Punk Retrospective

Happy 100th Birthday, William S. Burroughs


Just Say No to Drug Hysteria ~ William S. Burroughs (February 5, 1914 - August 2, 1997)

An interesting case of mass hysteria is described in a book called The Medical Detectives, by Berton Roueche. The outbreak occurred at the Bay Harbor Elementary School in Dade County, Florida. A girl named Sandy, who was slightly ill with the flu, collapsed in the school cafeteria and was carried out on a stretcher as the next shift of students was coming in.

Sandy, it seems, was sort of a leader. In any case, the students started keeling over in droves. An officer from the Department of Public Health was dispatched to the scene. Fortunately, he recalled a similar case some years back from another high school, and quickly made a diagnosis of mass hysteria.

The remedy is very simple -- get back to a calm, normal routine as expeditiously as possible. Get the children back to their classes. And that was the end of the outbreak. However, if the hysteria is not recognized and acted upon, it will go on and get worse and worse, as happened in the previous outbreak.

When hysteria is deliberately and systematically cultivated and fomented by a governing party, it can be relied upon to get worse and worse, to spread and deepen. Recent examples are Hitler's anti-semitic hysteria and present-day drug hysteria. The remedy is simple -- a calm, objective, common-sense approach.

Remember that during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries -- the "good old days," which conservatives so fondly evoke -- opiates, cannabis tinctures, and cocaine were sold across the counter from sea to shining sea, and the United States did not founder as a result. There's no way to know exactly how many addicts there were, but my guess would be: surprisingly few. Many people simply don't like these drugs.

In England, before America persuaded the English government to adopt our own tried-and-failed, police-and-sanction approach, any addict could get heroin on prescription and fill his script on the National Health. As a result there was no black market, since no profit was involved. In 1957 there were about 500 addicts in the U.K., and two narcotics officers for metropolitan London. Now England presents the same dreary spectrum as the USA -- thousands of addicts, hundreds of drug agents, some of them on the take, a flourishing black market, addicts dying from O.D.'s and contaminated heroin.

Obviously the sane, common-sense solution is maintenance for those who cannot or will not quit, and effective treatment for those who want to quit. The only treatment currently available is abrupt withdrawal, or withdrawal with substitute drugs. Withdrawal treatment dates back to early nineteenth-century British drug essayist Thomas De Quincey. Surely they could do better than that. Indeed, they could, but they show no signs of doing so.

Consider alternative therapy that is available: acupuncture, apomorphine. Both therapies work because they stimulate the production of endorphins, the body's natural regulators and painkillers. The discovery and isolation of endorphins has been called the most crucial breakthrough toward the understanding and treatment of addiction since addiction was first recognized as a syndrome.

If you don't use it, you lose it. The addict is ingesting an artificial painkiller, so his body ceases to produce endorphins. If opiates are then withdrawn, he is left without the body's natural painkiller, and what would be normally minor discomfort becomes excruciatingly painful, until the body readjusts and produces endorphins. This is the basic mechanism of addiction, and explains why any agent that stimulates the production of endorphins will afford some relief from withdrawal symptoms.

De Quincey suggested that there may be a constitutional predisposition to the use of opium, and modern researchers speculate that addicts may be genetically deficient in insulin. I have heard from one addict who received an experimental injection of endorphins during heroin withdrawal. He reported that there was none of the usual euphoria experienced from an opiate injection, but rather "a shift of gears," and he was suddenly free from withdrawal symptoms. Researchers believe that endorphins, since they are a natural body substance, may not be addictive. Only widespread testing can answer this question.

Since endorphins were first extracted from animal brains, they are at present prohibitively expensive -- $2,000 a treatment -- just as cortisone was very expensive when it was first extracted. Synthesis has brought the price of cortisone within reach of any patient who needs it. Is any of the $7.9 billion in Bush's latest War on Drugs plan marked for the synthesis and widespread testing of endorphins? I doubt if many of the congressmen who draft "tough drug bills" even know what endorphins are. And the same goes for the so-called drug experts who advise President Bush.

Billions for ineffectual enforcement.

Nothing for effective treatment.

I quote from a reading I have delivered to many receptive university audiences. This is an old number that is once again current and timely. It is called "MOB," for "My Own Business," drawing a line between the Johnsons and the shits:

This planet could be a reasonably pleasant place to live, if everybody could just mind his own business and let others do the same. But a wise old black faggot said to me years ago: "Some people are shits, darling."

