Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:
Bella Mackie, a Guardian comment moderator and daughter of the paper’s editor Alan Rusbridger, recounts her own fearless, indeed Herculean struggle with an addiction to… Diet Coke: “Giving up my favourite drink was as difficult as I had feared. I set about it with a determination to go cold turkey, knowing that even one can would make me slip back into old habits.” There followed a dark downward spiral. “For the first month, I felt exhausted and could barely keep my eyes open at my desk. Then came the nerves, the feeling that something was missing.” Yes, dear reader. Feel her pain and weep.
Contrast the above (as spotted by David Thompson) with this passage from Theodore Dalrymple’s recent speech to Hillsdale College:
Withdrawal from opiates, the fearfulness of which, reiterated in film and book, is often given as one of the main reasons for not abandoning the habit, is in fact a pretty trivial condition, certainly by comparison with illnesses which most of us have experienced, or by comparison with withdrawal from other drugs. I have never heard an alcoholic say, for example, that he fears to give up alcohol because of delirium tremens—a genuinely dangerous medical condition, unlike withdrawal from heroin. Research has shown that medical treatment is not necessary for heroin addicts to abandon their habit and that many thousands do so without any medical intervention whatsoever.
In Britain at least, heroin addicts do not become criminals because they are addicted (and can raise funds to buy their drugs only by crime); those who take heroin and indulge in criminal behavior have almost always indulged in extensive criminal behavior before they were ever addicted. Criminality is a better predictor of addiction than is addiction of criminality.
In other words, all the bases upon which heroin addiction is treated as if it is something that happens to people rather than something that people do are false, and easily shown to be false. This is so whatever the latest neuro-scientific research may supposedly show.
I have taken the example of heroin addiction as emblematic of what, with some trepidation, I may call the dialectical relationship between the worldview of those at the bottom of society and the complementary worldview of what one might call the salvationist bureaucracy of the government. In the old Soviet Union there was a joke in which the workers would say to the party bosses, “We pretend to work and you pretend to pay us.” In the case of the heroin addicts, they might say, “We pretend to be ill, and you pretend to cure us.”
Dalrymple is a daily reminder than the British used to be made of sterner stuff. Still, I can’t help but think that somewhere in the Bizarro World, a still-alive Lou Reed is busy re-writing the lyrics to “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony),” the 1971 Coca-Cola ad.
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(Via Maggie’s Farm.)