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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Addicts in America

Some nights ago I sat in an emergency room while a 19-year-old heroin addict was brought in. It was after midnight, the witching hour, on a weekend when the zombies and ghosts of the city's party circuit begin drifting in dressed in their best clothes, escorted by police officers, clutching bloodied rags to their faces or lying on stretchers and always at their articulate best.

The girl came from a wealthy background and was articulate enough to hurriedly assemble her story. An addict since her teenage years, she had been clean for a while and never used anything but heroin, except occasionally cocaine. The drug use was just a single slip, one mistake, and then she would be clean again.

Anyone who hasn't worked with addicts doesn't know how charming and persuasive they can be. The addict is the distilled ego focused on a single burning need. All the cleverness and intelligence of the human being, the attributes that we would ordinarily use to work, create, befriend and empathize, become tools for protecting the addiction and the supply.

Addicts are intense because they are among the few people in this world who know exactly what they want. They can be charming, but their routines are mechanical. They retain only enough of their humanity to charm us into giving them more of what they want. It is their only reason for interacting with us. The addict is pure ego and the drug is the only focus of their ego. The addict needs so badly that he or she becomes an incarnation of need. Their humanity is slowly or rapidly burned away leaving behind nothing but the animal need, their outer characteristics consumed by their ego and then their ego consumed by the id.

The girl was no friend or family member of mine. I had seen many like her and as our civilization unwinds into its own night of the soul, there will be many more like her. Having all the advantages of life, she was desperately unhappy and like so much of the modern world that tunes in to Oprah for tips on how to be happy, that browses self-help sections on a desperate quest for happiness, she was still trying to be happy. Her cry was the cry of a country addicted to emptiness and losing its soul.

I do not come to judge or to moralize about how people live their lives. Even the best of us are flawed and even the worst of us have their moments of redemption. Many are addicts of one kind or another, becoming tethered to the thing that assures us happiness, even as it seems to drain us of something vital. Many such addictions can be harmless, but when an addiction becomes unsustainable, then it becomes a death sentence. A death of the soul followed by the death of the body.

While I sat there, trying to ignore the noises, the shrieks of pain, the pleas for help and the mumbles, the Republican Convention was beginning to recede. My fingers tapped out the essay on a 3'5 inch screen that would become, "How to Write About the Republican Convention." Ahead of me lay the Democratic Convention, the addicts convention, the festival of that corner of America that was not so slowly losing its soul.

I did not, I could not anticipate the full insane spectacle of it at the time. No one could have. But I sensed that it would sound a lot like the heroin addict in the bed, shrieking at her parents, changing emotional pitches in a moment from hysteria to sweetness, turning on the momentary charm with the nurses, innocently assuring the staff that she was not a user. And it did. It was a lunatic addict festival with designs by LSD and math by cocaine addicts fresh from Wall Street and social programs from potheads.

All that outrage over Mitt Romney's 47 percent hits home because we are all users. Some of that usage is more legitimate. Some of us are using money that we put in there as insurance and some of us are using money that we didn't. But that's not the real story. The real story is that our social safety net was supposed to be like one of those, "Take a Penny, Leave a Penny" tills that depend on the honor and neighborliness of a community. And we don't have that community. What we have is a fragmented mess of givers and takers who are not the same people.

This isn't about wealth or class. Some of the wealthiest men in this country, like Warren Buffett, are parasites who feed off taxpayer money. Some of the poorest men and women work hard for a living and put back more than they take out.

It's not entirely about race, though partly it is because the black community and some other minority groups, have become addicted to something more toxic than heroin or cocaine, and they feel entitled to take and take because some of their ancestors were once slaves and because there was once segregation in the South and because they feel certain that white people look down on them. It's not about gender, though the collapse of the family has put more of the burden on women and tried to fill that gap with social services.

It's about community. It's about who we are as a country. It's about the America of the people who feel ashamed when they aren't doing their best to work and the America of the people who feel ashamed when they don't take the system for every penny they can. It's about who feels that they owe and who feels that they are owed.

The left talks about community a great deal, but their vision of community is a giant till where everyone is forced to put their money and their bureaucracy decides how many people get to keep what percent of their money and how many get to keep other people's money. There is none of the individual responsibility that makes a community work, only the obligation to follow orders all the time for the greater good. There is no community, only ranks of addicts waiting to be taken care of.

