On Social Work and Social Responsibility

Disease, Addiction, the Virtue Ethic and the “Higher Power”

Sometimes what is conservative and what is routine may not be sufficient to assuage the suffering of an individual. Bloodletting was once a conservative medical procedure to remedy a plethora of ailments yet today we know it was ineffectual at best and at worst destructive, even potentially fatal. Following this analogy, the “bloodletting” of the addiction counseling field (in particular drug addiction) is the idea of drug addiction as a disease which renders the “afflicted” unable to control his or her actions. Acknowledging this notion as a conservative strategy instead of facing reality is not only self-defeating to the addicted, but also to the social worker. As a product of groupthink most of the American population would regurgitate this absurd notion readily if questioned about the nature of alcoholism, for example.

Psychologist James R. Milam and writer Katherine Ketcham, authors of Under the Influence, are some of the most influential voices representing the disease model campaign. Milam and Ketcham argued in their 1983 book that alcoholics cannot be held accountable for their actions, that deviant behavior is “outpourings of a sick brain… They are sick, unable to think rationally, and incapable of giving up alcohol by themselves” (Schaler 1). This sort of rhetoric would inspire Mark S. Gold to argue in his 1985 book 800-Cocaine that addictive drugs produce “an irresistible compulsion to use the drug at increasing dosages and frequencing in the face of serious physical and/or psychological side effects and extreme disruption of the user’s personal relationships and system of values” (Schaler 1).

High officials of the federal government have also been quick to reinforce this claim. National Drug Policy Director William J. Bennett explained in the 1989 speech in San Diego that an addict “is a man or woman whose power to exercise … rational volition has … been seriously eroded by drugs, and whose life is organized largely – even exclusively – around the pursuit and satisfaction of his addiction” (Schaler 2). This notion provided the justification for the actions of Marrion Barry, former District of Columbia mayor. Barry was brought up on charges of perjury, conspiracy and possession of a narcotic but claimed “That was the disease talking… I was a victim,” [he was] “addicted to alcohol and a chemical dependency on Valium and Xanax,” diseases “similar to cancer, heart disease and diabetes.” Mr. Barry cannot be held responsible for his behavior just as an individual with a rapid, uncontrolled mitosis of liver cells cannot be blamed for his (Schaler 3).

If addiction is not a disease then the nature of treatment and counseling must fundamentally change. Professor Jeffrey A. Schaler of American University, author of Addiction is a Choice had the following to say about the nature of addiction on the Showtime Emmy-nominated American documentary television series Bullshit! hosted by Cato Institute fellows Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller (Season 2, Episode 11):

Addiction is a choice, it’s not a disease. Addiction is a behavior and because it’s a behavior is always voluntary, there is no such thing as an involuntary behavior. In the scientific community we hold a particular view on what constitutes a disease and addiction and alcoholism do not meet those criteria for disease classification. Drinking alcohol, putting the alcohol into one’s body is an activity, a behavior, that is an expression of choice and preference. But having a real disease like cancer is not something you can control with willpower; there’s a big difference there.

This reductio ad absurdum is apparent in every disease-model “argument,” and is clearly highlighted in the example of Mr. Barry stated previously. Disease (diabetes, cancer, heart disease) is an affliction that cannot be cured by willpower while character flaws (a domain of ethics) can be changed by willpower. While an addicted individual may find it difficult to detach himself from his destructive habits with the right degree of guidance, compassion and fellowship it is possible to inspire self-empowered transformation leading to a rejection of actions which were once common and debilitating.

If you take an individual who is addicted to marijuana and lock him in a room with a month’s supply of food and water, he will desire marijuana greatly but survive. If you lock an individual who has degenerative cancer in a room for a month with the same supplies, he will die if not treated. There is no amount of willpower that an individual with cancer can exert which will cause the cancer to disappear. Paradoxically while the government and several outspoken “specialists” claim to support this absurdum they mandate religion masquerading as social service, the Twelve Step Programs, as the standard “treatment” for addiction, with tens of thousands of individuals being mandated to attend AA meetings yearly by the judicial system.

Please note that this objection to the disease model of addiction is not to be construed as an objection to the notion that certain individuals have a biological tendency toward addictive behavior or that drug addiction causes disease.

Professor Lance Dodes of Harvard Medical School, author of The Heart of Addiction had the following to say, on the Penn and Teller program:

Addiction is a psychological problem first of all; it is not due to your brain chemistry, it is not due to your genes, there have been forty years of genetic research which show that there is no gene for alcoholism. AA is not a professional organization and as a consequence they do not study themselves, they don’t modify the treatment according to results, they don’t do any of the things we expect and that we should expect for professional treatment for an important problem.

In the 1988 case Traynor v. Turnage 485 U.S. 535 veterans applying for education benefits after a deadline had expired claimed that their disease of alcoholism impaired them from filing on time. The judge turned them down and the case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court where the body of judges found that there was substantial evidence that alcoholism was not a disease.

