Libertarianism, Self-Reliance, the Born Again Movement, and Drug Addiction
I had a discussion with a friend about an out of state organization called Delancey Street Foundation. I know someone I would like to see get the benefits of the type of education offered at a place like this.
This is how we learn, by doing, by engaging, by finding the hot spots. This is how we become able to respond to situations of injustice. As such, I am now posting about this discussion.
Today a man collapsed and became unresponsive. His pulse was strong and steady, but real fast. His breathing was real strange, almost like a siezure. Maybe it was a diabetic coma. Maybe it was drug abuse related. Maybe both. I read that drugs and alcohol can bring on such a coma. The man needs continuing care, and he is not getting it. Instead the emergency room will do a bunch of tests, and then march him back out the door.
A man I know, let me call hiim X. He has a long history with drugs, and has spent much time in prison. He is also a convicted sex offender. He was charged and convited of attempted rape of an adult woman, 20 years ago. A couple of days ago he got drunk and did something which could be seen the same way. He got punched in the face.
I listen to him talk and to all the others involved, and it sounds like he just sometimes forgets what he is doing. His crimes seem more acts of idocy than real malice. If he had been rich and if he hired a good lawyer and went into therapy, he could have gotten acquitted. As it was though he refused to testify at trial, so conviction was all but guaranteed. While I don't condone what he has done, I also think it has to be kept in perspective. I mean, you could charge someone with attempting blow up the world. But if he is incapable of it, the charge is not warranted. What this guy does seems triggered by alcohol and drugs. He needs to be in some sort of a structured environment where real issues are dealt with, instead of promoting denial systems.
Everyone agrees that X really is a nice guy and that he seems incapable of real malice. People also agree with me that there are just some wires in this guy which are hooked up wrong. Something is not right under the surface.
But this does not mean his life is worthless. As it stands now he has a GPS locator anklet and his Parole Officer calls him on the phone whenever he gets too close to a liquor store. He lives on the street and though middle aged, probably has very little work experience, except for the time way back when he was cooking methamphetamines and ended up serving 6 years in prison.
His Parole Officer seems to want to keep him out of trouble. Good. His life should not be wasted.
So I learned of an out of state organization which works with parolees and addicts. They don't offer therapy or salvation, they offer education. That is, people learn about the kinds of social conditions which cause poverty and social marginalization. They learn what causes addiction and criminality. They learn what sorts of social conditions cause dysfunctional families and the exploitation of children. They learn about denial based cognitive disorders ( Born Again Christianity ) whch these families run on. I want to expalin this to X so that he might get the idea that there is some other way besides Sin and Salvation vs Self-Reliance, some way that does not make him wrong and his violators right.
If hypothetically he went there he would become part of a communal living arrangment and he would work in their businesses and he would learn. He would come to understand that he is a product of most of these causes and he could then start to become part of the solution.
When he left he would have a record. But for the first time in his life he would have a good record. He would not be expected to take care of himself either. He would be placed in a living situation and an employment situation. I don't think he has had this combination in decades.
So I have another friend Y. Y seems to hold liberal views. He is extremely well read. Like me, he is critical of Born Again Christianity. Y kind of lets everything go. All is okay with him. By most people's standards Y would be considered a drifter, a ne'er do well, as well as a pot head. For myself I don't judge people in these ways. These things only become relevant now because of his own very curious views. I had considered Y a friend. I still would like to try and still see him that way.
So I explained to him about X and the out of town organization and how great that would be if there was something like that here that X could get into it. "They work with ex-cons and addicts? Well what about me, why don't I get that? I've made the choices in my life to avoid serious addictions or a felony record. Why should these people who have not get such a benefit?"
I said, "It sounds like you are arguing for the Self-Reliance Ethic. That's very similar to the Sin and Salvation argument advanced by the Born Again Christians, you are finding addicts are morally defective. You are blaming victims."
