On March 11, 2012, Whitney Houston sang her swan song; she died a premature death at her prime of 48. She has earned her keep. She will be remembered. She will be loved. She is the best of her kind – a church gospel singer transformed into an international; pop phenomenon, with grace and beauty to match.
Now some of Houston’s death fall outs. Most (all) cried over her departure. Many (some) blamed drugs for her downfall. A (vocal) few want Houston’s death to be a lesson to the younger generation – just say no to drugs.
I think it is a good idea to use Houston’s death as a teaching case, moment. She is truly a one of a kind “star” of unsurpassed proportion and unmatched achievements. She is not to be confused with or upstaged by many, many other to follow - “pretenders” ? “want to be”? “Clone” for mass marketing.
I write this blog entry for one simple reason. We need to use Houston’s death judiciously to teach the right lesson: Drugs do not harm, “addictions” of all shape and kinds do.
First, drugs, however potent, do not kill or even harm. In fact, drugs can be used to do good, from relieving pain, e.g., morphine for wounded soldiers, to helping improve performance, e.g., coffee before mid-term, to creating social atmosphere, e.g., before dinner drink in party. In essence, what, when, how we use drugs matter.
Second, drugs do not do anything in or of themselves. People use drugs to do all sots of things, to self and others. In America we have a drug (culture) problem. We use drugs to solve all our problems, large and small, a first resource and not last recourse. For example, we use drugs, not training, to improve performance. We use drugs to make us do things that we cannot or should not be doing, e.g., improving sex life beyond our prime. Finally, we use drugs to induce happiness or suppress unhappy moments, e.g., binge drinking. In the end, we believe the magic of drugs, over human effort and beyond human capacity. This is the real problem with drugs we have, the culture of drug use, not drugs, is the problem.
Third, ultimately, drug is not the problem, “addiction” to drugs is. Drug problem is really an “addiction” problem. To say that we are addicted to drugs is to say that we are no longer in control of ourselves, in what(ever) we do. We ignore the side effects of drugs, in order to get the desire effects – momentary high, at the expense of long term health issues. Thus, drug problems we have individually, and more so, as a nation, is one of lack of self discipline.
Fourth, in line with ("Third" above), we in the US have all kinds of addition problems, many of them much more serious than drugs. As a nation, we need to deal with “addiction” , not drugs, as the problem or all problems:
(1) We are addicted to conspicuous consumption. We keep buying, consuming and trashing material goods, at the expense of inner peace and contentment, otherwise known as happiness. In being addicted to consumption, we are no more different than the drug addicts – seeking a new high – a Ford Model T then and i-Pod 3 now, not realizing that things do not make people happy, beyond the momentary thrill of the moment. Happiness is something we have to discover for ourselves, not given to use, like drugs. We can only derive true and enduring happiness in finding, sharing and giving meaning to and of life, through contemplation, more commonly known as soul searching.
(2) We are addicted to war (in larger context, violence). We keep invading countries and killing people. No single country have fought more wars and kill more people than we do as a nation: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan…just the big ones. War addiction gets us high, in the heat of battle, and in anticipation of peace (or pacification), only to start all over in a wild goose chase, wasting our nations precious blood and treasures, chasing meaningless one high after another.
(3) We are addicted to sex. Sex addiction gets us turned on, artificially (cosmetics, bikini), and manipulatively (marking, packaging). Sex addiction makes us desire sex, not love/romance which leads to sex. Sex addiction makes us marry for sex, and separate for lack of sex or in want of (novel) sex. More damningly, sex addiction, conditioned us to see others only as sex objects, for our utility, and momentary release, not as valuable human beings of their own right, fit for total involvement and destine for long term engagement. It makes us attracted to others for their outer appearance and not internal strengths/virtues. It makes us relate to each other on sexual groups, and not other mote important, multiplex, and enduring, human qualities.
(4) We are addicted to computer, virtual reality and social networks. Addicting to computer is a serious problem. Being addicted to texting means more accident on the road. Being addicted to e-mails and web surfing means we are not focused on our work. In the old days, hermits write books in ten and more years, now we cannot be engaged for more than 5 to10 minutes at a time. (That is the reason why we no longer produce classical books and enduring thesis.) Being addicted to social network and married to virtual reality takes away from everyday human intercourse, and human conditions, the soul of human existence, the fabric of life. The process makes us less and less human (quantity – speed and frequency - of communication do not make for quality – intimacy and intensity - of relations, less and less social (yes, social network is not social at all, not when we an cut people off at will and with a push of the mouse), we are dying a slow death, as person and collective. Our addiction to computer technology makes us part company with the collective and human society we live in, in search of a reality that only exits in the mind. It makes us all dreamers in a virtual world, where everything is possible and nothing is for real.