philosofunk

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


Leave a comment

The Heroin Problem

Recently I found out an acquaintance died from a heroin overdose. I had not seen this person in about a year, yet have clear memories of him that now seem sad in hindsight in the way that death overcasts a person’s memory. According to the New York Times, “heroin related deaths quadrupled between 2002 and 2013” and is becoming a scourge in many American neighborhoods. Heroin dealers are shrewd for money and power. Heroin users are looking for a fantastical escape that is bigger than themselves. It is a clear problem for which we are not finding a solution.

The documentary “Black Tar Heroin” is a comprehensive examination into the daily lives of heroin users. The documentary aired on HBO in 2000 and captured the attention of the public due to its honest portrayal of the struggles of heroin addicts.

One of the subjects in the film, Tracy, now writes a fantastic blog about her heroin days in hindsight now that she has been clean for many years. In the documentary, the audience meets her in the midst of heroin’s claim over her life. She notes that “it looks like I’ve gotten dropped in a dumpster” due to the physical toll shooting up in her legs took, and generally seems very out of touch with reality. After getting out of jail and doing a shot of heroin, she notes the disappointment of the hit and that the anticipation was the driving force to get her to shoot up. She is depressed and lost, a person with promise who turned to the most powerful substance to numb her pain. Her boyfriend in the film, Ben, also does crack cocaine which is a source of argument for the couple. When couples use drugs together, things get very distorted because of the enabling nature of the relationship and lack of genuine affection because all energy is reserved for the procurement and administration of the drug. Tracy says “recently all I’ve been thinking about what I’m gonna do when I quit heroin…and it seems like getting there is easy all I have to do is kick…even if I wasn’t doing heroin I don’t know what the fuck I want to do with my life I would’ve just done it”. She vacillates between wanting to not use and accepting her use. Junkies use many excuses to justify their bad behavior and often act as victims of their circumstances whether it is true or not. Fast forward several years and Tracy was able to kick her habit with dedication, support, and sheer will. However as her blog notes, the experiences of using heroin and the atmosphere that heroin use creates is not something a person can simply escape from, it stays with you and creeps up in the night.

For another subject, Jessica, the documentary remains a testament to her demise due to the streets, heroin, and a prostitution lifestyle. Jessica turns to prostituting in order to pay for her habit which is a very common decision for many female addicts. On her refrigerator a poem about the heroin lifestyle is scrawled, “Dead End Street Kid-bloody needles/full of junk/never bathing/smell like skunk/strict-9 acid/fuckin’ bunk/drink 40s/goddamn punk”. She says that in prostitution “you get through with them you try to clean up yourself in the car…and you stand back on the street and it feels like you’re a tissue being wiped”. She acquires AIDS and doesn’t stop prostituting, being so jaded that she no longer cares about putting other people in danger. It is clear in the film that she is dying, the last scene with her in it is very dark and disturbing. With her head shaved looking androgynous, she states that shes tired of “the sex trade business, I’m about to the point of just robbing people but I can’t do that because I’d go to jail because some stupid person would have to try to take a swing at me and I’d have to cut them up into little pieces”. She knows she lives a risky life, with the possibility of being raped and/or robbed a daily threat. “At the rate I’m going in a year I’ll be dead”, she says to the camera, with full knowledge of where the consequences of her actions are going.

wages of sin

This photo “for the wages of sin is death” is shown at the beginning of the film. However, heroin use in and of itself should not be considered a “sin”. Drug abuse is a recognized disorder on the DSM-V and addiction is a medical condition that must be treated carefully. Drug addicts may do bad things due to the nature of addiction (ie. stealing money from family to buy drugs), but saying that they are sinful is reducing their problem to something too basic. Due to the likelihood of any person becoming addicted, this disorder could theoretically happen to anyone. That is why it is so important to understand how addiction works and why it is so important to destigmatize drug addiction, something that could possibly cause more people to receive help for their addictions because of the reduction of the shame factor. Shame factors are enablers of negative behavior because it makes the person feel so negatively about themselves that they become unable to seek proper and adequate treatment.

