philosofunk

what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin


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Strange Pavement

Green grays and sweet swirl

Sitting on the rooftop in the rain

smelling the clean sweep.

I see the people in their windows living something strange, squawking around

squeaking in their own patterns

every little portal into a universe, tellingly different

Light reveals the water drops

exploding on the pavement

Pop! So quiet. Spread out and slide away, stepped on and absorbed

screamed about and danced in honor of.

Sleepy through the trees.

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Addiction and Moralism

I have a huge secret that is not really a secret. I am an Intervention addict. A&E’s show about drug addicts, their families, and the process designed to save their lives, is one of my favorite shows. Coupled with my love of documentaries and love of any and all forms of pulp inspired media, Intervention is the perfect storm for binge watching sessions, strewn with candy wrappers and empty coffee cups. Since Intervention is making its comeback, I’ve watched a couple episodes and revisited some of my favorite addicts. Clearly, this is a little sick but it seems that a lot of people have a similar interest. My renewed interest in the show coupled with an article The Atlantic ran about the failings of Alcoholics Anonymous got me thinking about the current state of addiction and addiction treatment here in America.

Human beings have experimented with using substances to alter consciousness since the dawn of time. It is a natural, normal human instinct. It is beyond the scope of any man-made laws that human beings will be curious to “get fucked up”. It seems that the most rational and logical approach of any government should be heed this fact of human behavior, and instead of making mind alteration wholesale illegal, govern how and where adults can use substances. Clearly, governments cannot responsibly allow children to experiment with mind altering substances due to their decreased capacity for responsible behavior and the fact that their brains are not fully developed. However, adults can make decisions about what they put in their bodies and live with the consequences.

The status-quo has fully failed at achieving any and all positive effects of regulation of drug use among human beings. Drugs that have been legislated to an illegal status are incredibly easy to get, children are using drugs because of the lack of regulation, and the strength of certain drugs has increased during the time of American narcotic prohibition. The policy of drug prohibition that the United States has ushered in has clearly failed miserably in terms of preventing people from using narcotic substances.

When the United States attempted to make alcohol illegal, it could be reasonably claimed that this was one of the first achievements of American feminism. The temperance movement was motivated in a large way by feminist women who saw the destructive potential of alcohol play out in their daily domestic lives by way of their husbands coming home from a long day’s labor in unregulated and dangerous factories, drinking, and getting violent. Some women looked at this problem and missed that alcohol was a symptom of the problem instead of the illness itself. If the men were paid better, in better conditions, then they probably would drink less because their lives would be less miserable and they would have less to be angry about. However, instead of working for corporate reform, the feminists took to making alcohol their big enemy. Unfortunately, alcohol was successfully made illegal and as a result, the first modern American crime wave of the 1920’s swept up American cities into a blitzkrieg of bullets and booze.

Shortly after this time Alcoholics Anonymous was born. What could be attributed as a divine vision by way of the psychedelic substance Atropa belladonna, one of the world’s most intense and notoriously hard to come by psychedelic drugs, a man named Bill Wilson who was in the throes of an alcoholic pit of distress, came up with Alcoholics Anonymous during a detox in 1934. It is extremely ironic that Wilson came up with an alternative to the pattern of addictive behavior by way of alcohol while under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug, one that was actually being administered experimentally to addicts to cure addiction (this concept is currently being experimented with concerning the drug Ibogaine and it’s capacity to treat heroin addiction, though this is not legal in the United States).  So, a man stoned on one of the most powerful psychedelic substances on Earth came up with the treatment revered by the American medical establishment to treat one of the world’s most mysterious illnesses that involved no scientific study or backing. And we’re surprised that this isn’t completely working to treat alcohol addiction.

Hmm.

A lot of people want to blame addicts and shame them. Americans get off on public humiliation, something we see daily with supermarket tabloids pointing out “Celebrity XYZ’s 394,953 trip to REHAB!!!!!”. We want to say “Look it, look at that, look at that freak who can’t stay sober” and then feel good because we can get through our day sober, miserable as though we might be. This happens all the time, hearing about a certain celebrity having great issue with substance abuse problems. But the problem is a lot less cute when it happens to a friend, or a family member, or even ourselves. Then it becomes, good lord why is this so hard? Why is the treatment offered so inadequate? Why does everyone treat me like a pariah, like I did this to myself, like I asked for this disease?

