Category Archives: politics

choosing death

that line is about to bust through the graph.

there is no reason to hope that it will change course, as the situation stands now. hope is actually not helpful.

this is the provincial coroner’s update on illicit drug toxicity deaths in british columbia to the end of February 2021.

Image

remember in last month’s update, it was 165 deaths in january? nine have been added. 155 in february, for an average of 165.

take a deep breath and also remember those who are uncounted, those who suffered catastrophic neurological harm from oxygen deprivation, those who survived but will never recover and are uncounted

its so much worse than 2017 or 2018. and when 2017 or 2018 is your closest comparison and the provincial government takes a wait-and-see approach – thinks they can wait it out – that tells me that they don’t understand this at all, and that we are all going to die.

Image

this means over 2000 deaths in 2021 in BC.

look at these other “Unnatural” deaths – add them up and its still not close. “unnatural” means “preventable”, for the most part. but as ours are deaths caused by drug policy (not drugs), these deaths are the predictable consequences of choices we have made, and continue to make:

Comparison to Other Common Causes of Unnatural Deaths from 2010 to 2020

these are social murders, mass killings by structural violence, amplified in these COVIDtimes:

“when society places hundreds …in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet, murder it remains” (Engels 1845) on Social Murder

stop murdering the younger generations, stop killing your children, think of the children.

38.2% (2 of every 5) of the people who died under the age of 45 died from drug poisoning.

holy fucken hell.

look at northern health.

This map illustrating the regional mortality rates for overdose/poisoning deaths in The Best Place on Earth is almost meaningless as almost every region’s rate is above the highest threshold.


almost half of the deaths in the Vancouver Coastal region occur in “other” residences: supportive housing, SROs, shelters… that’s the DTES: we must mandate harm reduction as a principle of building design and housing management – as part of what accessibility means. people reject this housing because they don’t want to die. it is not accessible. we must change this.

“More illicit drug toxicity deaths occurred during the days following income assistance payment (Wed-Sun) than all other days in 2020-21.”

except last april. the first month of the $300 topup.

raise the rates and stop cheque day (for anyone who wants their $ on a schedule they choose) raise the damn rates and stop dumping all the legal money on all the poor people on the same day.

WHERE DID THIS 10.5 MILLION DOLLARS GO THAT WAS ANNOUNCED ON AUGUST 4 2020

was the $ “used to open 17 new supervised consumption services and 12 new inhalation services in communities hit the hardest by the overdose crisis”?

and where is the safe supply. because every day 5+ people die, you dont announce their deaths solemnly, and you do less. you know “treatment” just means dignified health care, right? you seem more interested in the unregulated treatment indu$try.

today is day 1,806 of the overdose emergency. april 14 will be its fifth year. dont say you’re heartbroken and do nothing. it doesnt have to be this way.

traffic pylon in alley; "I Miss All My Friends, RIP Shaggy, 1993-2019, Dec 9" written on it.

there’s a few other things to say but lets take a few minutes


DON’T SAY IT

“In February, we lost 155 people to a toxic illicit drug supply in B.C. They were taken too soon. It’s a heartbreaking loss. Front-line workers, caregivers, families and peers deserve our gratitude as they respond to overdoses and care for loved ones during a pandemic that has made everything worse.

i dont think you understand whats happening here. i feel sick.

We brought deaths down before and we’ll do it again.

oh you dont understand this at all.

ACTUALLY. YOU ARE THE GOVERNMENT AND *CAN* REGULATE THE DRUG SUPPLY.

please tell your MLA that you dont want the daily human ritual executions of 5+ people to continue expand Safe Supply through regulation now & Decriminalize, amend the police act. raise the rates to the *poverty line* and yeah housing now.

over 100 crappy toys in a crap tree  the Regent.

i am scared for all you.

in the aftertimes you are going to be messed up. so will the youngers. you will suffer from anxiety and insomnia and loneliness and other mental health problems, and chronic, searing pain.

because you are human you will want to feel better, or even good. you will want drugs.

you dont want to go through what we have been through. you dont want this.

this tree broke from the weight of the toys, each one memorializing someone who had died.

please write your MLA. this emergency cant go on.