The film ends with Tracy dumping her used needles into a bin at the needle exchange, a very important health care service that addicts need in order to be safe and protected from diseases. This is a strategy of the “harm reduction” school of thought, which states that since people are going to engage in potentially risky behavior, there should be services that provide ways for drug users to stay as safe as possible. Harm reduction does not label people because of their medical condition of addiction but rather seeks to recognize that the humanity these people have includes the right to be as safe as possible in their decisions, and if there is a way to facilitate that safety, it should be done. This strategy is more honest than the school of thought that prohibition of narcotics is the superior way to eliminate drug use.

In our society, it should be clear that prohibition is not working. It is a propaganda ploy to create power structures that are unbeatable. It creates black market jobs that are filled by dangerous people and causes people who are addicted to hide away from the public creating acute medical crises across the country. There will never be a “solution” for heroin use, that is heroin use will never completely go away. However, recognition of what the disease of addiction actually is could improve the conditions that come with heroin use.


Leave a comment

Is the United States Drug Policy High on Cocaine?

TV Junkie (2006) is one of the most disturbing documentaries I have ever seen in my entire life. As I have watched A Film Unfinished which features among other otherworldly documentations of human suffering, starved dead bodies being thrown into a pit, so when TV Junkie left me clutching my throat and gasping, I was surprised to saw the least. The cliche “watching a train wreck” was completely applicable. But the back story of why this documentary is more significant than Rick is what is so tragically and ironically incredible.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/569438

According to Rick, he interviewed George HW Bush about the dangers of crack cocaine and drug addiction while high on crack cocaine. This means that the white people who were importing the raw cocaine that was then distributed throughout the country, the white people who held corporate jobs and got off on being “adrenaline junkies” while outsourcing the real dangerous illegal black-market narcotics jobs to African-American inner city men (Rick attests several times to going to “the hood” to buy crack cocaine) were creating propaganda about the evils of cocaine while both personally benefiting and destroying themselves. George HW Bush is an evil man. He is a man who saw a way to manipulate a black market for his political benefit at the calculated expense of untold millions of lives and then denied justice, liberty, and freedom, and safety to humanity. Rick is not an evil man, he is human, fell victim to becoming a monstrous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where the overwhelming chemical dependency of cocaine distorted his character and integrity. While interviewing the very man who controlled The United States of America, who secretly was importing cocaine, this man interviewing him, who was secretly using crack cocaine, were creating a distorted reality that has had unending consequences for billions of people. The hypocrisy of Rick’s actions is ironic, disgusting, and all too human when a person has a drug addiction. The interview makes us watch these two be Master and puppet, president and press, importer and user, truth and escape.

Some people can use drugs such as cocaine in a recreational manner. Some cannot. Rick drank and used cocaine, which caused volatility in his personal life. He hit his wife in front of his child and scarred his pre-verbal baby so that at his first birthday party he cried when everyone yelled “yay” because he had seen his parents fight and yell right before his father was taken away by police for domestically abusing his mother. But Rick engaged in a cycle of hypocrisy, dominating others at the expense of both them and yourself, like using crack cocaine while interviewing the president about the evils of this drug. I cannot help but see his identity as a straight white man being the pinnacle of why this disaster was allowed to go on for so long. He was portrayed in his media career as an “adrenaline junkie” and that made him a fun, edgy guy! This was also during the ’80s and ’90s, when it seemed like white male news anchors were somehow viewed as somewhat infallible people. But there was such darkness, and because of his position of power people were willing to overlook his abuse of crack cocaine because he was so talented within his industry. For the black kids in the New York City projects who he bought the crack from, no one ever argued for their futures because of any talent they may have had. No one in the media gave merit any alternative narrative George HW Bush and American politicians of both parties were asserting that prohibiting narcotic substances and causing them to become black market products is a better policy than regulation, and certainly not good ol’ Rick. Why would he rock the boat?

