Inside the Mind of a Heroin Addict

Given the intense stigma of drug addiction, which is often met vicious condemnation and even disregard, the perspectives and mentalities of addicts themselves are rarely ever heard, much less sympathized with. This is arguably most true of heroin addicts, who are considered especially heinous given the intensity of that drug. Too many people see substance abusers as deserving of whatever horrible fate befalls them — after all, they put themselves in that situation, right?

Whatever motivations or triggers lead an individual to first try heroin — and more often than not, the habit is precipitated by an intersection of very complex psychological, social, and economic factors — the point is, they’re suffering immensely and don’t want to be where they are. The mind of an addict is a scary and hopeless place, as these series of accounts gathered by The Guardian attest. I urge everyone to read through them and try to get a little perspective on this neglected and misunderstood world of drug addiction.

As always, please feel free to weigh in.



Happy International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, once known as International Working Women’s Day. The focus of the event ranges from displaying respect, appreciation, and love towards women, to celebrating their economic, political and social achievements.

As you could probably infer from the original name, IWD began as a Socialist political event that emphasized the liberation and equality of women, and their rights to suffrage and better labor treatment. Unsurprisingly, it became particularly popular in Soviet Russia and the Eastern Bloc, with which it was most strongly associated. But it’s long since lost its political and ideological underpinnings, having become more akin to an admixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

The holiday isn’t really celebrated with much fanfare here in the States, although last year the Obama administration highlighted it, and March as a whole, as a time to celebrate the contributions of women everywhere. I suspect its lack of popularity partly because we have a distinct Mother’s Day, but perhaps also because of its socialist origins – the very first women’s day of any kind was declared by the Socialist Party of America in 1909.

As with most commemorative events, I don’t need any particular period of time to show my appreciation to all the women in my life, as well as women in general. You’re not only wonderful mothers, partners, and sisters, but you’re hardworking and independent human beings in your own right.

Despite the vast global disparities between men and women across a range of areas such as literacy, income, and human rights, women continue to persevere and advance their prospects. We mustn’t be complacent, since there’s still a long way to go. But we should still acknowledge how far women have come, and how much they continue to endure for nothing less than equal treatment and rights.

I sometimes have mixed feelings towards these kinds of events, such as Black History Month or Father’s Day. On the one hand, it’s good and proper to raise awareness about particular groups of people who deserve appreciation for their role in society. Honestly, it can sometimes be fun – we could use an idealistic cause to rally around and celebrate once in a while.

At the same time, I wonder if a dedicated day, week, or month ultimately undermines the very cause or people they’re meant to bolster. Are we just trivializing women, blacks, love, and other things when we relegate their commemoration to a limited time period? Do we end up leaving these things open to commercial and political exploitation, thus diluting their grander message? Shouldn’t people always appreciate women, or remember their mothers and fathers – or are critics just looking too into these things and being sticks-in-the-mud?

You know the drill folks. Share your thoughts and perspectives.

Post Script:
A friend alerted me to this amusing homage to women’s suffrage, based on Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” Check it out if you have the chance.

The Ethics of Military Spending

Dwight Eisenhower, our 34th president, was by no means a saint – what politician is? – but he sure was insightful, especially on matters of the military (he was one of the first to raise concern about the military-industrial complex for example). Consider this quote, which has been making some rounds across the web:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

Granted, a military force of some kind is definitely necessary for national security. But the amount of money that is poured into what are usually very opaque weapons projects is staggering, especially when you factor in the upkeep that is accrued over years and decades. A single aircraft carrier alone can costs billions upon initial purchase and much more in maintenance – and we have 11, with a few more to come.

Consider just one recent project: the Pentagon is planning on buying thousands of F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin for an eye-watering total of $353 billion. We’re far and above the rest of the world when it comes to technology, arms, and military spending, yet billions go into superfluous weapons who’s added edge is ultimately negligible.

I’m no military expert, but I don’t think you have to be to question the wisdom of spending this much money on something we’re superior in by a considerable margin. Our military expenditure is $700 billion, more than the next dozen countries – yes, including China – combined. Even if some of those nations are fudging the numbers, it’s doubtful they’re anywhere near our level, especially since our logistical and technical abilities far exceed what most other nations our spending their money on.

And while the US is the most egregious example, largely due to our wealth and sole superpower status, it’s hardly the only one. Estimates of the combined total of military spending for the world push past $1 trillion dollars, an unfathomable amount of money (though we roughly make up 70% of it). Many of the top spenders are hardly wealthy either, and it’s perverse to imagine sleek new weapons of destruction being paraded past crumbling buildings and starving citizens.

Any amount of spending should endure a cost-benefit analysis.  Finances are always fungible: what is spent in one area is what isn’t spent in another. Is the cost of all these arms worth their benefits in national security (or, more often than not, deterrence)? Is the money lost to education, infrastructure, and other social programs worth the military advantage?

Such things may be difficult to measure and quantify, but given the increasingly unlikely prospect of an interstate conflict – indeed, most wars are fought against unconventional forces like guerrillas or terrorist groups, which are best dealt with through intelligence – it seems sensible that we can stand to begin shedding at least a few hundreds of our thousands of nukes, for example.

While our poverty rate pushes up, our infrastructure crumbles, and our education system remains dysfunctional, we’re cranking out shinny new weapons of war – something doesn’t seem right with that, especially given that a strong economy is the backbone of a strong military. Spending more on the latter certainly won’t sustain the former.