Archive for the ‘Drug War’ Category

Good morning internet,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been focusing on some other aspects of my life, which has been quite liberating. I have now finished my first edition of Wasted Land (my first collection of poetry) & my first semester teaching preschool! In addition, I just finished reading a fantastic book on addiction by Dr. Gabor Maté, M.D. This latest achievement is what brings me back to you wonderful people.

Dr. Maté is a well – respected physician who has authored numerous books regarding heath issues – mental health especially, such as ADD/ADHD, stress, & parent – child relationships. I recently finished his latest book (I believe), which focuses on addiction and I am impressed to say the least.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction is nothing less than a brilliant analysis of addiction and its roots in the brain. Not only is the book well – supported by credible sources and Dr. Maté’s own experience working closely with severe drug addicts at a Downtown Eastside Vancouver clinic, but it is quite accessible thanks to Maté’s skill as a writer. He clearly and poignantly paints a comprehensive picture of addiction in all its forms, diving into scientific research surrounding everything we know about mental health, and stories of everyone from homeless, heroin – addicted sex workers to workaholics to his own addiction to buying music.

Of course, the word nerd that I am, I fell in love with this book the moment I saw the imagery in the title (I’m really just a sucker for a good story). The “realm of hungry ghosts” to which Dr. Maté refers in the title is one of the six realms through which the Buddhist mandala, or wheel of life, revolves. Each realm represents a separate aspect of life through which every person must progress in their efforts to attain enlightenment. In this realm, people are described as wandering, ghoulish creatures with emaciated bellies, constantly searching for anything to fill their insatiable appetites. What better way to paint the picture of the addict?

At first it may seem a bit presumptuous to address all these different forms of attachment to particular activities as if they are equal, but his own accounts of events like forgetting his adolescent son at a store and keeping him waiting on a street corner for hours while the Dr. browsed through records at a nearby store for hundreds of dollars worth of music quicky makes the reader think twice about dismissing addictions outside of substance abuse.
Dr. Maté’s analysis addresses the chemical & neurological roots of addiction as well as its environmental influences, pinning down early childhood development at the center of it all. The analysis however doesn’t end there. He then goes on to provide a comprehensive critique of the current failed U.S. War on Drugs policy and suggestions on a new direction for the future. I am thoroughly impressed.

I spent all four years at the University of Maryland analyzing addiction, drugs, and the drug war, and I can confidently say that In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts is by far the best, most comprehensive, and useful work I’ve ever seen on the matter. I can only hope he keeps giving us all insights into the complex and universal problem of addiction.

Kudos, Dr. Maté. Well done indeed.

All Fire’s Eve

To Baltimore

30 April 2015

 

The woody hills are sleeping

The cold, stale sleep of death.

While weeping wind whispers past

Black trunks, exhausted, out of breath.

 

A deafening silence drowns the air

In nothing, not a flutter.

The sun beats down the charcoal ground

The final drops of strength are mustered.

 

Creeping limbs claw and stretch

And squinting, step into the sun.

Gray-black snowflakes powder the land

Celebrating unions, embers of fun.

 

A sneeze! A tuft of feathery leaves,

The breeze, soft and somber.

Tired eyes gaze amazed

At all that’s left of night’s bright wonder.

 

All night long a blaze went on

Until this stretch of earth turned cinder.

Entropy laughed and chaos danced

While beasts of wood screamed out in splendor.

 

First went wings, the birds of sky

Flew off in all directions.

Scarred and scalding, scared and hauling

All they left alone and destined.

 

Next the bugs and biting critters

Pittered, pattered, shuffled and scattered,

Hid under rocks where the ground was still cool,

Beaten, broken, busted and battered.

 

Then the paws who sniffed the air

With darting eyes, turned and ran

Sprinting through fields with standing hair

And howling cries of living damned.

 

For the flames were alive this yesterday’s night!

So bright they outshined the stars.

To the forest it felt like the whole world would melt

But it lit up the vastness of night from afar.

