Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sinus headaches are a punishment from a just and wrathful God

Woke up this morning with a sinus headache and the depressing certainty that the box of Advil Cold and Sinus in the medicine cabinet was empty.

Nothing to do but fortify myself with a pot of coffee and set out for my bi-monthly encounter with the Patriot Act.

But I had to wait an hour. It was eight o'clock. Our regular drugstore doesn't open until 9:30. The nearest supermaket opens at 8 but its pharmacy doesn't open until 9, which until a couple years ago wouldn't have mattered. I'd have just grabbed my medicine off the shelf and taken it to the register. Can't do that anymore. My sinuses are stubborn. They will only respond to doses of pseudophedrine and you can't buy anything with pseudophedrine straight off the shelf. You have to ask for it and have it handed to you from behind a counter after you show some ID and sign your name.

The ostensible reason for this is that pseudophedrine can be used to manufacture methamphetamines and the best way to stop meth makers is to inconvenience law-abiding folks with swollen sinuses.

A few years back, several states, including, I'm ashamed to say, New York, thinking they had an epidemic of meth addicts on their hands, or worried they might, or wishing they might, because the war on drugs means government grants and lots of new fancy toys for local police departments, passed laws inconveniencing people like me that I'll bet without doing a single Google search's lick of research have not much inconvenienced the meth makers or helped their customers kick habits.

The Feds got into the act when some nitwits slipped the Combat Methamphetimine Epidemic Act of 2005 under the umbrella of the Patriot Act, and helping prove that a better name for the Patriot Act would be the Oh What the Hell Let's Just Make It a Crime to Be Alive and Let the Police Sort It All Out Act, inconvenienced sinus sufferers and honest pharmacists all over America while doing nothing much to inconvenience meth makers.

In fact, laws like this tend to do nothing but create more criminals. I'm sure there's been an increase in the trade of illegal IDs, the corruption of many formerly law-abiding friends who have been prevailed upon to go to the drug stores whenever the makers and addicts get worried they have gone there too often too recently (if buying boxes of Advil is even the best and easiest way to get your hands on enough psuedophedrine, which I doubt), and quite probably a sharp uptick in the enlistment of bribed druggists, delivery truck drivers, and pharmacy clerks.

On top of this, it's probably done what all laws that inconvenience honest citizens without actually preventing the crimes the laws are supposed to prevent do, made a whole lot of honest citizens more cynical and suspicious of the law and the cops and government agents who enforce the laws.

This is what happens in all authoritarian regimes---the people become criminal in their sympathies.

Commenter came along the other day who didn't like my review of Weeds last week. Commenter thought I wasted my time, um, reviewing the show, and incidentally making fun of the smugness of my smug pot smoking friends back in college and grad school. Commenter thought I should have devoted the post to advocating for the legalization of pot instead.

As it happens, I think pot should be legalized.

I think all drugs should be legal. Marijuana, coke, heroin, acid, ecstacy, meth, you name it.

It's not that I think drugs aren't bad for you. Obviously they are terribly destructive. Even pot does more than make you unbearably smug and goofy. It's just that the criminal drug trade destroys, ruins, and corrupts more lives than the cops fighting the war on drugs save.

And I won't bother getting into the waste of money and manpower.

I'm of the opinion that, generally, laws that are designed to prevent bad behavior tend only to make people more ingenious in their determination to behave badly.

We don't have laws to prevent murder, bank robbery, kidnapping, or assault.

We have laws that punish murder, bank robbery, kidnapping, and assault.

I'm all for punishing any destructive behavior that results from people using drugs.

As I said, though, drug laws, like the Combat Methamphetemine Epidemic Act, are intended to prevent bad behavior, and they don't do that. They just let government agents intrude and spy (and I'm sure let insurance companies intrude and spy now too) on honest people's lives and inconvenience us.

If this were really a law designed to prevent meth makers from making meth, then it would be based on the assumption that criminals are happy to play right into the hands of the cops, as if criminals are dumber than the mice we used to have who learned how to take the cheese from the other side of the traps.

The meth makers were supposed to go out to the their local drug store and buy a suspiciously large amount of Advil using their real names and the cops, reviewing the books a month or so later, would swoop down and pounce on them, finding them at home, waiting with their hands out and their wrists already locked together to make it easier to put the cuffs on them.

But it's not desinged to be effective. It's like all laws that have as their announced goal preventing bad behavior; it's something for the politicians who passed it to wave in front of frightened voters and brag about: "Look what I've done to protect you from the bad guys!"

I say, leave us sinus sufferers alone. Leave us all alone. Leave the self-destructive alone to self-destruct, and leave the rest of us free to decide if we want to self-destruct or play around with the possibility for a night.

Legalize it all.


We can't do that. The second after we make drugs legal every teenager in America and half their parents will rush out to shoot up, light up, snort, pop, sniff, lick, swallow, or absorb by osmosis anything and everything that's handy.

