On Drugs, Part II: Heroin, Sovereign Citizens, and Native Americans

As I was reading about the life of ants, I came upon this account in an old entomology book. Ants are known for hosting in their heap a variety of “guests,” i.e. parasites. One of these parasites happens to be the Lomechusa pubicollis, also known as “rove beetle.” And here is what she occasionally does. She penetrates the hill, locates the hatching room, steals upon the sentinel-ant guarding it, devours her, and proceeds thereafter to lay her eggs amidst the brood of the hosts. Not appearing to notice and/or discriminate against the foreign larvae, the ants nurture them like their own. The young larva of the Lomechusa, which is possessed of a voracious appetite, does not forbear from gorging, in addition to the daily fare, on several other contiguous ant-larvae.

If, by any chance, a warden-ant seems determined to reprimand, castigate, and contain the youthful ravager, the latter raises at once its rump, protruding in the warden’s face the trichomes —moist hairs imbibed with toxic secretions—, which the ant is irresistibly drawn to lick with violent abandon. When this happens, comments the entomologist, the sturdy worker-ants are lost, and with them, the anthill as a whole. Instantly and thoroughly addicted to the juice of the trichomes, the workers become thereupon wholly oblivious to the fine heap-mechanics of which they once were the infallible cogs. They soon lose their balance and, disoriented, can no longer move along the underground galleries of the nest with efficient swiftness. Meanwhile, improperly fed and tended to, their larvae begin to spawn deformed ants. The whole house gradually falls asunder, and the nest eventually vanishes. Meantime, the Lomechusas will have moved to another heap.

The image of the plastered ants staggering, directionless and hallucinated, in the corridors of their Structure, while their incubator teems with baby freaks has stuck in my head. It cannot fail to impress, especially for the quite obvious analogies (with our human realm) it immediately suggests.

American Psychiatrist Thomas S. Szasz (1920-2012) once aphorized that “Addiction, obesity, starvation (anorexia nervosa) are political problems, not psychiatric: each condenses and expresses a contest between the individual and some other person or persons in his environment over the control of the individual’s body.” Szasz viewed the question as an existential problem reducible to basic individualistic impulses. Wives put on layers of fat to repel husbands whose sexual attention they no longer desire, while husbands drink themselves to oblivion not to cope with the requests of wives they can no longer abide. Obesity, then, might be the art of building adipose armor against a hostile, merciless environment, etc. In this sense, intoxication, or “addiction,” is a way out; it is protection & escape; a willful avenue of “freedom.”

The problem with modern States, said Szasz, is that these want to control everything, including health. And in such “Therapeutic States,” the technocracy gets to decide who is to consume which drug and when. What it approves is therefore legalalcohol, cigarettes, and prescriptions drugs— and what it does not —“hard drugs” (heroin, meth, cocaine, etc.)— it fights with a series of crusades: the infamous, cyclical, never-ending “War on Drugs,”

Yes, But for as clever as these remarks may be, they miss the fundamental point of the problem. Our States are indeed Therapeutic States, though not for the sadistic sake of nondescript “control,” which affirmation leads to a pool of inconclusive Libertarian inanities on this count. The State —clearly, on behalf of its elite— perforce monitors what is possibly the chief resource of the human ant-heap, and that is its labor. Productivity. And drugs, clearly, affect productivity.

This is a constraint, considering that —and here is the second piece of the State’s balancing act— a general state of oblivious intoxication is advisable for the obvious purpose of suppressing dissent. A nation of stoners would be ideal in this respect. Therefore, at heart, the question is —as it always is in the technocratic framework— one of efficient management: i.e., how best to calibrate the dosage of national intoxication without impairing labor productivity (too much).

Since drugs affect labor productivity, it thus becomes crucial to study the effects upon it of all narcotics; classify them, and finally legislate accordingly.

Traditionally, when manufacturing occupied a sizeable portion of our worker-ants, booze and smoke were the only two intoxicants allowed. The others were indisputably impairing their (assembly-line) performance. Alcohol galore after 5 pm and a death by liver-failure one day after retirement posed no problem whatsoever for the State: one had given it its due. Onto the next ant.

Lately, the (gradual) push toward the legalization of marijuana in the US is simply dictated by the progressive manufacturing off-shoring of the country: with 60 percent of all production in the service sector, it has been noted that many such jobs (shipping, mail order, warehousing , etc.) can be —and, in fact, are— carried out with a (slight) weed buzz.

