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Neither Corbyn Nor Labour Need the Rebel MPs

2016 June 29
by Ian Welsh

I see a great deal of fear around the idea of Labour splitting. While this is a slight concern, it isn’t a major one:

  • Corbyn has the support of the membership. Even most who don’t support him are unlikely to leave the party if he wins this confrontation.
  • If Corbyn wins, Britons will have a choice between an actual socialist party and a neoliberal party.
  • I suspect that “actual socialists” will do as well or better at the polls than “Tory light.”

It is possible that the rebel MPs, once kicked out through re-selection, will form a rump party. That would be a problem, but the next election is will be so non-standard, and likely wild, that I doubt they will make the key difference.

In any case, if you’re a left-winger, a chance to elect a left-wing party instead of choosing between two neo-liberal parties is too important to pass up. In a first pass, the post-system people eventually lose patience with the lead party and elect the second party, it’s just that simple.

Make sure you control that second party, and you will have your chance to enact your policies.

Labour, as a Blairite party, basically continued Thatcherism, but not as quickly. Labour was, simply, the slower road to hell.

Perhaps a party that offers “not heading to hell” will do better than one which offers the scenic route to the same place Tories want to go.

It’s certainly worth a flier. Hell ain’t that pretty. People should be understanding that by now.


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Corbyn Loses No Confidence Vote 172-40 but Vows to Stay

2016 June 28
by Ian Welsh
Picture of Jeremy Corbyn

Picture of Jeremy Corbyn

I hope to hell he means it.

So, the MPs have enough votes to trigger another leadership contest. Most likely, Corbyn would win it, though if they put up just one candidate against him the rebels might win.

Of course, if Corbyn wins, mandatory re-selection of all MPs must be enacted immediately. He can’t run a Labour party in which 80 percent of the MPs won’t work with him.

I wrote, right after Corbyn was elected, the following:

So, you voted for Corbyn. You’re a Labour party member, old or new. What MUST you do to have Corbyn’s back?

Because, be clear, he will fail without you. He will lose. He and his few allies within the Labour party cannot win this fight alone. He will be destroyed by lack of cooperation, scandals, and engineered crises. The vast majority of all media coverage will be negative, etc.

If Labour wants a left-wing leader like Corbyn, they must re-elect him and get rid of the MPs. That will probably cause the MPs to form their own party; so be it.

No one who had Corbyn’s politics would not have faced the same coup, no one. This isn’t about Jeremy, it is about Labour’s refusal to follow left-wing politics.


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Leave Won Because It Has a Better Story

2016 June 27
by Ian Welsh

Leave’s story is as follows:

  1. Your life sucks and you do not have a job, or a good job.
  2. There are a lot of immigrants. They have jobs and many of them have good jobs.
  3. If there were less immigrants, you’d have those jobs.

Leave’s story is coherent. It has defined the problem and proposed a solution. The solution won’t work, but Leave says, “We got a problem, and we can fix it, and your life will be better.”

Remain’s story is this:

  1. Your life is as good as it’s going to get.
  2. Leaving won’t help, it will make your life even worse.
  3. Your life will continue to get worse, regardless of whether you leave. “Remaining” will simply slow down the process of your life getting worse.

Now, Remain’s story is true. “Life is a shit sandwich, but you don’t want to eat a bigger shit sandwich sooner than is absolutely necessary.”

That narrative is not going to win against a lie which says: “We can make your life not a shit sandwich”.

Until the sort of people who supported Remain have an argument for how the 50 percent of Britons whose lives suck under the current economic and political regime can have good lives–not lives that just get shitty at a slower pace–they will continue to lose the people whose lives are “Here, eat this shit sandwich and say ‘Thank you, EU, for making this shit sandwich slightly smaller than it would be otherwise.'”

People will accept a lie over a truth that requires their lives to be a shit sandwich.

If you refuse to offer them a way out, do not be surprised if, like a wolf caught in a trap, they will even gnaw their own legs off to try and escape.

Oh, and your legs.