It is difficult to argue with the judgments of professors Schaler and Dodes as well as the Supreme Court. Addiction is a matter of ethics best defeated by introspection, not medicine.

Addiction should be overcome by social workers in the same way any other psychological problem is, through psychoanalysis and counseling. Mandating that addicts attend “twelve step” programs or acknowledge that they are afflicted with a disease which enfeebles their ability to exert their willpower is not only ineffectual and economically wasteful but also potentially destructive to the wellbeing of the addicted individual. Addicted individuals must be empowered, not stripped of their dignity. To acknowledge oneself as an addict is to accept a self-fulfilling prophecy of cyclical relapse and self-loathing.

Instead of labeling oneself as an addict, addicted individuals should label themselves as heroic champions: “I am an addict” changes to “I am a responsible individual who values sobriety and temperance above all other things.” Instead of creating a framework of rules and regulations (a notion which is novel with modernity) we should strive toward the pursuit of virtues and ideals. Look to perfection, not simply survival, sobriety for the sake of sobriety, not sobriety for the sake of appeasing friends and family, not simply sobriety for the sake of being a better worker but sobriety for the sake of being an individual who wields power.

Instead of relying on a “higher power” we must learn only to rely on ourselves, to acknowledge that nothing is in our control besides our own actions, decisions and judgments, and to expect anything from the capricious external world will only result in disappointment and shock. Addicts must focus on what is in their control and cultivate willpower, temperance and self-control. These latter characteristics are necessary to overcome addiction and are not possibly obtained if the individual uses the twelve step method which is predicated on being crucially supported by a higher power.

The proof is in the pudding: The 1989 Alcoholics Anonymous Membership Survey showed that there was only a 5% success rate within AA groups after a twelve month period.

In the past a man who was unable to control his drinking, sexual activity or other indulgences was determined to not be practicing the virtues correctly: an addiction was considered to be a character flaw that accompanied the vice of intemperance, not a disease. This way of looking at addiction and it’s relation to disease is a much more productive and honest and allows for a return to responsible ethics. This notion alludes to a general theme in antiquity: we are in control of our actions and a good man is one who spends his life perfecting his actions.

Unless one is insane he is responsible for all actions, decisions and judgments. Afflictions, that is: cancer, heart disease, disasters, the actions of others, plague, viruses etc, are left up to the external world which strikes against us with unlimited power and to which we can only hope to steer away from but ultimately have no domain over. Picking up an alcoholic beverage, inserting it into one’s mouth and sipping are within our domain to control, and there is no excuse for it which amounts to anything more than pseudoscientific psychobabble.

James Stockdale, previously a presidential candidate and Vice Admiral of the Navy, discussing the philosophy of the first century Stoic philosopher Epictetus succinctly summarized the ancient perception of responsibility during an April eighteenth, 1995 lecture to the student body of the The Marine Amphibious Warfare School at Quantico, Virginia:

Epictetus explained that his curriculum was not about “revenues or income,or peace or war, but about happiness and unhappiness, success and failure, slavery and freedom.” His model graduate was not a person “able to speak fluently about philosophic principles as an idle babbler, but about things that will do you good if your child dies, or your brother dies, or if you must die or be tortured. …Let others practice lawsuits, others study problems, others syllogisms; here you practice how to die, how to be enchained, how to be racked, how to be exiled.” A man is responsible for his own “judgments, even in dreams, in drunkenness, and in melancholy madness.” Each individual brings about his own good and his own evil, his good fortune, his ill fortune, his happiness, and his wretchedness. It is unthinkable that one man’s error could cause another’s suffering; suffering, like everything else in stoicism, was all intemal-remorse at destroying yourself.

This sort of discussion is what needs to take place with addicted individuals because science is incapable of producing ethical maxims. A man who persistently fails to live up to standards must begin to examine his actions and determine how they should be improved upon, conceptualizing an ideal and then questing toward it. One who fails to do this is not diseased, but a weakling or coward and should be addressed by society in much the same way any other person with a character flaw is.

Those who are encumbered by their addiction may be best served with the companionship of virtuous individuals who might inspire the addicted to a heroic end and inspire an examination of all values, beliefs, goals and morals in hopes of aiding the individual in discovering and then acting upon a more honest and excellent way to live. During such an introspective quest the addicted must realize the root cause of his desires so that he can detach from them. The realization of virtue and the ability to consciously become aware of the thought process in people is a necessary function of the educational system, a charge which has completely evaporated in the modern era. In many academic settings the vices are toted as virtues and the virtues toted as vices with no discussion of how to truly live. The result of a failing educational system is a population which believes heavily in superstitions, is incapable of making educated decisions in the voting booth and is wracked with addictions, neuroses, apathy and fear. A properly educated individual has no need for intoxicants or excess indulgences and values prudence and temperance as principal virtues.

