The only controlled drugs that I’ve used recreationally are alcohol, marijuana, and (I suspect but cannot say for sure) hashish. I’ve also gotten fucked up on coffee from time to time and got seriously fucked up as a teenager on the Adderall that a particularly incompetent psychologist prescribed for me against all sound indications. I don’t care for the stupid shit that I’ve seen tweakers do in marginal parts of Eureka and Medford, and I’ve read stories of similarly entertaining but ultimately unappealing behavior by junkies in Camden. Come to think of it, a buddy of mine in Eureka complained about a roommate of hers who smoked Oxycontin and stole to support her habit, so I guess the North Coast has an opiate problem, too. God bless that dump. In other words, I don’t regard addiction as something worth admiring or emulating, and I’m thankful that I don’t suffer from addictions myself. If nothing else, sitting around a trailer in some godforsaken rural shithole snorting Oxy or some falling-apart Camden heroin den mainlining black tar sounds dreadful.
That said, I very strongly distrust the motivations, and hence the credibility, of mainstream media outlets in their reporting on drug addiction epidemics. Sometimes my distrust comes very close to being absolute. They have a dog in this fight, and I’ve lost any illusion I used to have that they’re on my side. Unless you’re affluent and secure for the long term, they aren’t on your side, either. To the extent that there even are systemic drug abuse problems in this country, they do not affect the mandarins who feed us our news. These are sheltered, very affluent, often downright wealthy people. If they’re recruited from among the masses (as they have been less and less for the past two or more generations), they are insulated from the masses by the time they’re given platforms to influence public opinion wholesale. Their exposure to drug culture as private citizens is rarely any worse than having some black sheep relative who gets too deep into the freebase or pulls some Rob Ford shit and gets shipped off to rehab by his alarmed parents. They may well know affluent fuck-ups who go slumming for dope, but they’re extremely unlikely to personally intervene, even fleetingly, in some slummy shithole like Camden, or even in reasonably rural slums or small cities like Eureka. Doing so would freak many of them out quite badly. Even experienced reporters who have seen some crazy shit in the field are unlikely to be comfortable dealing with junkies, crackheads, street dealers, and the like as their equals in shitty neighborhoods.
These are some of the last people to be personally affected by downmarket drug abuse. There’s no way that they aren’t working an ulterior angle on these stories. They’re screening a morality play, and their agitprop can be embarrassingly cheap. In the eighties, they aggressively othered poor urban blacks for smoking crack while uttering hardly a disparaging word about high-rollers who were notoriously up to their eyeballs in raw blow. Now that crack has become a boutique taste in the United States with a stronger following north of the border (if Rob Ford didn’t enjoy the Lillooet home-bake crowd, he probably would have had he given them a shot), they have moved on meth and, most loudly, the supposed opiates of the masses. This time, the problematic behavior involves various grades of white trash, an expansive umbrella in the hands of mandarins looking for a pretext to further marginalize Low Whitey. Remember, the people producing our news look down on any adult who has not obtained or begun work towards a bachelor’s degree, at the very least. This is how they justify their efforts to make it impossible for mere skilled tradesmen, among other uneducated losers, to earn a living. Of course they’d want us to think that everyone in flyover country is fucked up on Percocet, and of course they’d want to insinuate that this rampant addiction is the result of rampant moral failing on the part of the local citizenry.
Perhaps their reporting is incidentally accurate, but it hardly matters; they’re still pushing a crude, devious agenda. They’re still smearing the victims of the looting of the national economy that they helped orchestrate. Working-class whites are the largest constituency of this victim pool, and many of them are quite sore about the raw deal they’ve been given in exchange for all their hard work and loyalty. The beneficiaries of this looting have much to gain by making its victims out to be a bunch of shambling dope fiends. Defaming entire counties as opium dens is a neater story than describing how the mill closed down and now there’s fuck-all for normal people to do to make a living within a thirty-mile radius in some town where fewer and fewer people are able to afford cars, but that godforsaken town is the place their ancestors and their friends’ ancestors have called home since 1830. New Yorkers may not give a shit about that hollow, but its residents do. It’s their community. It’s their home. Many of them don’t know what the hell they’d do to get by if they left town and cut themselves off from the kinship networks they’ve counted on their entire lives.