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On the Anti-Corbyn Coup

2016 June 26
by Ian Welsh
Picture of Jeremy Corbyn

Picture of Jeremy Corbyn

So, six shadow ministers have resigned. People Corbyn should never have put in the shadow cabinet, in my opinion, but he’s a good man and thought they could be appeased.

A lot of people think he’s toast. I don’t know. I hope not. He has the support of the Labour membership still, so far as I am aware. If I were him, I’d call their bluff. Indeed, I would escalate and say that re-selection is now on the table. Purge the party of the disloyal MPs who don’t follow the party’s will.

Will this happen? Don’t know. At least he sacked Hillary Benn, the instigator of the coup.

What I do know is this, a lot of people who think they are left-wing want Corbyn gone. These people are fools.

He will be replaced by a Blairite. That means the next election will be between bad and worse, a choice of two evils. There will be no good Brexit scenario.

Machiavelli and America’s founders observed that, in time, a people can become so bereft of the virtues required for a democratic government to function that all they can hope for is a somewhat benign dictatorship.

The reason British left-wingers and centrists were scared of leaving the EU, which is a terrible, anti-democratic organization whose enforced austerity has wrecked multiple economies is this: British politics are even more broken than EU politics. As bad as the EU is, the British needed the EU to protect them from themselves–from the governments they keep electing.

Now, upset that Corbyn did not save them from themselves, they want to get rid of their only prospect for a better future.

One cannot help such people.

On a personal level, anyone who wants Corbyn gone will be telling me who they are and what their judgment is worth. I will almost certainly never trust any such person ever again, just as there are only two people who supported the Iraq war for whom I have time now.

On a larger scale, it will prove there is nothing to be done to help Britain, or rather, England and Wales. Scotland should leave (and should have last time). I’m less sure Ireland is some prize; they massively mishandled the financial crisis and lucked into what recovery they’ve had, but I suppose Northern Ireland will still be better off with them.

The British people have made their choices, again and again. Having been given a light out of the darkness, and having extinguished it, while I wish them well, it will be time for sensible people to find other things to do than concern themselves with England’s fate. Those stuck there, of course, will have to do what they can. Those not there will have to triage to places which might still be salvageable.

As with the US, their hope will be old people dying and young people taking over, but while there’s a lot of ruin in a country, qua Keynes, it isn’t infinite and the English have been doing a lot of ruining for a long time.

So I most sincerely suggest my English friends: Don’t shoot off your own jaw to spite your face– which is what it seems you’re about to do.

Support Corbyn, or you are getting rid of your last chance to avoid a terrible, terrible future.


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When Violence Happens and the Danger of Normality

2016 June 25
by Ian Welsh

I had a confrontation today. Nothing particularly serious, though it could have escalated to violence if mishandled.

For about a year I haven’t had my hair cut. It’s about shoulder length, and I wear it free, not in a pony tail. I don’t look normal, though I don’t go out of my way to look abnormal.

I was walking through a farmer’s market when I heard a man say to the woman he was with, “Avoid the weirdo.”

I immediately turned to him and said, “What did you say?”

He got right in my face and we stared right in each others eyes. I leaned in and said, “You’re an asshole”.

He said, “There you are.”

He put his fist against my chest and said, “Don’t touch me.” The woman he was with tugged his arm and said something about walking away which I didn’t hear clearly.

I called him an asshole again, and waited two beats. Then I turned away.

He said “weirdo.” I turned to look at him, we were about two paces away. He didn’t close the distance.

He said, “Have a good day weirdo.”

I said, “Have a good day, asshole.”

And that was the end of that.

It’s been a while since I’ve had this sort of confrontation, because I’m in my 40s and young men don’t usually bother older men with such posturing.

Of course, I should have just ignored him. One of the problems with socialization is that it teaches the wrong lessons. When you’re young, you deal with the same people over and over again. This was especially true of me, because I spent my teen years in boarding school.

With people you will see every day, you can’t let insults or threats pass. You must not let anyone push you around. It took me a long time to learn that.

But as an adult, with someone you don’t know and will never see again, you should just walk away.