“its almost euphoric, hard to speak because of the rush type high. it becomes a very sexual in a way, not in a good way in any means, very raw, very animalistic, very lustful, a very primeval sort of way. at least in my experience with this rotten drug how can something so euphoric and good be so terrible?” Rick is not a sympathetic character. And his insistence of documenting his ever spiraling out of control reality, including abusing his wife and smoking crack cocaine a whole bunch of times, his complete divorce from reality is even more exacerbated than the average crack head. He is completely obsessed with documenting his life. And with all these documents of reality, he cannot see that the source of his addiction lies somewhere in his constant desire for adrenaline. He cannot sit with his sons in day to day life, he gets clearly depressed while sitting around in what looks like suburban bliss. He takes his anger and frustration out on his family in extremely scary ways. Apparently, he has press credentials for the Dallas police despite the police being regularly summoned to his dwelling for domestic disputes. The Dallas police most likely knew of his drug abuse, yet he continued to have press credentials.

The documentary is bizarre to say the least. Between his obsession with crack cocaine, complete inability to cope with real life, obsession with documenting his every waking moment, the moments of dark honesty of what drug abuse does to a family, and how privilege works in a way that does no benefit to those who hold the privilege and those who suffer as the result of not having the privilege (in this case, I believe Rick’s privilege as an educated talented charismatic white male helped in the cause of his ultimate downfall because so many people were willing to overlook his horrific behavior due to the standard of how white men are treated in this society) the film is a mindfuck.

People with serious addiction issues such as Rick’s must be dealt with in a medically appropriate manner where both physical and mental health are rebuilt. Rick constantly talks about the shame of drug use. The abuse against his family is horrifying and unfortunately, completely normal for them. Rick is able to get around law enforcement consequences because of his status within the community. Treatment for drug abuse is piss poor in America. Crack cocaine has been described to me as a “full body orgasm” which explains why people who do it sit for hours constantly smoking. Watching Rick struggle with this addiction is as brutal a reality as a documentary can portray accurately.

This documentary would later be used as a “Don’t Do Drugs, Kids” message. The documentary ends extremely awkwardly, with Rick speaking to a group of random graduating high school seniors that he used to do drugs but he doesn’t now and isn’t that great don’t do it kids look at my children here they are. His two sons, around ages 9 and 13 it looks, awkwardly come out on to the stage, let their father embrace them, and then run back off stage. Tammy, Rick’s wife, is also present. It is as painful and bizarre as the rest of the documentary.I felt like they missed an opportunity here. Just like everything else in his life, Rick uncritically excepts the status quo narrative that has been presented to him, and misses his opportunity to create any positive change and effect.

Tammy eventually divorced Rick, and with the use of Google I haven’t been able to figure out what Rick is up to if anything at all. There is an incredible number of documentaries about drugs, because fascination with altering states of consciousness is a normal part of being human. Unfortunately, this is recognized now globally in a very limited way. As a direct result of the United Nation and United States of America, narcotic substances are a billion dollar underground economy, the likes of which are never taxed, the reality of which never goes away, and the destruction of lives like Rick and his family and all the dealer’s who dealt to Rick is monumental.

The argument that global prohibition of narcotic substances is a working policy is a destructive delusion. TV Junkie shows this completely accidentally, in one stroke of the irony that sometimes the universe swirls upon the unsuspecting people of the world.

I wonder what happened to Rick’s little boys, one of whom screams “why did you hit my momma?!” during one of Rick’s tirades. But most people know what happens to young black boys who end up in the narcotics trade: dead, jail, or reformed, and people in power are more inclined to engineer the first two instead of the third.

Cocaine makes you feel euphoric, aggressive, egomanical, and a little delusional. A lot of cocaine makes you all those things and the worse version of yourself you’ve ever known. I think the United States’ global policy on narcotics is clearly high on blow.