A properly educated individual does not allow character flaws to persist and instead wields prudence and an indifferent, honest faculty of reason, buttressed by a cultivation and training in the trivium of logic, grammar and rhetoric, to recognize his own ignorance before it perverts his virtue. The goal of a proper education (that is: a liberal arts education) is to empower an individual to think properly (clearly, beautifully, elegantly), to avoid miscommunication, to develop the tools necessary to lay things bear and see them for what they are with the hope of cultivating action which is just and excellent. Prejudices, misunderstandings, biases and attachments to desires are not easily fostered in the liberal mind.

To expect social workers to expect this kind of mindset from a public which has no exposure to the art of thinking, which has been intentionally disarmed by the public schools so that they are unable to determine the truth for themselves by being denied an exposure to the liberal arts, which is becoming increasingly dependant on standardized testing and factoid regurgitation in lieu of comprehensive understanding (and with it: a critical faculty), is not only a waste of time but also a misuse of resources.

If social workers or any citizen concerned with the self-defeating and destructive behaviors and idiocies of the public wishes to bring about change that change must be made in the schools; the fundamental way in which our children are raised must change. As Aristotle famously said: All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.

Instead of telling students not to do something, dictating that something is false or is not wise, we should be cultivating in them the fundamental skills to find the truth on their own. Once the skills to reason are developed the individual begins to approach things in a sober way free of superstition and popular compulsion. The result of a mind free from superstition, popular compulsion (and with it: indulgence in excess desires such as drug use) and pandering is a mind free from ignorance.

This sort of education, the “quest for honesty” as Walter Kaufmann referred to it in The Faith of a Heretic was available to statesmen and wealthy families during the ancient era and individuals produced from such a system became highly respected, even heroic individuals in the eyes of the community. While in the past it was impractical to offer this level of education to the masses, today we can. Today we can offer the tools necessary to the masses which will usher in a permanent enlightenment by granting to the next generation of parents a sharp faculty of reason and a self-determined and passionate understanding of the virtues.

Mediocrity and character flaws such as addiction will eventually evaporate in a sort of “eugenic ethics,” as the coming generations become increasingly self-aware of their thoughts, desires, emotions and reasons, increasingly courageous and intellectually honest, and increasingly heroic and virtuous. The result of this blooming wise society is an eternal vigilance which makes regressive policy no longer possible and makes corrupt government no longer a realistic notion, as we would transcend the façade of goodness apparent in the modern era to sincere and self-evident virtues of the philosopher kings of old.

Ultimately the goal of education is to help youths to determine how to live well in their adult life, how to determine what “the good” of life is, how to temper life’s misfortunes and how to treat and interact with fellow human beings, to discover what obligations and duties we must observe toward others. The goal of education is to introduce the art of thinking to the students so that they apply it to their actions and thoughts, so that they develop self-awareness and vigilance, traits quite necessary for the functioning of a democratic republic. This is a re-envisioning of what it means to be “educated” and is concerned more with the goodness of the student rather than a measure of how well one memorizes factoids which may be regurgitated for a grade. Specialized knowledge is important for the specialists, for those with a questing passion for a greater understanding of the world, but is lost on the ears of the common man and has no use. This therefore is directly connected to the notion of a drug addict, perhaps the most poorly educated and most ignorant individual who can be thought of, an individual who blames inanimate objects for his mediocre or criminal behavior and escapes from reality on a daily basis in order to avoid even the most austere responsibilities and charges of duty.

Luckily the social worker has a degree of professional credibility in discussing such matters and can use expert power to influence the social engineers of government. Surely the only way to bring about serious social change is to influence or replace the social architects; we must be wary of diluting ourselves into beginning to take for granted the popular notion that one person can make a difference by performing small, disconnected acts of kindness and activism. This painfully optimistic lie has created bitterer deathbed rants than it has made social progress. In truth the only way to bring about endurable change is to set in motion a design which will fundamentally transform the machinery of society. The ideal position for the social worker seeking to dispel the root causes of misunderstanding and ignorance is at head of state or within a position which allows for whispering into the ears of influential and powerful men. In such a position the social worker can set into motion reforms which may catalyze a revolution of mind and social priority.

In the end addiction and the treatment of addiction is a matter of ethics and not of medicine. While an individual addicted to heroin might need some medical aid in coming off of his addiction there is no lifelong stain of “addiction” which enfeebles his willpower permanently and stays with him beyond the medical symptoms. If said addict “relapses” it is a matter of lack of willpower, self-control and character, not a matter of science. Taking responsibility for what is in our control instead of blaming an imaginary disease for our depravity is an instrumental foundation for honest and virtuous living.

Bibliography and Works Cited

Barker, E. Phillips. 1932. Seneca’s Letters to Lucilius. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Dodes, Lance M. The Heart of Addiction: A New Approach to Understanding and

Managing Alcoholism and Other Addictive Behaviors. New York: Harper, 2002.

Farquharson, A. S. L. 1989. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and a

Selection from the Letters of Marcus and Fronto, trans. with introduction and notes by R. B. Rutherford. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Griffin, M. T. and E. M. Atkins. eds. 1991. Cicero: On Duties: Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

Long, George. 1890. The Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion and Fragments.

