Addiction Culture: Coffee, Nicotine, Alcohol, and other social drugs.

My thoughts for the week are directed towards the way that U.S. culture embraces the idea of addiction as a method of either coping with life or simply living productively.

When I was in High School, I struck upon the idea of running a survey at the national level looking for correlation between drinking coffee and cigarette use. I personally have neither the time, money, nor education required to run a scientific survey of the sort, but I would be very interested in seeing the results.

The core mentality that I am putting under the microscope here is analyzing what the people of the U.S. consider as “healthy” addictions. For example, coffee. Caffeine is the simplest and most wide-spread addiction of our time, and it follows a classic drug-use formula. Consumption followed by result, leading to a fall and crash that can be staved off with additional consumption. It creates such a chemical dependence in users that I have it on word-of-mouth from friends in the medical industry that many hospitals use some amount of caffeine in nutrient drips.

Mull that over for a bit. A substance that creates a chemical dependence in users is so commonly used that medical professionals work under the assumption that a person passing through their place of work will be dependent on said substance for baseline functionality.

As a drug, caffeine may not have as dramatic effects as, say, cocaine, but it is an addictive drug nonetheless. The withdrawal symptoms are an accepted excuse for antisocial behavior, especially in the mornings. Corporations provide this drug to their workforce free of charge in break rooms, because use is expected to maintain productivity. It is a commodity that advertises itself, and accessibility is what allows businesses like Starbucks to prosper.

So, what about cigarettes? Time was, and not too long ago either, that cigarettes were the social norm. Though vast campaigns now exist to eliminate their usage, limit their advertising, and restrict their accessibility, the remnants of that social norm are why there are still designated smoking areas, why smoke breaks are still provided. Once again, we see the addictive drug cycle as well; Use, Result, Fall, Withdrawal. Add in all sorts of “fun” cancer in the mix, and there you have it.

Where does alcohol fall into the mix (heh)? Alcohol is “the social lubricant,” the substance that enables social interaction by dropping barriers, and going out for drinks after a long day of work is considered to be a ritual by which coworkers get to know one another. Meeting a potential romantic interest over drinks is classic, or a business partner. Alcohol addiction is rarer, perhaps, than caffeine or nicotine addiction, but it is separate from the others in and of the fact that it is not considered as socially acceptable. Yet, even being less acceptable, it is still accepted as a part of someone’s identity should it not affect their public persona. Hence the “High-functioning Alcoholic.” To be clear, it is still not a “good” thing for a person to be, but the general public (i.e. coworkers, bosses, casual friends, etc.) will generally not attempt to intervene unless the effects spill into the person’s public life.

So, three common drugs that are intrinsically linked with modern society. Three different acceptance scales in reference to said drugs. Yet all are based on the same pattern of addiction. This pattern is one that is encouraged, especially as a respite from a working culture, by society as a whole. The actual addictions are not publicly supported, but the pattern itself?

Take a job. Any job. The worker is expected to show up at times that mean waking up far before the worker would prefer to. The worker is expected to be awake and productive from the moment they enter their place of work, so they take stimulants. They continue taking these stimulants throughout the day, increasing their intake as the effects start to fade due to overuse. The jitters caused as a side effect are stressful, and just increase the stress of work while being tired. To take the edge off, the worker takes a break with a calming inhalant. Sure, the inhalant irritates the lungs and creates a noxious odor, but the calming agent is worth it to get through the day. Of course, breaks run out eventually, and as the calming agent leaves the system, the worker becomes irritable. The jitters don’t leave, the stimulant has stopped helping, and work becomes more and more stressful. Finally, the day ends, and the coworkers want to go out in order to decompress. The worker feels compelled to join them, as it would be rude to refuse, but with the accumulated stresses of the day and the brain chemistry that has been repeatedly chemically altered throughout said day, the worker doesn’t want to think. So, they take a substance that numbs reason, and does so socially.

The worker is productive, and the management that never sees the worker grants them employee of the month.

This is the issue I have with the pattern at the core. Rather than address issues that cause stresses, such as the workday described above, society instead pushes a pattern of substance use that temporarily treats the symptoms of the issues. However, the stimulants and depressants do not stop demanding their use when the work week is done. The pattern, once set, is difficult to break, on a chemical level as well as a behavioral one.

