Media Shocker: You Are Not Upwardly Mobile

Harvard academics being studied by ordinary people.

Harvard academics being studied by ordinary people.

The American media has been shocked by the latest study out from the Equality of Opportunity Project at Harvard which examines social mobility in the United States on a 40 year timeline. Stunned and confused journalists are trumpeting the finding that social mobility “hasn’t changed” in the past 40 years despite the massive economic inequality that exists today in the U$A.The news, however, is no surprise to ordinary people and those who are not lost in jingoist nostalgia for the better times of the racist, sexist, homophobic, oppressively hazy days of the 1970s.

Journalists themselves belong to a peculiar caste in American society. As the most intellectually-challenged members of the intellectual bourgeoisie, they think positively of their country in the past tense, if not the present. Things are bad now, so they must have been better 40 years ago, when the average person just had a high school diploma, and being black or female or gay meant you might as well emigrate or start protesting in the streets. This view is characteristic of their profession, which supposes to require a liberal arts degree but does not technically require actual comprehension of history, politics, or culture. Or literacy.

Some older journalists who have yet to succumb to full dementia, such as the undead who host the PBS Newshour, vaguely recall that opportunities have increased for a number of social groups in the United States since 1970. In occasional lucid moments away from the teleprompter, however, these ancient mummies are now becoming aware that a decrease in social oppression does not equate to an increase in economic egalitarianism.

Which basically amounts to a loss.

JEFFREY BROWN:I mean, first of all, is it a glass half-full or half-empty situation?  How do you look at the problem that we have today?

RAJ CHETTY:  Well, I think you shouldn’t interpret the lack of a decline in upward mobility as good news, in the sense that intergenerational mobility in the U.S., social mobility, is lower than virtually any other developed country for which we currently have data.

And so the way to think about this is that upward mobility is quite low, unfortunately, on average in the U.S., and it has remained — it’s been persistently low for the past few decades.  And so, in that sense, I think it’s still an important and urgent policy priority to focus on identifying ways of improving upward mobility.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june14/mobility_01-24.html

Media Goes Meow Meow for Drugs and Severed Penis

Media Circus Meow

Over boys and kittens, knives and penises, lastly through a hogshead of krokodil

There’s a sucker for severed penises and crazy drug stories born every minute, and the circus is finally back in town. What do we have to top last season’s wonderful crocodile show? Nothing less than a psychotic boy with severed genitals, stabbing his mother on mephedrone.

Everyone welcome Rolling Stone to this season’s media circus. The magazine just couldn’t resist being a part of the fun after seeing those lovely crocodiles. They may seem new at this, but it’s right up their alley. However, Rolling Stone has made it clear to me that they want you to answer an important question before they perform, so everyone pay attention:

“WHAT IS MEOW MEOW THE DRUG THAT MADE A TEEN CUT OFF HIS GENITALS?”

-Julianne Escobedo Shepherd,

author of “Are online nudie pics an art form

and “Six movies that will make you never want kids

@jawnita on Twitter

I want you all to get a chance to answer Rolling Stone and Julianne (who, unbelievably, or, perhaps, quite predictably, has taught as an adjunct professor at NYU), but first let’s hear what the other circus freaks have to say:

The Huffington Post says they’re more interested in severed penis than the drugs. They want to remind us about recent events in Asia:

A CHINESE MAN WHO HACKED OFF HIS LOVE MUSCLE IN OCTOBER FORGOT TO BRING IT TO THE HOSPITAL WITH HIM !!!

A MAN FROM TAIWAN CHOPPED OFF HIS OWN MANHOOD AND FLUSHED IT DOWN THE TOILET !!!!

@HuffingtonPost on Twitter | HuffingtonPost on Facebook

Lucy Crossley at The Daily Mail also prefers the penis angle. She enjoys long walks and picturing blood gushing from a boy’s groin. The Daily Mail liked the story so much they couldn’t stop writing the headline.