I have a friend who struggles with substance abuse issues. In his early 20s he used a lot of cocaine. He was an angry, powerful young man with too much pain looking to not feel for as long as the drugs would allow him. After a tragic physical injury, a doctor looked at the state of the condition of his body and concluded that he had “destroyed” his body with cocaine. This doctor told my friend that he was extremely disappointed in him, was disgusted, and would no longer be treating him. He treated my friend, who carried so much emotional pain with him, like human garbage.

There is a psyche within the American mind that addicts are people separate from the rest of us. That by a certain age, a person knows if they are or not an alcoholic and that this is somehow set in stone. This is wholly untrue and a national delusion. Any person can become an addict at any time in their life. This is a fact. It literally can happen to anyone. People think that one has to be around drugs in order to do them, that illegal narcotics must be a facet of your life in order to be an addict. Not true. Prescription pills are now many addicts drug of choice rather than street narcotics. It is very, very easy to become an addict in this society. It is a very, very dangerous tendency then to associate morality with sobriety.

People are suffering due to this. Addicts, their families, their friends, and  their communities are all suffering because of this superiority complex Americans have when it comes to the disease of addiction. Justifying AA as a treatment for alcoholism when it is not based in science is irreparably irresponsible of the medical establishment.

We must start having as much compassion for addicts as we do for cancer victims. We must start taking addiction treatment as seriously as we take heart disease treatment. We must see drug addicts with the same compassion we see AIDS victims with. Unless we stop the sickness of equating morality with sobriety, we’re still going to be stone drunk on our own misguided and misdirected ill informed knowledge about addiction which has clearly harmed our society far more than it has helped it.


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Heroines (1999) Documentary

I *love love love love* documentaries. I could, and have, watch documentaries all day and all night until I pass out from the inability to keep my eyes open. I’ve watched some incredibly amazing ones, some really ridiculous ones, and a few terribly made ones. Why do I love documentaries so much? They are a reflection of a reality lived, a tale about life with points of view and story lines that are neither strictly fact nor fiction, just like life is neither strictly fact or fiction. A story about life and a life lived is different from living life and reality because the camera puts an interpretation to the reality. Anyone who claims that documentaries are objective doesn’t really understand the nature of reality and the stories we tell about ourselves, our lives, and the lives about other people. When a spider webs his web, he is not the web. But the web came from him, and he can crawl around on the web. A documentary is like a spider’s web, it comes from a subject, from their very being, but it is not the subject themselves.

“Heroines” is one of the most powerful and introspective documentaries I have ever seen.

The film starts out with the line “You’re beautiful” voiced over a photograph of one of the subjects. This statement is on that the subjects of the film probably hardly ever hear. The subjects of the film are heroin addicts and prostitutes, a lethal and dangerous combination. These are the women in the shadows, behind the societal stage, in the background, you see them everywhere but you never remember. The cultural idea that these women are worthless, expendable, and morally bankrupt for their personal decisions reflects how our society bases worth on financial measure rather than one that recognizes the inherent intrinsic worth of a human being based on the fact that they are a human being. One of the women in the film laments this, repeating “I’m not a bad person, I’m a drug addict” in a faded yet strong voice.

Lincoln Clarke, the maker of this documentary, is a successful photographer who has held his own in the fashion world, a difficult field to break into for a photographer. It must take a tremendous amount of talent and stamina to be a fashion photographer, to capture the aesthetic of a creator and deal with the insanity of the fashion world. Lincoln says that he got encapsulated in that world, but some of his photographic aesthetic echos the lived reality of the downtrodden. Indeed, several photos of his shown in the film, including one of Debby Harry, reflect this. American society has a fascination with the underworld, what goes on behind the shadows of the streets. This world is well hidden for very good reasons, it is dangerous and potentially deadly. But dangerous and potentially deadly is sexy, in a weird way. It is forbidden, its like getting cut and seeing the rush of blood. Some people play with fire in an effort to see if they will not get burned. Or, they don’t care about getting burned.