Leave a comment

The Purpose of Documenting Reality

I am a documentary junkie, and an avid enthusiast of knowing everything humanly possible about the Nazi era and regime. This intellectual pursuit is motivated to provide a witness to one of the most dramatic stories in human history. As a Polish person whose family members were personally murdered by the Nazis because of their upper level jobs in the Polish government at the time the Germans came marching through (my family members were also left-leaning, so death was inescapable) I have a duty to my dead family members to understand what happened before, during, and after their murders. As a person who has all the characteristics of what the Nazi regime came to label “Aryan” (blonde hair, blue eyes, tall stature, fair complexion), I have to understand the power of my appearance and what it means to look the way I look. That may sound superficial, but when your face matches the visual representation of what one of the most murderous regimes of the twentieth century considered ideal, you have to look at your appearance if you want to stop it’s disproportionate power that helped cause human suffering. Maybe I still sound conceited, it is not my intention.

A Film Unfinished (2010) by Yael Hersonski is a documentary which I found several years ago on netflix. It’s not there anymore, but youtube sometimes carries it and here is the link through Hulu:

A Film Unfinished explores a set of unnarated film reels that were taken by Nazi propagandists with unclear intentions. Some of the shots are staged, some are direct first-hand visual accounts of what happened in the Warsaw ghetto. Perhaps one of the most notorious pits of human hell before the hellholes that lead to the flames of death at Dachau and Auschwitz, the Warsaw ghetto was a surreal reality of fascist hatred. Confined to just over one square mile with nearly half a million people, the Warsaw ghetto bustled with activity of people who were trying to stay alive by any means necessary. Deference to extreme human agony was a necessary survival tactic, a comment one of the survivor’s show’s barely any emotion about.

Many people do not have adequate imaginative skills to imagine other people’s reality. This is seen when people make insensitive remarks about victims, either rape victims or the black victims of police violence, about what they “would have” had it been them at the hands of a violent assault. People are especially resistant to understanding why victims loose their power, or even give their power over to their abuser. People believe that if it was them, they would fight to the death.

The truth is, few of us fight to the death. Most of us are beaten to death. That is a logical decision for a human to make; instead of making rash, sudden actions in the face of danger, instead to conform to the restrictions of the danger and ride it out until it ends. Because theoretically, it could end. There were holocaust survivors. There are rape victim survivors who went through the darkest parts of human sadism and lived. There are victims of extreme police violence who endure until they are let free again. Except, sometimes, it doesn’t end. Sometimes people get beaten, or raped, or traumatized until they die, and no one wants to think that could be them.

A Film Unfinished shows us those people who were beaten to death by the hatred of the world. Adam Czerniakow, the head of the Nazi set up Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Council (or Judenrat in German). Like Hitler, he would not see the post Nazi German era because he swallowed a cyanide pill on July 23, 1942 after the Nazis carried out “Grossaktion Warsaw” or the total destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. Czerniakow is an extremely important historical figure in understanding the dynamic between power and victim hood, how victims attempt to keep power, and what happens when victims come to understand that they are loosing.

Czerniakow was by no means perfect. He was a complex figure with a problem more intricately poisonous than what many face at the worst of crises. But he did write complex narrative down. He did try to take on the impossible task of creating some way for Jewish persons to be a part of some sort of society. He knew he was fighting a loosing battle. But if not him personally, who else would have been the Judenrat and how would they have led it? Czerniakow is a historical character worth investigating for anyone wishing to read about the complexities of power and victim hood that can sometimes act simultaneously.

Willie Wist, the only German film propaganda crew member to be interviewed for the documentary, agrees that the “documentary” of the Warsaw ghetto has a political agenda, to show the extreme differences between the “rich Jews and the poor Jews”. The two groups were often shown next to one another, pitting deathly poverty against the last shred of humility and dignity a person could have held on to during that time.The effect is startling, sickening, and brutal. If to say anything at the time, the Nazis could have pointed to a number of negative stereotypes against Jewish people at the time. Looking at it now, it is a heartbreaking example of the depths the human mind has to survive.

No one owns the truth, but there are those who monopolize it. If we do not document our own reality, however mundane and otherwise boring we personally see it, we do not contribute to the human narrative. We cannot draw correlations between human behaviors or historical patterns. We cannot see that we and them, we are all not so different. When we document it, we can look at it and revel at how different we are, how different realities are constructed, how different people’s lives are.