“STUDENT 19 SLICED OFF HIS OWN PENIS AFTER STABBING HIS MOTHER WHILE HIGH ON MEOW MEOW AND WAS FOUND HANGING OUT OF A WINDOW WITH BLOOD GUSHING FROM HIS GROIN”

@MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Rolling Stone, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to want to be a full-time member of the circus. They want the attention and money without the disgrace of running away from society to abuse rare animals and people with genetic illnesses for fun and profit. Phrases like this have no place in our circus:

“But as with most emerging drugs, there’s an aura of sensationalism surrounding the truth, making clear and concise information difficult to parse. (Recall the Miami bath salts cannibal, who was never proven to have ingested bath salts.)”

Julianne, we can relate. You feel ashamed after writing a tabloid article pandering to drug hysteria with a psychotic penis rampage. You feel ashamed to be in the company of hacks like Lucy Crossley. But you might as well not bother if you’re going to give the game away about the bath salts cannibal. That cannibal has to make a living, and so does the rest of the circus. We know that no one cuts off their own penis on stimulants unless they’re mentally ill.

But the suckers don’t, and you had better keep it that way.

In this way the Daily Mail will challenge the world

Junk Semantics

JUNKIEburroughsACEcover

It really irritates me to see “drug reform” activists use the same prejudiced language as their opponents. These people remind me of early American abolitionists who often espoused just as much racism as the average slave owner. Abolitionists believed slavery was wrong, but that doesn’t mean they all believed in equality and weren’t subject to cultural indoctrination.

If you’re trying to change society, it helps if you actually understand it. And when you’re fighting for social change, you have to combat toxic ideas, not conform to them. Humans have a tendency to cultural conformity. Even so, you would expect people who are trying to change a culture to be able to see that culture’s prejudices. Instead, most people, whether their hearts are in the right place or not, seem doomed to operate within the bounds of conformity to social rules which were established to support the harmful beliefs they claim they’re trying to alter.

So here’s some junk semantics that need to change and the real meanings behind them, or, in some cases, the words we should be using instead.

Drug reform movement = human rights movement; civil rights movement

Drug related crime = prohibition related crime

Discontinuation syndrome = withdrawal syndrome. The term “discontinuation syndrome” was invented by the makers of SSRI anti-depressant drugs to distance SSRI withdrawal from cultural perceptions of drug addiction. 

Chemical dependence = a positive euphemism for physical addiction

Clean = culturally acceptable drug user. a person who may smoke a pack of cigarettes and consume multiple alcoholic drinks per day.

Sobriety = culturally acceptable drug use. a state in which a person uses any and all drugs that aren’t illegal or culturally taboo.

Drug = medication

use = describes taking culturally taboo pharmaceuticals. “He takes Tylenol” versus “She uses heroin.”

Drug user = a person who uses an illegal or culturally taboo pharmaceutical, even when legitimately prescribed by a doctor, if that medical use is not culturally acceptable (for example, “medical marijuana”)

Junkie = Junky: a person whose central nervous system requires opiates to function normally. The preferred spelling removes the diminutive and reappropriates the epithet.

Addiction = chemical dependence. Currently used to describe a diseased mind or a compulsive habit depending on speaker’s bias; has been detached from the physical so that the word is only used to describe “drug users” and not all people who are chemically dependent; in actuality: the state of being physically addicted to (“chemically dependent” upon) a pharmaceutical.

Medical marijuana = marijuana. A well-intentioned euphemism which necessarily implies that the reason a person takes a particular drug should be subject to regulation and that recreational use should be treated differently than “medical use”, which is then defined on culturally subjective terms.

Makes me want to use some medical aspirin.

A grateful world to the dealer in happiness: the Count of Monte Cristo on drugs

Monte Cristo isletAlexandre Dumas’ 1844-46 serial The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most popular novels in the world. Despite what you might expect from a 19th century adventure story, its dark protagonist is complex and philosophical. The Count’s intellectual mind, his fractured idealism turned jaded pessimism, and his ruthless individuality makes him an existential philosopher-of-action par excellence.