The essence of a community is that its individual members feel a sense of responsibility toward one another. Without that sense of responsibility, we all become takers, tuning in to listen to the latest government announcement to learn how much we can expert to make and how much we will lose. We become experts at wheedling government officials, we all become lobbyists and a lobbyist is a paid representative for someone else's addiction.

It is the ego that defines the addict, that terrible sense of need that becomes the mirror of the self, and for all the talk of community, it is that need and that accompanying fear that the need will be cut off, that defined the Democratic National Convention, with its special pitches to the most addicted groups, promising that unlike the Republicans, we will never cut off your supply. At least not until we start running low and all the apartments of the people with money are broken into and then we'll have to start deciding who gets the good stuff and who gets a death panel.

Liberalism has defined entire groups by their need, their addiction to the supply of government, and taught them to feel an angry entitlement to their welfare checks. It has taught them that they are good people for wanting to take other people's money and that anyone who doesn't want to give them what they want is a bad person. This is addict moralizing, the spectrum of moral behavior in which the only thing that exists is the need and the barriers to meeting that need.

Addiction goes by different names now. Racism is one of them, but there are many names and they all mean the same thing. "I want," the koan of addiction, the incantation that becomes the identity of the addict as the one who needs. "I scream, you scream, we all scream for more, more and more." The rhetoric, the talk of privilege, the academic papers, are only the complex rationalizations of addicts, their mechanical arguments for doing what they want and taking what they want.

This kind of addiction is unsustainable. It is personally unsustainable, it is communally unsustainable and it is nationally unsustainable. A nation where takers begin to outnumber givers cannot endure. It has no future and barely has a present. A nation run by a 'former' cocaine user who is forever tossing out schemes for fixing everything that have all the substance of an addicts' plans to get clean is in deep trouble.

Addicts do not get by on results, they get by on personal charm and schemes. They get by on tricking people into meeting their needs. And that convinces them that, like all criminals, they are very clever. The more suckers they lure in, the more convinced they become that they are unstoppable, that they will go on flying forever beyond the sunset on their drug of choice.

Money is our current drug of choice and like all drugs it appears infinite. We are buying our own debt and selling it back to ourselves and lending ourselves the money to buy our own debt in a spiral that seems beautiful and sensible to an addict, but is a complete disaster to anyone still functioning in the real world.

Obama's solution to all problems is to shoot up more money. Billions, trillions, it doesn't matter because the money is unreal and therefore infinite. It works because we believe in it and he's in office because he convinced people to believe in him. To him, money, like his persona, is an act of faith and all he has to do is convince everyone to go on believing. And if we ever stop believing, then like a certain coyote with his own improbable schemes, we will crash down to the ground.

The addict seeks the unreal state because it makes him happy. It is the real world that depresses him. Enough Americans chose to shoot up Obama and a smaller number are still committed to their hope drug because he makes them happy. And fooling them makes Obama happy. All the money is just a counter that everyone trades back and forth in exchange for happiness. Trillion dollar deficits are how we know we're getting high.

The addict cannot cope with the knowledge that the unreal world he has built for his own pleasure is finite. He lashes out violently and angrily at the intrusion of the real world into his sphere, he tries to keep the lie going a little longer, manipulating those around him while inside him the growing frantic sense that the whole thing is about to collapse builds and builds. He rationalizes and makes excuses and promises to fix everything if he can just get the money to pay for what he owes and one last hit. Just one last hit.

America can have a social safety net, but it has to be one based on the responsibility that we all feel toward one another, not on empty cynical rhetoric about "giving back" to people who feel no sense of responsibility for anyone outside their own group. That's just a nation of enablers propping up a nation of addicts until the addicts outnumber them and the country collapses into one big Detroit. It cannot be based on the empty promises and lies, that sound no different whether they are coming from Obama or a 19-year-old heroin addict. It cannot be based on charm or ignorance of the truth.

Whatever social safety net we have must be communal, it must be open and transparent, and it can only be maintained by a nation of honorable people, by people who feel guilty about taking a penny and feel good about leaving a penny. Anything else is just one more hit.

36 comments:

Roadmaster said...