So, patterns of addiction are encouraged in order to maintain an expected level of productivity, though the addictions in question are vilified. The less extreme withdrawal effects, the less the addiction is vilified. They all are, in their own ways, expected addictions. Anyone dealing with life without one or more of them is considered the outsider to the norm.

Soooooooooooooooooooo, why?

Why is it that we can’t as a society push for healthier living habits rather than forcing ourselves and our fellow workers towards unhealthy habits as coping mechanisms?

The only answer that I can come to is money. We have a system set up that is in dire need of repair itself in which a person has to take up unhealthy habits just to be able to feed, clothe, and house themselves.

Where we start fixing that is beyond me. But consider the case of the experiment involving the mouse and the heroin-water. A mouse that is alone would drink the heroin laced water frequently and quickly perish. The mice that were placed in a community of other mice, given creature comforts, and were generally comfortable/happy, avoided the drugged water entirely.

Addiction cycles are based on systems that keep people unhappy and uncomfortable. In order to solve the cycle, introduce a better system. Build community, remove worry, and support one another.

If anyone wants a place to start building a happier community, let me know. I have been working towards the happiness of others for years. I have watched addiction cycles form and break. I want people to be happy, for themselves as well as for me.

I hope that people want me to be happy as well.


Hypocrisy, Irony, Patriarchal Values, and Captain America (Spoilers for Civil War)

In recent days, there have been two big scandals concerning Captain America. One of them is that the latest issue of his comic has him being a Hydra agent all along. I will cover this briefly, but the main focus of today’s update is the other “scandal,” (which is not really a scandal, but the internet getting people worked up over stuff. As it does.) that being the hashtag GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend.

So, for the thing that this post is not going to focus on: Other people have already covered this far better than I could. To sum it up: Hydra is inseparably linked with Nazis. Steve Rodgers was created by a pair of Jewish writers as a blatant political play at a time when much of America was in agreement with Nazi politics, before Pearl Harbor got the US involved. Marvel did not invent Nazis. Their use of them as a link to this character is really, really not OK as a gimmick to sell issues. Despite what they say, it is indeed a gimmick, and will likely get ret-conned or explained away soon, as comics tend to do. In the meantime, the best way to protest the story is to not buy the comics. Buying the comics just to rant about them tells Marvel that not only can they get away with this stunt, they can make money doing it.

Now that that is out of the way, we can get down to the topic of Internet Outrage *confetti*. For those of you who have not encountered it, #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend is a Twitter phenomenon, in which a community of shippers started a movement for posts, fantart, and general chatter about Steve Rodgers being in love with Bucky Barns, with a specific focus on their Cinematic Universe interpretation. Naturally, this wouldn’t have been an issue, except the horrible people on the internet caught wind of it, and it became an online war as the trolls and homophobes came out in droves to shout them down.

Of course, the quickest way to make something popular is to say it shouldn’t exist, so the community behind the hashtag redoubled their efforts and swelled their numbers. Which the trolls responded to by doing the same. So the cycle of outrage continues.

The usual arguments are being thrown around, and I’m going to just disassemble a few of them.

Stop co-opting hetero superheroes vs. Gay people need super heroes too

This one is fairly cut-and-dry. What it boils down to is the fact that the non-heterosexual community rightly feels unrepresented in media. A lot of the people on the horrible troll side try to tout how reasonable they are by simply suggesting that new superheros get made for them, and that they stop trying to get existing supers.

Here’s the thing: If a character is created in a void for no other reason than to appeal to a demographic, then that’s tokenism. Such characters can eventually grow ti be fully fleshed-out characters in their own right, but that takes time. The people who are asking for representation aren’t asking for it in 20 years, after numerous failures and restarts, in which the character they can identify with has their own series that fails, restarts, fails again, then gets a cameo in a larger-universe piece of media only to be killed with a bunch of other characters as a side note (Comics, and Cinematic Universes, are weird). They want to have an established character that they can identify with now. A sentiment that I can totally understand.

Homosexuality is not a new thing. It has been pushed into the background in the past, but the people for whom it was a part of the identity existed. They were real people, and the people whose sexuality does not align with societal mainstream today are real people too. They have always been a part of society, and they want that sort of history and weight reflected in the media they choose to consume. That, in essence, is why it is popular to re-imagine established characters in a manner that makes them more identifiable to the re-imagineer (That’s sort of a word, right?). They have history with the world they live in, their backstories are complete things with subtlety and nuance. Sort of like a real person, rather than a token character.

