The institutions in Charleston, facing major substance abuse epidemics, are stuck in the 1980’s and 90’s in terms of how sophisticated they are in trying to reduce the social ills. Witnessing them, it is amazing how anachronistically lame it is. It, ironically, follows the general trend of coolness which has generally gotten retarded. (I can say that word because 1st-12th grade in Special Ed and was bullied with it viciously). It is curious that people with access to PhDs in psychology, sociology, communications, and political science could not coble together better strategies to combat the ongoing epidemics of substances and similar things. The tone and design of what have they have done, earnestly, hasn’t evolved from the 1980’s and I scarcely can believe it has any hope of success. Not only is their Reagan-esque style aesthetically dumb but psychologically ineffective.
Not that their lame approach isn’t ironically with the times. Lame is the new cool. The standards-of-coolness have lost their edge and sophistication. Titanic became Fifty Shades of Grey and Lord of the Rings became Game of Thrones because everyone became thirteen-year-old jocks who didn’t have the attention span for anything that didn’t involve regular violence and sex. They also really like superhero action movies and hardcore pornography. I kind of want to charge them with statutory rape but then I realize that they just have the brains of middle-schoolers and their genitals are fully legal. That said, the virtue of being cool is not merely being with the times but possessing wit, humor, style, edge, chicness, and grace. It is to be timeless more than timely. It is a virtue accessible to all social classes and cliques and is not contingent on social capital or even fully relative to cultural standards. Importantly, it is a psychological means of making everyone feel accepted and a means of manifesting humility.
It is not just that the anachronistic approach the authorities in Charleston take is lame, unrelatable, and doesn’t work. It is all of those things, but also that it is morally condescending. The purpose in adopting a more relatable persona is not merely to speak vernacular so they’ll be receptive to it but also to avoid self-righteousness on the part of the authority and to avoid conveying what are often painful moral judgments to people whose lives have often been tragic. Things like substance abuse sometimes begin in a wealthy fraternity and sometimes they begin as self-medication for past domestic abuse. Either way, it’s better to approach them with humility. Domestic and other interpersonal abuse often includes the psychological torment of being constantly deprecated, degraded, and made to feel worthless. In my personal life, that has often been a contributor to my psychological pain.
The authoritative approach taken by the institutions in Charleston not only is ineffectual but also contributes to the worsening mental health of the people they’re reaching out to. On that note, there is a local mental health epidemic, too. The streets are brimming with anxiety and depression. The authorities’ approach to that is characteristically like a 1980’s pamphlet discouraging teen suicide. It does not show real empathy, it comes across as bureaucrats feebly adding stereotypical sympathy phrases into otherwise grey and impersonal language from someone who sees themselves as a moral superior. Suicide, according to the tone of the approach, is a naughty vice engaged in by kids in a delinquent subculture. There is ostensible sympathy but ultimately a combination of impersonality and condescension that subtracts from the already neutral demeanor that makes things worse and not better.
Which all brings this to the question of why such stupid, old-fashioned, methods are used. Why are the institutions pulling out metaphorical, grainy, VHS tapes to run their campaigns rather than something newer and smarter which is not only aesthetically important but also more effective in saving the human lives of many people. The reason they’re taking the approach that they’re taking is, partly, a fear of liability based in Rawlsian theory that if they’re too emotional that they’ll be illiberal and thus subject to all the case law that seems to suggest that institutions should take a nonchalant impartial approach of greyness and that translates to the authorities defaulting to that anachronistic approach which feels like it avoids the potential for legal and social liability.
Yet the approach is ineffective unless the effect the authorities are going for is covering their asses and surviving. In which case, they can both say that they did something about the issue and that something avoids liability. It’s sadly pathetic. Going to the mental health issue. They don’t have to give people a reason to live, they just need a record that says they tried so they can’t be blamed for doing nothing but they also can’t do anything significant. They’re not greedily profiting from the misery and deprivation of the people they’re their responsible for. They’re just shameless and spineless cowards who shake in fear before the metaphorical whips of society and lack the courage to go down for what’s right.
As I say at the top of my comedy page on this website, I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees. And if it is illegal or unpopular to do what’s right, I answer to my God and my conscience before anything human. As I wrote in an earlier article, it is the same reason they can’t feed or house the people they’re responsible for in this city. Because there are no consequences for passive failure, only active failure. The symptoms of negligence go tolerated far more than the symptoms of action. Every program risks failure and the safest route for themselves and the reputation of the institution is to do nothing. In an age of scandalous media and an increasing fear of all types of backlash, they have been conditioned to forswear whatever conscience they have and hold dear to the interests of their institution.
The moral of this story is multifold but it largely reduces to a sad play of feeble animals, frightened like deer-in-the-headlights, solipsistically paranoid about their self-preservation, and who lack almost any moral courage. Most exposés of authority focus on greed, sexual misconduct, or incompetence in that order of occurrence, but this is about, foremost, a lack of moral courage. An Eichmann-like obedience to protocol regardless of the human cost. If they lack a humanist conscience and they don’t believe in God, then there is no authority they answer to except society and their hierarchical superiors. Since they neither have a secular conscience or a belief in God, they are completely free from liability and I hope they’re satisfied.