I was not looking for this book but a review caught my attention. I thought it might be an okay book but as I read it, I realized it was one of the best books I have read lately. It begins by describing what it is like to live as a full citizen in a nation. Then it contrasts this with what it is like to live in a colony controlled from a distance and where you do not have citizen rights but rather become a commodity to be used as seen fit by the nation doing the colonizing.
Hayes describes life in colonized places around the world and concludes that there are also colonies in America where residents do not have citizen privileges or at least have them minimized as much as possible. Undue burdens are placed on them to benefit those living in the nation but not the colony. The police are seen as a colonizing force.
People living in these colonies are marginalized, seen as a burden rather than an asset to the larger society and oppressed. They are compressed into what we have called ghettos and pockets of poverty. As much as possible they are hidden from public view and herded into substandard living conditions.
Programs known as war on crime have not produced any substantial decrease in crime, but if anything have increased crime, police violence and a punishment system unmatched elsewhere in the civilized world.
His suggested solution is to help those living in our colonies find a way to develop their skills and make a contribution to society. We need to learn how to listen to them, accept them and help them become part of our nation and become full fledged citizens.
This book is a challenge to all of us to remake our society into one which respects and cares for all its citizens. It will not be easy to undo the damage we have done but it is never too late to start.
So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is the human connection.
The latest approach to dealing with drug abuse in America is touted by Donald Trump as a need to get very tough on drug dealers to the point of executing them. Looking back over the years, the war on drugs has not been very effective. It seems the harder we try, the worse the problem gets. Maybe the problem is the approach we are taking. We are considering it from the supply point of view rather than that of demand.
Look at it this way. If no one wanted or needed illegal drugs, it would not matter how many drugs were available. An interesting thought, but not one many people have considered. What would it take for everyone to lose interest in drugs? We have concentrated on the physically addictive nature of drugs as being the main problem. But what about other addictions which do not involve chemical effects? Consider gambling, food, sex, pornography and video games. All of these have a gripping effect on people’s lives although the bond is psychological rather than chemical.
Johann Hari looked at studies with rats to explore chemical addiction. When the studies were redone with rats under various conditions, it became clear that they became and remained addicted in a state of social isolation. Yet in a stimulating environment most did not become addicted and most of those who became addicted in a deprived environment left their addiction behind when placed in a stimulating environment. He concluded that social deprivation had a great influence on their becoming and staying addicted.
Projects with addicts such as one in Portugal showed that decriminalization of drug abuse and helping the addicted to become socially connected cut the addiction rate in half compared to addicts who were treated like criminals. For more on Hari’s study, see his article in Alternet.
The Foundation for a Drug Free World lists six reasons young people give for taking drugs:
- To fit in
- To escape or relax
- To relieve boredom
- To seem grown up
- To rebel
- To experiment
Many of these likely apply to adults as well. To my mind they also reflect the lack of connection to others suggested by Hari. Blaming people for their drug abuse does not help them change. It only gives them another reason to feel alienated. We have seen the failure of our war on drugs. Intensifying it will not make anything any better in our culture. It’s time to pay attention to the struggles of those in the grip of drugs or at risk for becoming involved. We can help them feel connected as an alternative to being addicted.
On a larger scale, it is clear that our society has been fractured into camps leaving people on both sides feeling at war with each other. Fanning the flames of discord will only intensify our feeling of alienation from each other. It’s time that we learn to listen to each other, find the value in each person and help each other become the best we can be.
It is now 100 years since drugs were first banned—and all through this long century of waging war on drugs, we have been told a story about addiction by our teachers and by our governments. This story is so deeply ingrained in our minds we take it for granted: There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day 21, our bodies would need the chemical. We would have a ferocious craving. We would be addicted. That’s what addiction means.
(Excerpt from Johann Hari’s article in Yes! Magazine- read more)
The war on drugs is a cruel joke. The U.S. spends more than $50 billion a year on the “war on drugs” with the goal of creating a “drug-free society” – yet there has never been a “drug-free society” in the history of civilization. Virtually all of us take drugs every single day. Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, marijuana, Prozac, Ritalin, opiates and nicotine are just some of the substances that Americans use on a regular basis.
(Excerpt from Tony Newman’s post on Drug Policy Alliance website- read more)
Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration, and we all need to assemble around us the people who care about us and support us in times of strife.
Lately I have been discouraged by the fractures I see in society and in our daily relationships. It feels like half of us are on each side of every issue. We tiptoe around people we don’t know well in order to avoid uncomfortable and heated conversations. At times through the course of our history we have been able to look to our government leaders as a source of leadership. Now we see the same divisions among our would-be leaders as we find in our communities.
have been waiting for our leaders to rediscover common sense and the ability to bring us back together. The longer I wait the more frustrated and disillusioned I become. I have been tempted to see the world in which I grew up as gone. Another way of life may be on the horizon although it might not appear in my lifetime. Maybe I have nothing left to contribute.
Then it occurred to me that elected representatives and officials did not appear out of thin air. Everyone elected is in office because some of us voted for them. They are in charge only because we let them be. If we don’t like the direction our community, nation or world is going, it is up to us to change it. If we want our leaders to cooperate with each others for our benefit, it is up to us to learn how to get along with each other and insist with our votes that those we elect do the same.
How do we make this change? We need to start with our own perceptions and feelings. We need to be clear on what we want. We also need to understand what others want. The hard part is to balance the two sets of needs. To do it, we must listen to each other. Criticizing everyone who differs from our ways just leads to more conflict. Learning to understand what others want and finding bridges between us and them is the next step.
I have wondered where to start this process. I discovered one way this morning. I sat in McDonalds, drinking my coffee, eating breakfast and writing in my journal. I noticed the music playing in the background. It consisted of some of my favorite folk ballads from the 1960’s. When I finished breakfast, I told the woman at the register that I would like to register a compliment. I told her how much I enjoyed listening to the music. I could tell that my comment brightened her day and mine as well.
I also visited Aldi’s this morning. I found the store completely rearranged while I was away for the past month. I told the checkout clerk that I liked the new store layout and that it must have been quite a project to make the changes. She also brightened up and we parted both wearing smiles.
These encounters might seem small to you. What if we all looked for ways to compliment each other? Perhaps this might be a start back toward more civilized and mutually supportive communities. Perhaps this would lead to more constructive conversations. Please join me and give it a try.