Monday, September 25, 2017

Week of 09/25/2017

Opioids: Another Crusade Doomed To Fail
So... while the world is talking about the orange-skinned wacky man that is in the White House, and the lunatic man-baby in North Korea, and the chaos with the Islamic State and Iran, and the mindless social madness that is Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner and Taylor Swift and whatever the pimped-out food product is for the moment (as of this column’s posting, it’s pumpkin spice), another so-called “war” has been quietly ratcheted up in the media.
The “war” on opioids.
Not content with being part of the already-existing and already-failed “War on Drugs”, certain groups have decided to specifically single out opioids for attention and a perceived “need” for “society” to “fix”.  Because, you know, we’ve done just a “wonderful” job tackling the problems of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, meth, LSD, alcohol, tobacco, not to mention poverty, homelessness, obesity, teen pregnancy, healthcare, illiteracy… Speaking of which, we can sum up the great “success” of resolving the “War on Ignorance” with three words: President Donald Trump.
Oh, did that sting a little bit?  Good.  There’s a pill that can take care of that for you.  There usually is one.
Yes, opioid addiction is now the “new” crusade for self-appointed crusaders to scream and wail about and demand that we all “do something” about it.  The problem is that there is no real solution to this manufactured “crusade” because it is a crisis that was manufactured by us in the first place.
What are opioids?  Pain-killers.  They’re designed to numb the pain.
Now, unlike some of the other drugs that we’ve manufactured a crusade over, this kind of drug is not a “party drug”.  It’s not designed to help people escape or to have a good time.  It’s designed to help them function, because they’re experiencing pain that does not seem to go away.
Pain is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong with us.  Something inside us is broken, or is breaking, or hasn’t stopped breaking.  And it’s the kind of pain that does not go away that debilitates us.  We cannot function.  We cannot think straight.  We can only think about the pain.  We can only live in the pain and hope, even pray, that it will go away soon, because we cannot do anything else until it does.  The real addiction is being used to not having to deal with the pain.
So why are we in pain?
We are in pain because life puts us in pain.  The demands of work, the demands of our personal lives, put us in this situation.  We get hurt and we are expected to just “walk it off”.  We have something wrong with us, but we are not supposed to admit to it.  We are supposed to just take a pill and keep going.  Hell, we make movies about people who push themselves even when they’re still injured!  We play video games where if you’re injured, just pop some medicine avatar and you can keep going.
This is something that goes back to the Industrial Revolution.  You work people long hours doing things that could get them hurt or maimed or even killed, and you expect them to keep coming back to work the next day.  They can’t be bothered with pain.  And the business taskmasters can’t shut down the great machine just because you are hurting.  So you are told to just walk it off and go back to work.  And if you can’t, then you will be replaced by other people eager to work that same job and put up with the pain.  The need to eat, to feed your family and to have a roof over your head, is more important than any kind of pain you experience, and unless you are part of the one-percent, then you are seen as disposable and easily replaced.  And that mindset is just as true today as it was a century-and-a-half ago.
And the rise of Big Pharma only made things easier to “manage the pain”.  Now you don’t have to go to the local opium dens.  Now you can see your doctor, and he can give you a piece of paper to give to a pharmacist so they can give you a pill.  The pain goes away, you go back to work, problem solved.
Only it’s not really “solved”, is it?  People are still in pain, and the human body has a rather nasty trick in that it learns to build up an immunity to drugs.  So they need more drugs, stronger doses, and take them more and more often to beat the pain that hasn’t gone away.  Next thing they know, they got a new problem... they’re addicted.
So that’s how we got here.  Next question: how do we fix this?
Short answer is... we don’t.  Because we can’t really deal with the addiction problem without first dealing with the reasons why we are doing this to ourselves in the first place.  We are not dealing with the true cause of the pain.  We are just pushing it aside.  That’s what the opioids really do.  They’re just kicking the real problem down the road, hoping that the pain will go away.  We don’t address the source of the pain, though.  We don’t address the overloaded demands of work and the unrealistic expectations of the elites and the sadistic expectation of people being able to work through pain.  No, don’t deal with any of that.  Just kick it down the road and hope it goes away.  Ain’t “my” problem, is it?  “I’m” not the one taking the pills.