 

They jumped and they flew and fought through the blue

And their orange grins laughed from tinder to tinder.

They ripped out the trees they would need to keep prancing

But shrugged off the rain and burned off the splinters.

 

The forest was furious this All Fire’s Eve!

The mountains and oceans could tell.

But like the great oceans and mountains it knew

That you’ve got to keep going if you’re going through Hell.

 

So the sun has arisen and the fires have died.

Creatures come back to the light!

The forest you used has been leveled, abused,

Everyone’s always left home overnight.

 

Shaken, you step over kindling

Famished, you flip stones and ponder

Wandering orphans and neighbors cross paths

And glistening eyes in tender sonder.

‘What will we do?’ you ask.

‘What ever could possibly come next?’

Afraid, in despair, unaware, there unseen

The seed that from fur falls in your steps.

Bon soir internet!

So it’s been six (almost seven!) months since I packed up and moved across the world into the heart of darkness and so far it’s literally been sunny every day. During the rainy season it can be gray for a while and sometimes the dust paints everything beige but the sun always comes out eventually. Why do I feel like there’s a message in there somewhere?

Mali has been surreal. I still can’t believe I’m here, or that I’m starting to understand French, or that I’m finding my own work, or that my niece is a year! (WTF?!?!) The river of life really has some massive bends. Learning a new language is coming along great, or well enough at least for me to understand the basics of most of the everyday French conversations I find myself around. I’ve even started picking up some Bambara! Doni doni. All it takes is a little focus really. I used to be apprehensive about learning new languages but now I think it has finally turned from frightening to fun. It has definitely been challenging but I am doing my best to embrace the privilege of learning. Teaching is one Hell of a learning experience, go figure. English is in high demand in this francophone country, and a native speaker definitely helps meet that. In fact the demand is so high I’ve now had to turn down clients in order to have adequate time to prepare for the students I already have. And aside from working with government and non-governmental organizations galore, teaching preschoolers has been (and remains) especially humbling. Between teaching preschoolers, government employees, and locals to other teachers and their children, I am getting quite the crash course in teaching students of all ages, levels and backgrounds. It makes me wonder what else I can do that I may have never considered before.

Come to think of it, this whole adventure has been one Hell of a learning experience. Every day I drive down the road and wonder what else someone will somehow be carrying on a scooter, or “moto” as they’re called in Bamako. Goat, dresser, art, family, you name it. I’m surprised I haven’t seen someone carrying another moto on one of those things yet (although I have seen someone on the back of one dragging a bicycle behind them, and a moto on top of a car). Malians are impressive. They really work their asses off. Everyone I’ve met and seen seems to be doing everything they can to make as much money as possible. Considering how hot it gets here alone I’m inspired! Their efforts can be misguided sometimes, like the children selling water and really any portable thing you can think of on the street corners and roadsides from infancy instead of going to school. But the people here really look like they do their best to get ahead, even if it takes years of backbreaking work. Bamako is filled with strong people. I’m glad to be able to help in what few ways I can. Petit a petit I suppose. There are a tragic number of people simply begging as well, though those seem to mostly be men and boys. Malian women are especially impressive. I have yet to see a Malian woman just relaxing. Men on the other hand, like most men I know (myself included) seem to take every chance they get.

I’m learning a lot about Africa in general talking to all my local and professional students. African people and the African spirit amaze me more and more every day. Check out these few examples real fast and tell me you’re not impressed.

http://www.myafricanow.com/a-house-made-of-plastic-bottles-nigeria/

Isn’t that all awesome? I’m learning so much from all the people here. Not to mention that I live with an investment banker with a bleeding heart. Six months with my father has been eye-opening to say the least. I’m extremely grateful to have been given the privilege of a lot of his insight on poverty, corruption, bureaucracies, development, organizational finance and management, etc. So much so that I’ve even considered taking a couple years in the future to go for an MBA. It doesn’t look as dry/confusing/useless as it has in the past. I might be able to see myself buckling down and learning the inner workings of the capitalist process, if only to learn exactly what we’re all up against. That is of course If I could somehow manage to get my hands on one of these mysterious “scholarships” everyone keeps talking about. From my experience though they seem only to exist in fairy tales…

