Intervening with the [Carbon] Addict

Posted on August 18, 2012

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The Addicts.

We’ve brought them together for an intervention—the boozer, the junkie, the carbon couple—to see if we can save them before it’s too late.  All their problems are the same.  All will lead to inevitable and disastrous results.  Despite their differing choice of poisons, and their wildly varying lifestyles, their responses to protecting their addictions even sound alike.

Boozer Bill says, “One more and that’s all.”

Junkie Jill says, “I’ll quit after tonight.”

The Carbon Couple says, “We’ll worry about climate change tomorrow, but tonight we having friends over to envy our new flat screen, which covers the whole west wall.”

* It’s time to worry, the doctors have told us, because Bill and Jill and the Carboniferous Duo have all almost reached the end of their run.  The date is not marked on any calendar, but everybody knows it’ll be sooner than later

In front of Boozer Bill, after all, is enough booze to melt down his liver.

In front of Junkie Jill, after all, is a little bundle of bags of white powder, which, if she takes them all, will white-out her existence.

In front of the Carbon Couple, after all, are enough planetary carbon reserves to tip the future of civilization into a climate disaster it may not survive.

Can we stop them before they destroy themselves?  (And, in the case of the Carbon Couple, us as well.)

* Now some people tell us that we shouldn’t really blame or condemn.  But maybe there’s room for some small criticism.  Boozer Bill is weak, we know that, but he’s kind to puppies and little children.  If we can explain to him that this is it, he’s hit bottom.  If he goes down any deeper into the booze, he’ll wind up underground.  Maybe he’ll listen.

And it’s been a long time since Junkie Jill has been able to help herself.  We know that there was pain in her past, and that she’s never gotten her footing after her first mistakes.  The junk sent away the pain, even if, after awhile, most of the pain came from her addiction.  But now it’s become obvious that soon her addiction will kill her.

Oh, and the Carbon Couple, they’re the most deceived at all because theirs is a respectable addiction, which they’ve been trained up to by pushers on the media, by pushers on the schoolyard.  (You need new blue jeans.  You need an ipod.  You need a cell phone.  You need a car.  You deserve yearly trips to Europe.  Sally next door has all of these things.)  They heard voices validating them, urging them on, all their lives.  (This is your happiness.  You deserve happiness.)  The Carbon Couple are the addicts in the most denial.

* All addicts have defenses.  Many addicts join groups who help nurture their addictions.

Says Boozer Bill to his convivial friends, “Let’s have some fun, guys,” and he and his friends drink up.  And, when they think of them at all, they regard with slight condescension all those fuddy-duddy folks out there, those squares unable to loosen up and have a little fun like Boozer Bill and Good Time Charlie inevitably do.

Drink a little booze.  Get a little drunk.  Lose a little memory here and there.

Junkie Jill has her own friends too.  Everywhere she goes, people follow her with their eyes.  They give her looks.  But her friends don’t mind at all that she’s a junkie.  She and her friends have their own lore, their own junkie lore-masters, their own stories of scores and bad trips to tell, and they also have a kind of contempt for anyone dull enough to lead a straight, non-junkie, life.

But the Carbon Couple have the greatest defenses of all.  They claim their addiction is for the public good.  They call it by pet names like “the economy.”  But what they really mean by the economy is their own comfort, their own pleasure, the purchases that they want to make, and the need to have it now or as soon as possible.

And the Carbon Couple have the biggest community of enablers of all, scornful of lesser carbon addicts, who have even named respectability after themselves.  After a lifetime spent consuming many times their share of the planet’s resources—and continuously sending carbon into the atmosphere to be paid off by their children—they call that success.

* But the consequences of their addictions have now been a long time obvious.  Boozer Bill pats his beer belly in good humour, but his red raw skin, his bulbous nose, the slight trembling in his hand before his first drink of the day, tells us a tale about his liver that we don’t really need a doctor to confirm.  Yet a doctor has confirmed it.

As for Junkie Jill, her obvious pathological thinness, the sores on her face and her sunken eyes tell all you need to know.  Yet the doctor at the free clinic shakes his head after she leaves his office.  He wishes she would listen to his warnings.

The Carbon Couple are ailing too, all over the map.  Greenland is melting.  The summer Arctic sea ice is shrinking year by year. Of course they hardly pay attention to those things, might have missed them on the news.  (Or maybe Carbon-Copy Couple—no relation—forgot to put those things on the news, my my.)

And the floods and heatwaves, while inconvenient locally, have mostly passed the Carbon Couple by.  Besides it’s better to accentuate the positive, that’s their philosophy.  And there are more interesting things on TV.

In fact, although they are the sickest of all, with an ailment that threatens to keep them thin and sweating for decades, even centuries to come, the Carbon Couple look like they’re going to be the toughest addicts to turn.

* In his heart and in his trembling legs, Boozer Bill knows he has to stop, and we have hope for him.  Junkie Jill can see all the proof she needs in that mirror which she tries to avoid in the hallway, proof that Junkie cool is not really cool at all.

But the Carbon Couple, can they be convinced to stop?  Can they be convinced to act to save themselves?

It’s so easy for them to look away from their disease.  It’s so easy for them to pretend that it’s not an addiction.–No, no, it’s an entitlement.

It’s so easy for them to find excuses—you can download excuses from the internet.   There are websites for that.

It’s so easy for them to elect Senator Canute, who promises to sit on the beach and ward off sea level rise.  And won’t ever ask them to deal with their problem.

And finally, they’ll never see the proof they need in the mirror–unless they look real close.