No, we just want to deal with the addiction part.  We expect Big Pharma to somehow come up with ways to make sure their drugs aren’t addictive, or that they can somehow negate centuries of human evolution of being able to adapt to changes – including the drugs that we’re creating and ingesting.  We expect doctors to somehow violate their Hippocratic Oath to never do harm and actually let people in pain continue to suffer.  (In other words, continue to be harmed.)  And, on top of that, we somehow expect people to just go on with the pain like nothing is wrong.
Well let’s get brutally honest here... any kind of plan to deal with this manufactured crisis will be doomed to fail.  No matter how determined these self-appointed crusaders are, no matter how effective any kind of government program will be, no matter how much money is dumped into this manufactured “war”, it *will* fail, because you are not dealing with the real problem, and are instead dealing only with the peripheral issues.
It’s like having a car with bad brakes, and instead of actually fixing the brakes, you tell the driver to not drive too fast and you put extra padding on the seat belts because you know that it will dig into you when the brakes fail and you get into an accident.  Nobody with even half a brain would consider that to be a real solution to the problem.  And yet, that is precisely what we expect in this manufactured crusade.
It’s the same reason why all other self-appointed manufactured crusades fail.  One of the key reasons why Prohibition failed in America a century ago is because it was all about taking away the booze and expecting people to just deal with the situations that led to them turning to alcohol to cope or escape in the first place.  If they instead focused on the true source of why some people turned to drink, then they wouldn’t have to ban anything.  But we never did that, so all we truly did was make that problem even larger.
To be clear, I understand that there is a problem with people overdosing on opioids, just like there are people that have problems with other kinds of substances.  I also understand that there is enough of a demand for relief from the pain to lead some people to turn to risky options that could kill them.  I do not deny that these things are going on.  But I am tired of seeing history repeat itself over and over again simply because we expect simplistic peripheral solutions while ignoring the substantive reasons behind them.
The real problem in this self-appointed manufactured “crusade” against opioids is not the drugs, nor the people that use drugs, or the doctors that proscribe them, or even the big corporations that make them.  It’s not even about the pain itself.  It is the sources of that pain that truly need to be managed.  As long as we refuse to do that, then we about as beneficial as the substances we claim to abhor.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Week of 09/18/2017

Understanding the Narcissist
I’m sure my Brutally Honest readers are perplexed by my lack of non-stop evisceration of all things Donald Trump.  In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid bringing the man’s name up if I can help it, focusing instead on other subjects. 
I’ve said nothing so far when it comes to the so-called “Dreamers”, the children of people who came to America “illegally”, and whether or not they should stay.  I’ve said little about Trump’s apparent obsessive fixation to completely erase everything his White House predecessor did.  I’ve said nothing about his pardoning of abusive former sheriff Joe Arpaio, or the speculation that he could pardon everyone working for him, including himself, over the Russia probe.  I’ve kept silent about the Russia probe or how close it could be doing anything substantive to hurt Trump, or what it is precisely about the probe that people are upset about.  I’ve kept talk of his Twitter-tantrums to a vague reference and I’ve said little about his latest apparent partisan twist in working with the failed Democrats.
There’s a very simple reason why... and that is because there is very little about President Donald Trump himself that truly shocks or amazes me.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here, we have elected a narcissist to the White House.  And while that in and of itself should serve as an explanation as to why nothing he has done or is doing or will do will truly shock or amaze me, it appears that way too many people can’t seem to fully grasp the situation.  They continue to act as though Trump is just another politician, and thus are shocked at what he says or does. 
Thus, it is time for little-ol’-me to educate you about just what the hell we got ourselves into with President Trump.
Being a narcissist is more than just having an over-inflated ego and wanting to put your name on everything.  Narcissists have a self-centered mindset, to a point where everyone and everything exists as an extension of that person and work for the purpose of glorifying that person.  You are really not an individual in the eyes of a narcissist.  You are like a disembodied limb; separate but still functioning for that narcissist.
