Think like a recovery capitalist: involuntary abstinence in the Emerald City

Think like a recovery capitalist: involuntary abstinence in the Emerald City
Adapted from CBC News, February 6, 2023.

How a group of fundamentalists is constructing a great wooden horse standing tall on carcerality, profiteering and propaganda to deliver Compassion unto the people.

The Emerald City is, on the surface, a beautiful place built from bounties buried deep in the Earth's crust, where most everyone believes in a powerful wizard who knows all. You know the rest of that story. It turns out the wizard in fact knows very little except how to fool his followers into believing in his powers, and the Emerald City sustains itself largely on this mistaken belief.

This Great Wizard's closest followers are united by perhaps questionable compassion for people about whom they know very little, and so we know these followers as the United Compassionate Party. This story will focus on the great gift the United Compassionates have been busily building to deliver into the heart of the Emerald City and the problem they insist it will solve.

Despite its shimmer, all is not well in the Emerald City. Many of its people struggle to eat and find shelter, let alone pay for the shiny things drawn from deep in the Earth's crust. Others are bored, angry or feel disconnected from those around them. Some find comfort or amusement in a few special powders that, for a brief time, can make their pains and problems seem like distant bumps on a flat road.

But because the Great Wizard's followers believe their illusions alone are acceptable, they maintain that selling these powders be punishable by years in a cage. And because the forbidden powders look the same and have to be made and moved under cover of darkness, they get mixed up or produced at exceptionally high potency. And so, many people die for the Great Wizard's mandated illusions.

The gift is a wooden horse on wheels. Inside its belly is the secret to the Emerald City's plan to end these alternative illusions once and for all. It's a stack of paper the United Compassionates call the Compassionate Intervention Act.

Construction of the great wooden horse is nearly complete. When it is, those many stacks of paper will rain down on the city from its belly. The papers will land in the ready hands of United Compassionates and their powerful friends who do not struggle to feed and shelter themselves, but who feel they know best about such things, and the Emerald City's good people will never be tempted to consume the forbidden powders again.

That is, the ones who survive. You see, written on each page is a message signed by the Great Wizard giving the city guard the power to seize anyone who enjoys the illusions granted by the forbidden powders and place them in a cage.

The United Compassionates have struggled for the right words to convey the Great Wizard's idea publicly. They correctly fear people would misinterpret it as racist, repressive and perhaps even harmful to the people who are the object of their Compassion. But the Great Wizard's most powerful followers found a way to ease this fear with a series of forceful, if mistaken, dichotomies:

"We would then bring you into hospital, and we may keep you there against your will, involuntarily, to make sure you're OK...If that same person was to inject a lethal amount of [powder], we would do nothing. We would walk by them laying on the street and do nothing. If they came to [the emergency department] we'd say 'this isn't something we can fix in hospital' and we'd discharge them and do nothing."

The great horse stands on four sturdy legs and a thick wooden platform. This is the story of why the United Compassionates chose these legs and that platform to carry their horse to deliver Compassion unto the people of the Emerald City.

Image of a wooden horse on wheels with "Involuntary Treatment" written in its belly. Below, the words "Find, Seize, Incarcerate, Treat" make up the wooden legs. The base of the structure is labelled "Justify".

Platform: Delivering the good word of Compassion

At first, the people of the Emerald City were a willing audience for the Great Wizard's message: that a series of carefully curated steps called 'treatment' could end the crisis of mass death from unregulated powders. Because most citizens only vaguely understood what drives some people to seek out the forbidden powders and simply wanted the death to stop, they came to learn that 'addiction,' a chronic disease or behavioural pattern or genetic condition or something else – no one is entirely sure – was responsible for the deaths.

They were also taught that 'hope is the antidote to stigma,' which sounds lovely but in fact is rather inaccurate, given that education and understanding are recognized ways to help people overcome stigma, while hope has no track record in doing so.

And thus, fuelled by hope, the United Compassionates insisted to the people of the Emerald City that addiction should be treated with cages and therefore cage treatment be used to put an end to the deaths.