Usually, in fact, I do. Today I didn’t, and an old reflex was triggered.

I tend to walk around in a state of general benevolence, regarding most people with good will, but for about two hours after my little confrontation I looked at people with threat goggles on: “Is this person dangerous?”

People who strongly identify as “normal” are very dangerous to anyone who they think isn’t normal. It’s old pack programming. Anyone who is not part of your band of killer apes is wrong, dangerous, a threat, and must be dealt with as such.

I’d lay long odds and real money that the young man today regards himself as normal.

Unless they’re broken, and a lot of “weird” people are, I feel much safer around freaks and weirdos than I do around norms. They usually have a live and let live attitude. This is true even in periods where I’m passing as normal, which I can do if I care to bother.

Consider, now, that I am a white heterosexual male. I’m not brown. I’m not gay or trans. I don’t have tattoos (well, that’s normal now, not freaky) or wear my hair in a mohawk and so on. Right now, I just have long hair.

So, normals, dangerous to anyone they consider not a normal.

Let’s discuss why I said I wasn’t in real danger, and neither was he.

Normal violence inside a society (and not including domestic violence, which has its own fucked up dynamics) occurs under two scenarios (and one failure situation).

Scenario One

Three or four men confronting one person. They are confident of victory, because they outnumber the person they want to victimize and they emotionally feed back to each other, convincing themselves they are in the right and that the victim deserves a beating.

Scenario Two

One man who has a good reason to believe he can win a fight and and has an onlooker or onlookers who urge him on.

Usually, this means a man who is bigger than his victim, or who is trained in violence. But it can also mean a victim who acts scared, who doesn’t face the other man (this is almost always about man vs. man) squarely.

I faced the man, I looked him in the eyes. I leaned in. I did not flinch when he put his fist to my body. I insulted him before I turned away and I gave him two beats to swing at me after I insulted him.

And the woman with him didn’t want him to fight. No one was egging him (or me) on.

I did not act like a victim. I acted like someone who thought he stood a decent chance if we fought.

I also fulfilled the requirements of the ritual. This sort of stuff is a ritual, and you must do what you are supposed to do. If you do not, you mark yourself as a victim.

That’s the failure state.

Note that this stuff scales. So if there are ten of them and three of you, you’re still in danger, and so on.

Humans are pack animals. Normal humans are dangerous when they identify you as not one of the pack or having violated the norms of the pack (pretty close to the same thing) and when they have the approval of the pack to hurt you.

If that’s the situation, it’s very hard to diffuse. Showing your belly might work, but it might not, and if they’re people you’ll deal with in the future, it makes you a permanent victim.

I learned all this stuff in boarding school, the hard way, by not meeting the ritual requirements for years. As a young man, I lived very close to the street, but I’d learned my lesson by then, and had learned how to meet the ritual requirements and fight if necessary.

I’m not a trained fighter, I never bothered. Instead, I’m a “flip”, which is to say, in a fight, all the normal social prohibitions turn off for me. Ordinary people treat fighting as a social event. I don’t start fights and if I wind up in one I feel completely justified in breaking whoever started the fight with me. I’m the sort of person you shouldn’t start a fight with unless you really know you can win.

Which is to say, the kid was right, sort of–I am a weirdo. I’m not normal. He was also wrong, of course, because I’m not dangerous at all to anyone who isn’t dangerous to me. It is in this way that most weirdos and freaks are different from normals, actually. They aren’t dangerous to other people who leave them be.

Let us discuss the really dangerous people now. Not precisely sociopaths, though most are sociopaths, but people who are dangerous alone.

When I was a teenager there was one kid in school who liked tormenting me when no one else was around.  He was the actual dangerous one. All the other bullies were just pack animals. Most were actually nice to me if we were alone together.

This kid, he was broken. He was really dangerous.

Anyone who likes hurting people when no one else is around, and this includes enjoying hurting animals, is truly dangerous. Get away from them, or break them, there are no other solution to such people.