I was never able to forget it.

The mark of a hard-core shit is that he has to be RIGHT. He is incapable of minding his own business, because he has no business of his own to mind. He is a professional minder of other people's business.

An example of the genre is the late Henry J. Anslinger, former Commissioner of Narcotics. "The laws must reflect society's disapproval of the addict," he said -- a disapproval that he took every opportunity to foment. Such people poison the air we breathe with the blight of their disapproval -- Southern lawmen feeling their nigger notches, decent churchgoing women with pinched, mean, evil faces.

"Any form of maintenance is immoral," said Harry, thus rejecting the obvious solution to the so-called drug problem.

On the other hand, a Johnson minds his own business. He doesn't rush to the law if he smells pot or opium in the hall. Doesn't care about the call girl on the second floor, or the fags in the back room. But he will give help when help is needed. He won't stand by when someone is drowning or under physical attack, or when animals are being abused. He figures things like that are everybody's business.

Then along came Ronnie and Nancy, hand in hand, to tell us nobody has the right to mind his own business:

"Indifference is not an option. Only outspoken insistence that drug use will not be tolerated."

Everyone is obliged to become hysterical at the mere thoughts of drug use, just as office workers in Orwell's 1984 were obligated to scream curses, like Pavlov's frothing dogs, when the enemy leader appeared on screen. And they'd better scream loud and ugly.

William von Raab, former head of U.S. Customs, went even further: "This is a war, and anyone who even suggests a tolerant attitude toward drug use should be considered a traitor."

Recollect during the Dexter Manley famous-athlete-cocaine-dealer flap, "Eyewitness News" was prowling the streets, sticking its mike in people's faces. One horrible biddy stated:

"Well, I think making the money they do, they should serve as an example."

She gets plenty of mike time.

And here a black cat, working on some underground cables, straightens up and says, "I think if someone uses drugs, it's his own bus--"

He didn't even get the word out before they jerked the mike away. Freedom of the press to select what they want to hear, and call it the voice of the people.

* * * * *

Urine tests! Our pioneer ancestors would piss in their graves at the thought of urine tests to decide whether a man is competent to do his job. The measure of competence is performance. When told that General Grant was a heavy drinker, Lincoln said: "Find out what brand of whiskey he drinks, and distribute it to my other generals."

Doctor William Halsted has been called the "Father of American surgery." A brilliant and innovative practitioner, he introduced antiseptic procedures at a time when, far from donning rubber gloves, surgeons did not even wash their hands, and the death rate from postoperative infection ran as high as 80 percent. Doctor Halsted was a lifelong morphine addict. But he could still hack it and hack it good, and he lost no patients because of his personal habit. In those "good old days," a man’s personal habits were personal and private. Now even a citizen’s blood and urine are subject to arbitrary seizure and search.

The world's greatest detective could not have survived a urine test. "Which is it this time, Holmes, cocaine or morphine?"

"Both, Watson -- a speed ball."

* * * * *

It is disquieting to speculate what may lurk behind this colossal red herring of the War on Drugs -- a war neither likely to, nor designed to, succeed. One thing is obvious: old, clean money and new, dirty money are shaking hands under the table. And the old tried-and-failed police approach will continue to escalate at the expense of any allocations for treatment and research. In politics, if something doesn’t work, that is the best reason to go on doing it. If something looks like it might work, stay well away. Things like that could make waves, and the boys at the top, they don’t like waves.

Anslinger's "missionary work," as he called it, has found fertile ground in Malaysia, where there is a mandatory death penalty for possession of a half ounce or more of heroin or morphine or seven or more ounces of cannabis. (No distinction between hard and soft drugs in Malaysia; it's all "Dadah.") Anyone suspected of trafficking can be held two years without trial. Urine tests are a prerequisite for entry to high schools and universities.

Mahathir Bin Mohamed, Prime Minister of Malaysia, has launched an all-out radio and TV campaign to create a "drug-hating personality." He is said to command widespread support for his drug policies. So did Hitler command widespread support for his anti-Semitic program. Just substitute the word "addict" for "Jew," and Der Sturmer storms again. Der Sturmer was Julius Streicher's anti-Semitic rag, designed to create a Jew-hating personality.