Lincoln finds these women in the streets, and gains their trust by being an honest and caring person. The subjects of the film recognize that he doesn’t want anything from them except for them to be their selves, something that is probably a rare occurrence in their world. He observes about his subjects that “What they need is just some real, unconditional love. Then if they had that, heroin wouldn’t be such a big pursuit, in such hot demand”.  One of the most moving segments is the scene with Lincoln reciting an observation about what heroin means to these women over a scene of one of the subjects shooting up, “Heroin is like a warm blanket, heroin is a lover that is always there for them. Its something they can believe in, someone they can be close to,  somebody they can hold, and its not even anybody its just a little bit of powder.” The woman shooting up says “It helps to numb, it helps to numb all the other pieces that are too much to deal with. And, its something to live for its something thats there for you”. This immediately cuts to a huge reason why people become involved in hardcore narcotics: a feeling of a lack of love. Having known several heroin addicts, all of them had in common a knowledge of severe hurt, pain, and lack of love. Having done opiates myself, I know the rush of warmth, artificial happiness, and comfort that opiates give a person. Heroin must feel like the answer to all the problems of a pained psyche, a bandage for a mind bleeding with pain.

The female heroin addicts of the film have reached what most people would consider the rock bottom. The hardcore streets are swallowing them whole, there is no safe place, there is only chaos and vibrant danger. But this does not mean that they are without worth. These women are important, their stories are significant, yet their place within society is lost upon most people. These women stand alive to represent the incredible power of love.

Without love, these women have fallen into what druggies call “chasing the dragon”. The phrase “chasing the dragon” refers to the constant sought after high that a person deep cannot achieve because their tolerance has built to not chemically allow that sought after high, or that high will simply never be achieved because nothing is ever like it was the first time. The first time they shot up heroin, they probably fell into the clouds and heard angels sing. Why that can’t be everyday life is basically one of the very essential questions of human existence. To a degree, everyone is chasing a dragon, wanting to get back to a beautiful moment in life that has passed into the dust of memory. But these women have heroin, a repetitive pattern of using something to achieve an artificial happiness, a happiness that is not even happy but crying with sorrow.

Drug addicts are not bad people solely based on the fact that they are drug addicts. Prostitutes are not bad people solely based on the fact that they are prostitutes. Society wants to deem these people trash, because they represent something dangerous to us. They represent not giving a fuck, truly being trapped in the moment of life, a frantic attempt to escape the inescapable, and nakedly flirting with death. They are worthless to society because they do not generate financial gain, and they live on practically nothing. This is why they are valuable: they live in the space of our nightmares.

“A photograph is a secret about a secret” is perhaps the best line in the film. The details of the lives most of these heroin-addicted women live will forever remain a secret because of how hidden they are. Clearly, keeping heroin addiction one of life’s secrets is doing these women and greater society a disservice. Addiction knows no bounds, no financial, racial, religious, or intellectual boundaries can protect a person from the risk of becoming an addict. It is easy to blame these women for their circumstances, but it takes great insight to see that these women were lead to a logical conclusion. Cessation of pain is a basic human desire. The secret the women found in “Heroines” was the attempt of cessation of all pain results in a different, mutant type of pain. Absolutely, the film is moving and important.


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I Saw You Atomic in the Rain

Stones come from fire found beyond the boundaries of our world

Fire are the stones

rains drop upon our heads, the tears of angels, crying when beauty breaks

Joyed when it reforms, igneous rock

hot molten lava

Found in the iris of they eye

all the secrets no one knows

dizzy from the swirl, the eyes find the light

Watch it like a star exploding

releasing atomic energy.

Travels down to the Earth and sit on a mountain

From the mountain it travels, rivers, streams, brooks

from the angels’ tears

found a fish in the glittered water

black scales, under the tree.