Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Addiction: Of Vice And Virtue For All!

You have to marvel at our ability to simultaneously treat addiction as a social vice and an economic virtue, as both a condition typical of most Americans and a crime, and as the engine for coffee, tobacco, sugar, alcohol, and pharmaceutical industries on the one hand, and political opportunists and private prisons on the other.

Make no mistake about it: the reason America incarcerates more people than any other country in the world by far, is simply a demonstration of the superiority of its economic policies, not the strictness of its laws. It not only shows just how profitable a good business model can be, especially one funded by the state, it also shows how eager people are to turn their sense of morality into someone else's  monetary gain. That's why those who we feel voice our prejudices the best, who only pander to our fears while promising to save us from them, have always been well funded through the tithings of all those who are most afraid.

And the fact that most of those who fill America's prisons are poor minorities, only serves to reinforce the paradigm that 'most poor minorities' must be criminals, and most white people obey every law. It's not true, of course, but the way to maximize the profitability of the prison industrial complex is to fill it with the kinds of people that most "real" American's care the least about. And then take those people, for whom everything from healthcare to housing is paid for by the taxpayer, and farm them out as labor that can work for mere dollars per day, to countless private corporations, for a enormous private profits.

Those enormous profits are reinvested in the business, which means they are used to lobby hard for laws and sentences that will ensure the machine continues to grow as much as possible, with private profits rising in tandem with  public debts. The growth of that machine also only drives down wages even more than immigration, thanks to all of us who wanted to "get tough on crime!" But this seed was planted along time ago. I mean, what enabled the steroidal growth of our domestic police force into a fully militarized domestic army, which the NRA only calls a "threat to the Constitution" in order to drum up business for gun manufactures (I thought "cops" were supposed to be "the good guy with a gun" that we were supposed to trust to "stop a bad guy with a gun"?), was the "war on drugs."

The biggest question of all, however, is about addiction. For if addiction is really a crime, as the countless number of addicts in prisons around this great land can attest, than what are we to make of America's addictions to things like oil from the Middle East or cheap manufacturing from China? Indeed, what are we to make of our collective addiction to consumption, thanks to Edward Bernays selling his mind bending techniques of manipulation to every corporation in America with the money to pay for them, that drives the global economy by consuming far more than any other people on the planet? But then again, I guess we just have to remember that while addiction is a social vice for one, it is an economic virtue for us. 

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