Speaking of fairy tales – the war in the North has turned a corner now that suspected militants have attacked civilians in Bamako, the capital. Last week a popular bar was the stage for an attack of some sort using machine guns and grenades, which I believe marks the first attack of that kind within the Bamako city limits in years. Word on the street is they were looking for caucasians and though two were caught, the organization that claimed responsibility is currently still out there so Dad and I are… honestly not changing our behavior very much. We stay in a lot anyway but I guess now we will buy a few more munchies at the supermarket. Like pops said, he doesn’t get danger pay for nothing. The world is a real place and rocks hurt so you’ve got to be ready for it no matter where you live.

Six months in and I must say I am actually fairly impressed with myself. Every day I work on something personal besides my job, and after six months I’m starting to build up some nice new habits to be slave to. Though that’s not to say I’m not also impressed by my ability to make enough money to actually contribute to gas and groceries. No such thing as a free lunch. I’ve begun meditating and exercising semi-regularly and I can already feel the difference. Little by little much gets done. As much as I love to sit around and do nothing I’ve already made a bit of a name for myself in the city as a solid English teacher and tutor, even building up referrals from clients for more work. Plus I’ve learned a fair amount of one new language and have begun to understand the basics of another. I’ve learned and am learning firsthand about our global system of international development from someone who has basically the same thoughts I do on the matter, only way more developed. Not to mention I’ve reached a new level in my grasp of international politics and news, including keeping up with the political and legislative landscape within the States, which really makes me feel like a grown up haha.

It’s especially exciting to look back home and see the cascade of drug law reform legislation that I sacrificed many good grades in college trying to build a culture for starting to pick up speed. A tear comes to my eye just thinking that as I write this cannabis has been legalized in Washington D.C., the place where five or six years ago people were laughing at me for suggesting it could actually change within our lifetimes. “You’re wasting your time,” “get a real cause,” “worry about something you can change,” I heard (when it wasn’t just laughter) for four long years while peoples’ lives were thrown away into prisons and caskets for feeding an addiction or starting the wrong kind of entrepreneurial enterprise or just struggling to eat something after chemotherapy. It’s just so satisfying to hear silence where there once was doubt.

So much amazing work is being done all around the world that I am inspired to get to work on my own contributions as fast and as hard as possible. By my birthday I want to have all my poetry (which looks like about 60 pieces) in one place so I can finally arrange it all and maybe even have enough good ones for a collection. After that I’ll be able to get back to the novel I’m working on and a possible collection of short stories. One day my musical equipment will arrive and I will jump back into the music game. Until then I’m also teaching myself how to… well… teach!

Speaking of my birthday, it looks like my birthday this year is on Easter, which is cool I guess. More importantly it’s on a Sunday! That means no work on my birthday which is all I really want. I’ll still spend the day working, just not at my job. It will be into the hot season by April so I’m really just gonna try to survive. It won’t be the hottest yet but I imagine it’ll be like “the wall” at Philmont. The wall is a few miles of gnarly switchbacks up the side of a mountain. “How do we know when we’ve reached the wall?” “Once you feel like you can’t go any further, then you’ve reached the wall.” It’s okay though. I’ve forgotten the pain. The view at the top however, I’ll never forget.

Onward and upward,
Z

Good day to you all, surfers of the electronic ocean!

It’s No-shave November again, and I’ve got to say I just can’t do it this year. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing but heat and dust in my future so I figure I could stick with tradition once again but it might be the last thing I do. My week has been relatively uneventful. I’m still in the process of learning French while getting my name out as an English teacher. Gotta make yourself useful somehow. On a global scale this has been a bit more of an interesting one however. That is, depending on what you consider to be interesting.

