“Chasing the Scream” & Other Books – KATTK Homepage from the Original Website
“Chasing the Scream” is a dizzying and outrageous book by Johann Hari
In Chasing the Scream, Johann Hari writes a new chapter in a hundred-year war. Hari presents historical facts, scientific studies, personal stories and weaves a picture of a society that has become obsessed with its own fears.
It was in the 1930s that Harry Anslinger, the newly appointed head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (the reorganized Department of Prohibition that played its role after the US alcohol ban was lifted), was faced with the dilemma of how to bring his dormant department to life. . He set his sights on drugs, which at this time were not surrounded by any special regulation, nor were they seen as a threat to society. Addiction and addiction were seen as unfortunate. The Supreme Court had also ruled that drug abuse was the domain of medical science.
The campaign that was launched whipped up the fear of drugs with racism as the fuel for the fire. Anslinger's racist outcome was sometimes even too much for the American executives of the 1930s. When it was revealed that Anslinger referred to a suspect as a “nigger” in an official memo, Senator Joseph P Guffey demanded his resignation. When one of the department's few black agents opposed being called a “nigger”, he was fired.
A clear sign of the campaign's racist signs is how Billie Holiday was treated by being humiliated, hunted and finally murdered through negligence, chained in a hospital bed. She was denied adequate care and contact with her close friends and relatives. Judy Garland had exactly the same problem, heroin addiction, but through Anslinger's personal commitment she got help and he wrote to Judy Garland's studio that she did not have any drug problems.
In the rest of the book, we get to follow Johann Hari on a three-year journey. In Mexico, he meets relatives of some of the 60,000 innocent victims in the US “War on Drugs”. In the United States, he meets with police and lawmakers who have concluded that the war is not worth the price. A police officer asks why they only arrest blacks when drug use and trafficking are just as common in white areas. The answer he gets is that the white middle class has lawyers and contacts and that it only makes it difficult to go after whites.
We meet drug addicts in Vancouver who organize and bring about profound changes in the way addicts are treated. We get to read about Portugal and Switzerland where the war is no longer being waged but with results that go against what decision-makers and legislators in other countries claim as truths.
Johann Hari contrasts myths and ideas with facts and real examples. He argues that the “addicts” are a small group with such great suffering that they become slaves to the chemicals. His answer is to give them care and treat them with compassion and, as far as possible, save their lives. Just as the US Supreme Court ruled before Harry Anslinger started his “War on Drugs”.
The book has an extensive section with references for both quotes and facts. It is easy to follow references to the studies he cites.
Read more on the book's website.
Terry Pratchett died on March 12th 2015, and I just want to say “Good luck on your journey and let me know if you find any dragons”
Death comes to all of us, more surely than treasures (Sir Pratchett's own joke). He died on March 12,  only 66 years old. For the past 8 years, he has been battling early Alzheimer's. Fittingly, he died at home, in bed, with the cat next to him on the blanket.
During the years he was ill, he often spoke on the issue of euthanasia. He was an advocate for voluntary euthanasia and thought that it should be a matter of course that everyone should have the right to make such a decision. He suffered from feeling his intellectual capacity (which was considerable) waning.
Terry Pratchett became one of England's most successful writers. He started writing early and published his first short story in his early teens. Many books followed. The last series of books is called The Long Earth and tells what happens when we discover an infinite number of parallel versions of our planet. A mysterious drawing appears on the internet telling how to build a simple device. It makes it possible to step between seemingly endless versions of our world. Except that they are completely empty of people….
He co-wrote this series with Neil Gaiman, a collaboration that has been going on for 30 years. Four books have been written but they had contracts for more in the series. I hope Neil Gaiman finishes it.
Many mourn the passing of Terry Pratchett. His kind of humour is rare. Rare because it presupposes that the reader is intelligent and requires a certain amount of reflection. Terry Pratchett's humour is not based on contempt for women or racism but runs rampant with pettiness, greed and prejudice. All that we have to overcome daily to be human. Respectful, loving and always a twinkle in the eye. Satire at its best. We almost have to go back to Jonathan Swift and his Gulliver's travels to find its like. “Old school.”
It may be appropriate to remember Dylan Thomas' poem Do not go gently into that good night. The first stanza reads as follows:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Terry Pratchett protested wildly as his brain began to go out. However, he did not manage to fool death (which he told in detail in his books. He has, for example, a horse named Binky and a servant named Alfred). Maybe just as well because it is unprofitable and only irritates Death.
To do something old can sometimes be to do something new
I wrote regularly in Kulturmagasinet Kulturbloggen for several years. Then came the desire to wander and I felt it was time to do something else. Now I have made a guest appearance due to Steve Earle's new album.
It was not that difficult to write something good about it (it's Steve Earle after all). He is like Neil Young who also always delivers.