I have been watching the Netflix series Narcos over the past little while. It is a partly true, partly fictional account of the drug wars in Colombia in the 80s, focusing primarily on a group of American Drug Enforcement Agency agents and the richest criminal ever - Pablo Escobar, a kingpin of the cocaine smuggling trade.
It is a sad tale. The characters' individual dramas are mostly just made up but the facts about the thousands of people who died in the drugs wars are not. While the two police officers we saw gunned down were made up, the fact that killers financed by Escobar were randomly killing cops for reward money is absolutely real. The fact that the drug cartels were randomly bombing streetcorners just to terrify the populace into giving in to their demands is real. In a move that truly defies reason, the government actually did let Escobar build his own prison and guard it with guards he hired while he ran his empire from inside... and since he built his own prison it wasn't a prison so much as a resort.
The thing that really gets me is how in that world the government was not the leviathan it is in my life. Sure, you can try to avoid your taxes or yell about how politicians suck but you don't actually *attack* the government - you will get yourself crushed! In Colombia then the drug lords really did fight the government, and in a lot of ways they could be said to have won. It is a completely different world when it is plausible for someone to challenge the total authority of the government and be taken seriously.
I have no sense of what that would be like. How do you live in such a world? Obviously many people do, right now, but watching this show really hammered home just how different that would be from my current way of viewing things. What do you do when someone randomly declares that they are going to murder government officials and then does just that, and then gets away with it?
You have to give Netflix some credit in that they don't portray the government and the US agents as all good people. The American influence is clearly a mess, and the drug war making cocaine both incredibly profitable and only available from criminals is the real source of the problem. The cartels are clearly the worse of the two evils, but both sides commit atrocities and trample on bystanders in an attempt to win their war.
What I can't figure out how to judge is the constant use of anti gay bigotry in the speech of the characters. I am sure that members of the Colombian drug cartels would have used slurs against gay people as their insult of choice, so the 'realism' element checks out, but the writers could have simply used other words. You can call somebody an asshole or a rat bastard and get the same point across. I don't think there is a real need to use that as much as they did, for certain.
They sure live in a world I don't understand... and I am glad of that.