Working on Carrion today I found myself asking the question; why is Adam against drugs? In the story world of Carrion the drug user is the enemy. As a distinct social group they are to Reiner and the prohibitionist what the Jews were to Hitler and the Nazis; “if we did not have them we should have to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy.” (1) They are the outsider. The other. The enemy. The threat that people can be united against. Defeat drugs and the world will be a better place. From Reiner’s point of view the choice to do drugs represents a kind of desire for freedom that poses a direct challenge to the security he craves. This makes Adam’s animosity for drugs more about his desire to be part of something bigger. Which raises the question; if you strip away that belonging would the animosity go with it? Adam wants to be part of something bigger. The price to become part of that something is his sister. Unwilling to pay the piper he is exiled, forced to experience the world thusly. That makes Adam’s animosity towards drugs environmental. It is a learned behaviour that has more to do with his relationship with Christine than some innate hatred of drugs and users.
I ended my last post with a question; what does Christine’s desire line look like? It would be easy to say Christine’s desire is to escape prohibition but I don’t think that adequately describes what she wants. To truly understand her desire we first have to understand her need. What must Christine fullfil within herself to have a better life? Need is about overcoming her moral and psychological weaknesses. The knee-jerk reaction to this question identifies her drug use as her weakness but as I tried to explain in my previous post Christine’s drug use is not a negative. That understanding just doesn’t fit with the moral vision or theme I have for the story. As I understand it Christine’s weakness is her rebelliousness; that impulse she has to resist authority, control or convention. In the “Character Web by Archetype” chapter of “The Anatomy of Story” John Truby notes that the rebel’s strength is the “courage to stand out from the crowd and act against a system that is enslaving people.” The weakness of this archetype is that they “often cannot provide a better alternative, so end up destroying the society.” I think of the link between the two sides of her weakness like this. If Adam’s self-righteousness is a product of a positive pushed until it becomes a negative; his responsibility, taken to the extreme, is oppressive. Christine’s weakness is a product of her bravery pushed until it becomes destructive. At the beginning of the story her rebelliousness is the wellspring of the conflict with Adam. Her defiance exasperates Adam. He reacts with self-righteous indignation and arrests her, which reenforces her will to resist. At its essence she has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story. The question then becomes; what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something. An insight that brings me to the conclusion that Christine’s need is to change the society she lives in. Ironically, a need she is only able to fulfil through Adam. When he chooses freedom over security at the end of the story Adam is fulfilling Christine’s creative need to free society. He is doing it because of what he has learned through Christine. A conclusion I wasn’t really aware of until now. Christine’s desire line is not to escape prohibition, it’s to change Adam. This insight changes the way I look at Adam and how he relates to Christine. But that’s the subject of another post.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Christine Leigh. Who she is? What she wants? Why she takes drugs? Christine’s relationship with Adam is the cornerstone of Carrion. She is the reason he goes up against Reiner. Without her Adam would remain inactive, Reiner’s actions would go unchallenged and our view of prohibition would remain inviolate. The story only gets under way when Adam’s desire to save Christine kicks in. But there is a problem with characterising Christine as something that needs to be saved. Certainly it allows Adam to justify arresting her at the beginning of the story but in story terms it has the potential to make her incredibly passive. There is another thing. “Characterising Christine as something that needs to be saved” underestimates or more accurately misrepresents her drug use. Overall it presupposes she is victimised by drugs. Certainly she is persecuted by prohibition. But when I think of her drug use I don’t see her as a victim. The understanding of drug user as victim relies heavily on the popular perception of those who take drugs as damaged individual running away from something. While there are undoubtably a percentage of individuals who fit this profile. I know the vast majority of people who use drugs take them for entirely different reason. If the truth were told there are probably as many reasons for using drugs as there are people who take them. There is also another misconception at play here. One that presumes everyone who takes drugs is an addict. I view this as prohibitionist propaganda. The truth is less hysterical. Just as not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. Not everyone who takes drugs is an addict. Which brings me back to the question; why does Christine take drugs? The short answer; she is looking for something. If I had to pin it down I’d say she is actually seeking a state of grace. But I don’t think of Christine as a religious person. I think what she seeks is less devine grace and more secular enlightenment. In an earlier post I outlined something of Christine’s character.