This is the authoritarian's view of human nature, that the only thing standing between a person and the moral, ethical, or psychic cliff he might throw himself off of is a stern and earnest God promising eternal damnation or His earthly representative swinging a club.

When certain conservatives, like George Will, try to explain their opposition to progressive social and economic programs intended to improve the general lot of humankind, they will say that those programs depend on human beings behaving well and the difference between liberals and conservatives like themselves is that liberals have a Polyanna view of human nature while conservatives, being smarter and more realistic, know that human beings are on the whole fairly unreliable.

They mean people stink and they are stupid and self-destructive.

I happen to agree.

The difference between me and George Will is that I think people are even worse.

I think we're lazy and timid and terrified of pain, hard work, and death.

And this is what keeps us civilized and on the path to enlightenment.

Conservative authoritarians think that people will run off moral cliffs like lemmings into the sea unless we erect tall fences with barbed wire and post armed guards. I think that all we need is a few signs pointing out that while the fall might in itself make for a pleasurable rush, the rocks and crashing waves at the bottom of the cliff will insure an uncomfortable and painful ending to the ride and most people will read the sign and say to themselves, Let's find an easier way down.

To put it another way, I believe that most people will arrange their lives in ways that increase their comfort and security.

A few minor laws that encourage and reward their pursuit of comfort and security don't bother me. I just don't think we need many laws to force them into that pursuit.

I'm not a libertarian, though. People do stink and they are stupid and they will find ways to turn the pursuit of comfort and security into its opposite. They do this mainly by pursuing comfort and security with too much energy. That is, they get greedy.

In our society, money is the great ensurer of comfort and security, so people want money. Lots of money.

Unlike some of the other deadly sins---lust, gluttony, sloth---greed never results in a victimless crime.

Consequently I think we need laws to discourage greed, control it, and punish it when it results in destructive behavior towards other people, which it almost always does.

Now, speaking of the deadly sins, many conservatives these days like to pride themselves (committing one of the deadly sins right off the bat, the sin of vanity) on being more rigorously and absolutely moral than us relativistically moral liberals.

The fact is these conservatives usually only object to three of the deadly sins; the other four, they've turned into virutes.

The seven deadly sins are Anger, Vanity, Lust, Greed, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth.

In the authoritarain-conservative's moral universe, the only ones we need to police, and we need to police those hard, are Lust, Gluttony, and Sloth.

Lust: If we don't regulate people's sexuality, if we don't make young people ashamed of their bodies and their natural desires, if we don't punish young women for failing to remain chaste by forcing them to carry pregnancies to term and then shaming and stigmatizing them for being single mothers and making it nearly impossible for them to provide for their babies, if we don't railroad people into marriage and make it hard for them to get out of a bad one and cement them into wedlock by burdening them with lots of kids, if we give them access to birth control and let them learn sex can be fun, then we'll wake up one day to find ourselves in a coast to coast orgy, writhing, naked bodies everywhere, with none of those much noticing or minding if the body they're writhing with at the moment is of the same gender or not of the same species.

Gluttony: Give people access to recreational drugs and that's all they will do, recreate on drugs. We'll have a nation of addicts and thieves stealing and murdering to feed their addictions---ok, we'll have more of that. Lots more.

Sloth: If we weave together a decent safety net, if we guarantee people good health care, if we put good schools in every neighborhood, if we promise that if they get sick or if their children or parents get sick and they need to stay home to take care of them they won't lose their jobs, if we don't make them work nonstop, if we pay them enough so that they can get a bit ahead, put some money in the bank, have something to depend on if there comes a day they need to stand up to their bosses and say I quit, then we'll wind up with a nation of lazy bums who won't go to work or lift a finger to feed or take care of themselves, they'll just sit around, probably smoking dope and having sex, when they're not zoned out in front of the TV, while they wait for their check from the government to arrive.

But as for the other sins, Anger, Vanity, Envy, and Greed?

Well, it's ok if we have a foreign policy based entirely on Anger and Vanity, if whenever another nation wounds us or wounds our pride, no matter how slight the wound, or makes us feel the least little bit afraid, or the least little bit as though we are not the most powerful nation on earth and entitled to every other nation's abject worship and terror, then we have a right to send in our armies or drop a bomb on them just to show them, as Thomas Friedman says we should show them, that we can do it.

And it's good that our entire economic system should be based on Envy and Vanity and Greed, although let's call the Envy and Vanity "competition" and claim the desire to accumulate wealth and power and status isn't a sign that we think too well of ourselves or want to think a lot less of our neighbors in comparison.

And Greed...well, do I even need to go there?

Reading over this post I see that it is rather ill-tempered, not to mention disjointed, rambling, and pointless.

I'm sorry.

I've got a headache.

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