We're outnumbered by "addicts" in my neighborhood. Some were already useless piles of human debris 4 years ago but most were not, and have only come to their present station in life through no fault of their own. Regardless, they're all on the take now and looking for more. I have talked to a few of them who realize what the primary factor in their decline - dhimmicrats - and they don't plan to vote for any this cycle, so that's good.

That's my "hope" for the day.

Jackson said...

This is the best single column you have ever written, and you have written many great columns. Congratulations. Thanks. Well done. This will be sent to everyone I know several times between now and election day, it says what needs to be said.

S Richard said...

What kind of safety net do you imagine? Libertarians have mentioned the plans offered by fraternal organizations before the New Deal brought in Social Security, but it's hard to imagine private insurance companies paying on disability claims or annuities for as long as people live today.

Keliata said...

I have to agree with everything Jackson wrote about this column. It is without a doubt your best article, and I've read your blog for years.

Brilliant from start to finish.

john darcy said...

Yet another in a long line of magnificently written essays. How can someone read this powerhouse, and not be enlightened?

Anonymous said...

Frightening in your accuracy and insight. Amazingly frightening - not just the Democrat Convention and what drives Obama, but what can Romney really do?

Not much is my response - radical surgery for a radical cure. Our return from the brink of extinction promises to be even more painful than our possible demise.

Yet, let us rest assured, the Obamabots will be harping in the background; whispering in our ear, if only...if only... This inner voice is the real enemy of the addict. Perhaps severe heartache can cleanse our country from it's foolishness.

meema said...

Is it better to be an addict, completely unaware of imminent desolation, focused only on the drive to satisfy a momentary need, or one who is able to see the destructive forces in play, utterly helpless to do anything other than be a witness? If I had to choose, I’d still rather be the later.

I wonder, do you suppose there were any good thinkers left to ponder the demise of Rome as it declined toward the day it fell to the Visigoths?

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and yet chilling article. You have synthesized the random thoughts and ideas floating around in my head as I take in the latest reported "plans" and "fixes" to our economic woes and then look to see the reality that exists. Ordinary people with good sense and a vision of their place in the world can follow the dots and know that it is simply impossible for those that actually contribute through taxes, government fees, volunteering and charity to give enough to sustain the takers that our government continues to introduce to the equation. How did we get here and how do we get out of here? That is an answer I don't have but I know it will be a painful process.

Anonymous said...

Your commentary explains why Michelle obongo has to continually bring up slavery and all hardships on minorities. This is to justify the jizya/tax on Whites regardless of real justice or really who is to blame for perceived wrongs. I personally blame islam. Lars

Anonymous said...

If the republicans were smart they would say that the drug war is a lost cause and work to decriminalize the federal sentence on drug possession. Get the government out what people do with their bodies. Aren't the neo- cons always preaching about small government. Gary Johnson 2012!

Matt Strictland said...

Very well written and as someone who has been around junkies , you "get" them better than anyone I have read in a long time .

I have to quibble on a point.

A Conservative Society cannot be Economically Liberal as like Social Liberalism such constructions are inherently unstable.

The current fragmentation of society is a much though not entirely a result of industrial civilization, the business class and its disdain for the social good.

The quest for more profits as the only good (money addiction) created a backlash in the form of redistribution and liberalism.

To build social capital people need to be able to stay in one place if they wish live, work, play and die there for generations preferably with not too many newcomers.

For their part businesses need to be balanced between individual gain and the common good. few manage this but its possible.

Fail to do this and you grow the State. State falls apart, we'll future America will not be pleasant.

Tim Taylor said...

Genius. Pure genius. Elegantly articulated and well considered. Count me as a fan.

Tim Taylor said...

Genius. Pure genius. Elegantly articulated and well considered. Count me as a fan.

Expat said...

>>Warren Buffett, are parasites who feed off taxpayer money.

How did Buffett 'feed off taxpayer money'?

American Genie said...

Another masterful piece, Daniel. Thank you.

Without going into great detail I will say that my situation is quite iffy right now with relatives pressuring me to sign up for this or that entitlement program, and not one of them understanding that I have no intention of doing so because it is not the government's job to take care of me. I will not become a ward of the government.

Your essay has given me a new resolve to stay clear of the pushers and enablers.

LP said...

