Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A few thoughts...

From the kid claiming to be Loughner's "best friend" speaking with ABC News:

He mentions a number of things in there that I think are worth talking about briefly, in order of most importance, starting with the least.

FirstSalvia divinorum.

Jeesh... News media... Seriously... Can you for once do a story on something like this that treats it with respect without blaming some trendy but scary-to-old-people "drug"? Yes. It's a hallucinogen. It's been around for thousands of years, and was used by the Mazatec indians of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Plants are scary!!
Drugs aren't worth wasting your time on in my opinion, but they don't cause people to become homicidal!

How do I know? Because literally tens of millions of people use drugs of all kinds every single year in America and we do not have tens of millions of murders... We have tens of thousands.

Jacob Sullum, who writes on drug policy for Reason Magazine wrote an article in December of 2009 when Salvia bans started to become all the rage. It's a lengthy piece, but worth reading. Not worth quoting here though... Just, c'mon, ABC... Quit being the stupid fear-mongerers you are for like one minute and don't turn this tragedy into yet another opportunity for scapegoating drugs.

Second: Zeitgeist.

This is a "documentary" - and I use that term extremely loosely - about which I said the following to a friend who asked my opinion on the economics & history of the thing, way back on July 8th, 2009:
"There's no question that the World Bank & the IMF aren't helpful, or that many corporations are using governments around the world to keep out competition.  But it's global trade barriers that are keeping those little countries poor, not the liberalization that is making them poor.  It's basically making the same mistakes that people like Naomi Klein & Noam Chomsky do...  Partially because while they seem to grasp the origins of money ok, they don't grasp the rest of basic economic principles and the history is sorta shoddy when you start getting into which nations are doing better.  Hussein's Iraq, Chavez' Venezuela aren't examples to EMULATE!  They're miserable bullshit places where you're starving to death, tortured & actually enslaved."
This was excerpted from a personal email, so it was kind of haphazardly dashed off, but I stand behind every word. Zeitgeist gets a few things right about the history of money and the serious problems of a fiat money system and fractional reserve banking within its first 15-20 minutes...

And then... It goes completely bug-nutty.

Idea fail.
I don't even know where to begin, and I haven't watched it since... well, July 8th, 20009, so I don't really remember it in its entirety. What I do remember generally, was that it basically concluded that the answer to the problems of a central bank was some insane hybrid between full on socialism, nationalizing everything and emulating guys like Hugo Chavez (which, I must say, has only gotten better in the intervening year and a half, right?) - and - eliminating banking entirely. I could have the details wrong a bit here and there, but I am certain that I was never wrong about its conclusions being utterly asinine.

It was riddled with conspiracy theories about "banksters", like the Bilderberg Group and the Rockefellars, with the "New World Order" and it basically decides that because central banks like our Federal Reserve controlling the money supply causes disruptions in the economy through the business cycle (which it didn't fully understand) and therefore... We should chuck out "money" entirely.

No mention of the Calculation Problem, no real recognition that money is one of the single greatest inventions of man-kind purely because it enabled non-time dependent exchanges instead of straight barter, and it allowed for the division of labor which enabled us to produce wealth and grow materially - raising standards of living to the point that we have today... Just... Crazy. And a lot of it.

Anyway, enough about that...

Third: Friendship and Just... Being There for People.

Friendship is important... Just take some time
and be there for people in need.
Watching friends struggle with mental health problems is a scary business. I've had the misfortune of having a small number of once-close friends, starting in high school and into college, who demonstrated some of the symptoms that Loughner's friend describes.

They became depressed, often for reasons that they never shared with me or with anybody, and began engaging in more and more self-destructive behaviors like consuming drugs & alcohol in a decidedly non-recreational capacity. In each case, these friends began to detach themselves from other people...

The thing is, I know exactly how it feels to one day wake up and realize that you're no longer friends with someone anymore... Not because I didn't care about them, or because I didn't want to see them at their best, but because in many of these cases it's just impossible to know what to do or how to help. If you're like me at all, then you are not likely to follow those people down the rabbit-hole.

I don't drink, I don't do any kind of drugs at all (including pot, cigarettes, or even hookah) and I never have.

So, when some of my friends in the past have turned to those kinds of things and begun spending all their time drunk or high, and hanging out with unsavory people in bars and such... I won't join them. As a result, we lose touch, and as did the "best friend" in that video... I just... Forgot about them.

I didn't mean to, but you can't let people drag you down with them, and if they quit talking to you... If they disappear... That's just what happens.

But maybe it shouldn't always be that way... Maybe we should all try a little bit harder to help people like Loughner before they get to the point that they are considering harming themselves or others. There's no easy solution, or easy way to know how to help. No matter what, I always try to be responsive and give my time to people I know and provide a shoulder to cry on or an objective ear. To some extent I feel like it is the best I can do in many situations - but events like what happened in AZ make me wonder if that's true.

I've never called a hospital or someone's family. I've never suggested that a friend seek out serious psychological help... A few of my friends who I've lost touch with for these reasons are still unknown to me. Fortunately, however, a few have returned to the land of the living and are now better, generally happier people with a little baggage. One or two, I'm proud to say, I do get to talk to more regularly again.

So... Anyway... It's something to think about. Maybe we should all be a little better about being there for our friends & loved ones when they're experiencing mental distress... You never know how much a positive word, or a sympathetic, caring ear can help.

Perhaps if the many people, including the Sheriff who kicked off the politicization of this tragedy, who had known of Jared Loughner's unstable mental condition had expended a bit more effort trying to reach out to him and get him the help he needed... It's possible that several people's lives could have been saved.

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