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This of course was more than just a wall; it was a symbol of the oppression and isolation people felt living behind the “iron curtain” of communism. So as the Cold War ended, the Wall was torn down and with it the Soviet Union. Generally thought of as the moment the good guys won and the bad guys’ dreams were rightfully crushed forever, there’s no wonder why this is kind of a big deal. But as with most issues worth their weight, this whole process was and is actually more complicated than we were taught in History class.

The biases that came out of McCarthyism and the Red Scare veiled most of the important issues surrounding the entire ideological battle between capitalism and communism (which, ironically, aren’t even ideological systems; they’re economic). QUICK!! THEY’RE AFTER OUR FREEDOM!!! I can already hear the browser tabs closing so I won’t touch on most of my thoughts on the matter, but one issue in particular stands out to me. Since the fall of the Wall many have conceded that communism lost, it was the wrong economic system, and that it will never again be an issue. Following the same logic capitalism won, is the right economic system, and will never again be challenged. Unfortunately though, this is not the case. Neither side exemplified a pure, unadulterated state of either of these systems, so the debate over which “works” is still far from over. Yet one need only whisper the name Marx to be reminded that debate has nonetheless been stifled under the assumption that the jury is in and the verdict has been read. If democracy really is the right to argue, this poses an issue.

The Soviet Union, the actual regime that fell, claimed to operate on a communist system, “from each according to his ability and to each according to her need.” On what is commonly though of as the other end of the linear scale then, the U.S.A. and its Western allies claim to operate under a capitalist system of “free market trade.” However neither of these state institutions strictly followed or follows the doctrinal teachings of these systems. The U.S.S.R. redistributed most of their resources away from the laborers allowing some to receive much more than they needed for much less work than they could contribute and the U.S.A. happily enjoys it’s public roads and schools funded by and built for all.

The fact of the matter is that the U.S.S.R. with its iron curtain was simply considered more oppressive than the only alternative powerful enough to do anything about it once its inherent contradictions overpowered its productive capabilities. But the differences regarding philosophical economic structure and similarities regarding actual practices were mainly swept under the rug once the curtain fell (poverty despite resources, war despite “peace treaties,” most wealth in the hands of the top few, etc.). The debate turned into being “with” the winners or “with” the losers. Just because the capitalists had bigger weapons first however, that doesn’t mean their system didn’t have contradictions of its own.

At some point during the weekend someone pointed out that it has been 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell and what has really changed? Yes, there is more technology available on a global scale but access to that technology is still limited and there is just as much division as ever. The differences now are that a) the conflicts erupting across the world daily are nowhere near cold, and b) instead of one apparently clear division, we’ve got a muddy entanglement of smaller, less defined differences. The capitalist victory didn’t end poverty or slavery, just as technology is not doing away with the need to work. Quite to the contrary, income inequality and slave labor exist at the highest magnitude in history. The free market trade system prevails but capitalists are blind behind their own green curtain to the global problems they not only do not help to fix, but perpetuate. Its own internal contradictions are beginning to show their ugly faces.

During the 2008 financial crisis the Queen of England put together a task force of her best economists to tell her what they missed. She wanted to know how we all could have not seen the financial collapse coming. After deliberation and research the team wrote her a letter in which they said the one thing no one had accounted for was “systemic risk.” They found everything to have gone according to plan within the rules and goals of the capitalist idea, but no one considered the chance that the system itself doesn’t work as well as we say it does. How does a system reliant on ever-expanding growth deal with an actually limited amount of resources? They say the U.S. has 100 years worth of natural gases. What do we do in 1000?