Images of Emergency

this one time i imagined that news stories about the overdose emergency were accompanied by photos that portrayed it accurately and compellingly, instead of these stock images: needle in puddle, works, pile o’ pills, crushed random pill. these illustrate nothing. and mislead.

Stock Images Are
Not Neutral

PILE O’ PILLS
NEEDLE IN PUDDLE

i am going to go on about this because its important. images like “pile o’pills’ etc illustrate the idea that this is about The Drugs. ie the solution is to Get Rid Of The (Bad) Drugs. which is not the case. inanimate chemical compounds do not possess moral character.

thousands of people do not die from “opioid-related causes” and its not possible to “fight fentanyl”: you are against prohibition, which is an expression of power based in Judaeo-Christian text and tradition. its Thou Shalt Not, Because I Said So.

of course whatever’s prohibited must continue to exist – how else could there be forbidden desires? anyhow. so let’s imagine what thoughtful and accurate illustrative photography might have done in shaping the understanding of the overdose emergency you remember when that was,

that time when we understood 

★ it was a political crisis; a social disaster, structural violence 

★ deaths of poisoning, not overdose 

★ deaths of politics, of injustice

★ solutions required bold systemic change 

★ prohibition led to the criminalization of (some) drugs, leading to the criminalization of people

and that 

★ the war on drugs is racist, colonial capitalism, among the most horrible collective acts of humanity.

when the public understood all that, they said “lets stop doing this.”

and photography helped us understand. and so the deaths stopped, the overdoses stopped, and we ended the war and reduced the police to their proper numbers. we changed the laws and changed how we lived and treated each other. we paid reparations, returned the land, and we had a hard look at a violent, exploitative past, dropped the polite facade & got honest. the drugs, which i got at the store, were fantastic, but everyone used less because as it turned out i was right: it didnt need to be that way and everything was possible.

remember that time when that happened

smashed pill close-up
pills spilling out of a bottle on a table with a rig and a stethoscope
spoon, HUGE rig, white powder everywhere

Drugs, Necessary Facts, and Decriminalization

at council, april 2018

I’m happy to be here this morning to speak to the work that’s been done by people w/ lived experience as a part of the mental health & addictions task force these last 4.5 years. Over that time, participation has increased, and that’s a really important point to recognize, because that in itself is an indication of how important anti-stigma work is.

btw, we got the grants! which funded the Megaphone Speakers’ Bureau. check it out

It’s significant that the City has recognized as a simple fact that people with mental illness or people who use drugs have a role to play in the development of the public policy that will meaningfully address and end this crisis – in terms, that is, of real-world change, and not just more words that sound nice.

If we ever hope to have a rational discussion about drugs in our society, this is a necessary step towards that goal – because it is a rare lawmaker who can have a rational discussion with a criminal.

So people have stepped up, because they’ve taken strength from that, and that’s an important thing too. It’s also indicative of the political work that is possible when we can thoughtfully move past stigma – because when we are isolated, can’t step forward publicly to address the issues that affect our lives. And so that’s how stigma prevents us from participating in creating the change we need. We remain silent, and alone.

These grant recommendations and this report are therefore key to ending what’s happening in our lives, and all around us, this crisis of mass poisoning and policy. This is about increasing control over one’s life, one’s agency over the forces that define our existence.

So you don’t step forward to seek help if you’re using drugs, because you fear criminalization, or you can’t access housing, because you are considered somehow problematic or challenging or hard-to-house.

You isolate yourself, as Colin described, because you start to believe that you’re not fit to be around people, so you avoid people – stops you from doing peer work, also known as having friends – who can save your life if you suffer an overdose. The opposite of addiction is connection, human connection, and that is why this matters. This is why the first principle of harm reduction is Don’t use alone. It’s about so much more than narcan, as you see.

