“The Politics of Qat”
Peer Gatter is the author of The Politics of Qat – The Role of a Drug in Ruling Yemen and he agrees that qat is not a narcotic drug; but he argues that qat is a “potent social drug” that controls life in Yemen. When we discussed civil society last week we discussed qat and how it unintentionally created an arena in which citizens can debate and discuss social and political issues. Gatter acknowledges that qat does promote this, but he also claims that those that wish to abstain from chewing, for whatever reason, fear exclusion and loss of respect. He describes how he watched qat “ravage” regions of Yemen, “changing social customs and society, making traditional leisure pursuits disappear, and diluting values and ethics.” Gatter is challenging the place qat holds in the public atmosphere, almost as if to expose its dirty secrets.
Is qat something that should be romanticized in Yemeni lifestyle? It is a drug and maybe it isn’t addictive (I have no idea) but the lifestyle of chewing qat can become addicting. People can throw their lives away over just the social aspect of chewing. In the United States, marijuana is illegal, however, the main drug in marijuana, THC, is not considered to be addictive. So what about marijuana becomes addictive? The social aspect. Sitting around in your buddy’s basement “ripping the bong” and listening to Pink Floyd and discussing the meaning of life over a pizza, or three. And if marijuana has so many wonderful medicinal components, why is it still illegal? Personally, I believe it should continue to be illegal until it can be properly governed and regulated as if it is abused at a young age, it can become extremely detrimental to one’s mental health. Could the same (on some level) be happening with qat? Gatter argues that qat is the controlling force behind all that Yemen does, and that is not a good thing.