Affluent urban technocrats are no less ignorant of the poor than the poor are of the urbane. After Hurricane Katrina, the former couldn’t imagine what on earth could be the problem with scattering the residents of some troubled urban backwater like the Lower Ninth Ward all over the rest of the South. Guess what? It was a gruesome fucking nightmare for indigent people who had lived in the Lower Ninth all their lives and now found themselves just as poor but torn from their friends and even relatives. The affluent and the wealthy can afford to travel. The petite bourgeoisie can sometimes afford to travel. The poor basically cannot. This is why they so often end up on Greyhound, the common carrier of last resort, without enough money to buy food for three days. The affluent might learn about these limitations by talking to the poor, or just eavesdropping on them from time to time, and then move to adjust policy accordingly, but that would require treating the poor as fellow citizens. It’s less messy and humbling to other them with lurid stories of dope.
Obviously, poor communities can be quite troubled. They can be depressingly bleak. They are often chaotic, dysfunctional, and even violent. It’s foolish to expect to find some wisdom or virtue in a rooted community in South-Central that cannot be found in an equally rooted community in Huntington Beach. That verges on the very Global North tradition of blessing the rains in the Global South. If one truly seeks to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that one’s become, one should be able to do so at home and not have to slum it with some other, poorer community’s local color. At the very least, if one’s existing community seems deficient, it’s advisable to try to develop a real, meaningful relationship of equals with a new community instead of, say, using Teach for America as a stepping stone to law school. I know, these are hard teachings for the target audience I have in mind. Some perceive moonlit wings reflecting the stars that guide them towards salvation (yes, I must) where others, more reasonably, figure that a British Airways 777 is a bitchin’ ride, but unfortunately it’s probably carrying another load of godbotherers to Accra tonight, so that they can proceed north and fleetingly meddle in local politics far beyond their control by pestering Muslim villagers about Jesus. I have cousins who did exactly this, an entire sibship of them, in fact. Waka waka hey hey, I didn’t think it was time, but they and their congregation did.
By the way, Joseph Kony needs to get on with covering some Toto. He was a choirboy, you know. Hurry, boy, it’s waiting, and so am I.
Wherever the fuck all these kids and their chaperones went in what they generally referred to as “Africa” must have seemed a great deal more exotic than any number of places they could have ministered to perhaps even more troubled people back home. For what it’s worth, they sought out a non-Anglophone village in an officially Anglophone country with a large Anglophone population, as well as a Muslim village in a country with a huge population of Christians. I guess that’s what one does as a jetsetting godbotherer. That must be the missionary position. If that sounds wrong, remember that there’s probably much less condescension and arrogance in cross-cultural prostitution than in cross-cultural gotta have a friend in Jesus, because sexual intimacy so often inspires feelings of equality. The thing is, they’d have lost the upper hand by going whoring on Parkway, and they didn’t by screening what they called the Jesus film on a village green in Northern Ghana. Yes, they flew 16,000 miles or some shit through Heathrow in order to show foreign darkies a movie. Harper Lee critiqued a similar sort of condescending bullshit half a century ago, but she didn’t think to have missionary dilettantes check an arsenal of AV equipment halfway around the world in jetliner holds. I recall her having the racist church ladies make sock puppets for the heathen children and mail them to West Africa third-class, or something like that.
Again, the admonition that charity begins at home is a hard teaching, partly because it tends to limit recreational travel and the like. Sure, widebodies are cool, but that doesn’t mean that you have any business flying on a total of four of them to spend a week dicking around on the volatile political scene in a country where you don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. Then there’s the matter of hometown charity forcing the charitable to minister to people who obviously speak fluent American English. Yeah, that might get awkward. If they talk back, there will be no ambiguity about what they just said. The only hope against this backsass is that they’ll be exceptionally incoherent, but there’s no counting on it. There’s a good chance that the targets will wonder, quite sensibly, why the fuck they should humor a bunch of assholes who are using niggardly charity as a pretext to grind axes with vulnerable people whom they apparently regard as their enemies and their inferiors. A Ghanaian who regards visiting American missionaries as dipshits may figure that they’re interesting foreigners (I was told that white people were a hit in the target village) and will be heading back home to the imperial center soon enough, limiting whatever obnoxiousness they had to carry onto that Speedbird to the Heart of Darkness. Now let’s change the scenario and have the same missionaries bothering prostitutes and drug users in their hometowns. Their targets won’t find this meddling novel. They’ll probably wonder why in all hell the busybodies can’t be Shanghaied into the merchant marine for the next twenty years instead, and they may well make butthurtful comments about how this ministry is not appreciated. The missionaries are no longer fascinating visitors who glisten in the sun; they’re now just a bunch of local assholes who won’t get off their high horses. They may feel that they’ve run into too much community and not enjoy listening to the community talk back to them.