London: George Bell.

Plato. The Republic. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003.

Schaler, Jeffrey A. Addiction Is a Choice. Chicago: Carus Publishing Company, 1999.

Stockdale, James Bond. 1993. Courage Under Fire: Testing Epictetus’s Doctrines in a

Laboratory of Human Behavior. Stanford: Hoover Institution/Stanford University.

Washton, Arnold M. Willpower’s Not Enough: Recovering from Addictions of Every Kind.

New York: Harper, 1990.

On The Dehumanization of Troubled People

To makes the claim:

Furthermore, it is important to recognize that there is little involvement of adolescents in formulating and implementing the education and youth policies (Griffin, 1997). School is a microcosm of society; if students are not allowed to have a voice in matters related to their schooling, they may question their value for participating in social and political processes in the future. The findings show that youth workers can collaborate with service partners to create a climate in which adolescents can reflect critically on their needs and make recommendations for a more favorable learning environment. They can, thus, become active rather than passive learners, which in turn encourages them to take part in matters outside the school setting. In short, this approach helps prepare young people for participation in a democratic way of life.

While this notion should represent common sense to even the most small-minded of school administrators it subtlety hints at a fundamental deficiency in the way our social fabric is structured. Modern thought dictates that people with problems are to be prescribed a universal, absolute treatment after an unquestionable diagnosis. Doctors actually reference arbitrarily written “diagnostic manuals” for use in classifying human beings as having one “mental” flaw or another, then follow the universal treatment as if it will magically “fix” the problem.

If your child has difficulty “sustaining attention in tasks or play activities” he has ADD, of course, and our universal solution as ruled by our pretensions of understanding the human psyche is X milligrams of Ritalin every six hours, not X-1, not X-.5, not X+1, not X+1.553234 but X. You will see that our modern way has marginalized these silly “chemical imbalances” to simple inconveniences which may be dispelled by simply consuming drugs. There is no need to speak to the patient of course, as the manual of diagnosis is a higher truth than subjective reasons. We once classified homosexuality as a mental disorder but don’t count that against us, this is the new millennium and our marketing dazzles ever the more boldly! Modern medicine in regard to “mental illness” (more often an illness is a behavior ruled unethical by the “mental health professionals”) and the defining of “normalcy” and “deviant behaviors” is a pseudoscience often encumbered by socio-economic considerations rather than honest scientific conclusions. The honest conclusion is that we know little to nothing about how the human mind works and must refrain from ruling on the health or behavior of others when we are ignorant of the case ourselves.

The modern way of observing and handling human affairs is not only based on presumption, arrogance and intellectual dishonesty but also a sort of dehumanizing, barbaric objectification of the human spirit which is not amenable to the structuring of a functional, decent, sane society. To alludes to the notion that we must get the “flawed” individuals involved in the “treatment” we have decided they must be subjected to. Instead of diagnosing problems in others, individuals should diagnose themselves: if one is feeling depressed, they are depressed, and it is the social worker’s job to find the root cause of this suffering and offer the individual advice on how to detach from it, or better yet, inspire self-realized detachment. We do not need a diagnostic manual to see that a broken home has destroyed the self-esteem of a youth; we just need a conscience and wits. The goal of the social worker is to get the crippled individual into such a state of empowerment by heroic inspiration, catalyzing process illumination, introspection, character development and honesty and by displaying endless compassion. An individual acting out is more likely to be acting out because of a social ill rather than a damaged brain: the former requires fearless exploration and integrity on the part of the social worker, the latter is a territory of great presumption and misunderstanding in the modern era as “treatments” for mental dysfunctions are not categorically effective as a shot of penicillin is in obliterating bacteria. The placebo effect and displacement of actual symptoms are a stronger force in psychiatric drugs than is symptom management or curing. An individual incapable of offering all of these services is not fit to aid other human beings and must only concern themselves with dominion over aquariums.

Individuals must be passionately engaged on the road of change but only once they have acknowledged their self-perceived problems. In the case of an individual acting out in school, the social worker must confront the individual in a non-antagonistic way with a description of how said behavior negatively impacted others. Non-sociopaths will realize that their behavior was in error and will then be vulnerable to an exploration and “inventory” which might reveal the underlying cause, if there is no underlying cause and was simply a result of intemperate passions, the individual may decide that better control is desirable and may seek aid in developing that virtue with the guidance and companionship of the social worker. This guidance and applied compassion is the core of productive social work, not a diagnosis disregarding the human experience and reducing human beings to simple machines easily mended by universal Band-Aids.