Born in 1995. She was two when her brother joined the army. In the years that followed she saw him occasionally. His absence from the family home meant she actually grew up an only child. The sole beneficiary of her parents emotional, physical and financials resources, the constant attention lead to a strong willed girl sensitive to disapproval. Denied competition from a sibling she exhibits a certain possessiveness with her time, space and belongings. Perfectly happy to spend time alone and fiercely loyal, she prefers the company of a few close friends to the superficial connections exhibited by her extrovert peers. (2)
I view Christine’s drug use as her way of connecting to others. It’s not just that she has a small group of friends who are united by a common activity or the feelings of empathy that comes with the use of a drug like ecstasy. I think she uses drugs because she has a deep-rooted need to short circuit the barriers between people. At the core of that need is the barriers she feels between herself and Adam. The flip-side of this need to connect is her great weakness, rebelliousness; that impulse to resist authority, control or convention. All of which raises a question for my next post. What does her desire line look like?
As I wrote yesterday, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Adam’s main opponent Anthony Reiner. Specifically I’ve been struggling to understand what makes Reiner such a willing exponent of prohibition? As I pondered in the comments of my previous post; “I’m trying to figure out the mechanism of his adherence to the cause. Why does he react so violently to Adam’s need to save Christine?” (1) Reading back though yesterdays post I realise now that Reiner reacts to Adam’s decision to help Christine as a betrayal of the cause. A reaction rooted in Reiner’s totalitarian mindset. A mindset that has no tolerance for ambiguity. When he encounters the kind of complexity offered by Adam’s willingness to help Christine he tries to impose his pre-existing frames of reference on the decision, reducing it to an us or them ultimatum. Going back to Alfonso Montuori paper “How to make enemies and inﬂuence people” (2) it’s interesting to note the kind of personality the totalitarian mindset attracts. Consistent attempts to suppress “complexity through maladaptive simplicity is characteristic of the closed-mindedness of the authoritarian personality.” (3) Montuori’s characterisation of the totalitarian mindset as an authoritarian personality fits perfectly with description I have in my head of Reiner. For Reiner ambiguous situations cause anxiety. A stress he copes with by adhering to “a clear set of rules and regulations… imposed by whoever is in charge.” (4) While this might be described by John Truby as his psychological weakness. A weakness that Truby defines as hurting only himself. It doesn’t describe his moral weakness. The weakness that is hurting at least one other person. It is clear to me now that Reiner’s moral weakness is explicit in his framing of drug users as an external threat. As Montuori notes “the perception of an out-group as a threat and an enemy is the glue that holds this (totalitarian) mindset together.” (5) A distinction that’s at the very core of Carrion. In this fiction, as in reality, drug users are universally defined as a threat; blamed for everything from social unrest to criminality. The prohibitionist routinely reduces our understanding of the drug issue to a simple black and white choice; “if we sort out the drug problem everything will be all-right.” In Carrion the threat from users becomes even more acute when they are attacked by the insects. But it’s no coincidence that the government are behind the release of the insects. It serves two functions. First it’s an attack on the drug using population; it unites people against an identifiable enemy. Second it creates a crisis that allows drug users to be targeted for persecution. In Carrion the drug user is not only a threat to public order, now he’s a threat to public health. A threat that needs to dealt with in the expedient (read harshest) terms possible. Although it’s interesting to remember that when Hitler was asked whether he thought Jews should be annihilated he replied no. If we didn’t have them “we should have to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one.” (6) In trying to answer the question; what makes Reiner such a willing exponent of prohibition? It has become apparent to me that Reiner’s willingness to persecute drug users, in Trubian story telling terms, is his moral weakness, a manifestation of totalitarian mindset that is embedded in the authoritarian personality that is his psychological weakness. Now all I have to do is work out his need; what he “must fulfil within himself in order to have a better life.” (7) But that will have to wait for another post.