When you’re very stigmatized, that social isolation is only going to increase: you can only become more alone, and more at risk. I was fortunate to have worked with Dr Tyndall this past year, and when I was thinking about where we are right now, I remembered something he said in December, while discussing his efforts to make safe drugs available to users. “There’s no clearer indication of the social stigma that illicit drug users suffer than criminalization,” he said on CBC. “Our society views drug users as people who should be locked away.”

Criminalization is institutionalized stigma. There’s no clearer way to put it. To be criminalized is to be thrust outside society. And as a drug user, whether you’re actually in jail or a jail of social making, the effect unfortunately is much the same. You’re outcast – whether in prison, or out homeless, cast from family or friends, or alone in a room.

It’s come to the point when people who use drugs have to remind people when they talk that they are also human and still alive. I do that all the time, including in conversations with people I have worked with for years.

The importance of these grants is to push this forward, to have this hard conversation. To speak on equal terms: this is the dynamic that compels a recognition of shared humanity.

We have to talk: justice demands that people who use drugs – not doctors, not families, not advocates on our behalf, but ourselves, on our own terms – have this conversation and demand that responsibility – and demand that, most importantly, of ourselves.

As far as building a new context, one which will end this situation, so we can find ourselves somewhere new, again I’ll cite Dr Tyndall’s work, and refer to the ten recommendations from last year’s Overdose Action Exchange. This is about everything: there’s no magic wand. These ten points intersect: three of them address the necessity of decriminalization.

The criminal nature of these substances resulted from the 1907 Anti-Asian riots, which happened here in Vancouver, where Canada’s War on Drugs began, so it’s fitting and just that you can make choices to end it. A decision was made then, a historically contingent decision that some substances indicate a moral failure, and some substances are good for one’s health. This is a historical fact, a political fact: this is not a necessary fact.

This is a choice.

A choice that was made and continues to be made each day that prohibition holds such power over our lives and determines the nature of our deaths.

We need to have a conversation about the way we deal with pain. About the role of drugs in society. About which drugs are good and which drugs are bad. And why we make those decisions. It’s helpful we’re having this conversation nationally around marijuana, but this, this is the conversation that people are literally dying for.

Mediated

Did the media call?

Ask what would they are calling about! What’s the story?  when they tell you, tell them to call back in 5 minutes so you can find a quieter place to answer your questions. They will always say yes. Always. 

Now take a moment and consider: you’re speaking with the media but who is your audience? It is always the public: is this local media, provincial, or national? Are you telling the public about what you’ve been saying to a specific level of government and ministry? BE SPECIFIC AND BE CORRECT. DO YOUR RESEARCH. ASK OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD. if you’d rather talk out of your ass, you’re not helping at all, and probably doing harm. You know who you are.

Ok. what is your goal? what are you trying to get across to your audience? what is your message and what is your purpose?  (it doesn’t matter what the journalist’s specific topic is, you need to link whatever the topic is to your message and purpose: decrim, safe supply, housing, etc.

What i mean by Purpose is: What do you want the public to do?

Before you pick up that phone, think about the phrase or sentence that is the key point of your message. It should be clear, easy to understand and memorable AF. Quotable. The journalist doesn’t have to use anything you say in the final report/clip/article, so don’t let them cut you out – by being awesome.

Don’t recite facts or numbers. let the journalist do that. make sure the journalist knows what the relevant and important facts are and email them the source.  

Do not talk about yourself. Do not individualize the overdose emergency. It is a political issue that will be solved by policy change. And its much bigger than any one of us. Or even everyone we’ve lost. 

Make it about them. The regular normal public. Why do they need to end the overdose emergency, and what do they do?

For example – write their MLA/ minister of heath, post with a # hashtag, get a campaign sign, visit a website, do something concrete. Lets get ambitious. Give people something real they can do. i think we might be surprised.