On Education of Sex

Sexual education’s failing in the contemporary education system is that not only is it too brief and not persistent but also overly medical and lacks the strong ethical and socio-political considerations which must accompany responsible sexuality. Instead of honest discussion and a quest for becoming responsible, complete citizens ready to establish families, we bombard children with diagrams and medical jargon reminiscent of the sort of exposure we should expect from a biology class.Medical technology is the least important consideration. Instead ethics and the importance of responsibility and consequence must be discussed in open dialogue, with no censorship of words, a mutual project to discuss what we should expect of each other and what the opposite sex should come to deserve. What good is knowledge of the body if we lack the prudence and social responsibility in using it? Not only is it worth no good but serves as a destructive end, as sexual abuse and relational strife has never before been such a dire problem in our society, surely as a result of a mass media focused introducing a irresponsible and depersonalized sexuality.Only through a posing of fundamental questions followed by free-thought discussion can we as a people come to recognize the impact and utility of our sexuality. As an educator I would especially emphasize the virtue of masturbation, a harmless act which disarms our lust without injuring a human being. Only when we are sure of our actions should they be pursued, and if any ambiguity exists as to the impact of sexual conduct, use your hand!

There is a rush to adulthood in this country as we attempt to sexualize younger and younger children. Sexual education should be less education in the contemporary sense and more “sexual awareness” or “sexual ethics” as children examine their desires and decide if they spring from natural sources or rather mass media plugs. Every child must ask and have a solid response to the following before engaging in sex with another individual:

  • Why am I having sex?
  • Why do I feel the way I do?
  • What will be the effect of my actions?
  • What are my motives in asking her out, what should they be?
  • Why am I seeking to have sex or to have a girlfriend?
  • Why am I expected to act in a certain way, how should I strive to act?
  • What duties must I observe? What behavior does the opposite sex deserve or should come to expect?
  • How should sex be wielded and with what limitations?

I believe that many people having sex are doing so not out of a secure position but instead out of pressure from the media and other profit-oriented sectors. Profit as the lowest common denominator in human affairs does not lead us to an end which brings about human wellness and excellence but instead dysfunction.

We should have a framework of aspired ideals and reasons which lead us to act, especially when those actions may inflict wounds upon others. When unsure of the virtue of our actions, we must abstain, otherwise what we done may have serious implications for the wellbeing of ourselves and others.

On Juvenile Delinquency and Rehabilitation

Weeping in the Playtime of Others was a monumental 1976 exposé of the barbaric and profit-oriented juvenile criminal justice, correctional and “rehabilitation” programs of the day. Kenneth Wooden reveals a grimy underworld filled with the torture, battering, deprivation, neglect, execution and illegal imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of children, most of which have found their way into the institutions by status offenses, truancy and by running away from rapist fathers or uncles. The author goes on to prove without a shadow of a doubt that these industries are self-servicing in nature and fundamentally unconstitutional, many of the imprisoned individuals being denied the writ of habeas corpus and other fundamental rights. Most alarmingly Wooden discovers that many of the juvenile institutions inevitably lead to the creation of monsters such as Charles Manson by first de-humanizing and stripping the individual’s dignity, then driving them to criminal impulses or suicide by common practices of methodical destruction.

Just as Wooden located a link between profit and the existence of the juvenile “rehabilitation” institutions there is also a direct link between many other ventures of government and profit today. It seems that since the dawn of the Gilded Age the United States congress has taken up the mantle of handmaiden in the service of big business, a union which has fundamentally corrupted the policymaking process. This was made possible by the realization of a legalized system of corruption in a historic but often overshadowed 1886 Supreme Court decision which ruled that private corporations have the same rights as private citizens and thus can display “free speech” in the form of campaign contributions just as the common citizen can. Overnight the congress was bought by big business and it has remained that way ever since, producing countless numbers of military actions, government-sponsored coups of democratically elected officials and the creation of agencies which exist solely to fuel the profits of the corporate sector.

I believe this terminal cancer in the heart of the Republic underlies the whole of Weeping in the Playtime of Others but is never explicitly stated as to avoid implications of unnecessary politicizing. Yet the creation of these useless, ineffective, destructive agencies is tied intimately with the ability of a business to lobby and to contribute to the coffers of elected officials. Social workers should compel every level of government using their professional credentials to see to the immediate abolishment and repeal of the 1886 Supreme Court decision granting corporations the same rights as living persons under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which has facilitated a system of legalized corruption in which corporate interests dominate the decisions of the body politic rather than considerations of wellbeing and harmony in regard to the Republic.

Attempting to unveil and close down misbehaving agencies does nothing but offer temporary relief to the problem; it is as if we attempt to fix a broken water pipe by mopping up the water which falls from the rupture. Instead of occasionally unmasking these dysfunctional institutions, often by chance or by journalistic imperative, we must attend to the root of the problem, which is a socio-political system with greed or profit as the lowest common denominator rather than the wellbeing of citizens.

