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Selective Compassion

Rat's ass.

Our compassion in this country is confusing. Maybe it’s just tribe mentality, but it doesn’t serve us anymore. It hasn’t for a very long time.

We’ve been hearing about opioid abuse a lot lately. Suddenly it’s vitally important and terribly urgent, but people have been dulling the pain, escaping reality, since before recorded time.

It’s true that drug overdoses have gone way up and have even surpassed deaths from HIV/AIDS at its peak. Still, it’s drug overdoses, damage people do to themselves, right?

We’ve been shooting each other in the last 30-40 years at an alarming rate, innocent men, women, and children, gunned down. Angry white guys, especially, murder spouses, children, strangers.

In a country as “rich” as America, we die from malnutrition, unsafe water, alcoholism, infectious diseases, tobacco smoking. Smoking is a big one.

We don’t properly care for the people who protect and defend us, our veterans. They represent us at our best, our generosity, our unconditional love, our courage, our bravery, our sacrifice. They are us, yet we leave them to their families or completely alone with little support for their physical health, and almost none for their basic needs, for their mental health. We owe them everything. We let them down daily.

Preventable causes of death, United States.
(Preventable causes of death, United States, 2000.)

We kill ourselves at an alarming rate in this country, too, but nobody is freaking out about working together to bring down suicide deaths. Suicide only hurts the victim, right?

“The five leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries, yet 20 percent to 40 percent of the deaths from each cause could be prevented, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” – CDC

I can’t help but wonder where this sudden concern for the opioid epidemic is coming from in the midst of all this other awful stuff. My mind kept screaming “we care about this out of all these other serious problems because the majority are white people?” It starts with prescription drugs so why aren’t we going after the doctors and drug companies who supposedly got this ball rolling? Who pushed their use for every damned thing and upped the demand by getting people hooked in the first place?

We love to point at other people in this country and scream about “personal responsibility,” but we really should be held responsible for each other. It’s not difficult to trace the current drug crisis back to drug companies and doctors. But drugs and alcohol have always been available for pretty much everyone. What is the difference between using and not? the difference between using the drug for awhile to ease pain and then stopping when it’s not longer needed? Rat Park.

Our politicians are currently all upset about this crisis. Mainly this one. We’re supposed to be extra concerned along with them while we ignore all the others who deserve our compassion and our concern. These political super heroes want us to believe they are going to solve this problem.

We are fucking up. “Bigly.” The problems and the answers are all right in front of us, and we’re ignoring them to pick one little thing to focus on: opioid use. They’ve chosen what they want us to look at while, just outside of our peripheral vision, they pull stuff from our cages.

We’re supposed to believe we each have our own cages, and those habitats are all that matters. Some are lonely and empty, and we’re supposed to pretend it’s by the occupant’s choice, that our lonely, hungry, depressed, sick people chose these conditions. Then our government super heroes want us to help pay to throw some attention, a couple of blocks, and something to read in with these addicts for a month or two and then take it back, leave them on their own again. As if that solves the problem. It’s a waste of money and resources. They know it, but it’s a token to get us to ignore the fact that for not much more we could fix a whole lot more. We could fix our habitat so that rehab, when it’s needed, could actually work.

So step back; zoom out. It’s time for each of us to climb the ladder to the top of our cages, each of us who have that option, anyway, and look out at the sea of cages that are us. Perch your furry butt on the corner and look around at all the environments. Look at it as a whole, all of the cages pushed together into one habitat, as if we are part of a whole because, in fact, we are.

Pretend you give a rat’s ass about the “other” for just a moment, and you just might find the empathy is genuine.

From our vantage point what does it all have in common? The drug epidemic, alcoholism, tobacco, malnutrition, infectious diseases, gun violence, heart disease, stroke, suicide. . .

Our environment.

Until we take care of our environment, our basic physiological and safety needs, our people cannot make any real progress on “belongingness” and esteem needs. One cannot replace the other. When we do not have the power to meet our needs, we might choose escape from the hurt or fear in drugs or alcohol or junk food. Or suicide.

Don’t fall for this OMG Opioids! misdirect. I’m not saying it’s not a problem; it absolutely is. What I am saying is it’s one problem of many, and they are all related. We could solve the problems, but we have to choose to.

The whole “don’t like drugs? don’t do them” or “don’t like guns? don’t buy one” personal responsibility BS doesn’t work and sure won’t work here. All these things? the drug deaths and gun violence and strokes and unsafe water? They’re not our problem until they are our problem, until they touch our lives directly. That means they are all our problem now because sooner or later, this will touch us. Now we choose. We need to bind together, to take control, and share that control with those who feel they have none. We can help them find their power. When we add their power to our own we are stronger.

Do we choose to pull out one problem like opioid abuse and pay a whole lot of money to put people in rehab only to release them back into their lonely, empty cages? or do we, as a society, change the conditions in our cage? How far would health care for all, clean water for all, enough food to cover the basic food groups (living on ramen and off-brand Tang won’t cut it – I’ve tried, and it’s a sickly, weak, miserable existence), quality public education, and responsible gun laws go to change the conditions in our cage? That basic security and safety would give us room to earn, to love, to thrive. And knowing we are part of the whole, the reminder that we touch each other’s lives in very important ways every day, can be just the reminder some need that they are needed, and they are loved.

We are precious. We hold in each of us great potential. We are worth a try, worth compassion. Who needs drugs when life is kinda nice?

Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
(Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, “A Theory of Human Motivation.”)

(I choose to give. Our reasons are all different. I just want to give, but it’s okay in this case to expect something back from your community, too. We, the village, share – schools, roads, libraries, clean air. There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to have food or a doctor visit when the need arises. We can have this if we choose it.)

Link: Overdose Death Rates, National Institute On Drug Abuse

Link: Gun Violence Archive

Link: Graph of Preventable Causes of Death, outdated, needs updating especially for obesity statistics, but: Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL (March 2004). “Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000”

Link: Suicide Statistics, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

I want to be able to credit the rat’s ass photo. If you know who did it, please put me in contact with them so I can verify and credit.

#SelectiveCompassion

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