'Parasite'. .
Buffet gives half his income to charity.
Can most people say that?

Bilejones said...

"America can have a social safety net, but it has to be one based on the responsibility that we all feel toward one another"

And that's the reason why the most successful countries with social safety nets are the least diverse.

Sweden, for example has (the last time I looked) a population of over 90% native Swede's with the swarthy Finn being the largest contingent of foreigner.

marekf said...

Daniel,
Other than the Buffet remark (could you please justify it)the article just fully resonates with my thinking and feeling.

Anonymous said...

Expat - Buffet got bailed out by Bush and Obama.

Anonymous said...

Well we can place a lot of the blame on Liberalism and morons elected into public office. For too long we have listened to the bleeding hearts and failed to see that illegal drugs are being used to destroy this country. Every "bag of weed" sold is helping to sponsor Mexican Narco Terrorism, ecery shot of heroin, that helps to fund al-Queda and other groups.

Wayne C Anderson said...

Great article, Daniel. Thanks. It is overwhelming to think that so many of us have been asleep and let the our leadership in this nation pull off this plan to get so much of the population "addicted." My question is, are we awake enough now - soon enough - to turn this boat in the right direction without tossing everything and everyone overboard? I notice that more are coming awake with each day, out of the stupor that we've been in. I have hope - just not Obama's kind... Again, thanks.

expat said...

Bilejones, according to wikpedia "As of 2011, Statistics Sweden reported that around 19.6% or 1.858.000 inhabitants of Sweden had foreign background, defined as born abroad or born in Sweden by two parents born abroad."

While Sweden is doing well in many areas, it does have its problems some of which spell trouble in the near future, like a youth unemployment rate of 25%

To Anonymous and whoever wants to jump in about Buffet - I have no axe to grind here. I'd just like to know the justification, the facts, for saying he fed off of taxpayer money. Something more specific than "was bailed out". I'm asking because I don't know.

cdnbn said...

As a recovering addict, I recognize the dynamics of the condition.

Traditionally, it is understood that the addict needs to "hit bottom", and realize the runaway train they are on, and the reality of the death that will ensue if they continue.
Often, they need to really experience almost dying in order for the reality to break in on them.

And then, to re-establish themselves on a spiritual basis, acknowledging and trying to work with G-d.

Maybe Hashem is bringing us to the brink, because that is what we need.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

http://reason.com/archives/2012/02/09/warren-buffett-baptist-and-bootlegger/1

Buffett needed the TARP bailout more than most. In all, Berkshire Hathaway firms received $95 billion in TARP money. Berkshire held stock in Wells Fargo, Bank of America, American Express, and Goldman Sachs, which received not only TARP money but also Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) backing for their debt, worth a total of $130 billion. All told, TARP-assisted companies constituted a whopping 30 percent of Buffett’s publicly disclosed stock portfolio. The folksy outsider with his home-spun investment wisdom, the Houston Chronicle concluded in an April 2009 investigative piece, was “one of the top beneficiaries of the banking bailout.”

In the fall of 2010, Buffet wrote a “Thank You, Uncle Sam” op-ed piece in The New York Times, praising the role that the government played in stabilizing markets throughout the crisis. There was no disclaimer or disclosure of how much he personally gained from TARP or the Public-Private Investment Program. He simply endorsed both as good public policy. At the bottom of the article he was identified this way: “Warren E. Buffett is the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, a diversified holding company.”

Again, to be clear, even though Buffett was the one who proposed the public-private partnership, there is absolutely nothing illegal about lobbying for a policy while investing in the companies that stand to gain most if that policy is adopted. But consider this: Had Buffett instead pushed a private investment house to make an acquisition that would benefit certain stocks while quietly buying shares in those same stocks, he would have been vulnerable to charges of insider trading.

Indeed, this is what his lieutenant David Sokol was accused of doing in 2010, landing him in legal hot water. Sokol, who resigned amidst insider trading accusations, apparently bought shares in Lubrizol, a chemical company, and then encouraged his employer, Berkshire Hathaway, to buy a large stake in the company, thereby driving up the price of the stock. All Buffett did differently was use the federal government instead of a private company to boost the fortunes of certain stocks. This is why crony capitalism is so perennially attractive to financiers: It’s legal, and it’s often more remunerative than the illegal private-sector version might be. Because government officials are dealing with other people’s money, they are less likely than a private firm to drive a hard bargain.