But simply repealing regressive legislation and policy decisions is not enough to ensure government is behaving correctly. Instead of just assuming government is operating legally, efficiently and morally just because the trains arrive on time or putting faith in a press which has become nothing but an entertainment industry, puerile, fear mongering sideshow regurgitating the status quo with fanatical pathos and sophistry, we must develop a function of government which is surely lacking: oversight. Combined with frequent social reports offered on a regular basis to the people, oversight is capable of establishing transparent, honest government, an informed, coherent public capable of voting in a responsible manner and also indifferently holds officials to the fire when they are responsible for ineffective or regressive policy making or illegal activity. It is oversight through the Censorate which ensured the nearly immortal reign of the Chinese emperors; the empire only fell apart when the standards for civic responsibility and duty were lowered. Strangely most other western governments do have established oversight agencies (buttressed by the frequent dissemination of social reports amongst the people) and as a result do not appear to have these massive underground systems of corruption and torture (or as a contemporary example: an out-of-control military industrial complex which has given birth to at least three wars) which Wooden reports on.

While Congress does have oversight ability it rarely uses it and when it does seems more interested in discovering the origins of semen stains or trying to fabricate a link to communism in a person’s past than uncovering and correcting regressive policy. As Congress has failed to do its job and by its very nature may be biased in reporting as members of its body may be at risk by what is being discovered, it must now be passed to a separate government agency which has no stake in any operation of government and only offers indifferent, unbiased reports on the state of affairs and activity of government.

The fraud of the juvenile correction industry is based on a truth: children do run away from home, are increasingly committing violent crimes, do skip school and do lash out in inappropriate ways within the school setting. The method which we should use to address these behaviors is the same method we should use in analyzing all matters: we will not mop up the water spewing but seal the rupture. “Correctional” measures such as imprisonment, “rehabilitation” and therapy do not address the cause of these dysfunctions, it only temporarily assuages (and in the case of the first two approaches often aggravates) them. The true source of these misbehaviors is not a pernicious, mischievous child but more likely a broken home, traumatic experiences, duress or socio-economic hardships.

In order to encounter and overcome those problems we must assess the whole of society holistically and attempt to sway social priority, civic responsibility and moral duty from mall culture mediocrity to an appreciation and practice of the virtues and humanities. The only way to reorder a society as a whole is to fundamentally reform the educational system to include relevant (and more importantly: compassionate and inspiring) instruction. The role of education and the reform of social priority is a topic for another discussion yet we must not forget that it is connected at the hip with almost all social problems. An educated people are able to temper misfortune and hardship, are empowered with the tools to bring about solutions to problems, have the wisdom and prudence to make rational decisions and elect worthy, merited officials, cultivate an appreciate the pursuit of goodness and with it the necessity to treat our fellow man in a compassionate, just way, develop a knowledge of how nature works so that they are not swayed by superstition or the pandering of sophists, and finally: appreciate a passion for fostering a community which lives in an honest fashion and which promotes open debate free from censorship. It is clear that most Americans lack this sort of character and seem more concerned with voting for the next “American idol” or drinking themselves into a stupor than righting the wrongs which systematically infect our collapsing Republic; otherwise these cancers would be lanced by the march of patriots.

As social workers we must use our professional creditability to influence the policy makers into bringing about reform or at least inspire the people to bring about the reform themselves through direct action. Journalistic eavesdropping in the style of Wooden is becoming increasingly rare as the press has become a haven of sycophants and cowards. Even in a culture where the press is objective and courageous, it would not be enough to unmask the majority of all injustices and regressions. Instead we must demand that our officials serve the public trust by establishing oversight, offering frequent social reports to the masses and also fundamentally reforming our educational system to include a teaching of the humanities, civic duty and virtues in an attempt to restructure social priority toward an end more amenable to human happiness, excellence and progress.

On the Primacy of Education in Sustaining the Wellbeing of a Principality

Antle, Beverley J., and Cheryl Regehr make the claim:

Social work researchers, in balancing a justice mission with individual rights and freedoms, must give due consideration to how vulnerable or stigmatized groups are currently viewed or misunderstood and ensure that the research design does not risk further perpetuation of such misunderstandings.

I do not believe it is the domain of social work to dispel misunderstandings but rather the domain of education. A properly educated individual does not misunderstand often and instead wields prudence and an indifferent, honest faculty of reason, buttressed by a cultivation and training in the trivium of logic, grammar and rhetoric, to recognize his own ignorance before it perverts his virtue. The goal of a proper education (that is: a liberal arts education) is to empower an individual to think properly (clearly, beautifully, elegantly), to avoid miscommunication, to develop the tools necessary to lay things bear and see them for what they are with the hope of cultivating action which is just and excellent. Prejudices, misunderstandings, biases and attachments to ideas are not easily fostered in the liberal mind.

To expect social workers to expect this kind of mindset from a public which has no exposure to the art of thinking, which has been intentionally disarmed by the public schools so that they are unable to determine the truth for themselves by being denied an exposure to the liberal arts, which is becoming increasingly dependant on standardized testing and factoid regurgitation in lieu of comprehensive understanding (and with it: a critical faculty), is not only a waste of time but also a misuse of resources. If social workers or any citizen concerned with the self-defeating and destructive misunderstandings and idiocies of the public wishes to bring about change that change must be made in the schools; the fundamental way in which our children are raised must change. As Aristotle famously said: All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.