Now note that while a lot of these people are sociopaths, many aren’t. And many sociopaths are actually great people. Two of my closest friends were sociopaths, one is even clinically diagnosed, the other I’m just sure he was. Sociopaths can be wonderful. They just don’t feel your emotions. If you’re happy or hurting, they don’t get emotional contagion. That’s why they’re dangerous outside of packs.

But they don’t all like hurting people, and there are entirely “normal” people who do. After all, you can learn to like the emotional contagion of other people’s fear, pain, terror, and humiliation.  Sociopaths can be frightening, but normals make the best torturers because they can feel your pain, and they like it, and when a normal learns to operate without pack approval, you get the most depraved of monsters.

I generally like humans. But I’m very aware that humans are killer apes who are barely capable of rational thought and who, when they are, mostly use it to get what their emotions tell them to get and those emotions often tell them to hurt, kill, and rape, especially anyone who is “other.”

Now this conversation is from the point of view of a man. Women face different challenges which I’m not entirely competent to speak to. The permanent perception of weakness, of every man believing he will win a fight with any woman, leads to some really unpleasant consequences. When added to the fact that for many, perhaps most, men, women aren’t part of the pack, unless they are family, the consequences can be horrific.

Women aren’t men, and men often don’t see them as human. And when that happens, and it often happens for millenia at a time, well, you get history.

Humans. Love them, care for them, but treat them like tigers. No matter how much you think a tiger is domesticated, it never is. That may not be true for some individual, decent humans, but for humans as a group, it is always true.


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More on Post Brexit and Why It Happened

2016 June 24
tags:
by Ian Welsh

So, a coup has been launched against Corbyn. He carried over 63 percent of Labour voters, while Cameron carried less than 42%, but some think he is to “blame” for Brexit.

European Union Flag

It is true that Corbyn refused to, well, lie about Europe. He basically said the EU was awful, but that Britain was still better off inside it.

If Brits actually get rid of Corbyn, they will get a Blairite in return. In which case, they will have gotten rid of their best chance to have a decent government outside of the EU.

There is nothing one can do to help such people.

Meanwhile, Scotland wants a new referendum, Sinn Fein wants to unite Ireland, and Spain is asking for dual sovereignty over Gibraltar (Spain will not get dual sovereignty over Gibraltar if anyone in power in England has any sense).

The people who lost the vote, #Remain are screaming that the sky is falling. A drop in the pound or the FTSE is NOT a big deal, it really does not matter much. Wait six months and see the economic effects. As for reports that some are leaving the “City,” well the City of London has been a parasite on England as a whole.

Now let us discuss WHY.

Since 1976, a lot of Britons who do not live in London (or not in the nicer parts) have been doing very badly. The economy is trash if you aren’t connected to the various London money spigots, because Britain insisted on de-industrializing.

So, we have a very large number of people who have done very badly for 40 years. They were given an opportunity to vote against the status quo, and they did so.

Now, I am going to tell you a very big secret. It’s a secret that the great sages and the sensible people have been telling humanity for thousands of years.

The secret of living in a good society is leaving no one behind.

Sshhhhh. Actually, scream it to the wind, because no one will believe you. We think that being assholes and hurting people and making their lives miserable then saying “vote for more of this if you know what’s good for you” is the secret to prosperity.

A lot of people in Britain won from neoliberal policies. Those people mostly voted to stay in the EU.  If those people had insisted on policies which did not leave everyone behind, especially post-2008, they would not have lost the referendum.

Now some people will scream “racism.” Well, perhaps, but I return to this simple fact: Racism, nativism, fascism, and all that nasty shit thrives when large numbers of people are destroyed economically.

Go read a book on the rise of Hitler. Or Mussolini. Or whomever.

This is not controversial, or shouldn’t be.

If you did well in the EU and Thatcherism, and did not push hard for the losers of the economy in which you thrived, I don’t want to hear it. You created the circumstances for this.

Now, let us turn again to the future. This is not the end of the world. If you are in Britain, your job now is to pivot. What matters now is who wins the next election. You must first support Corbyn, because he’s the best leader you’re going to get, by far, and then you must make sure Labour wins. If Scotland is still in the United Kingdom, make an alliance with the SNP.