So it would seem that Y does not really support a Liberal view, rather he supports a Libertarian view, which amounts to Self-Reliance and social conformity. This is very common amongst white people, especially white males. He started to become indignant. "So you are saying that no one is responsibe, that its always someone else who is responsible?"
"Someone who has been treated with dignity and respect and allowed to develop and apply their abilities is not likely to become a drug addict. I don't agree that people are by nature somehow lazy or slothful. People want to do well. They want to be admired, they want to command respect. They want to engage with real challenges and prevail. They want bragging rights."
"You cannot know that. You are speaking about yourself and acting like it applies to everybody else. Have you ever even done drugs? How could you know?"
"No I have not done drugs because I want to engage with real challenges and I want to prevail. Drugs would not help me. This is not a moral issues, its a practical issue. Deleuze and Guattari write about displacements. That is, make a prohibition, and then make people believe that its needed because they desired that which was prohibited..
1. You shall not deny God. See, this prohibition is necessary because you desired it.
2. Incest is prohibited. See, this prohibition is necessary because you the child desired it.
3. You cannot be lazy. See, this prohibition is necessary because being lazy is what you desire.
All of these are simply ways to subdue people, to make them believe they desire something which they never did. "
"So you don't believe in Free Will, that these people made wrong choices?" His voice was really straining.
"Like I said, I don't think people who had a place in this would be likely to become serious substance addicts. Lots of musicans have been addicted to heroine. To an extent at least, they were still able to function for quite a while. Today many of them are off of it. Those sorts of addiction cases are treated as medical problems, not moral problems. Its only when people become destitute that addiction is treated as a moral problem. I'm not trying to advance a moralistic agenda here about drugs. I really don't care. My concern is with the blaming of the victim and how the Self-Reliance Eithic works. Its based on the presumption that people have some innate disorder which makes them want to be lazy. I do not agree with this. I don't see evidence for it."
"You cannot know this. There are lots and lots of people who are just lazy and just make bad choices. You are saying that every one of them has been abused." He was really getting angry at this point.
"I don't usually talk about it in terms of abuse. I prefere to take a page from Karl Marx and speak of exploitation. Children can be used to legitimate a marriage, to control or appease a spouse, to gain an unstigmatized adult identity, to win the approval of one's own parents, or just to be able to stay in denial. Sure, exploitation is using someone and that is abuse. But by calling it exploitation I'm lowering the bar a great deal from what most people think of. I'm speaking about intent. After all, the Self-Relilance Eithic is first and foremost about keeping up appearances. Children are used for this purpose.
Then after doing such and after tensions and conflicts develop, why of course, the child becomes the scapegoat."
At first he was nodding in agreement here with what I was saying. But then as he started to see the kind of a door I had oppened he got indignant. "It still sounds like you are talking about abuse, and just changing the name. You are saying that every drug addict has been abused. You know that that cannot be true. There are people who have been abused who don't become drug addicts."
"Much of it seems to come down to the presence of an Enlightened Witness, someone who was able to say that what is being done is unequivocally wrong and that our society punishes it. Without that Enlightened Witness, a child dissociates and they will likely stay in denial forever. People will do anything to defend their denial systems."
By this time he was getting irrate. "What about all the people who have not been abused and who are drug addicts?"
"I think if someone is opting to escape, then there must be something in them which has not been redressed, something which they cannot face. I'm not trying to make drugs into a moral issue. I don't see it that way. Rather I don't believe that someone would continue doing something long term which is harmful to themselves unless there was something which they did not see any way to redress, something which they just could not face."
"So what are you going to do about it?"
"I think the explotation and denial has be exposed and there has to be accountability, and that we have to stop blaming the victims by using ideas like Sin and Salvation or Self-Reliance."
"Oh yeah. And you're going to do that? Well ya know what, I don't think you've got the balls for it. You are a radical. Don't talk to me again."
Gabor Mate, Big Heads and Addiction:
about blaming the victims:
Andrew Vachss, Angela Doe case
Andrew Vachss, Fresh Air Fund case and why a child victim must see that the perpetrators are punished
Shari Karney Story