Hotel de Lauzun

Dumas was a member of the Club des Hashischins (Hashish-Eaters Club) in Paris, which existed from 1844-49, around the time of the publication of Monte Cristo. So it isn’t surprising that the Count of Monte Cristo is a hashish eater. In fact, in the tradition of de Quincey, Coleridge and Keats, he’s also an opium-eater and quite a proponent of the two drugs. Monte Cristo pops pills he concocts himself from a 50/50 mixture of opium and hashish. Dumas borrows heavily from the Orientalism that we see associated with drug culture in earlier 19th century literature and poetry, but he does so with a flourish that is so perfected it still holds its magic after 170 years:

“There is a struggle in nature against this divine substance—in nature which is not made for joy and clings to pain. Nature subdued must yield in the combat, the dream must succeed to reality, and then the dream reign supreme, then the dream becomes life, and life becomes the dream. But what changes occur! It is only by comparing the pains of actual being with the joys of the assumed existence, that you would desire to live no longer, but to dream thus forever. When you return to this mundane sphere from your visionary world, you would seem to leave a Neapolitan spring for a Lapland winter—to quit paradise for earth—heaven for hell! Taste the hashish, guest of mine—taste the hashish.”

Dumas expounds upon the joys of hashish at some length:

Charas HashishThat kind of green preserve is nothing less than the ambrosia which Hebe served at the table of Jupiter! …We frequently pass so near to happiness without seeing, without regarding it, or if we do see and regard it, yet without recognizing it. Are you a man for the substantials and is gold your god? Taste this and the mines of Peru, Guzerat and Golconda are open to you. Are you a man of imagination—a poet? Taste this and the boundaries of possibility disappear… Are you ambitious, and do you seek after the greatness of the earth? Taste this, and in an hour you will be a king… Is it not tempting what I offer you, and is it not an easy thing, since it is only to do thus? Look!”

At these words he uncovered the small cup which contained the substance so lauded, took a teaspoonful of the magic sweetmeat, raised it to his lips and swallowed it slowly, with his eyes half shut and his head bent backward…

Hashshashin

“Did you ever hear…of the Old Man of the Mountain, who attempted to assassinate Philippe Augustus?”

“Of course, I have.”

“Well, you know he reigned over a rich valley, which was overhung by the mountain whence he derived his picturesque name. In this valley were magnificent gardens planted by Hassen-ben-Sabah, and in these gardens isolated pavilions. Into these pavilions he admitted the elect; and there, says Marco Polo, gave them to eat a certain herb, which transported them to paradise, in the midst of ever-blooming shrubs, ever-ripe fruit and ever-lovely virgins. But what these happy persons took for reality was but a dream; but it was a dream so soft, so voluptuous, so enthralling, that they sold themselves body and soul to him who gave it to them; and obedient to his orders as those of a deity, struck down the marked victim, died in torture without a murmur; believing that the death they underwent was but a quick transition to that life of delights of which the holy herb, now before you, had given them a slight foretaste.”

“Then,” cried Franz, “it is hashish! I know that—by name at least.”

Masyaf“That is it precisely, Signor Aladdin; it is hashish—the purest and most unadulterated hashish of Alexandria—the hashish of Abou-Gor, the celebrated maker, the only man, the man to whom there should be built a palace inscribed with these words: ‘A grateful world to the dealer in happiness.’”

“Do you know,” said Franz, “I have a very great inclination to judge for myself…”

Later, the Count, impresses his wealth upon an audience of Parisians with a flourish of a large, hollowed emerald, and casually remarks that he carries it at all times. Why? Because it contains his opium.

Colombian Emerald“May we inquire what is this recipe?” asked Debray.