My father says he began studying (capitalist) economics because he wanted to know why poverty exists. If it really is as simple as buying a chicken for $10 and selling it for $20, why was there so much poverty crushing the globe? To me, the issue of how we could best handle our money is a difficult but important one to criticize and analyze over and over, but the bigger issue is whether we can even talk about it. Even now I’m sure this post has the words “capitalism” and “communism” written enough to be bookmarked by the NSA (not to mention mentioning the NSA). Then again, I’ve probably been bookmarked ever since I started running UMD’s NORML chapter in college. Hey, at least someone’s listening. The point is, we can’t let ourselves be scared to even talk about the way things are and how they could be better, even (and I would even argue especially) if that might mean changing up the system as a whole.

Capitalism isn’t the answer and nor is communism. These are not the ends of the scale though. Somewhere between them is socialism, somewhere toward the back is feudalism, and somewhere else is the idea for a resource – based economy. The answer, like most others, will be an amalgamation of most of these ideas, hopefully stemming from the goal of helping people who can’t help themselves first. Who knows though.

It was once said that only when the power of love overcomes the love of power will we find peace. I wholeheartedly agree. The problem with both of these massive economic experiments many of us have been witness to is simply that they are two different masks for the same processes of corruption and manipulation of the poor for the betterment of the elites. Why else would it be a problem in the eyes of business to have to raise workers wages and provide health insurance? Because across the board it hasn’t ever been about the people at the bottom trying to survive, it’s always been about the ones at the top trying to hold onto whatever pennies they can.

Now in the United States we see the same Republicans who shut down the government in a temper tantrum (against universal health care, like wtf) controlling both houses of Congress. No doubt this means nothing if not backwards movement will occur in the next, final couple years of Obama’s term. All of us fighting to end the failed War on Drugs for example might as well go on vacation because most likely every progressive move will be halted until the next congressional election (please don’t actually do that; every little bit helps). But hey, two years of stagnation may be just what the country needs to get some of its shit together and actually start demanding some of the change it thought Obama would drop on its doorstep. After all, without order nothing can exist, but without chaos nothing can evolve.

So what can we do? The answer is simple. Open up the dialogue and begin the debate again. It’s not our fault that most of us didn’t even learn the word “capitalism” growing up. It’s no coincidence that even in post – apocalyptic movies like Mad Max, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Our education painted our world to make capitalism look like nature, like it was just “the way things are.” Even the separation of the subjects (into Math, Science, History, English, etc.) makes their interrelation not only impossibly difficult to grasp but effort to do so frowned upon as well. But we don’t need to live with those blinders anymore.

With the internet chugging away at full speed now more than ever it is essential for each of us to research the contradictions we see in the intersecting structures around us, at the very least just to know the relevant terms for this debate. Youtube alone has a lifetime of educational content if you only take the time to look past the laughing babies. The Red Scare is over. McCarthy is dead. So if we can’t even talk about the objective differences between the two sides and how we could actually bring an end to poverty and war, are there really even any? Speak up, speak out, and question everything. You’d be surprised at how many people would join you if they only knew the words.

To those of you who couldn’t stand to read all that, the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version is this:

Think outside the box.

Onward and upward,

Z

P.s. Here is an article from The Guardian on how closely the current global atmosphere resembles that of the Cold War. Additional reading I suppose. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/10/close-military-encounters-russia-west-cold-war?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Why? (9/29/14)

Why do I keep coming back to this place?

Why do I keep coming back to this page?

Race after race I’m a waste, a disgrace to the taste of the name of the winningest face…

I make haste!  I try.

But why?  Why?

Why do I keep coming back to this place?

Why go up?  Or come down?  Hear the sounds?  Or escape?

Why the clown?  Why the grape?  Why the shiniest vape?

It’s a trape! – A trap.

This seatbelt don’t work in the back.

If the news doesn’t tell me the new news then how will I know when I’m being attacked??

Why is there always a crash?

Why is there always a catch?

Why do we frown, look around and abound for another to open the hatch?

This isn’t a fixed match!

Well it is.  But it isn’t.

But it ain’t what it is to him, his, and his business.

Or her and her children. Or me and my person –

– Ality! I’m trying to see!

I’m trying to find out why this has happened to me!

