Archives for category: Social Criticism

The communist that everyone loves to hate, Joseph Stalin, is credited with having said that, “The death of one is a tragedy, but the death of millions is just a statistic.” This obviously refers to the intimate heartbreak of having some one person in our lives pass away versus the math class-styled boredom humanity possesses toward the deaths of millions of “other” people. Now I can very easily link this to the anti-vaxxers who either shrug off or outright deny the literal millions of people who have died from Covid-19, but I’m not going to because the vast majority of Canadians have recognized the severe nature of the disease and acted accordingly. The point I’m actually going to make is that the response to this pandemic refutes the quotation: millions died, but there was action taken to mitigate those deaths on a global scale. Despite the impossibility of connecting on a personal level to all of those who were dying, we all got together to do something about this catastrophe. Covid is more than just a statistic; it’s human enough to elicit a response.

On the other hand, we have the communist that everyone hates to love, Karl Marx, being credited with having stolen this line from Friedrich Engels, “First as tragedy, then as farce.” This is referring to the notion that when tragic history repeats itself, the second instance is often a cruel parody of the first. If the deaths from Covid are the tragedy, then drug overdose deaths are the on-going farce.

And we all know Marx liked to party.

In British Columbia, we’ve had 3,547 deaths from Covid so far; in contrast, since the start of the pandemic until March of this year, there have been 4,552 deaths from drug overdoses, with 2022 set to outpace the previous record from the year before. Certainly the measures taken to limit the impact of Covid have significantly reduced the number of deaths that we would have faced otherwise, but we have harm reduction measures to mitigate drug deaths too with remarkable success (no one dies from overdose at safe injection sites, for instance). My point is that one set of deadly statistics was collectively agreed upon to be a tragedy, and the other was not.

Some might argue that a drug overdose death isn’t the same because they cynically believe addiction to be a choice, and therefore, a death arising from that choice is the addict’s own fault. I don’t think that this belief is as prevalent as it used to be. BC just decriminalized small amounts of all drugs, and even the conservative news outlet, the National Post, is framing this decision as being in response to a health crisis. Obviously it’s a health condition, right? Everyone is saying so.

This looks like candy, and I want to eat it.

In response to this fading belief of personal choice resulting in death, alleged advocates will point out that many of the overdose deaths are not regular substance users, but result from those who casually use drugs receiving a sketchy concoction that they were not physiologically prepared for. This is trying to paint a picture where real humans are dying from drug overdoses, so please care about them! Don’t think this is just sub-human junkies! This could just be someone who likes to party! You like to party, right? Even Marx liked to party!

This mad dash to declare addiction a health crisis to eliminate stigma is inevitably destined to fail. During the AIDS epidemic, people were stigmatized not because of the disease ravaging their bodies, but because they were gay. Everyone knew it was a health crisis, but nobody cared because it was ideologically chained to the homos. Similarly with opioid deaths: you can scream all you want that it’s a health crisis, but no one is going to detach drug use from drug users. Destigmatizing drug use will never work so long as we’re ignoring the stigma attached to the users themselves.

I expect that a drug user Pride event would be less colourful, but probably more fun… cuz, ya know, the drugs

If we see stigma as being attached to the addict in the same way that AIDS stigma was attached to the gay community, then what is it about filthy junkies that we just hate so much!? What biblical sin have drug users committed that earned them this stigma? Well, drug users are racialized, for one. They’re poor. They’re abused. They’re hobbled. They’re men (not in a femi-nazi way, but in a “failed men deserve to be discarded” way). Drug users are imbued with the sin of being socially despicable across all fronts. When society starts to embrace its homeless, when Indigenous people stop being followed around in stores, when we stop pitying the disabled, and when we allow diversity within masculinity, then maybe, the stigma against drug users will wane. Unfortunately, we’re nowhere near that.

The ads I see around town regarding substance use these days are linked to the Drug Free Kids organization which, hence the name, advocates an abstinence-based approach to drugs. We’re still teaching our kids abstinence-only programs like we were sex educators in 1950s America. It’s like we haven’t progressed at all since Nancy Reagan told us to just say no. We seem to have evolved passed the puritanism that demonized sex before marriage, accepting that kids are gonna bone and that’s okay, but we have not yet exorcized the demons from the devil’s weed.