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Adam’s main opponent in Carrion, Anthony Reiner. I’ve been struggling to understand what makes him such a willing exponent of prohibition? Within the fictional world of Carrion prohibition is the product of a totalitarian regime. Wikipedia defines totalitarianism as “a political system where the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life whenever necessary.”(1) So the question I’m really asking is; what kind of person is attracted to totalitarianism? To answer that question you first need to ask; what allows totalitarianism to flourish? The short answer is uncertainty. In his paper “How to make enemies and inﬂuence people” (2) Alfonso Montuori characterises the “totalitarian mindset” as a response to the stress of contemporary pluralism. Basically we live in complex times full of ambiguity and uncertainty. We feel threatened. And when we’re backed into a corner we have a tendency to succumb to “simplistic, black-and-white solutions.” Montuori goes on to note that “individuals all over the world have sought relief from the uncertainty of a pluralistic world in the arms of absolute belief systems of a religious fundamentalist and/or political/nationalistic nature.” Within the world of Carrion the threat posed by those who use drugs is lightning rod, a life-threatening danger, that allows the government to “drastically reduce ambiguity and complexity.” The forces of authority instinctively “fall back on a form of very simplistic… totalitarian thinking.” Just as the Nazi’s persecuted the Jews, so the prohibitionist government in Carrion persecutes the drug user… (I realise that this is only half finished but I’ve taken this idea as far as I can for today. My thoughts need further clarification so will have to wait for another post.)
As I work though the ideas for a redraft of Carrion. It has become necessary to consolidate my understanding of the drug eating insect that are such an important part of the story. One of the first ideas I had for Carrion was an image. The image of insects eating drugs. Initially I though it would be enough to have a species just feed on drugs. I thought these insects could be either a naturally occurring or genetically engineered blight. That eats its way through the stockpile of illicit drugs. I envisioned a plethora of subspecies. One for each substance. Migrating from stash to stash. Decimating the supply. I quickly realised this would probably end the war on drugs. And my story with it. Then I read about cocaethylene. Cocaethylene is the drug formed in vivo when cocaine and ethyl alcohol are ingested simultaneously. Studies suggest that it may be more cardiotoxic. And possess a longer duration of action than cocaine taken in isolation. The thing I find most interesting about cocaethylene. Is that it is only produced in vivo. In the body. From this small revelation. I quickly got to the image of insects feeding on drug users. I had the notion that a species engineered to feed on drugs in vivo would plague drug users. But logic dictates that this strategy would limit attacks to those under the influence. Once they stop producing the drug. The insects would migrate to another user. While this provides more story. There still isn’t enough drama. So while looking for a more dynamic scenario. I started to research the various insect species that might be spliced together. While I have been unable to find any species of insect that targets drugs in their refined state. I was able to find several species that attack drug precursors like coca. The source of cocaine. Aegoidus pacificus lays it’s eggs in the plant bark. The beetle’s larvae then burrows into the stem. Irrevocably damaging the plant. The larvae of Eloria noyesi feeds on coca leaves. Capable of eating fifty leaves in it’s lifetime. An infestation eventually destroys the plant. Sternocarus fuliginosus and Myzus persicae both feed on and destroy the opium poppy. The source of heroine. As my research progressed I started to understand more clearly the role the insects would play within Carrion. In a previous post. Drugs as a tool. I described the insects as the “physical manifestation of prohibition. A tool that takes the ruthless unrelenting enforcement of prohibition to its merciless conclusion. The physical destruction of anyone who takes drugs.” For the insect to have this quality. I realised they needed to be more aggressive. So I started to look for insects that might attack humans. Insects that are carnivorous.