And us.

In our ruts, while we rust in the back of the bus, we stand at the cusp!

So why is there so much danger in trust?

Why do I feel like I must?

‘Cause I can?  ‘Cause I could?  ‘Cause a man with a plan would or should?

Why does it have to be good?

Why can’t I just wear my hood?

Why should I say in the day that I pray and point to the spot where I stood?

Why can’t I stop it?  Why can’t I drop it?

I guess I just already popped it.  Wrecked and rocked it.

Is this bubble still burst in my brain?

Are my blood vessels thirsty in vain?

Why in an hour can’t I help but scour the Earth for the worst of the pain?

Why do I stand in the street when it rains?

Why do I stare down the tracks of old trains?

Why do I drink?

Why can’t I think?

Why?

Because I’m so scared of the dark, I can’t even blink.

Ok, team. Huddle.

This marks one week ’til my flight departs to Bamako and I couldn’t be more excited!  My trip has already been postponed a few weeks but now it’s really coming around the corner.  Now that I have finally upgraded my ESL certification from 60 to 100 hours, my preparations have just about come together.  Now it comes down to packing the rest of my random trinkets into my carry-on bags and meeting up one last time with all my favorite people.  At this point, there’s nothing but excitement flowing through my veins!

As my departure creeps into focus, I am excited for so much!  On my end of the stick, I’ll be starting a new adventure in a new place, which is destined to be awesome (in its original sense), of that I have no doubt.  However on the other end, back home in the States, excitement lies on the horizon as well!  October and November will bring new laws into play and others to be voted on that will no doubt have a profound effect.  New regulations regarding previously illicit substances as new medicines are on the rise!  American people and money will be saved by the boatload!  Successes will be reported, analyzed, and repeated!  ENTIRE INDUSTRIES ARE BEING BORN!  If you are not excited for this time we find ourselves in, you’re not paying attention.

The cannabis movement is of course at the forefront of this new wave of alternative medicines being (re)introduced into the mainstream.  Now that people know how successfully Colorado has handled this change we will start to see the dominoes fall.  Thanks to people like my good friend Mr. Kander, with his 150 page comprehensive report on the cannabis extract movement (www.cannabisextractreport.com), people are starting to fight, treat, and CURE all different types of diseases and ailments, including cancer and diabetes!  I’m not saying cannabis is the answer.  All I’m saying is that there is enough evidence out there to warrant doing research of your own if you are interested or concerned.

Now that the medical cannabis movement has begun to take off there is even more research being done on even more alternative medicines, like LSD and it’s effects on addiction, Psilocybin and it’s effects on depression and coping with terminal illness, and MDMA and it’s profound effects treating PTSD.  The ball is rolling, people!  The alternative medicine movements have been revitalized and anyone who opposes it is doomed to be crushed under the bulldozer of this entire new alternative medicine industry.  Get in on the ground level now people, this will change every industry from medicine to textiles to energy.

The time has come to strip away the blinders strapped to our faces by big pharmaceuticals and the health insurance industry and take our health back into our own hands.  Fresh grown, GMO-free gardens and dumpster diving are reminding people that food is, in fact dirty, and that that’s okay!  People are beginning to see that the only difference between drug dealers and doctors are their levels of support from the state.  People are starting to see that the answer may not simply come in a pill, and that cannabis might not actually be as dangerous as heroin.  In addition, we are already feeling the effects of public welfare cuts from last winter (<http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/cuts-food-stamps-hit-states-25557899&gt;).  Those walking the line between survival and starvation are beginning to hurt.  Soon we will see more people reach for opportunities like crime to feed their families.  However, with the rise of dumpster divers, food co-ops and community gardens, people are also reaching for new ways to help each other.

Winter is coming, and with it will no doubt come even more pain for a great many, but there is much being done out there to keep our communities together. These invisible knights are out there fighting for us all, and you can bet I’ll be watching from my little desert across the seas. 😉

Onward and upward.
-Z