As for the “hard drugs,” the social dynamic of its distribution is somewhat more involved. From the System’s viewpoint, they ought to be in the system to sedate that portion of the underclass that is chronically unemployed/unemployable (acrimoniously so), and therefore useless: i.e., the excluded ones, who live in shantytown. Under the influence of alcohol, the physical body is still very much engaged; not so with opium: the latter works to numb the body entirely. Hard drugs ought to be in the system, but not legally —so as to keep these potent intoxicants, as far as logistically possible, out of the workers’ reach. That is why distribution has been traditionally deputized to Crime Syndicates fronted by slumlords; this explains the violence, messiness, and ostensible “wastefulness” of the arrangement, which has fueled for the past thirty years a polemical fracas between so-called Libertarians and Prohibitionists —elitists both of them, the former wanting to take chances and liberalize (almost) everything while the latter, with circumspection, hold back. The State’s repression (i.e. the Prohibitionists’ “War on Drugs”) is not an operation designed to suppress the distribution per se, but to calibrate it, —e.g., by composing mafia feuds when greed gets out of hand; by draining the system of excessive, disorderly inflows; and by stemming the flux of narcotics in the “right” direction(s).

 

It appears that the US is presently in the clutches of a third heroin epidemic (after those of the 1970s and 1980s). Studies contend that “heroin use among American adults has increased almost fivefold in the last decade.” Which brings, by estimation, the population of heroin consumers today to approx. 4 million Americans. The epidemic has infected all ages and races, and both sexes. Curiously, abuse among heroin users has actually dropped: it is the “casual users” that have been on the rise. The typical representative of this cohort is a white unmarried male, between 18 and 45 years of age, prevalently found in the poor white suburbs of the Midwest, with a lower education or a lower income, and no health insurance. The average user of heroin is said to have “changed drastically in the last decade. In 2000, black Americans aged 45-64 had the highest death rate for drug poisoning involving heroin. Now, death by heroin overdose is highest among white people aged 18-44” [others claim it is whites aged 45-54].

“[Geographically], the drug epidemic has been concentrated in former coal mining regions such as Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee, along with so-called “rust-belt” states such as Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. These areas of the country have been hardest hit by decades of deindustrialization, mass layoffs and wage-cutting, beginning in the late 1970s and continuing ever since.”

More importantly, it has been reported that “heroin abuse” is tightly tied to prescription drug abuse.” Purportedly, almost half of people addicted to heroin are also addicted to painkillers (to opioids such as Oxycontin and Vicodin). Indeed, “the number of overdose deaths from prescription pain medication is larger than those of heroin and cocaine combined: […] enough painkillers were prescribed by American doctors during one month in 2010 to medicate every American around the clock for an entire month.”

“A majority of those who take prescription pain medicine for non-medical reasons get them free from a friend or relative. In nearly 85 percent of those cases, the friend or relative obtained them from one doctor. One in five users obtains prescriptions themselves from one doctor.”

What are the causes officially advanced to account for this social disaster? Despite the initial allegations, heroin abuse has not lately increased as a result of the alleged efforts to curb the “therapeutic” OTC distribution of opioids: “in fact, increases in heroin overdose death rates were associated with increases in prescription opioid overdose death rates.” Prevalently, they say, the contagion appears to be due to the availability and lower price of heroin in the United States. Which is to say, more specifically, that Americans blame the epidemic on two factors. Domestically, they hold culpable (the putative irresponsibility of) the Health System. Internationally, the Border Patrol, is, on the other hand, faulted for failing to restrain the influx of “a cheaper, more potent opioid” from Mexico, whose heroin traffickers are said to have made special efforts to expand into communities with established prescription opioid problems.

In the figure below, we may discern the two (coordinated) providers of mass intoxication — the Therapeutic State and the Crime Syndicate— working hand in hand. The therapeutic sedation seems to be ongoing, while death by heroin overdose takes off in 2010. Meanwhile, in 2009, according to a realistic estimation, the unemployment rate had jumped from 15 to ca. 22 percent (it presently approaches 25 percent, 5 times higher than the official figure)

As for the “former coal mining regions,” they are, indeed, (among) the most depressed areas, characterized by a starkly unequal distribution of wealth and a dramatic increase in the incidence of obesity. Chronologically, they were at the forefront of the addiction. Here is how they appear on a mapping of the late drug overdose epidemic (below are shown the drug overdose deaths per 100,000).

One can see that these regions form an epicenter, but certainly not the sole epicenter of the plague. In fact, comparing East, West and Midwest, it is rather the West—over an area that, incidentally, corresponds roughly to the bulk of federally owned land— that appears to be the zone most consistently afflicted.