One of the central ideas of Carrion is that the war on drugs escalates into a civil war. I don’t think it’s enough to simply say the two sides of prohibition start fighting. I need to understand the mechanism that might push prohibition that far. First things first. What is civil war? I have seen it described variously as “armed conflict between sovereign and/or nonsovereign combatants within a single sovereign territory.” Or as a “sustained military combat, primarily internal, resulting in at least 1000 battle-field deaths per year.” The Romans gave civil war its name. Bellum civile. A war against cives. Or fellow-citizens. Fought within the city. Or civitas. Interestingly the Geneva Conventions do not specifically define civil war. They instead describe a criteria for acts qualifying as “armed conflict not of an international character.” Their criteria includes.
1. The party in revolt must be in possession of a part of the national territory.
2. The insurgent civil authority must exercise de facto authority over the population within the determinate portion of the national territory.
3. The insurgents must have some amount of recognition as a belligerent.
4. The legal Government is “obliged to have recourse to the regular military forces against insurgents organized as military.”
While these criteria might describe the conflict currently raging between the drug cartels and government forces in regions of south America. It doesn’t describe the situation here in the United Kingdom. Here in the United Kingdom. The war on drugs is a one sided conflict. That amounts to a suppression mechanism. Allowing the government to police its citizens. For the war on drugs to become a civil war. Those on the wrong side of prohibition would have to fight back. And be recognised as a belligerent. That is. Engaged in a legally recognised war. Which prompts the question. What would it take for drug users to take up arms against the government? Putting that question to one side for a moment. I have to ask. Why hasn’t this already happened? Why don’t drug users fight back? The flippant answer is. They’re too stoned to care. But that impression adheres to a stereotype of drug users as feckless ne’er-do-wells who care for nothing but the drugs they take. I don’t think that shoe fits. It is my experience that the majority of individuals who use drugs recreationally are otherwise law abiding productive members of society. They get married. Have children. Hold down jobs. Just like those in the sober world. Could it be that drug users just don’t see the oppression of the war on drugs. They live their lives. Take their drugs. Unaware of the acute oppression of prohibition. For them to start fighting back. They would have to feel that oppression more acutely than they currently do. It could be that drug culture is a illicit culture. That is defined as outside “normal” society. Those who take drugs do so in defiance of social norms. And by doing so. Feel they are already fighting prohibition. It could be that taking drugs means users are disengaged from society. And therefore have no interest in fighting it. For them to engage. The normal terrain of their lives would have to be changed. Radicalised. Before they would react with any kind of violence. It could be that those who take drugs just aren’t aggressive enough. It is my experience that the majority of illicit drugs do not actually elicit violence in their users. Quite the opposite. MDMA is not called ecstasy because in makes people angry. It is my perception that the violence associated with the drug world comes primarily from the supply/distribution side of drug culture. Either between government agents and those supplying/distributing drugs. Or between rival groups seeking to control the supply/distribution of drugs. But none of this answers the question. Why don’t drug users fight back? In his book Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State. Richard Lawrence Miller “explores the process by which society can destroy an ordinary group of people.” His book describes the war on drugs as a process that seeks to systematically destroy drug users. The process he describes follows a series of distinct phases.