The EU was, and is, a garbage fire. It is a neoliberal institution which has damaged or destroyed multiple economies, starting with Greece, but including Portugal, Spain, and Italy. It is not a good union.

It was just better than what Brits do to themselves. Remain voters wanted the EU to save them from the worst parts of the Conservative government they elected.

Stop electing Conservative governments. Stop electing Blairite third-wayers. If you continue to do so, it is your fault what happens.

This is now completely on Britons. You can turn this into a great victory for a humane economic and political regime. It’s on you.

But remember the secret. Your fellow citizens are what you made them. If you don’t like what they are, it’s up to you to change how you treat them, by changing how you run your country. In doing so, you will change yourselves, which is also necessary.

I wish all the best to Britain, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and so on. But the EU crutch is gone. Figure out how to be decent human beings, politically, to each other, or suffer the consequences.


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Consequences of Britain’s Vote to Leave the EU

2016 June 24
tags:
by Ian Welsh

European Union Flag

Wow, I really didn’t think this would happen.

Quick thoughts:

  1. I assume that Cameron is done and there will be a new Conservative leader. (Update: And he’s gone. This is just a thing, not a good thing or bad thing, until we know who replaces him.)
  2. There may be a general election. I hope so.
  3. This is going to be really bad for ordinary Brits IF the Conservatives remain in power because there are a lot of worker and environment protections and so on that the Conservatives want to scrap.
  4. I expect the EU to try to be very vindictive. Bear in mind, however, that Britain buys more EU goods than the other way around. Still, Brussels can’t let this pass without punishing Britain severely, lest other nations get the same idea.
  5. A lot of other nations will be in a better position if they leave: Greece, Italy, Spain, and Finland top the list, but even, say, France, might be better off. So, yes, this is an existential threat to Brussels.
  6. Brussels should take this is as a rebuke of its anti-democratic ways and of its austerity policies, BUT current politicians won’t be able to. If they are replaced, however, there is some hope for serious democratic fixes to the EU. Hope is not the same thing as “I expect.”
  7. Because the EU is a neoliberal organization, this could be to Britain’s benefit IF Corbyn winds up in charge. The best case scenario right now is if Cameron steps down, a new Conservative leader is elected, there is an election, and Labour wins.
  8. But the same newspapers and media outlets who were pro-Remain will still be against Corbyn, because they actually like the idea of losing labor, environmental protections, and so on.
  9. The leave campaign was run on a pretty racist and anti-immigrant basis. That creates a rather ugly mandate. It will be up to Labour and Corbyn to turn this into something hopeful and good, rather than something stupid and nasty.

I’ll be curious to see if attempts are made to keep Britain in the EU regardless, also.

Still, this is a big deal, and historic. It will be VERY interesting to see how it plays out.

Update: This graphic is interesting but completely unsurprising.

Basically, people who are doing well voted for the status quo, those who aren’t voted against. Scotland doesn’t trust London to run Scotland (which should be no surprise) and wants Brussels as a counter-weight. (Scotland should have left Britain and stayed in the EU, I’d judge).

So be it. If you don’t make your country work for at least the majority, I will hear no complaints when the majority pulls the rug out.

UPDATE FROM MFI:

And now the Article 50 Process will be invoked. Here’s the text in full:

Article 50

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

The kicker is in numbers 2 and 4: It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

and

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.


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Brexit Open Thread

2016 June 23
tags:
by Ian Welsh

It’s the day. Odds seem to be in favor of Remain. Feel free to discuss here, or other things.

The Gun Control Sit-In

2016 June 23
by Ian Welsh

I’m in favor of some form of gun control in the US, but this sit-in is so that people who are on the no-fly list can’t buy guns.

This is a terrible idea. There is no due process to such lists. You get on them for reasons you can’t determine, and you can’t get off them.

You do not have the right to see the evidence against you, to face your accuser, or to have any sort of trial. You’re just on it, sucker, too bad.

