I’ve been reviewing some of my archived newsletter content and came across this paragraph I included in my old “Metaphors for Life” column back in 2009. This one bears repeating. Knowing the truth, or backstory, instead of taking something at face value is always a good idea before opening your mouth to speak, particularly when doing so could inadvertently create damage when none is deserved.
The Media Mantra on Coca
Several weeks ago while driving into town I was listening to NPR. A BBC correspondent who had been in Bolivia was being interviewed about the political situation there. During the course of the program, he made a side comment that he’d had a problem with altitude sickness. Then in a sneering tone said something to the effect, “You know what they did for it? Brought me coca tea. You know what they use that for!”
The reporter had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, but merely passed on propaganda. If he had bothered to find out what coca is really about, he’d have discovered it’s largely the spiritual and nutritional mainstay of the Quechua culture. Coca in its natural form is not a drug. Nor do they use it as such, but instead in sacred ceremonies and as a food source. The black market for coca, for purposes of processing into cocaine, is only sustained through demand from the USA and Europe. Take care of the issue at home and the black market trade virtually disappears.
By making the statement he did, especially on NPR, the reporter helped spread an assumption that the Quechua people who chew coca must be addicts. Out of ignorance, people often pick up a carefully manufactured mantra meant to further a misguided cause, parrot the message and create more damage.