As I understand it. The war on drugs has already advanced significantly through the first three phases. Without a radical response form drug users. For civil war to happen in Carrion. The two remaining phases must elicit a reaction. That suggests a scenario in which this significant minority are forcibly removed from society. And concentrated in a specific place. But this still might not be enough to push drug users to take up arms. Jews who suffered at the hands of the Nazis did not rise up when they found themselves corralled into places like the Warsaw ghetto. It was only at the point of annihilation. When the Nazis started to clear the ghetto. That the Jews started to offer the kind of resistance that might be categorised as civil war. I am not trying to diminish what the Nazis did. Or the Jewish reaction to their persecution. I am only trying to reflect on how far a minority like drug users must be pushed before they react. I think it is only at the point of annihilation that drug users will fight back. They will be offered a choice. Either fight. Or die. This suggests a scenario in which drug users are being systematically killed. How might prohibitionist do this? While the hard-liners might just say. “Line ’em up. And shoot ’em.” I imagine a more surreptitious approach. I envision a plague of drug eating insects attacking drug users. Using them as part of their reproductive cycle. In a previous post. Drugs as a tool I described these insects as “physical manifestation of prohibition. A tool that takes the ruthless unrelenting enforcement of prohibition to its merciless conclusion. The physical destruction of anyone who takes drugs.” Attacks by drug eating insects benefits from being a localised attack. Specifically and exclusively directed at drug users. It also offers the government plausible deniability. They could argue. Quite believably. That they had nothing to do with what is happening to the drug users. Drug users brought this calamity on themselves. And again I return to the question. How would this escalate into civil war? I think it will take a combination of two thing. First. The government denies drug users medical attention. They pass laws that stop those with a history of drug use getting access to the NHS. Second. Drug users discover the plague of insects was initiated by the government. It is only at this point. At the point of death. When drug users understand specifically who their persecutors are. Will drug users take up arms against the government. Only at this point will the war on drugs escalate into civil war.
In my last post I finished with a quote from Richard Lawrence Miller’s book Drug Warriors and Their Prey. “People convinced of their superiority rescue a country threatened from within.” This could be what John Truby calls the designing principle of Carrion. But what does Miller mean when he says “people convinced of their superiority?” Again I find myself going back to the dictionary. The word superiority. And its precursor superior. Superior means greater in quality. Of high or extraordinary worth. Higher in rank or status. Displaying a conscious sense of being above or better than others. For me Miller’s aphorism implies a small group of people. But a small group of people doesn’t explain the mandate asserted by the government. Could it be the attitudes of this small group are disseminated through? And followed by? The larger body of the population? If that is the case? Democracy has been inverted. The government doesn’t represent the view of the majority. The majority re-presents the views of the government. Which leads me to the question. Why are drug users singled out? Why are they treated with such hostility? Why are they vilified? The conclusion I have come to is that drug users function as the other. The outsiders. The threat. The group over there to be feared. The irony is. The people convinced of their superiority need drug users. They maintain their position “inside” by identifying drug users position as “outside”. And from their position inside. They are able to blame drug users for the ills of society. If this is the case. The question for drug users is. How do you fight them? Do you expose their hypocrisies? Expose the machinery of prohibition? Or do you match might with might? And fight back? My feeling is these people are so entrenched in their opinions. So hardened in their position. So convinced of their superiority. Nothing will shake them. They will only respond to force. A force equal to the animosity they show towards drug users. The implication of this is horrifying. Because the only way to stop them. Is to destroy them.
I have been working through some ideas for Carrion. And asked myself a question. What is prohibition really about? As I am prone to do when I am trying to understand something. My first port of call is a dictionary. And the word prohibition. Prohibition is the act of prohibiting or state of being prohibited. An order or decree that prohibits. To prohibit is to forbid an action or activity by authority or law. Essentially prohibition is control. And control means to exercise restraint or direction over. Dominate. Command. To hold in check. Or curb. So prohibitions function within our society is to control. But control what? On the face of it prohibition controls the manufacture. Transportation. And sale of a prescribed set of substances. Namely drugs. But it also controls behaviour. Prohibition controls an individuals right to make a choice. Good or bad. To take a certain action. That is. Take a specific drug. A question comes to mind. Why do they want to control what individuals do? At this point I think it is necessary to understand who I mean by “they”. They are the government. That group of people we elect to represent us. If that is the case? Why aren’t the views of the drug taker represented? I presume the argument would come back that we live in a democracy. And the majority think drug taking is bad. But why? Why do they think taking drugs are bad? When every culture I can think of takes drugs in one form or another. Putting that to one side. Another question comes to mind. If these are the same majority/government who allow individuals to choose to smoke and drink? Why can’t that same majority/government allow individuals to choose to take drugs. Rebuttals might sight the addictive nature of drugs. But the drugs that are currently prohibited are no more or less addictive than cigarettes or alcohol. Individuals get into just as much trouble with legal substances as they do with those prohibited. If the majority/government can allow people to make a choice. And take the risk of doing cigarettes or alcohol. Why can’t they allow individuals to make the choice and take the risk of taking drugs? Logic dictates that they can. But they don’t. Why don’t they? The answer I keep coming back to is that it is less about what people take. And more about the act of taking. Prohibition isn’t about the substance. Prohibition is about controlling what people do. While I think this is an argument for the abolition of prohibition. It doesn’t answer the question. Who actually controls the machine of prohibition? A glimpse can perhaps be found in the preface of Richard Lawrence Miller’s Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State. “People convinced of their superiority (seek to) rescue a country threatened from within.” What is prohibition really about? I think it’s about power. It’s a machine that allows the state to control its population.
