An Oct. 30, 2017 New Yorker article is entitled: “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain: The Sackler dynasty’s ruthless marketing of painkillers has generated billions of dollars – and millions of addicts.”
It’s a good read.
Portugal’s unique approach to drug policy
A Dec. 5, 2017 Guardian article is entitled: “Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it?: Since it decriminalised all drugs in 2001, Portugal has seen dramatic drops in overdoses, HIV infection and drug-related crime.”
I am very impressed with a book, available at the Toronto Public Library, entitled: Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction (2018).
A blurb at the Toronto Public Library website notes:
Telling the story of a grassroots group of addicts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who waged a political street fight for two decades to transform how the city treats its most marginalised citizens. Over the past 25 years, this group of residents from Canada’s poorest neighbourhood organised themselves in response to the growing number of overdose deaths and demanded that addicts be given the same rights as any other citizen; against all odds, they eventually won. But just as their battle came to an end, fentanyl arrived and opioid deaths across North America reached an all-time high.
Marketing is a powerful force, in the pursuit of positive or negative purposes
Marketing, along with public relations and media relations, is a powerful force for good or ill.
As a volunteer over the past several decades, with a focus on volunteer efforts related to public relations and media relations in the context of community self-development at the local, national, and international levels, I’ve often had the occasion to think about the power of word-pictures, and the power of the adept use of language – for good or for ill.
A great overview of the power of marketing – as a positive force, in this case – can be accessed at a study available at the Toronto Public Library (TPL).
The study in question is entitled: Happier?: The History of a Cultural Movement That Inspired to Transform America (2018).
A blurb at the TPL website reads:
When a cultural movement that began to take shape in the mid-twentieth century erupted into mainstream American culture in the late 1990s, it brought to the fore the idea that it is as important to improve one’s own sense of pleasure as it is to manage depression and anxiety. Cultural historian Daniel Horowitz’s research reveals that this change happened in the context of key events. World War II, the Holocaust, post-war prosperity, the rise of counter-culture, the crises of the 1970s, the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and the prime ministerships of Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron provided the important context for the development of the field today known as positive psychology.
Happier? provides the first history of the origins, development, and impact of the way Americans – and now many around the world – shifted from mental illness to well-being as they pondered the human condition. This change, which came about from the fusing of knowledge drawn from Eastern spiritual traditions, behavioral economics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and cognitive psychology, has been led by scholars and academic entrepreneurs, as they wrestled with the implications of political events and forces such as neoliberalism and cultural conservatism, and a public eager for self-improvement.
Linking the development of happiness studies and positive psychology with a broad series of social changes, including the emergence of new media and technologies like TED talks, blogs, web sites, and neuroscience, as well as the role of evangelical ministers, Oprah Winfrey’s enterprises, and funding from government agencies and private foundations, Horowitz highlights the transfer of specialized knowledge into popular arenas. Along the way he shows how marketing triumphed, transforming academic disciplines and spirituality into saleable products. Ultimately, Happier? illuminates how positive psychology, one of the most influential academic fields of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, infused American culture with captivating promises for a happier society.
Studies related to Second World War
I have taken time off from blogging, in the process setting aside time to focus closely upon intensive reading, within the analog sphere, of reality.
The above-noted book refers to the Second World War, among other topics. Over the past several months, I’ve been reading extensively about the history of Nazi Germany – about how the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, how it consolidated its power in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War, and its role during the Second World War. I have also been reading extensively about the aftermath of the Second World War.
As I have noted in previous posts, in my anecdotal experience, Richard J. Evans provides an exemplary overview regarding the above-noted topics.
As it happens, Richard J. Evans writes in a style that is much easier to read than the style of Happiest? (2018). On one level, that matters; it makes the reading a little easier than otherwise would be the case. It is not, however, the only variable that matters.
If a book is strongly evidence-based, is built around a cogent and well-reasoned framework, and is structured in such a way that it’s also easy to read, then I much enjoy reading such a work.
On the other hand, if a book is strongly evidence-based, is built around a cogent and well-reasoned framework, and is structured in such a way that it’s quite a chore to read, then I will still be interested in the reading of it. That is too say, the ease of reading is just one of the many variables that are at play, when a person seeks to get educated about a particular topic.
With regard to positivity, I am a keener. In the late 1960s, I read a couple of books that convinced me of the power of a positive attitude, and the value of framing things in positive terms.
Framing is the key variable.
Jim Tovey’s father’s advice, about attunement to the present moment
I am reminded, in this context, of the advice that his father gave to the late Jim Tovey, as noted at a previous post:
“The only thing we are guaranteed in life is this moment, and every moment is precious. Be the best person you can be in this moment and make every moment positive, helpful and productive.”