Then there are people who grew up in depressing, dead-end shitholes and want to do something with their lives that they don’t believe is possible in their hometowns. If someone who was raised in Eastern Kentucky tells me that Eastern Kentucky is a soulcrushing dump, I can’t argue because I’ve never been there. There are countless shitholes–rural, urban, and suburban–that disgorge their ambitious young to other, often less obscure places where they expect to find greater opportunity. It’s no surprise if these people are critical of their hometowns. They probably have good reasons for their criticism. At the same time, they’re probably off-base if they insist that everybody back home is a total shithead.
This brings us to Kevin Williamson. Williamson stirred up a hornet’s nest a few months ago for his contribution to National Review’s anti-Trump dogpile. His contribution was mainly an extended moral diatribe against the provincial white working class. The gist of his screed was that he was quite familiar with these people, having grown up among them and tried to minister to them, and that he had come to know that their character really sucked. I recognized his attitude: it was the superiority of the enterprising kid from some no-name town who moved away and did well, and now insisted that everyone else in his high school class was an irredeemable troglodyte. It should come as no shock that there are people who feel this way, and it would be foolish to assume that there’s no truth to their characterizations, but what the hell do we gain from admiring them for being so full of spite? The moralizing in Williamson’s piece is quite over the top. His entire premise was to turn a running beef that he had with some townie dipshits in Appalachia who fell short of his high moral standards into the basis for national policy. Basically, they don’t have adequately prim bourgeois values, so to hell with them. A big part of his gripe was to ask what was wrong with them that they couldn’t get out and seek opportunity somewhere else. I.e., I don’t have any use for your community, so why do you? Williamson’s position was that these people were fornicators, drug users, alcoholics, and lazy, uneducated, semiliterate know-nothings, so of course the rest of us shouldn’t bother trying to redress their grievances over the external destruction of their local economies.
Contrast this to the rosy picture of immigrants that is presented in many of the same outlets that smear the native lower classes. The immigrants can hardly do any wrong, and the natives can hardly do any good. The elites who promote these memes about immigrants taking jobs that Americans don’t want, having aspirations that Americans don’t have, and the like claim to believe in the virtues of hard work and sobriety. They certainly do believe in these virtues for their scab labor. They claim to believe in these virtues for the enfranchised native labor they dispossessed, too, but this is bullshit. They’ve spent thirty or forty years treating working-class Americans like garbage, no matter how scrupulously they lived by the virtues needed to hold down productive, skilled jobs over the long term. They’re the ones who drove slaughterhouse employees to amphetamine by cutting their wages in half and bullying their unions into decertifying themselves. They have the gall to tell elaborate noble savage stories about scab laborers they would never welcome into their own neighborhoods and have no problem getting maimed or killed in preventable industrial accidents. They don’t actually admire the campesinos. They regard them as expendable, low-cost beta bucks for the national plantation, since the natives aren’t as amenable to dangerous workplaces and shit for pay. They selectively waive burdensome job qualification requirements for these foreigners (drug tests, experience requirements, personality tests, etc.) not out of respect, but because the foreigners will undercut Americans, and somebody has to do the work when those legally authorized to do it have been shut out for purposes of wage arbitrage.
Are we really to believe that the supercilious twatwaffles at National Review and the legacy networks never snort powder cocaine off strippers’ ass cracks when they aren’t moralizing the rest of us about drug use? Hell, I doubt I could ever consume a Buckleyan quantity of gin, and I’ve only ever been an accidental teetotaler for a week or two at a time. We’re expected to listen graciously to lectures about moderation and abstinence from people who are almost without doubt immoderate in their own lives, and to their praise for the virtues of badly dysfunctional countries to the south of our own whose governments cravenly use the United States as a dumping ground for their surplus proles while simultaneously allowing street gangs and drug cartels to provoke refugee crises with their reigns of bloodshed and terror. The intrinsic reasons not to smoke Oxycontin still stand, but if smoking Oxy while white in flyover country pisses these chickenshit assholes off, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s totally pointless.