I’ve been reading John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the intricacies of giving meaning to their story. For those who haven’t read the book. Mr. Truby approaches story as if it were a body. And dissects it as if her were doing an autopsy. He has a chapter on technology (tools). In it he observes that within a story “tools are an extension of the human form, taking a simple capability and magnifying its power.” Why do I mention this? Because while reading Truby’s book. I have also been working through some ideas for major redraft of Carrion. One of the ideas at the centre of Carrion is that insects have been genetically engineered to eat drugs. Within my story they are physical manifestation of prohibition. A tool that takes the ruthless unrelenting enforcement of prohibition to its merciless conclusion. The physical destruction of anyone who takes drugs. With that in mind. I started to think about drugs as a tool. And asked the question. What kind of tool are drugs? This quickly becomes more complicated that one might think. It is all to easy to view drugs simply a tool to alter one’s mood. I have written before about the link I see between drugs and prohibition. In a previous post Why they won’t stop the war on drugs I outlined a paradigm that uses drug prohibition as a tool for social control. Certainly that is one function drugs play within society. But it is not the only one. I read a paper recently by Tammy L Anderson that points to A Cultural-Identity Theory Of Drug Abuse. While the paper differentiates between drug use and abuse. “The theory proposes that drug abuse is an outcome of a drug-related identity change process featuring three micro-level (personal marginalization, ego identity discomfort, and lost control in defining an identity), two mesolevel (social marginalization and identification with a drug subcultural group), and three macro-level (economic opportunity, educational opportunity, and popular culture) concepts.” Without getting into the intricacies of a theory that describes twelve hypothetical relationships that lead to drug abuse. It does point to another way drugs are used. As a tool of cultural identity. From my own experiences I can say there is certainly an identification between those have used drugs. And those who have not. You only have to look at the way those who drink alcohol. View those who do not. To see a shared identity works. Conversely in this instance. Because alcohol is a socially acceptable drug. Those who do not us the drug are the ones viewed with hostility. But this binary polarization of us and them points to the dynamic at work when looking at the way illicit drugs are viewed. Cultural-identity theory argues that drug abuse is a consequence of a multitude of marginalizing experiences. “The greater the number of marginalizing experiences… the greater the risk for drug abuse.” If that is the case. And drug abuse is a consequence of an accumulation of negative experiences both personal and social. Drugs becomes a consequence of negative forces that define those who eventually abuse drugs. And not the other way round. Which perhaps accounts for the vicious way in which the sober world treats drug users. There is a sense of guilt felt by the sober world. A guilt that recognises drug use is not simply people being somehow weak willed. A guilt that can not be solved. And ultimately elicits hostility. There is a scene in David Mamet’s film The Spanish Prisoner that explains the psychological origins of human cruelty. The key line comes at the end of Steve Martin’s speech. When Campbell Scott asks him why his employers will start to act cruelly toward him. Martin replies. “To suppress their guilt.” But this notion of guilt does not take into account the cultural identity felt by drug users. But that is the subject for another post. For me. And certainly within the context of Carrion. I am starting to see drugs as a tool of guilt. A motivating forces for both protagonist and his antagonist.