Instead of telling students not to do something, dictating that something is false or is not wise, we should be cultivating in them the fundamental skills to find the truth on their own. Once the skills to reason are developed the individual begins to approach things in a sober way free of superstition and popular compulsion. The result of a mind free from superstition, popular compulsion and pandering is a mind free from ignorance.

Luckily the social worker has a degree of professional credibility in discussing such matters and can use expert power to influence the social engineers of government. Surely the only way to bring about serious social change is to influence or replace the social architects; we must be wary of diluting ourselves into beginning to take for granted the popular notion that one person can make a difference by performing small, disconnected acts of kindness and activism. This painfully optimistic lie has created more bitter deathbed rants than it has made social progress. In truth the only way to bring about endurable change is to set in motion a design which will fundamentally transform the machinery of society. The ideal position for the social worker seeking to dispel the root causes of misunderstanding and ignorance is at head of state or within a position which allows for whispering into the ears of influential and powerful men. In such a position the social worker can set into motion reforms which may catalyze a revolution of mind and social priority.

On the Importance of Critically Analyzing Conservative Procedure

Scott makes the claim in the conclusion:

…If there is any question relating to ethical behavior, they must err on the side of conservativism, always putting their client’s welfare and safety first.

Sometimes what is conservative and what is routine may not be sufficient to assuage the suffering of an individual. Bloodletting was once a conservative medical procedure to remedy a plethora of ailments yet today we know it was ineffectual at best and at worst destructive, even potentially fatal. Following this analogy, the “bloodletting” of the addiction counseling field (in particular drug addiction) is the idea of drug addiction as a disease which renders the “afflicted” unable to control his or her actions. Acknowledging this notion as a conservative strategy instead of facing reality is not only self-defeating to the addicted, but also to the social worker. As a product of groupthink most of the American population would regurgitate this absurd notion readily if questioned about the nature of alcoholism, for example.

If addiction is not a disease then the nature of treatment and counseling must fundamentally change. Professor Jeffrey A. Schaler of American University, author of Addiction is a Choice had the following to say about the nature of addiction on the television show Penn and Teller: Bullsh**! (Season 2, Episode 11):

Addiction is a choice, it’s not a disease. Addiction is a behavior and because it’s a behavior is always voluntary, there is no such thing as an involuntary behavior. In the scientific community we hold a particular view on what constitutes a disease and addiction and alcoholism do not meet those criteria for disease classification. Drinking alcohol, putting the alcohol into one’s body is an activity, a behavior, that is an expression of choice and preference. But having a real disease like cancer is not something you can control with willpower; there’s a big difference there.

Professor Lance Dodes of Harvard Medical School, author of The Heart of Addiction had the following to say, on the same program:

Addiction is a psychological problem first of all; it is not due to your brain chemistry, it is not due to your genes, there have been forty years of genetic research which show that there is no gene for alcoholism. AA is not a professional organization and as a consequence they do not study themselves, they don’t modify the treatment according to results, they don’t do any of the things we expect and that we should expect for professional treatment for an important problem.

In the 1988 case Traynor v. Turnage 485 U.S. 535 veterans applying for education benefits after a deadline had expired claimed that their disease of alcoholism impaired them from filing on time. The judge turned them down and the case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court where the body of judges found that there was substantial evidence that alcoholism was not a disease.

I passionately agree with the judgments of professors Schaler and Dodes as well as the Supreme Court. Addiction is a matter of ethics and introspection, not medicine. Addiction should be overcome by social workers in the same way any other psychological problem is, through psychoanalysis and counseling. Mandating that addicts attend “twelve step” programs or acknowledge that they are afflicted with a disease which enfeebles their ability to exert their willpower is not only ineffectual and economically wasteful but also potentially destructive to the wellbeing of the addicted individual. Addicted individuals must be empowered, not stripped of their dignity. To acknowledge oneself as an addict is to accept a self-fulfilling prophecy of cyclical relapse and self-loathing.

Instead of labeling oneself as an addict, addicted individuals should label themselves as heroic champions: “I am an addict” changes to “I am a responsible individual who values sobriety and temperance above all other things.” Instead of creating a framework of rules and regulations (a notion which is novel with modernity) we should strive toward the pursuit of virtues and ideals. Look to perfection, not simply survival, sobriety for the sake of sobriety, not sobriety for the sake of appeasing friends and family, sobriety for the sake of being a better worker. Instead of relying on a “higher power” we must learn only to rely on ourselves, to acknowledge that nothing is in our control besides our own actions, decisions and judgments, and to expect anything from the capricious external world will only result in disappointment and shock. Addicts must focus on what is in their control and cultivate willpower, self-esteem and an appreciation for temperance and self-control. These latter characteristics are necessary to overcome addiction and are not possibly obtained if the individual uses the twelve step method which is predicated on being crucially supported by a higher power. The proof is in the pudding: The 1989 Alcoholics Anonymous Membership Survey showed that there was only a 5% success rate within AA groups after a twelve month period.

On Motivating Defeated People

Burger makes the claim:

Most government and traditional shelter rehabilitation programs are notoriously poor in curing addictions. Many do not even try.