Imagine being on a stage where you are the director, the producer, the writer, and the star performer, and everyone and everything on that stage must take their directions from you.  Everything on that stage is subject to change as you see fit.  You have full control over the story.  If you don’t like the set, then you can order the stagehands to change the set for you on the spot.  If you don’t like the cast, you can re-write the cast or get new actors on the spot.  Everyone is there at your whim and for the privilege of showcasing your greatness as the lead character and star performer.  And you know that no matter how the overall performance turns out, it will be the most stupendous performance in all of history, with record-setting attendance and rousing reviews, and nothing will ever compete against it again.
This is how a narcissist sees things.  The world is their stage, and they are the writer, director, producer, executive producer, casting director, and lead in the ad lib real-time performance of themselves.  There is no real sense of “right” or “wrong” with that person other than what benefits that person and whether or not it glorifies them.  If they benefit from it, or if it makes them look good, then it’s “good”.  Anything else is “evil”.  Not just “wrong”, not just “bad”, but “evil”.
Now I know some of you are saying to yourselves “Nah, that can’t be true, David!  You’re talking about a megalomaniac!  You’re talking about some sort of supervillain tyrant straight out of comic books.  Most people don’t have the means to change things that much!”
You’d be right in that most people that have a narcissistic personality disorder are restrained by the limits of society and the limits of their environment.  They do not have the power that they believe is theirs by birthright to make the changes that they want.  So they have to take that power where they can from family, friends, significant others, co-workers, and even mild acquaintances.  They have to scheme and seduce and manipulate people to do their bidding.  They have to lie and exaggerate and say whatever they can to get those people to their side.  And then they have to lie and exaggerate again to keep those people in their grip.
This is what keeps most narcissists from being too much of a problem.  They know that there are limitations to their will.  They know that they can’t do some things that they want to.  It doesn’t matter if it is the law or a lack of money or because someone else is in their way, most narcissists are limited in what they can do.
What makes someone like Trump different from your ordinary narcissist is that he has spent a good portion of his life essentially without those limitations.  His money and his connections have given him the means to do whatever he wants without limits.  It’s given him access to things that most people in his situation would not have.  He’s surrounded by people who continually reassure him that he’s always in the right, he can never do anything wrong, and if something is wrong, then it “can’t be” anything that he did or said, and, besides, whatever it is can be fixed and made to go away.
Now, in business, that’s been an asset for Mister Trump.  It’s allowed him to create a brand out of his name and to use that brand to try to sell whatever he can.  If it works, great.  If it doesn’t, well, it’s never really “his” fault.  But as a candidate-for and now President of the United States, that same narcissism has made him a chaos figure.
Understand that President Trump is not your typical politician.  (And, yes, he became a politician the moment he announced his candidacy.)  Your average politician knows that there are limits.  Trump does not.  Your average politician has developed a personal filter to avoid saying or doing anything that could cost them votes.  Trump has no such filter.  He’s never needed one.  In fact, his drastic refusal to filter his thoughts through things like Twitter and through his campaign speeches and rallies have been considered a strength for him and his supporters.  Your average politician has to work within a well-established rigid framework set by party bosses and (on occasion) the United States Constitution.  Trump does not.  It seems like, to him, the government is just another business that he has acquired, with incompetent executives (legislators) that just need to be better managed or else replaced.  And, of course, he has to put his name on everything.  Because, you know, he’s Trump.
Let’s get brutally honest here… everything that President Trump has done so far is completely understandable once you accept that we are dealing with a narcissist.  Everything he does is not meant for the benefit of America as much as it is to benefit himself.
Yes, there is “something wrong with him”, as some people have said, but he’s not crazy.  He’s just a narcissist.  He’s not a “white supremacist”, as some people have accused him of being; he is a self-supremacist.  He’s quick to condemn Muslims because he’s not one, and he’s slow to condemn racists and white nationalists and white supremacists because they associate themselves with him and he really doesn’t want to distance himself from anyone that glorifies him.  He pardoned Joe Arpaio because Arpaio supports him.  That’s why he says there’s “many sides, many sides” when it comes to Charlottesville, but only two when it comes to Islam; with him or against him.