Wide acceptance of this view formed a sturdy base on which to build a wooden horse to carry the Compassionate Intervention Act into the heart of the Emerald City. The United Compassionates ensured that leaders of the city guard and friendly doctors and other powerful people who stood to gain from what was written on the papers carried by the horse took every chance to repeat this view to the citizens of the Emerald City.

And using the collective wealth of these citizens, many of whom struggled to eat and find shelter, let alone pay for shiny things drawn from deep in the Earth's crust, the United Compassionates even paid for a great annual gathering to reaffirm the message and ensure that everyone with power to oppose it would come to realize what they were up against.

First leg: Surveillance to find Those Requiring Compassion

The people of the Emerald City who consumed the forbidden powders had a few options to keep themselves safe, such as free vials of antidote and little rooms full of caregivers who made sure nobody died using the powders while visiting these rooms. Other people could access powders made in laboratories by people in white coats, and so largely did not die from enjoying the illusions they could offer.

The United Compassionates saw these as barbaric practices that would only encourage more people to seek out forbidden powders, but also recognized the opportunity to funnel people accessing these practices into 'treatment' to fix 'addiction,' which they continued to assert was the real problem.

Next, using the dwindling savings of the citizens of the Emerald City, many of whom struggled to eat and find shelter, let alone pay for shiny things drawn from deep in the Earth's crust, they offered a considerable sum of money to their clever friends who built a device to monitor Those Requiring Compassion while hiding the outcomes of their treatment from public view.

And as such methods were implemented, the first leg of the great wooden horse stood tall atop the platform.

Second leg: Police power to seize Those Requiring Compassion

Knowing that most citizens of the Emerald City who consumed the forbidden powders understood their use of the powders not as the cause of their problems but rather a welcome if temporary reprieve, the United Compassionates could see that such citizens would not enter 'treatment' facilities willingly. The city guard would need to be enlisted to persuade such citizens to accept their fate.

Many within the city guard understood their task to be protection of citizens, and also understood that the people they were being asked to force into 'treatment' were themselves citizens. This presented something of a contradiction.

So leaders of the city guard took on the thankless task of slandering citizens who consume the forbidden powders as 'dangers to themselves or others.' And thus the contradiction was overcome, and powers were granted to the city guard with little concern that its members might judge for themselves whether or not such 'dangers' truly required as extreme a response as dragging people who consume illusions into a cage against their will.

Third leg: Spaces for Those Requiring Compassion

And as the numbers of people Compassionately dragged into cages rose ever higher, it was understood that more cages would be required to meet the demand. This was a considerable undertaking that would include dismantling a facility for people with no other options for shelter, owned collectively by the people of the Emerald City, and giving it over to friends of the United Compassionates to be used for Those Requiring Compassion.

And this was repeated across the land. And the citizens of the Emerald City, many of whom struggled to eat and find shelter, let alone pay for shiny things drawn from deep in the Earth's crust, offered their last pennies to build the new cages.

Fourth leg: Business infrastructure to deliver Compassion

But the cages themselves were only part of the Compassionate strategy to guarantee an end to the consumption of forbidden powders in the Emerald City. There was tremendous wealth to be produced from holding so many people in so many cages, and opportunities besides to extract wealth by delivering people to and from the facilities, to replace forbidden powders with powders made with secret recipes by people in white coats who pay for private meetings with the United Compassionates, and to extend the practices in these facilities to realms beyond the Emerald City.

And so, these new friends of United Compassionates were offered access to Those Requiring Compassion, and opportunities were found to Compassionately treat the many thousands held captive in the city's great prisons, often for reasons related to enjoying the illusions offered by the forbidden powders.

And the citizens of the Emerald City, many of whom struggled to eat and find shelter, let alone pay for shiny things drawn from deep in the Earth's crust, took on great debt to ensure these friends of the United Compassionates could conduct these activities, as ordained by the Great Wizard.

A very poorly drawn horse that shows the outline of this piece, carrying "forced treatment" in its belly atop four legs as outlined above.
Good things can come from humble beginnings: My drawing that conceptualized this work.

Drug Data Decoded provides analysis on topics concerning the war on drugs using news sources, publicly available data sets and freedom of information submissions, from which the author draws reasonable opinions. The author is not a journalist.

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