Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

José  Saramago

Isabella  Contessi 

The War on Drugs: The Causes, Goals, and Impact on American Society

José Saramago: Determinism and the Reality of Human Nature

Throughout the history of the United States of America, the public opinion on mind-altering substances, such as drugs, has changed more than almost any other public opinion. As the leading cause of incarceration in the United States, the War on Drugs is a divisive political topic in this country. However, this war was not only a failure in its main goal of diminishing drug use, but also because of its long-lasting negative effects. The War on Drugs was a set of malicious policies by the Nixon administration that targeted and devastated communities of color and other minority groups. Since President Nixon’s administration, this war has wreaked havoc on the mentality of the American people as well as on the prison system and incarceration legislation. These unjust and prejudiced laws perpetuated racism in the United States and left a legacy that is still felt by many today. Until these drugs are made legal in both federal and state levels and the War on Drugs is completely replaced with rehabilitation, harmful prejudice will continue in American policies and laws.

Just as the War on Drugs dehumanized minorities in the United States and led to some people’s ultimate demise, humans face downfalls that come as a result of both internal faults and susceptibility to control by external forces in José Saramago’s novels. Saramago is a Portuguese author who explores relationships, death, religion, and tragedy on a large and small scale. As a determinist, Saramago holds a bleak view of humans and their agency -- or lack thereof -- in the world. His books imply that he does not believe that humans can ever fully control their surroundings, even though they try tirelessly to do so. For example, in Blindness, Saramago’s protagonists become completely unrecognizable as humans when they face a plague that transforms them mentally and physically. They lose that which separates human beings from animals and therefore are not in full control of their own behavior. Ultimately, all of Saramago’s characters experience a realization of this fact, which drives them to suffer a downfall, while also gaining insight into their own human nature.

Major Works Consulted:

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow. New York: New Press, 2012.
Eldredge, Dirk. Ending the War on Drugs: A Solution for America. Bridgehampton, NY: Bridge Works, 1998.
Saramago, José. Blindness. Orlando: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997.
---. The Double. Orlando: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004.
Photo Credit: Skolkin-Smith, Leora. “Jose Saramago.” The Quarterly Conversation.