has everyone who has taken narcotic drugs at some point or another.

I told him about the fence and the thief, about Pablo Escobar, El Chapo and all the other drug barons and drug cartels that had made life hell for so many people in Latin America. He said, “I didn’t shoot anyone.” But that’s not entirely correct. He has. And so has everyone who has taken narcotic drugs at some point or another.

In order to buy a gram of cocaine in Copenhagen, there has to be someone who has introduced the product illegally into Denmark. There is undoubtedly a police officer who did not return home to his pregnant wife someplace in Mexico; there is no doubt a handful of women who have been raped and then murdered; there is undoubtedly a body somewhere that has been dissolved in an acid bath. All that, so a privileged citizen in Denmark can get some extra gear for their weekend’s excesses.

There are probably not that many people who think about this as they’re kneeling down with their credit card in their hand to arrange a couple of hefty lines on the toilet seat. On the contrary, these privileged drug addicts laugh as they paraphrase Pablo Escobar, when they talk about plata o plomo, money or bullets. It makes good entertainment. When other people die.

Legalize narcotic drugs

The world looks as it does because we live as we do.  Everything is connected.

The best solution is the legalization of narcotic drugs. This would mean more effective control of the use of narcotics, and the backers would no longer be able to speculate in supply and demand.

It is simply a question of wanting to. Today, we love to criminalize all kinds of social problems, of which drug addiction is just one—society’s problem—for those who cannot survive in capitalism’s growth paradigm. There is a tendency to individualize all problems, as if the systematic malfunction of current neoliberalism has nothing to do with it.

Many studies show that drug addiction is often caused by society’s problems, and is not the reason for them, just as all the anti-drug policies often cause more harm than the drugs themselves. Why? Because criminalizing drug policy marginalizes poor, undereducated and (at least in the U.S.) often African-American people.

To actually solve the problem of drug abuse, a society ought to focus more on education, employment, discrimination, racism and alleviating general life anxieties and loneliness.

We should also not forget all the privileged users. What about all those people who take drugs so they can keep up? To live up to the achievement ideals? Is that smart girl in Copenhagen, who practices Yoga and is a vegetarian, but who occasionally takes drugs because she wants to get a bit more out of her day, aware that she is just as morally responsible as the drug cartels for the violence, fear and death that always follows in the wake of narcotics?

No, because she believes she does nothing wrong. There is a widespread resistance to looking reality in the eye.

Frankie said “Relax.” And I have done just that for 20 years, but now I have realized that everyone who takes narcotics killed my brother. Including me. I am not innocent, but I have learned to take responsibility.

In how many other places in society have we forgotten that the fence is the same as the thief?

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