I haven’t seen the show, but I wouldn’t believe you if you told me that none of these kids bone

Remember when sex would immediately result in pregnancy and syphilis? From my old textbook on addiction, “Estimates are that only around one-third of people who have injected heroin become addicted, compared to 22% for cocaine and 8% for marijuana. Only one drug causes addiction among a majority of its users—nicotine.” This little tidbit is completely irrelevant because we don’t want our babies to grow up to be crippled natives living on the street, and complete abstinence is the only way to be sure. Our reaction to drug users is an emotional response curated by centuries of racist, ableist, and classist attitudes, and patriarchal definitions of men. Any kind of drug education or strategy that isn’t addressing that is actively harming our chances at overcoming the opioid crisis.

The millions of deaths from Covid-19 are a tragedy because in theory, if not in practice, it can impact anyone regardless of status. There’s no stigma to it. I got Covid. You probably got Covid. Overdose deaths are for “them.” No matter how much the term “health crisis” gets bandied about to proselytize a benign neutrality, it won’t stop drugs from being a social issue. When we stop the farce and address those social issues, then maybe it will be just as okay for people to use drugs as it is for kids to bone.

Perhaps you’ve heard the song Behind Blue Eyes by The Who. If you’re unfamiliar, The Who is the band that enables Horatio Caine to make puns about murder while simultaneously putting on or taking off his sunglasses. The song fits within the category of sad men being sad, but what makes it notable is that literally every single lyric is just the worst possible advice to follow whilst being a sad man.

Let’s go through it:

No one knows what it’s like

To be the bad man

To be the sad man

Behind blue eyes

To start off, we have a basic paradox where if you’re relating to this song and taking its lyrics at face value, it already fails. By being able to relate to the song, someone besides the singer knows what it’s like to be the sad man. And like, tons of people have listened to and related to this song! I once heard in like a Ted Talk or something that depression is like a club with the most members in the world who don’t know about any of the other members. One of the best antidotes to depression is connection, and role modeling isolation, however valid it may feel in the moment, is so destructively counterintuitive!

No one knows what it’s like to be the Strong Sad

No one knows what it’s like

To be hated

To be fated

To telling only lies

Beyond the continued advocacy for self-alienation, we are now delving into the concept of determinism. I dislike determinism at the best of times, but using it to justify the hiding of one’s feelings as the only natural response to having those feelings is the worst. It’s the “I’m fine” where ‘fine’ is Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional. I know talking about your feelings is like the reverse of conversion therapy, but being honest about them with other people is one of the only ways of processing and moving through them.

But my dreams, they aren’t as empty

As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely

My love is vengeance that’s never free

This one starts out okay, but then gets significantly worse. There is the initial recognition that hope can exist outside of the numbness associated with depression which is great! Thinking about the future lets psychiatrists know you’re not likely going to kill yourself! But then… we get to love being vengeance. Obviously our singer has experienced a lot of pain that he never let go, and positive feelings he once held have turned to bitter resentment.

People hold on to resentment usually because they believe that a personal injustice has been unpunished, that their pain is righteous, but that hurt only ever goes one way: inward. It’s not the heroic battle for good it purports itself to be. Forgiveness is great not just for social cohesion, but for the emotional catharsis that lifts the weight of that pain from our shoulders. People have a hard time with forgiveness because they believe the crime was unforgivably and biblically terrible or because forgiving someone must mean that you eliminate all established boundaries with them. However, your therapist will tell you that forgiveness isn’t always for the other person, but can be for yourself. The resentee usually isn’t even in your life anymore: it’s okay, my dude, let it go.