No punishment without a fair trial is one of the cornerstones of Western liberty and civilization. The no-fly list and all similar lists are abominations which should not exist.

If you want gun control, start by banning all assault rifles and restricting clip sizes. I’d be totally fine with banning all automatic and semi-automatic weapons, with the exception of old style pistols. Hunters should be using bolt or lever action rifles and pump shotguns (at most). Maybe then they’d learn how to shoot.

I’d extend these restrictions to the police, by the way, with a few years for phase out time.

Drop the penalties for non-violent crime, jack up the penalties for any crime committed with banned weapons; criminals actually do tend to respond to such incentives.

I think there’s a strong case to be made that the US should have properly regulated militias and that the US government has failed in its duty to make sure such exist, but I am not sold on the broader 2nd amendment argument.

I do have much more sympathy than most left-wingers for the “guns against tyranny” argument, but the US is vastly armed and it hasn’t done any good. See “no-fly list” and “most incarcerated nation on Earth.” What matters in violence is organized violence.

In any case, whatever one thinks about gun control, using the no-fly list or any similar list is a terrible idea. Western civilization spent a thousand years fighting for the right to fair trials and due process. It would be wise not to confirm the adage that all you have to do to get people to beg you to take away their rights is make them a little scared.


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The White Opiate “Epidemic” Is Not About Pain Killer Prescriptions

2016 June 22
tags:
by Ian Welsh

I’ve spent a lot of of my life in pain, and often in a LOT of pain. I’ve taken a lot of pain killers.

The best, in most cases, were opiates. Codeine and morphine (forget all the fancy pills designed to cost more, morphine does the job).

Now, in the US, white middle class people are getting addicted to opiates in large numbers and there are screams to make it harder to get opiate prescriptions for pain.

But the simple reality is this: According to the large, annually repeated and representative National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 75 percent of all opioid misuse starts with people using medication that wasn’t prescribed for them–obtained from a friend, family member or dealer.

In general, new addictions are uncommon among people who take opioids for pain in general. A Cochrane review of opioid prescribing for chronic pain found that less than one percent of those who were well-screened for drug problems developed new addictions during pain care; a less rigorous, but more recent review put the rate of addiction among people taking opioids for chronic pain at 8-12 percent.

It is already hard to find a doctor who will prescribe opiates for chronic pain. They’re worried about law enforcement coming for them, and they’re paranoid about addiction. When I was in my 20s and in a lot of pain, it took me seven doctors to find one who who would prescribe opiates, and I was in so much agony, standing from sitting down was nearly impossible and I often didn’t sit at all, knowing I might be stuck for hours.

This level of pain, in Canada, and it took seven doctors before one was willing to chance that I might not be lying. One asshole rushed me out of his office after screaming at me that I was a fucking addict who just wanted a fix.

In one of those neat catch-22’s, if I hadn’t been in so much pain, I would likely have beat him to a pulp.  (Yes, yes, I said that someone like that is someone I would have broken if I could. It took almost a month for me to find a doctor who would help me, that man put me through agony most people cannot even imagine.)

People who are in serious pain need serious pain killers. That often means opiates, sometimes it means cannabis. People who stop chronic pain sufferers from getting the pain relief they need are responsible for huge amounts of suffering.

Don’t do that.

When I was in hospital, in so much pain I could not even push myself up in bed, I said to my doctor at the time, “What if I get addicted?”

He replied, “Take the pain relief you need and we’ll worry about the addiction later.”

Later I was slightly addicted–I couldn’t sleep without a pill. One night I simply stayed up until I slept without it. As it happened, that was about a 40 hour day. But the addiction was broken, and it wasn’t much of an addiction to begin with.

Even if it had been a terrible addiction, I still would have said that the pain killers were worth it, because without them I was in so much pain I could barely walk. I remember taking well over ten minutes to walk a single block. I once ate breakfast at a restaurant standing up, because I knew if I sat down I might not be able to stand again.

Pain.

It sucks.

Don’t deprive people who need pain killers of them.


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