The “Rove Beetle Hypothesis.” Let us speculate wildly, then, and assume that, like the Lomechusa, the System proffers its trichomes for the licking, i.e., it administers the narcotizing dosage with “defensive” intent all the more keenly as it senses that its parasitical appropriation is somehow perturbed, disturbed by an obstacle, be it a passive or an active obstacle within the enlarged host community. A passive obstacle can be “useless” live matter “competing,” despite itself, for nurture and resources, such as the unemployable lower classes; an active obstacle, on the other hand, is a willfully organized social unit (somehow capable of) antagonizing the parasite itself.

The parasitical nature of the America’s oligarchic crust is no longer a matter of dispute; its glaringness is so effulgent that it is now a matter of established knowledge. The last generation has witnessed the exceptional ascent of the top 20 percent of US income-earners at the general expense of the middle strata, whose overall levels of real remuneration and job security have dramatically fallen. At the more obscene altitudes, the top 1 percent in the ant-heap captures most of income growth, besides claiming over 40 percent of all wealth (the top 0.1 percent commands unto itself almost a quarter of the total). Figures such as the one below show this.

 

As may be seen, the bulk of System’s parasitical “rents” is made up of speculative (financial) returns —capital gains and income— and the rental proceeds of so-called “unincorporated business (aka “a business trust”), which is a legal construction employed, more often than not, for subtracting previously accumulated money from taxation. (Incidentally, the phenomenal capital bonanza that has catapulted into the stratosphere this new rentier class with the past three bubbles —from the late 1980s to the present— is not in the least the haphazard effect of putative “lifestyle transformations” or of “greed unbound,” but the predictable outcome of top-level State-policy dictated by the US’s hegemonic imperatives on the international scene).

Now, this general pauperization of (socially peripheral) America may be said to have entailed an “evacuation” of redundant, unemployable flesh, which the State-licensed therapeutists and, say, “Los Zetas” have thereupon proceeded to narcotize, and eventually finish off (through overdose).

As for the active obstacle, which is to say, as for active dissent, the picture is sketchier. Dissent in America is (virtually) dead. The only societal “species” that appears nowadays to be truly defying the System, no matter how sinister its (political) mien, is that nebula comprising the militias (which have made a comeback) and the new movement of “Sovereign Citizens.” Altogether these groups have been subsumed under the heading of “Anti-Government Patriot Groups,” and they have had a jolting, massive (re-)awakening in 2009. They seem united by a common passion for guns, a strong attachment to land and clan (“patriots”), a romantic penchant for the “cult of the warrior,” and a particularistic hatred for D.C.’s central, centralizing, authority. Such hatred is also the root-cause for their complete (and isolationist) unwillingness to buy into 9/11 and the War on Terror. Worse still, their ideologues have a ferocious predilection for exposing, with combative acrimony, what they decry as the parasitical enslavement of their own by the joint conspiracy of the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury. A Neoconservative’s nightmare.

So far I have not been able to find data or a map that would allow me to posit grounds for any kind of correlation between the opioid epidemic and the rise of Anti-Government Patriots. That the latter recruit wherever malaise, and addiction, festers is undoubted. The question is whether the influx persists where these groups are active in order to undermine the recruiting terrain itself. The best I can do for the time being is to superimpose upon the addiction map the locations of the episodes of violence that have involved Sovereign Citizens in the period 2010-2014.

Be that as it may —speaking of flesh, for which the System has no use and is thus perfectly amenable to dispose of— there is one more correspondence to highlight here. And that is the suggestive overlap of the areas of recent addiction with those in which the sparse remnants of the First Nations are confined (below, the map on the left indicates “American Indian and Alaska Native as Percentage of County Population”). This would be Phase III of the genocide: after being afflicted with the curse of “casino economics,” which has scorched any possible foundation for re-launching a wholesome economic cycle, it now appears that the very last of the Mohicans are in for the narcotizing coup de grâce.

Whence the drugs for the reservations in the West? There is a second conduit into the country, which is Canada. And this could provide the beginning of an explanation to the deep mystery of British Columbia’s extraordinarily over-inflated real-estate market: the third most unaffordable in the world after Hong-Kong and Sydney (for it cannot be all be due to the pressure of Chinese money, as “everybody” claims). Canada is the vector, especially by way of Washington State and Idaho, of the formidably magnified throughput of heroin from Afghanistan, which, in yet another instalment of this never-ending game, has witnessed a formidable harvest, a 35-fold increase in opium production since the beginning of the war.

April 3rd 2017