A bird let go is worth three in the bush

No one knows what it’s like

To feel these feelings

Like I do

And I blame you

Here our singer moves on to place the responsibility of his feelings on someone else. It would be nice if someone else could manage our feelings for us, but much like everything else in this song, believing this to be the case will make your situation significantly worse. Imagine going to the doctor’s office, and the doctor is late for the appointment. One person might be anxious because they believe bad luck leads to more bad luck; another might be frustrated because they managed their time well in being punctual, and now the rest of their day is going to be out of whack because of this; another might be relieved because they didn’t have an opportunity to emotionally prepare themselves previously, and now they have time to do so. The action of the doctor is the same in all three scenarios, but the emotional response is unique to the individual because we all have our own needs and contexts. The first needs reassurance, the second needs structure, the third needs reflection. Our feelings don’t come from the actions of other people, but are based on whether or not our own subjective needs are met. Other people can support us in strategies to meet those needs, but ultimately our needs, and therefore the causes of our feelings, come from within. There are an infinite number of ways to meet our needs, and if you’re caught up in blaming someone else for your emotions, you won’t find a single one because you’re not even looking at the right problem.

Our feelings, our reactions, our context being subjective doesn’t delegitimize them. Just because the whole world wouldn’t react the same way to something doesn’t mean that the feelings aren’t valid. Feelings are always valid because they’re reflective of needs that are or are not met. Strategies aren’t all valid in that they won’t all help, and the strategy of focusing outward on resentment and vengeance certainly doesn’t.

No one bites back as hard

On their anger

None of my pain and woe

Can show through

We’re back to hiding those tough-guy emotions, so I won’t repeat myself.

Have a picture of a kitten, instead!

When my fist clenches, crack it open

Before I use it and lose my cool

When I smile, tell me some bad news

Before I laugh and act like a fool

And if I swallow anything evil

Put your finger down my throat

And if I shiver, please give me a blanket

Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

These last two verses are about the same, so I’ll do them together. This is when the song picks up, and you might expect some more informed lyrics to counteract all the bad advice that has been previously espoused. You’d be wrong. Our singer is still intent on having someone else manage his emotions for him. Not only does he not want to show emotions, but his ideal partner is the one where he doesn’t have to self-regulate whatsoever. This is an impossible standard to impose on anyone and will always be doomed to failure. He will return to the cycle of bitterness and resentment, and remain forever alone.

We got through it! What’s interesting about this song is that it was initially intended to be sung by the villain of an aborted rock opera that The Who tried putting together. The reason it would be awful to emulate is because you’re not supposed to emulate villains! Mystery solved!

People may ask, Who is Snidely Whiplash, but no one ever asks how is Snidely Whiplash!

Unfortunately, songs don’t come with warning labels indicating that their lyrics are meant to be villainous. The radio DJ is not going to outline, as I have, all of the proper ways to navigate depression prior to playing the tune; they’re just going to play it and cut to commercial. If you fast-forward to the early 2000s, the Attitude Era, when the wrestling was meaner, nu-metal was on the rise, and those with a propensity toward blue eyes began to be angry for what seemed like no reason, we have famed angry man Fred Durst covering this song with his group Limp Bizkit. The demographics catered to by Limp Bizkit are certainly different from those of The Who, and the tragedy of taking this song at face value becomes much more apparent. If you read the YouTube comments for the Limp Bizkit cover, you’ll see scores of people connecting to this through their own depression, or through someone they know who has passed away, one notably by suicide; you can plainly see that people are uncritically connecting to this song despite its concretely harmful message.

This isn’t unique to art. The villainous strategies to corrupt legitimate needs abound. Demagogues don’t provide warning labels either. The racist mass shooting in Buffalo was in response to real anxiety over the impacts of poor resource management on the future – a genuine cause for anxiety, but an obviously horrific strategy to meet the needs underlying that fear. Racism in general preys upon the need for security, reassurance, and belonging, and if it isn’t any of those needs, I bet there it’s one similar. The threats and fears may be real or manufactured, but the strategy to meet them is what is important. Sometimes the most effective strategy is to reevaluate the threat. Anxiety is not inherently intuitive, after all.

Whole lotta really old memes in this one. You can tell I try to cater to the no-longer-that-young crowd

The thing is, though, Behind Blue Eyes is a great song, and it does connect very meaningfully to some very universal feelings of hurt and loneliness. There is a good reason why people respond to it the way they do, in the same way that people respond to racism or similar ideologies with equally terrible practical outcomes. It’s also why these ideas are so perniciously resistant to reason: they’re not based on reason!