Expat said...

Daniel, Thank you for the detailed reply.

Jeanbean14 said...

Fantastic essay! First one I've read, but I'll be back for more!

I'd forward this to my friends and family, but they seem to be too in love with Obama to absorb any truth about him and his "dreams."

Maybe I'll forward it anyway....

Thanks for an excellent read!!! Blew me away!

Anonymous said...

I've read alot of articles and opinion columns today. Yours was the most meaningful one. Excellent writing and analysis of our worsening human condition. God help us all.

cdnbn said...

Another factor in addiction recovery is the central importance of changing to live with an orientation to SERVE others, and abandoning the selfish, self-centered (entitled?) orientation which is at the core of the addicted life.

Certainly could see that pertaining to the national situation.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. As usual you have far more insight into, well, just about everything, than most of us.

But I am curious. What were you doing in the ER? Do you work there, or were you accompanying a family member, or were you having a heart attack (I sincerely hope not), or what?

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

I was there with a family member.

marekf said...

Daniel,
Thanks for the detailed reply about Buffet.

Bilejones said...

expat said...

I'd not seen that 2011 report. they must have had a flood on immigrants in the past decade. I looked at it ten years ago as my wife (of Swedish origin) was doing some primitive genealogy. If those numbers are correct I predict great trouble for the Swedish economic model on the next ten to twenty years.
I'm being visitated by a trio of Swedes at the end of October, I'll raise the topic after a couple of sherbets, you get a more accurate reading then.

As for Buffett, This is a bit of a crude rant but largely factually correct

http://www.zimbio.com/Warren+Buffett/articles/0V_YGpq38cp/Bailouts+Billionaires+Warren+Buffett+Portrait

Bilejones said...

Look at this chart:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Invandrare_utvandrare_Sverige_1850-2007.svg

How to change the population of a country.

Immigration almost doubled up 50,000 a year (in a country of less than 10 mill.)

Emigration up by 25%

The Swedes seemed to have reconciled the irreconcilable for several decades.

No more

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece.

I am 28 years in recovery through the Grace of God and the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and as to recovery from addiction I speak only from my own experience, nothing to do with AA.

If there were a hypothetical composite American today, I would say he/she is addicted to the "Free stuff". All the pushers in the Oval Office, on "K" Street and in my community will tell me that we can tax and spend our way out of this. As you put it so well,"...just one more hit..."

They are peeing on our heads and telling us it is rain.

I would separate the disease of addiction from the addict, because the you-name-the-drug is in charge of the person when it's being used. So, the Primary relationship the addict has is not with his/her children, spouse, family, community or nation. It is, first and foremost with the drug. Let's call it free money here.

As with the other addictive substances, nationally in this case, the cycle of use needs to be broken. We need to stop putting the s**t in our systems completely.

This is not to say that all social help programs stop. No, some are healthy. Thepeople who benefit from these are like "normal drinkers", they don't abuse, lie cheat,steal and charm to get more or to remain in line for benefits. They walk away from it and get on with their lives.

No attempt to ceasethis abuse will work until and unless the addict has hit bottom, realizes that life as he/she knows it will never be the same should the abuse continue.

Without that "surrender" to reality, personally or nationally, the addict will craft escapes from reality and soon die of the addictive disease.

This is called choosing life over death.

Anonymous said...

People who smoke weed are not addicts. Marijuana is NOT addictive. Someone who tells you otherwise has no clue what they are talking about or they rare just out and out LYING.

Jeremy Janson said...

"The essence of a community is that its individual members feel a sense of responsibility toward one another. Without that sense of responsibility, we all become takers, tuning in to listen to the latest government announcement to learn how much we can expert to make and how much we will lose." No that defines genuine individualism with duty and honor, but duty and honor have been dirty words since World War I. Individualistic societies are in decay because the more romantic aspect of what it means to be an individual has been lost. There was a really great recruiting poster from World War I in Britain that simply showed "Surely you will fight for" and then a picture of Britain, an "and", and a picture of the monarch at that time. Collectivist societies can survive on pure cold-blooded reason, like the serial killers that they frequently become, but individualistic societies must have feeling or they are nothing.

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