“Oh, yes, I make no secret of it. It is a mixture of excellent opium, which I fetched myself from Canton in order to have it pure, and the best hashish which grows in the East—that is, between the Tigris and the Euphrates. These two ingredients are mixed in equal proportions, and formed into pills. Ten minutes after one is taken, the effect is produced…

“But,” said Beauchamp, who, as a journalist, was very incredulous, “you always carry this drug about you?”

“Always.”

 

Opiate withdrawal, the opera (a playlist)

Take some music along with your paracetamol and vitamins. Ease you down gradually. You’ll really feel this stuff kick in as the opiates wear off. You won’t have that numb tolerance to music any more, so go easy.

 

Methadone Maintenance Man – Tony Scheuren. A James Taylor parody that sounds more like James Taylor than James Taylor.

Stop. Where Is My Mind? – The Pixies

Suffering. Black Water – Timber Timbre

Exhaustion. I’m So Tired – Fugazi

Pain. Used To – Wire (Chairs Missing)

Misery. Miss Misery – Elliott Smith

Angst. Drug Life – The Mountain Goats (East River Pipe cover)

Boredom. Loughborough Suicide – The Young Knives

Frustration. That’s Entertainment – The Jam

Change. New Slang – The Shins

Repeat. Marquee Moon – Television

Prohibition and Prejudice: Demonization of the Drug User

After I quit methadone, people began to treat me like a different person. I unwittingly transcended the untouchable caste of the junky and became accepted as a normal member of this society that so conveniently allows for reinvention. I might as well have been a black man who turned white overnight.

Anti-Mexican racism contributed to the criminalization of cannabis

Anti-Mexican racism contributed to the criminalization of cannabis

Drug users are among the untouchables of the American class system, the melting pot’s social cousins of the Dalit of India, the Romani of Europe and the Burakumin of Japan. In America, like most places, you are treated more or less like a pariah for being on methadone maintenance. Years of negative drug tests will only make you seem to most people a somewhat more trustworthy and less repulsive specimen of your untouchable caste. Get your methadone prescription from a doctor, take the medication for pain (instead of requiring it to be able to function), and miraculously you are considered a normal human being.

Anti-Chinese racism was largely responsible for the criminalization of opiates.

Anti-Chinese racism was largely responsible for the criminalization of opiates.

I quit methadone a long time ago because I was sick of the discriminatory regulations and travel restrictions. I developed medical problems soon after–problems unrelated to methadone or withdrawal. I didn’t know it at the time, but methadone had alleviated the symptoms and functioned as a therapeutic treatment. Now I have to suffer the irony of doctors forever congratulating me for discontinuing the only medication that relieved symptoms they are trying, with little success, to address with drugs and surgeries that are objectively no better, and often worse than being on methadone.

Not many people are aware that opiates treat conditions other than pain, but as late as the 19th century opium was as widely used as aspirin is today. The public today is encouraged to believe the 19th century opium cure-all was quackery. This is a convenient lie that even most doctors believe. Of course, most doctors alive today have very little understanding of opiates. Like most people, they are prejudiced against their use.

Drug prohibition was founded on prejudice. San Francisco enacted the first U.S. opium ban in 1875, motivated by anti-Chinese xenophobia and racism. Similar laws were passed around the world for similar reasons, often by governments and groups with ulterior motives. Before Harry Anslinger demonized cannabis in Hearst newspapers with scare stories about African Americans raping white women, southwestern states were targeting “marihuana” smoking Mexican immigrants. Japan’s right wing government outlawed the same drug when confronted by a red scare and widespread left wing student protests. Many of the students used marijuana, which became a convenient cause for their arrests.

Naturally, these prejudices against targeted groups expanded to include drug users in general. The use of prohibited drugs became synonymous with belonging to a despised race or subculture. Soon, the idea of drugs—the excuse to demonize—became entangled with the act of using the drug, and thus began the demonization of the drug user in general.