A lot of the times people will convince themselves their beliefs are based on facts and logic because that’s far more modern than those rubes from before science was invented, but the same is true for all of us. Reason is a slave to the passions, after all. These people don’t need an argument, they need a hug and to be told they’ll be okay – even if, and perhaps especially if, an argument is what they’re clamouring for. We are driven by our emotions and our needs, that’s fine and valid, but we need to use our heads to arrive at strategies that will actually satisfy them lest we destroy ourselves or those around us.

Depending on who you ask, Critical Race Theory (CRT) is potentially one of the biggest threats to society that the West has ever faced. It’s being fed to our children and making them grow up to become beta cucks who are unable to properly defend their country against all the Alphas in China and Russia, or even worse, grow up to become women. With a nation of self-hating, over-educated snowflakes, the West is sure to crumble under the weight of its own wokeness. And this shit is starting in our schools! Our babies! If they start teaching our babies about CRT, what’s next? That gay people exist!?

If children are exposed to non-derogatory images of homosexuality at a young age, they might grow up thinking that it’s normal! Heavens to Betsy!

Of course, we all know about gay people because we’ve had such an thorough and well-balanced exploration of homosexuality in our publicly-funded sexual education previously to now. But what is CRT? How can a race be critical when it doesn’t even have a mouth? Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up in the United States so I didn’t have CRT shoved down my young throat when I went to elementary school. I had to wait until my Master’s degree to learn about it, so my education came much too late.

What I learned is that one can frame racism beyond personal prejudice. CRT asks us to imagine a world where interpersonal racism evaporated overnight, and wonder whether racial disparities would still exist. Given that it’s easy enough to see that they would, CRT opens up a conversation as to what contributes to racial disparities beyond subjective attitudes.

It turns out that holding hands was not enough to end the stratification created by centuries of injustice

CRT is a legal lens in that it focuses primarily on how laws that can appear neutral on their face represent a history of laws that originated in more overt forms of discrimination. The case I’m most familiar with, since that’s what I did my studies on, are drug laws that seemingly apply to everyone equally (they don’t use the n-word in the legal code, for instance), but in their history and implementation primarily target people of colour. Drug laws, in both the United States and Canada, were implemented entirely to control immigrant populations and prevent the mixing of races. Famously, in 1907, there was a massive race riot in Vancouver’s Chinatown because White people believed that Asian men were seducing White women using that sweet, sweet opium. Future Prime Ministry William Lyon Mackenzie King went and “investigated” the riot, and when he returned to Ottawa, criminalized opium because that was clearly the issue. Today, even though racial minorities are generally harassed by the legal system disproportionately to their White counterparts, the criminalization actually surges when the excuse being used for that harassment is drugs. Politicians will use the dog whistle “tough on crime” to stoke racialized fears without actually saying the n-word repeatedly, and that’s because crime and in particular drug crime have been so embedded into our cultural psyche as being linked to dangerous racial minorities that we can’t escape it. Therefore, the enforcement of drug laws is inherently racist even if there are a few good apples in the police force with open and progressive values.

And that, my friends, is what I learned CRT to be. It’s the deconstruction of seemingly neutral laws through a historical lens to ascertain why their outcome today disproportionately beleaguers people of colour. There’s more to it than that, such as a look at the impotence of current civil rights laws to address the so-called neutral laws adjacent to them in the legal code that are harming the people the civil rights laws are ostensibly there to protect, but that’s the most simplistic way of understanding CRT.

Ban the questioning of why things are the way they are! You were supposed to stop asking “why” when you turned three!

What does the historical deconstruction of laws have to do with elementary school kids? It would be bizarre to teach a postmodern philosophy of law to a child who doesn’t even have an understanding of how a bill becomes a law yet. In my ignorance, I only learned about CRT from the academic journals exploring the topic. Little did I know that social media and television pundits have different sources for their understanding of CRT; namely, from all the way up their own ass.