In order to get to the bottom line of any issue, ask yourself: "Cui bono? -- Who profits?" According to Michele Sindona's account in Nick Tosches's book Power on Earth, the bulk of the world's dirty money is processed in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and the sums involved are trillions of dollars. Any liberalization of drug laws could precipitate a catastrophic collapse of the drug black market and cut off this salubrious flow of dirty money to the laundries of Malaysia. (Hanging small time pushers-addicts to protect huge Syndicate profits ... does money come any dirtier?)

And I would be interested to examine the offshore bank accounts of Malaysian officials involved in the fabulously profitable war against drug menace. But that is a job for an investigative reporter like Jack Anderson, a job he is not likely to undertake, since he seems to be in basic sympathy with Prime Minister Mohamed.

Interviewing Mohamed on the subject of drugs, Jack Anderson reports that he "spoke with real passion." (And so did Hitler speak with real passion.) In a column entitled, "We Are Losing the War Against Drugs," Anderson speaks of thousands of "stupid and criminal Americans" who persist in using drugs ... yes, criminal, by act of Congress. With the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1919, thousands of U.S. citizens -- from frugal, hard-working, honest Chinese to old ladies with arthritis and old gentlemen with gout -- were suddenly "criminals."

George Will relates the story of a Colombian woman who was detained at Customs until she shit out some cocaine in condoms. He goes on to say: "We should attack demand as well as supply. Life should be made as difficult for users as it was for that woman."

So thousands of suspected users are rounded up and forced to swallow castor oil in the hope of bringing illegal drugs to light ....

"Got one!"

"False alarm ... just a tapeworm."

* * * * *

Fifty years ago, deep in the Ural mountains of Lower Slobbovia, a thirteen-year old prick named Pavlik Morozov denounce his father to the local authorities as a counter-revolutionary kulak because he had a pig hidden in his basement. (A kulak is a subsistence farmer.) That was when Stalin was starving out the kulaks to make way for collective farms, which didn't work. Stalin levied an outrageous produce tax, knowing that the farmers would hide their crops, then sent out patrols to search and seize concealed produce and farm animals. At least three million people starved to death in the winters of 1932 and 1933, and that's a conservative estimate.

Little Pavliki was hacked to stroganoff by the outraged neighbors -- good job and all. Thus perish all talking assholes.

"His name must not die!" sobbed Maxim Gorky, his hearty voice contracted by painful emotion. So Pavliki became a folk hero. Got a street in Moscow named after him, and a statue to commemorate his heroic act. He should have been sculpted with the head of a rat. And the viilage of Gerasimovka is a fucking shrine, drawing legions of youthful pilgrims to the home of Pavlik Morozov.

"Dirty little Stukach."

That's Ruski for "rat" -- a word designed to be spat out.

It is happening here. Lawrence Journal-World, October 29, 1986: "Girl, 10, Reports Mother's Drug Use." It was the fourth time that a California girl had turned in her parents for alleged drug abuse since August 13th. And Reagan's Attorney General Ed Meese said that management has the obligation and responsibility for surveillance of problem areas in the workplace, such as locker rooms and, above all, toilets, and the toilets in the nearby taverns, to prevent drug abuse.

I am an old-fashioned man: I don't like informers. It looks like Meese and Reagan, and now Bush, intend to turn the United States into a nation of mainstream rats.

Well, as Mohamed says, one has to give up a measure of freedom to achieve a blessed drug-free state, at which point the narcs will wither away. Sure, like the KGB withered away in Russia.

* * * * *

In April 1987, I was privileged to attend a debate between Timothy Leary and Peter Bensinger, former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and at that time one of Reagan's self-styled drug experts. The debate was held at the Johnson County Community College in Kansas City, Kansas, in the heartland of America.

It was a massacre. Bensinger was lying, and the audience was fully aware of his blatant falsifications. Pausing for applause after some assault on logic and common sense, he received instead a chorus of boos. Fully 90 percent of the audience supported Leary, who won the debate hands down.

Lying comes as natural as breathing to a politician, and as necessary to his political survival. One mark of a liar is his refusal to answer any direct question. When asked if the billions a year spent on enforcement of unworkable, unenforceable laws would not be better spent on research and treatment, Bensinger replied that the Defense Department spends more in a week than the DEA spends in a year.