But those that do suffer from a crucial flaw. Although grounded in the best of intentions, federal programs by law can only administer to mental and physical maladies, not the spiritual.

A failing of modern society is that is obsessed with physicality and objectiveness, applying rules and universal methods to complex ideas such as people; modernity fails to address the human being. In the modern era any sort of problem is easily fixed with a magical pill or a universal plan that has been determined to provide precisely the amount of aid needed. Instead of attending to the root of human misery, or even acknowledging it as being relevant, band-aiding is considered a viable and indeed often the only way of solving a problem. This blind system attempts to apply biological causes to all maladies and rejects the human experience as an ultimately subjective thing that can be substituted with a drug-induced haze.

While the homeless do need a degree of physical aid in reestablishing themselves in society, they also need to increase their understanding, wisdom and ability to exert their will, to take responsibility for their actions, to establish and pursue ideal virtues and finally to develop an austere character and sense of duty. Instead of simply being granted a hand out which will save them from their predicament they must first realize the errors of their ways so that they will not be perpetuated in the future. The homeless individual must examine all habits, decisions, judgments and beliefs and recognize where destructive tendencies lay dormant. Conscious decisions must be made to detach from these unskillful mindsets and to adopt skillful mindsets which facilitate self-transformation. This sort of ethical evaluation and inventory (which I might begrudgingly refer to as “spirituality”) would be considered meaningless to most administrators but must be pursued or nothing is truly improved for the individual. The individual must define for himself what his duties (goals) are in life and then idealize a set of virtues to achieve that end.

Social workers working in homeless programs must carefully consider the ability of the individual to exert willpower and utilize self-esteem before releasing them. A lack of willpower and self-esteem is what landed them in such dire straits in the first place. Ultimately we are only in control of our own actions, decisions and judgments and everything else is left to the world. Accordingly the homeless must be trained to rely on themselves exclusively and to deny that external things can harm their character or dignity. Once this realization is made by the homeless self-control, dignity, self-esteem and willpower returns as the individuals cease worrying about things outside of their control and acknowledge what is in their control. The result of this process is a form of unrestrained freedom from all ailments and wounds, an eagerness to conquer the world and a genuine sense of dignity. These traits are necessary in any recovering person, whether it be from financial or emotional ruin. Acknowledging this one truth is necessary for progression; failure to acknowledge the realm of control results in a cycle of continuous agony as the individual attempts to control things (or makes expectations) of things outside of their control.

The opposite of agony is the necessary mindset that the social worker must ensure is cultivated before releasing the homeless individual. Releasing a superficially “better” individual is a travesty, injustice and shame on the self. A superficial improvement is one which re-establishes physical stability but neglects the character and sustainability of the individual’s actions and thoughts. Physicality, contrary to the modern view, is mostly irrelevant. One can still experience true detachment from misery in austere conditions, but only if skillful mindsets are cultivated by the social worker (or philosopher). Giving a homeless individual a “happy” pill will not make all his problems go away, it will only mask them. Providing aid without training the individual in how to free him or herself is another form of band-aiding a problem. As social workers we must cultivate sustainability in those who seek our assistance, not slap an instant fix on their problems. The powerless man entering a homeless program must leave as a heroic champion to his peers who will only inspire them to become virtuous and self-reliant.

On the Virtue of a Social Worker

It is necessary that all social workers adhere to the highest ethical standards, including complete abstinence from all forms of drug use (both legal and illegal) and the abstinence from promiscuous sex. An individual who indulges in such destructive behaviors is not qualified to counsel anyone and is especially not qualified to counsel drug abusers. An effective social worker is not simply a degree; while drug addict social workers might be tolerated when necessary in the capacity of a desk worker, they must be forbidden from offering guidance which they themselves do not follow. Part of a social worker’s obligation is inspiration and role modeling, and as such, a drug user is not to be tolerated. Those who seek the guidance of a social worker are already troubled and the last thing they need is to be given advice by a hypocrite who fails to adhere to the most primitive moral standards.

The negative consequence of drug illegality is the criminal culture needed to foster the desires of consumers. A solution to all drug-related crime (and a great deal of social problems social workers work with) would be to legalize for personal use in the privacy of the home or bars. The effect of legalization would be similar to what the country went through during the lift of alcohol prohibition.

Legalization does not do away with the desire to use drugs, but it does do away with the criminal culture and many of the social dysfunctions that social workers must fight everyday to assuage. Once the criminal culture evaporates education can take over to offer alternative coping mechanisms to the pressures of society that does not include escapism by intoxication. The effect of such a campaign, if guided by wisdom, would be similar to the effect of the anti-smoking campaigns, which have succeeded in converting a large portion of cigarette smokers to non-smokers in the past 30 years. From the World Health Organization’s “Smoking Statistics”:

Among Americans, smoking rates shrunk by nearly half in three decades (from the mid-1960s to mid-1990s), falling to 23% of adults by 1997.