Just the other day a psychiatrist friend of mine and I were talking about the roots of the drug crisis in America – you know, the one that has America’s doctors prescribing more than enough opioids to keep every adult American high every day of the year? And has the majority of pregnant mothers on Medicaid also addicted to opioids? And is highly associated with the twelve million admission to jails in America every year?
Yeah, that one.
We’ve seen all the short sighted solutions, including the “war on crime,” the “war on drugs,” (as if drugs and crime were entities that could be engaged in combat – when will we have a “war on war?”), the massive increase in policing, the criminalization of drug dependency resulting in tens of millions of destroyed lives in America, and coming soon, a wall on the Mexican border that will somehow prevent doctors in New Hampshire and New Mexico and Illinois and every other state from writing millions of drug-addicting prescriptions for their patients.
Americans love easy simple answers to life’s struggles, and American physicians, pharmaceutical companies and corrupt politicians (well-paid by big pharma and the AMA for their votes) are more than happy to sell them one. Guess what the easy simple answer is? Opioids.
Okay, okay, I’ll stop. Just when I was about to go off on my anti-drug rant, my psychiatrist friend made an unusual comment. By the way, he has been an American citizen for all of a decade, but his outsider status, coming to America out of poverty in a developing nation, gives him a unique perspective. Kid of radical but also kind of conservative in a way that no American who does not want to be labeled as lower than pond scum would every dare to voice.
“You know,” he said, “America has lost its soul.”
I was literally stopped in my tracks as I paced around the room.
He explained that in his culture soul or spirit is the guidance system for behavior. Soul reflects the accepted shared values of the social group. One’s soul is unmitigatedly one’s own, thus its cleanliness and functioning capacity is one’s own responsibility. One cares for one’s soul as one cares for a child, for the environment, for God. The soul is the reservoir of all the virtuous or nefarious actions that one may have perpetrated during a lifetime. The soul remembers.
More than half a century ago (in 1960 to be exact), John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address informed the American populace that they should not ask what their country could do for them, but rather what they could do for their country.
How do you think that would go over today? In a time when Bernie Sanders tells grown adults that they should not be responsible for loans taken out to party for four years, but rather the debt should be foisted onto their children and grandchildren? When the majority of Americans receive public benefits and incarceration has become a form of sustenance for many millions of men?
My guess is that many people would be outraged, insisting that it is the responsibility of others to care for them, and to care for them well, and that failure to care for them well should constitute a crime.
The soul, according to my friend’s culture, is that aspect of existence that is focused on what one gives rather than what one receives, the spirit is that aspect of existence that seeks to be unified with God, and therefore must be made clean and whole the better to resemble God.
But today even to mention God or spirit in America brings legal charges and lawsuits and accusations that one is oppressing others, not by forcing anything upon them, but simply by suggesting that attending to their spiritual lives might be a good thing, for them, for their communities, for their planet.
Today’s Americans are told to believe, not in their own spiritual journey, but rather that their problems and concerns are to be addressed only through the medical model, by “qualified” practitioners licensed to label the problem and authorize the distribution of a drug to address the symptoms of the problem. Thus the human journey becomes a massive public relations scam by medical providers and pharmaceutical companies bent on convincing “patients” that sacrifice is unnecessary and suffering for a worthwhile purpose is just plain evil.
People disconnected from their souls come to believe this pap and get in line at the doctor’s office, insisting that they are unhappy and it is the doctor’s responsibility to bring them immediate and permanent bliss.
Well, the doctor and the pharmaceutical corporations have just the answer: opioids, or some other substance that will have you feeling better in a flash – but will ultimately destroy your soul.
So, oddly enough, the key to addressing America’s drug mess may not be the ingestion of another pill, but rather using appropriate medical interventions, if necessary at all, to create an opening for the soul, for that deep sense of purpose and meaning that is at the center of life.