Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The State as Addiction

The State is not something that exists in material reality. You can't point to something and say, "there is the State." So we know that the State is a concept, a narrative, a story we tell ourselves and each other, a belief system that has unhealthy consequences, it is a pattern of neuronal activity that one day we may be able to see with advanced imaging devices. The problem is how do we deal with this mind virus that prevents us from being free of violence and a sustainable, virtuous world? It occurred to me recently that it might be helpful to view the State through the lens of addiction. 

New insights into addiction may help those of us who want freedom from superstitious violence to make some progress with battling the State. Gabor Mate a psychiatrist that has made a career of treating addicts in Vancouver's inner city has interesting things to say about addiction. Addictions fill a need in the addict. Substances in and of themselves do not create addiction. Most people when exposed to chrystal meth or heroine do not become addicted for example so what is different about the people that do become addicted? When an addict injects Heroine the same pattern of brain activity lights up on an FMRI scan as when a baby locks eyes on a maternal gaze in a loving embrace. Heroine addicts without exception in, Gabor Mate's experience, report childhood abuse and neglect...they never had the love connection they needed until they met Heroine. 

In other words the things addicts consume, the things they are addicted to, fill a deep seated need in their life. The way they are treated is often a reproduction of the environment they experienced that led to the addiction. They are marginalized, locked in cages, brutalized by authority, scorned by society, and have the very thing that gives them relief forcibly taken away from them. Think about the emotional reaction that occurs in somebody who has his core belief about the State challenged rationally. Do they engage you with health reflective curiosity, rationale debate or express gratitude for correcting the story in their head, or do they act more like an addict who feels threatened that their particular nectar is going to be taken away, manipulative, Golum like, dismissive, attacking you with ad hominems and straw men and all manner of personal insult? 

Maybe there is a lesson to be learned in Portugal. Portugal legalized all drugs a decade ago and instead of treating addicts with the criminal justice system now treats them with the healthcare system. Addiction rates have since been cut in half and crime is way down as a result. Quality controlled Heroine is provided in a safe facility, addicts are plugged into therapists and employment opportunities and slowly but surely many addicts kick their addiction.

So if statism is an addiction, a story that fills a deep seated need in the addict, then what can we learn about the way we treat these addicts? In my next post I'm going to offer some suggestions of where we might start.