Trump want his “wall” because that has become his “brand” issue, just like his Muslim travel ban and his immigration “solution”.  He knows that it gets the support of the simple-minded who think in zero-sum terms and want equally simple solutions.  That means he’ll do everything in his power to get some kind of “wall” put up, and to get his Muslim ban enacted, and to get those who are not in America “legally” gone.  It’s all about validating his “brand”, which is his image and that’s also textbook narcissism. 
I have no doubt that Trump would want to deport Superman if he could, because Superman is the world’s biggest “Dreamer”, having come to Earth, never mind America, as an infant.  No fault of his own, but, hey, too bad.  Gotta go back to that blown-up planet of his.  Plus, hey, it was a Barack Obama program anyway, so it has to go for that reason alone.
I’m also not surprised that Trump would “defer” the actual “Dreamer” issue over to Congress, because then it would make the GOP leaders look bad if they don’t somehow “save” those children of undocumented immigrants, not Trump.  Again, it’s about image.  It’s supposedly not Trump that is “letting the Dreamers down”, it’s the GOP.  That’s narcissism. 
Trump breaks agreements and treaties because it gets attention and then he can take credit for “re-negotiating for a better deal”.  Everything is subject to his “re-negotiation”, because that has been part of the Trump “brand”.  He has long portrayed himself as the master of “The Deal”, so, yeah, he’ll exploit that at any opportunity and call for a “re-negotiation” over any kind of agreement.  And, yes, at some point I expect that to include the “deal” called the United States Constitution.
Trump is the simplest kind of partisan: with him or against him.  There is no middle ground with him.  That’s why he hitched his horse with the GOP at first, and now he’s making deals with the failed Democrats.  It’s not about party loyalty.  The GOP hierarchy never wanted him in the first place.  Remember the “Never Trump” movement?  So it’s not about parties with Trump.  It’s about whether or not people will work for Trump.  Operative words being “for Trump”, not “with Trump”.  If House Speaker Paul “Mister Budget” Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch “The Bitch” McConnel can’t do it for him, then he’ll talk with the inept Nancy Pelosi and the milquetoast Chuck Schumer.  Anything to get the attention on him and to get what he wants.  And, again, that partnership will only last as long as their usefulness to him does.  Then it’s back to name-calling and Twitter-tantrums.
Trump is quick to over-exaggerate his successes and his challenges, because that is what gets people to his side.  He’s quick to dismantle everything Barack Obama did because people look up to Obama when they should be looking up to him.  He’s quick to attack the media because he seems to believe that the media’s job is to glorify him.  He’s quick to attack critics and attack people that fail him and go after anything that could make him look bad because that is what a narcissist does.  It’s all about making Trump look good. 
Correction: it’s about making Trump look great.  And, by loose association, making America look great.  Again.
And now the punchline: even our misunderstanding of Trump plays right into his hands.  As long as the media and the so-called “political experts” consider Trump to be or capable of becoming “just another politician” or even try to behave as something that he has never shown signs of being, then they will continue to be outraged by his actions and his antics.  They will continue to lose their minds over Trump’s Twitter-tantrums and what he links and what he says off-the-cuff on campaign speeches.  That means that people will continue to talk about Trump, and that will continue to feed his narcissistic need for attention, as well as his own paranoid assertion that people are “out to get him”.
Like it or not, we are all stuck with Donald Trump as President of the United States until at least the year 2021.  And maybe even longer than that if certain people do not get their acts together.  All of the fantasies of impeachment or removing him through the 25th Amendment are just that, fantasies.  The idea of replacing Trump with the Vice-President is just an idle fantasy.  It won’t happen with the GOP in charge, and it sure as hell won’t happen should the Democrats get control after 2018. 
The only thing that we can do right now is understand just what President Trump is and why he does what he does and then not play into his game.  Don’t be shocked or surprised or amazed by what he does or says.  Be shocked or surprised or amazed that more people don’t understand why, or, even worse, buy into it. 
The old saying holds true here: knowledge is power.  It’s high time that we all bone up on some concerning the guy in the White House, or else we will all be playing his game.