Friday, July 1, 2011

Crack in the Facade

Imagine, if you will, a law that blatantly discriminates against black people – that makes something they do fairly frequently subject to the most severe penalties. Impossible, you say? Such a law could clearly never be passed, of if it was passed, clearly never enforced. But you'd be wrong. The case in point is the draconian prohibition against possession of crack cocaine. Now, I'm not here to claim that crack cocaine, or any other highly-addictive substance, is a good thing – far from it! My theory is that addiction to one or another substance is a substitute for facing up to the realities of life – to one's own life as well as to life in general. It's no accident that healthy, well-adjusted people seldom become addicts. But at the same time, it's a bit harsh to consider what I call self-medication to be sufficient grounds for a long, harsh jail term. A truly compassionate, humanitarian society would instead seek out causes and cures – or at least treatments – instead of incarceration. But as we should all know by now, our society is neither compassionate nor humanitarian, because it is beset with the curse of Puritanism, according to which any deviation from normal, acceptable middle-class standards is grounds for shunning, exile, and incarceration. And yet, at the very same time, we have come up with a vast and rich menu of offerings for what are called “certified victim groups” -- none more certified than what are called African-Americans, formerly blacks, formerly Negroes, etc. We will do anything – bend over backwards a thousand times – to offer reparation for the agonies our black brothers suffered under slavery. Which, in the karmic sense, is not an entirely misdirected impulse. And yet, at the same time, we insist on committing thousands of those same black brothers to long jail terms for simply possessing – not manufacturing or selling – a certain substance with a certain chemical formula.

And this is, as much as anything, an indictment of the so-called “black leadership”. When it comes to trivial matters, they are all over the media... marching in the streets... issuing “statements” and press releases, etc. But when it comes to things that are the heart and soul of the Puritan power structure, they revert to the shuffling, mindless, grinning habits of their Uncle Tom forebears. And no example is more blatant than that of crack cocaine. Here is a law that, for whatever reasons, winds up blatantly discriminating against black people – but do we hear a word of protest from the likes of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton? Not in the slightest. They will hop on the nearest plane if they hear about a “racist” incident in a public school anywhere in the country... but when it comes to a law that lands thousands of their people in jail? Not a peep. Which, I guess, tells you something about their ability or inclination to act on the basis of principle rather than politics. When black people in this country complain about being “sold out”, they need look no further than their own “leadership”. The biggest problem blacks have in the country today is that they are looking up to, and believing, all the wrong people. They are believing people who have agreed (with white liberals) to keep them on the plantation... keep them second-class citizens... keep them violent, amoral, and addicted... and keep them high up on the rolls of the prison system. Yes, that is the “deal” that has been made – for the simple reason that a race, or group, that is chronically afflicted is also a reliable political group, and a key component of the political power base. Their weakness, in other words, becomes the strength of, and a resource for, liberal politicians. It is, in fact, a form of slavery – not in the physical sense so much as economic and political.

But here is a ray of hope. There is something called the “U.S. Sentencing Committee” that is in a position to take a more moderate view of the situation. Congress has weighed in on the matter – inspired, no doubt, by the presence of a “black” president – and opted for a more equitable situation when it comes to “crack” vs. powdered cocaine. Not that either one should be illegal, mind – but we have to reinforce “baby steps” when we find ourselves in a judgmental, life-hating political culture. So now they're down in the weeds, thinking about whether this applies to people already arrested. And... how many people do you think we're talking about here? The figure provided in the article is 12,000, or 6% of the “nearly 200,000 people in federal prisons nationwide.” Now, 6% doesn't sound like much, does it? But whenever I hear someone complaining about “overcrowding” in U.S. prisons, the first thought that comes to me is, “Try letting all non-violent 'drug offenders' free, and see if that doesn't help.” Well, “but but”, comes the response, most non-violent drug offenders aren't in prison at all – to which I reply, “but what about this 12,000?”

And yes, I know, this is an uphill battle. Every government program is a jobs program, and the “drug enforcement” program is one of the biggest, with thousands of people depending on it for their employment. It's one of those things that will take generations to fix – many generations will have to die and be buried before attitudes can change enough to change the culture overall and the legal system. But these things are seldom, if ever, a matter of overnight, revolutionary change – they are a result of very small steps which accumulate over time, until at last the day dawns when things are really different. One always thinks back on Prohibition, in which sale of alcoholic beverages was legal one day, then illegal the next – and years later illegal one day and legal the next. Why couldn't the same thing happen with “drugs”? I think it's because it's the last stand of Puritanism. They ultimately failed when it came to alcohol... they suffered a stunning defeat when it came to the “sexual revolution”... they are suffering defeats in our time with regard to “GLBT” causes... I mean, gosh, what's left? Well, what's left is things like laws against crack cocaine, that serve to create a permanent incarcerated underclass – which is one of those things they seem to need. The Puritan mindset is not satisfied with simply engaging in individual spiritual growth (genuine or delusional); it is a zero-sum game where I cannot increase in merit unless someone else is decreasing in merit. So it requires a permanent underclass of the incarcerated – and the rationale for the incarceration is of little import. It can, in fact, be substance “abuse” of some sort... or sexual (mis)behavior... or any one of a thousand other things. And make no mistake, our courts, law-enforcement agencies, and “correctional” institutions are hotbeds of Puritanism. They may not necessarily look the part, but at base they are. They are all predicated on the notion that the body is evil, and that anything that serves the body (even if distorted, as in the case of drugs) is doubly evil. But who is responsible for abuses to the body? Clearly it is the individual, and he must therefore be “corrected” -- or at least confined to jail until he has a change of heart. The ideal world of the Puritan is a ruling elite with most other people locked up. I do not exaggerate! It is an absolutist, inhuman, non-compassionate frame of mind that continues to contaminate our life as a society and our legal system. We pretend that Puritanism is a long-gone phenomenon – confined to sober people in tall hats with buckles carrying blunderbusses and knocking off hapless wild turkeys. Not a bit of it! It is a heresy that is alive and well today, and which shows its true nature nowhere more than in our legal system. And I will venture to say that there are few things wrong with the United States today that cannot be traced, fairly directly, to either the Puritan mindset or the various juvenile modes of rebellion against it. You see, when you have a meme, or a complex of memes, that rules a society, and a large portion of people who rebel against those memes, you can still claim that the memes rule. The rebellion proves it, in a sense – the way people who spend their lives rebelling against their parents are proving that their parents are still in charge. True freedom would require us to, openly and plainly, disavow Puritanism and all of its delusions and works, but also disavow adolescent rebellion. But this is the very thing that people fear most – the loss of stern judgment, but also the loss of something to rebel against. Nothing terrifies people more than to be truly set free, and forced to make their own moral choices.

This is something one ought to keep in mind over the course of this weekend. We celebrate “freedom”, but in fact fear it more than any other thing.

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