So what is CRT, really? Well, according to timeless sage and general polymath Tucker Carlson, CRT teaches us, “if you’re a straight White American, even if you’re a very small child, you’re guilty. It’s your fault. You’re a bad person.” This is the greatest threat to American society, and “everything’s at stake” because “[CRT is] civilization-ending poison.” The group Moms for Liberty, famous for putting out a $500 reward for catching teachers daring to educate their students on CRT, describe it as categorizing people into a binary of “oppressors” and “victim” based exclusively on the colour of that person’s skin. “That means the two million union soldiers who fought in the civil war to end slavery were also oppressors!” These people must be the experts to address it with such civilization-ending gravitas to put bounties on school teachers.

How do they know this is happening? Well they can point to facts like the National Education Association wanting to include in its curriculum the “truthful and age-appropriate accountings of unpleasant aspects of American history” and “the continued impact this history has on our current society.” Our Moms for Liberty heroines cite school assignments that ask their kids to reflect on what privileges they might have within their social standing.

If your university library didn’t have major budget cuts, that makes you an oppressor!

But hold on, my fancy university degree is tingling. How does acknowledging say, slavery, categorize White children today into an oppressor class? Should we not be teaching kids about slavery? Or do they disagree that history has an on-going influence on modern society, and perhaps have different beliefs as to why racial disparities still exist? Will acknowledging where we might have benefited from our station in life truly be the end of civilization as we know it? Seems pretty… hyperbolic, to say the least. It’s also not CRT. If you’ll recall, CRT is the postmodern deconstruction of laws to disentangle them from their colour-blind neutrality to show how racist origins influence the structure of society today. Very little to do with privilege, nor is there any categorization of people within that perspective. Its entire deal is to look away from people to look at the theory of law – remember how it said nobody had to be personally racist for these problems to continue? Frankly, it’s barely a history lesson and more of a lens through which to view a history lesson, and my guess is that school kids aren’t deconstructing drug laws in their grade 10 social studies classes even if they’re carrying forward historical events to see their influence today.

If CRT isn’t actually CRT, then what is CRT? Well, if we listen to how CRT is being described, it’s an attack on White children, bullying them into self-effacing beliefs. The threat isn’t to civilization, it’s a threat to White civilization. There does not appear to be any concern for Black children learning CRT. Presumably Black children are benefiting from this new narrative since they are now the social victors while their White peers exist only under their woke boots.

Bow before your new king!

You know how when a politician is asked a question they don’t want to answer, they don’t answer it, and respond instead to an imagined question that allows them to answer in the way they want? That’s what’s happening with CRT. No one is actually responding to CRT, they’re creating a strawman of CRT that allows them to tell susceptible White folks that they are under threat from the woke mob. What will never be discussed is the demographics of that mob: logically, in order for CRT to make sense as a threat, it has to be made up of people of colour and their allies, or, n______ and n_____-lovers. Truly a civilization-ending threat to put those people in charge!

The pandering to White Fright is not even subtle! It’s those coloureds and those coloured-lovers (that’s probably safer, right?) coming to brainwash our precious White darlings! It’s so obviously race-baiting that CRT literally has “race” in the name. Florida, known for being vociferously against censorship and cancel culture, is now banning math textbooks for things like CRT and social-emotional learning (because building a relationship toward a subject rather than embodying a stoic disinterest in rigorous scholarship at six years old is for pussies – and only pussies care about racial relations). It must only be the speech of certain types of people that is worth protecting.

Don’t worry, it’s only the books that talk about White Supremacy as a bad thing that are being burned because that’s divisive!

Racism never went away. The Southern Strategy may have changed racist language from repeatedly using the n-word to dog whistles with plausible deniability like “tough on crime”, but it was always there. The backlash to CRT shows a regression away from the dog whistle. Today’s Lee Atwater is probably out there now wondering whether political speech can start using the n-word again. If demagogues are already comfortable raising a racial panic over the threat to all of the White babies, and this becomes normalized, it’s not like racism is going to content itself with eliminating the discussion of race in schools.

Dog whistles exist for terrible people to raise the specter of what ought to be obsolete ideologies. As we see the dog whistles get put away to allow room for the more overt integration of those terrible ideologies into the mainstream, it really ought to be a wake-up call that something much worse is coming.