It is noteworthy, at least from my perspective as an observer, that the above-noted excellent and powerful advice deals with mindfulness, but is not labelled as such. That is all for the best; mindfulness as a concept has great power, yet it can readily be addressed without labelling it as mindfulness. As well, no one really owns the concept of mindfulness; and we can add that the concept can be defined in many different ways, and can be claimed by many different constituencies.
Violence, associated with strongly held belief systems, including but not restricted to, Buddhism
In particular, I have explored the latter topic at a page entitled: Mindfulness meditation.
With regard to themes addressed at the latter page, a recent Toronto Public Library study that I have been reading with interest is entitled: Myanmar’s Enemy Within: Buddhist Violence and the Making of a Muslim ‘Other’ (2017).
A TPL blurb reads:
Summary/Review: Explores the growing divide between Myanmar’s Buddhist and Muslim communities, and questions why some of the most respected and articulate voices for democracy in the country have become complicit in the persecution of its religious minorities.
I refer in particular to Buddhism because it has been marketed widely, in particular in the West, as a uniquely non-violent religion. The bottom line from my perspective is that practitioners of Buddhism, like adherents of any strongly held belief system, are readily, and enthusiastically, capable of acting in support of violence, and, indeed, in support of genocide, under specified conditions.
These are all great topics. I am delighted that, as a result of having a website, I have the opportunity to share my reflections, from time to time, about these many topics.
A valuable study, available at the Toronto Public Library, is entitled: The Globalisation of Addiction: A study in Poverty of the Spirit (2008).
A blurb (which I’ve broken into shorter paragraphs) for the book reads:
The Globalisation of Addiction presents a radical rethink about the nature of addiction. Scientific medicine has failed when it comes to addiction. There are no reliable methods to cure it, prevent it, or take the pain out of it.
There is no durable consensus on what addiction is, what causes it, or what should be done about it. Meanwhile, it continues to increase around the world. This book argues that the cause of this failure to control addiction is that the conventional wisdom of the 19th and 20th centuries focused too single-mindedly on the afflicted individual addict.
Although addiction obviously manifests itself in individual cases, its prevalence differs dramatically between societies. For example, it can be quite rare in a society for centuries, and then become common when a tribal culture is destroyed or a highly developed civilization collapses.
When addiction becomes commonplace in a society, people become addicted not only to alcohol and drugs, but to a thousand other destructive pursuits: money, power, dysfunctional relationships, or video games. A social perspective on addiction does not deny individual differences in vulnerability to addiction, but it removes them from the foreground of attention, because social determinants are more powerful.
This book shows that the social circumstances that spread addiction in a conquered tribe or a falling civilisation are also built into today’s globalizing free-market society.
A free-market society is magnificently productive, but it subjects people to irresistible pressures towards individualism and competition, tearing rich and poor alike from the close social and spiritual ties that normally constitute human life.
People adapt to their dislocation by finding the best substitutes for a sustaining social and spiritual life that they can, and addiction serves this function all too well.
The book argues that the most effective response to a growing addiction problem is a social and political one, rather than an individual one. Such a solution would not put the doctors, psychologists, social workers, policemen, and priests out of work, but it would incorporate their practices in alarger social project.
The project is to reshape society with enough force and imagination to enable people to find social integration and meaning in everyday life. Then great numbers of them would not need to fill their inner void with addictions.
A Jan. 27, 2018 Guardian article is entitled: “The Sackler family made billions from OxyContin. Why do top US colleges take money tainted by the opioid crisis?”
A Jan. 31, 2018 Guardian article is entitled: “‘It needs to make you uncomfortable’: the opioid documentary set to shock America.”
An excerpt reads:
Each day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose. The five-part docu-series, which premieres Friday on Showtime, bypasses the didactic timeline of how the US got to this position and instead places the audience in unvarnished scenes of human suffering.
It’s an intimate style the director, Matthew Heineman, used in the Oscar-nominated Cartel Land, and it puts a face to people affected by the crisis.
The camera keeps rolling as women with children are investigated by police for their connection to the opioid trade in a home filled with kilos of heroin, in a car driven by an intoxicated mother and in a front yard, being taken away by child protective services.
The children’s faces are blurred, unlike those of almost everyone else in the film, including the main characters: police, people with addiction and Mexican poppy growers.
A Feb. 1, 2018 CBC article is entitled: “Rohingya crisis has ‘hallmarks of genocide,’ UN official says: Yanghee Lee said that Burma’s actions were ‘amounting to crimes against humanity.’ ”