"Boo! Boo! Boo!"

Asked about the English system of allowing addicts heroin on prescription, he said: "They went right out and exchanged it for stronger street dope."

What could they find on the street stronger than 100 percent pure pharmaceutical heroin?

"Well, uh, cocaine." (Which can also be obtained on prescription in England.)

Lies ... Lies ... Lies. The Lie Decade.

* * * * *

Here is a passage from my work in progress, Ghost of Chance:

* * * * *

The Board had lost interest in the Museum of Lost Species, some members even suggesting that the Museum was a figment of the late captain's drug-clouded mind, perpetuated by the superstitious villagers. In any case, there were more pressing matters: international dissent on an unprecedented scale. Their computers estimated that dissent would become acute in the next fifty to a hundred years. They had to think at least that far ahead.

To distract from the problems of overpopulation, depletion of resources, deforestation and pandemic pollution of water, land, and sky, they have inaugurated a war against drugs. This will provide a pretext to set up an international police apparatus designed to suppress dissidence on a worldwide level. The international apparatus will be called ANA: Anti-Narcotics Association. Ana mean "I" in Arabic, so ANA can be shortened to "I," or "Eye."

Propaganda will follow the tried-and-true methods used by Adolf Hitler. Just substitute the word "addict" for "Jew." Same song, different verse -- DOPE FIENDS covered with sores, reeking of sulfurous evil.

If it works, don't fix it, and it is working. Kids turning in their parents, and here is a California Reader writing in the Ann Landers column suggesting we take a lesson from Communist China: shoot all the drug dealers and all the addicts .... "Then we'll all be much happier."

"One kook."

"Yes, but ... there are plenty who see through our plan right now."

The Texas member looks up from his crossword puzzle.

"We should worry? We got the Moron Majority."

"It's not a majority."

"Who ever needed a majority? Ten percent plus the police and the military is all it ever took. Besides, we've got the media hook, line, and blinkers. Any big-circulation daily even hinting that the war against drugs is a red whale? Anyone asking why more money isn't going into research and treatment? Any investigative reporters looking into money laundering in Malaysia? Or the offshore bank accounts of Mahathir Bin Mohamed? Anyone saying that the traffickers hanged in Malaysia are not exactly kingpins? There is no limit to what the media will swallow and shit out on their editorial pages."

* * * * *

Unfortunately, my own most "paranoid" fantasies in recent years have not even come close to the actual menace now posed by antidrug hysteria, if current polls are even approximately accurate. According to a survey conducted recently by the Washington Post and ABC News, 62 percent of Americans would be willing to give up "a few freedoms we have in this country" to significantly reduce illegal drug use; 55 percent said they favored mandatory drug tests for all Americans; 67 percent said all high school students should be regularly tested for drugs; 52 percent said they would agree to let police search homes of suspected drug dealers without a court order, even if houses "of people like you were sometimes searched by mistake"; 67 percent favored allowing police to stop cars at random and search for drugs, "even if it means that the cars of people like you are sometimes stopped and searched"; and fully 83 percent favored encouraging people to report drug users to police, "even if it means telling police about a family member who uses drugs."

President Bush said in his television address not long ago: "Our outrage against drugs unites us as a nation!"

A nation of what? Snoops and informers?

Take a look at the knee-jerk, hard-core shits who react so predictably to the mere mention of drugs with fear, hate, and loathing. Haven't we seen these same people before in various contexts? Storm troopers, lynch mobs, queer-bashers, Paki-bashers, racists -- are these the people who are going to revitalize a "drug-free America"?

The emphasis on police action rather than treatment has persisted and accelerated. The addict seeking treatment today will find long waiting lists and often prohibitive costs. And the treatment is old-fashioned withdrawal, with a very high incidence of relapse. In all the television and newspaper talk about drugs, I have yet to hear a mention of the possible role of endorphins in such therapy, or any other innovative medical approach.

The dominant policy of police enforcement has nothing but escalating addiction rates (and ballooning appropriations) to recommend it. Americans used to pride themselves on doing a good job, and doing it right. Hysteria never solved any problem. If something clearly and demonstrably does not work, why go on doing it? It's downright un-American.

My advice to the young is: Just Say No To Drug Hysteria!

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

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