Iain Duncan Smith resorting to old scapegoats he believes will be popular with Sun and Daily Heil readers. Blame the addicts! They’re the ones who have bled the country dry! “Nah – not the Bankers – it’s the addict scum wot did it, innit!”
Addictions and substance misuse are illnesses like any other and those who are ill with addictions deserve to be treated professionally, ethically and compassionately, by experts.
Addicts are not moral failures (for them – look to this government and the ferile rich who got us into this crisis). They are victims of an illness that respects no social strata or occupation.
Of course, having to live in Britain today – you could argue that people are driven to drink by the toxic political-economic environment the stress of which sends some people running for ‘shelter’ at the bottom of a bottle.
It is at least arguable that this would be a rational response of a human being who is suffering from unbearable pain and stress – yet it is only a minority of people who become addicted, which would point to metabolic/physiological differences in the way that different people’s bodies react to alcohol.
It is also worth remembering that the vast majority of people with addictions are in work – ask Alistair Campbell!
Let us always remember: Alcoholics and drug addicts were also forced to wear the black triangle in the death camps, declared ‘asocial’ and ‘work-shy’/Arbeitsscheu, along with physically and mentally disabled people and other categories who did not fit in with the Nazi ideal of the German racial ‘Ubermench’ (‘Overmen’).
There are no depths to which this evil man will not stoop.
Let us learn the lessons of history and see this utterly nauseating excuse for a human being for who he really is! A man carrying out a pogrom on the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society!
IDS – you are 70 years too late! We will not permit you to destroy our decent, caring society and replace it with your prejudices, hatreds and utter barbarism!
NO PASARÁN! YOU SHALL NOT PASS!
When asked why he gave money to beggars who would only spend it on drink, Samuel Johnson replied: “And why should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence?” Being the Great Cham, there was probably a “Sir!” in there somewhere.
It’s a good point, Sam. Skid Row is full of boozers at the end of the line. Their brains are wet, their organs rotted, their lives ruined. The only charitable thing is to let such hopeless cases drink themselves quietly to oblivion – as well deny a dying cancer patient morphine. Stage 4 drunks are an embarrassment and an eyesore, but they are rarely any trouble. And they are beyond cure.
Nonetheless, anyone who is a “recovering” alcoholic, or who has known a problem drinker intimately, will be aware that there are innumerable stops on the way down to the skid-row terminus where intervention is effective. American employers and families are, in my experience, way ahead of their British counterparts in this area. While a drinker is still in good shape – family intact, friends still loyal, decent job and prospects – straight-talking no-nonsense confrontation works. But intervention has to be timed right. It’s like gambling: the more you’ve lost the harder it is to get back to where you once were. And beyond a certain point, all is lost.
Iain Duncan Smith’s proposal is that recipients on benefits “suspected” of being alcoholics/problem drinkers should have their payouts docked if they decline “help”. That help seems to be attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings.
“Suspected” – if this scheme ever comes into operation – will be a major problem. Suspected by whom? Doctors are bound by confidentiality. They can’t snitch. Few, even the most serious drinkers, turn up at the benefits office sozzled. “Secret drinking” is one of the things you get rather good at. Spouses? Children? Neighbours?
The other objection is the co-opting of AA into Duncan Smith’s scheme. It’s common in America, and the results – in my view – are not reassuring. Judges over there routinely order defendants found guilty of driving under the influence to a long course of AA/NA (Narcotics Anonymous) attendance.
They bring their cards to meetings, which must be signed by whoever is chairing. The cards are dunked in the collecting basket, with the dollars that pay for the coffee, cookies and rent of the church hall, or wherever.
It’s wrong in two ways. It violates the anonymity principle, which is fundamental in AA. You’re named and shamed. Secondly it’s wholly involuntary. They are pressed men and women. In my experience, at AA meetings, those there for driving under the influence are simply serving their time. The help that the fellowship can and does offer rolls off their back. Some are yawningly contemptuous of all the quasi-religious mumbo jumbo. Screw higher powers. They just want to get through the damn thing and back at the wheel. And, in too many cases, the bottle.
The larger objection is that, as a curative measure, what Duncan Smith proposes comes too late in the long alcoholic cycle (20 years for most addicts). The kind of people he has in mind (few, one suspects, will be Eton/Oxbridge educated) have an array of problems. Adding one more – acute poverty – will not make them “pull themselves together”. It is more likely to be straws and camel backs.
Drink, they once said, was the curse of the working classes. It’s even more the curse of the out-of-work classes. One of the best ways to stop the unemployed benefits recipient drinking is to give him or her work. And, once you’ve done that, environments (benign comrades and employers) that can help the problem drinker straighten out – either to abstinence or controlled drinking.
I speak from experience. At a critical moment in my life I landed a job in America. As soon as I got it I went on a bender, then another, then another. I was told – by a well-meaning but severely inflexible boss (later a good friend) – that I fix it (there were programmes I was pointed to) or get out. For him it was part of the job. For me it was life-saving. But only because I still, at that point, had a life to save.
(Samuel Johnson, by the way, gave up drinking – to which he was addicted – in mid-life. If he hadn’t we wouldn’t have that wonderful dictionary.)
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