Canon vs. Fanfic

This is one of the more irritating arguments. Basically, one side argues that the character is canonically heterosexual, therefore no works, fan-made or otherwise, are in any way valid.


Validity of one person’s fantasy over another is not an issue. Seriously. It is a personal thing that does not affect your life at all. Arguing that one person can’t interpret a work of fiction one way because the creator of the work interprets it another way is not how literature works. It never has been. There is a phenomenon that many writers ascribe to called (in various forms) The Death of the Author. The moment a work of media gets thrown to the public, the author loses control over it. People will interpret it as they want. The author may make comments about it after the fact, but it is ultimately up to the consumer whether or not they accept those alterations.

A pair of examples of this: Harry Potter and Paradise Lost. J.K. Rowling, after the series was out in the wild, said that she had imagined Dumbledore as gay. Some people rejected it, most accepted it. Paradise Lost is generally considered a, if not the, text that depicts the Devil of Christian mythology as a sympathetic character. John Milton protested that this was not his intention when it was being interpreted as such, but the public had spoken, and most modern readers ignore Milton’s interpretation of his own work.

Those are just two examples right off the top of my head. The point is, fiction is not static. The current canon is only canonical until it is changed. Someone else’s interpretation of a non-static fiction does not affect your life in the slightest.

The Steve/Bucky relationship is more believable than the Steve/Sharon(Kate, Agent 13, whatever)

This one is a matter of taste. Plain and simple. Personally, I love the Steve/Sharon dynamic that was established in Winter Soldier, and the continuation in Civil War. I agree that it was more than a little weird that she ended up being Peggy’s niece, but hey.

The Patriarchy says Homosexuality is not OK, and that’s why you are against the pairing

Well, OK then. To be certain, this statement is valid in many cases, as evidenced by horrible people on the internet. However, applying a general statement like that to everyone who disagrees with you is fallacious.

Not much to say on this one. Not many people are using this as an argument thankfully, but the fanatics exist on both sides.

You don’t go through hell for a person who is just a good friend


This one, unlike the previous statement, is one that I have seen a lot. However, when I do see this one, the particular variation often includes a mention of the Patriarchy.

Those of you who read the title of the post may have wondered where the hypocrisy and irony were in this post. Check it. Right here.

See, this is the issue I have with the Steve/Bucky pairing. Personally, I could not care less if Steve was gay. Fluid canon, affects me not at all, so on so forth. The particular pairing, however, I have issues with, due to the reflection of societal values that the argument is making.

The idea that two people, regardless of gender/sexuality, cannot have a meaningful relationship without sexual attraction is a Patriarchal concept.

By saying that Steve and Bucky must want to bang because there is no other reason for the dynamic between the two devalues the relationship that the current iteration of the characters has. Make no mistake, they do have a relationship. They have trust, intimacy, emotional openness, love, and a slew of other things that society says can only exist between people who are sleeping together.

And the irony of people arguing against a Patriarchal interpretation of a pair of characters by imposing different Patriarchal values on them metaphorically kills me.

I have friends that I love and would constantly stick my neck out for of a wide variety of genders, sexualities, politics, what have you. I share emotional intimacy with them on a regular basis. The grand majority of them, I will likely never be romantically/sexually involved with.

Hetero/Homosocial relationships are an element of society that goes back as far as we have recorded history, but for some reason, modern American society has decided that such things cannot exist between people. It sickens me, because a large part of it simply becomes part of Advertising culture. “Sex is paramount, sex is all, without sex, a relationship of any kind is meaningless. If you are not having sex, you are meaningless. Buy our products, have sex,” say the billboards. As do the Twitter boards apparently.

Is Consumer Capitalism to blame for the societal trend? I don’t know. These are just the patterns I see.

Well, that’s the rant for today. Keep overreacting, Internet humans, it gives me some good material. And keep making fanart. I may not agree with your shipping, but some of you are crazy good artists.


Yan-Thuum, It of the Boiling Blood

The primal hunger that compels all creatures to hunt carries two aspects. The first is that of the survivor, the will to carry on that demands another must die so that the self can eat. It is impartial, cold, factual. It does not delight in the kill, but knows that it is necessary. Life must continue, so food must be found. A weaker beast is culled so that the strong survive. It does not care for the emotions of the hunt, it is merely the means to the end.

Yan-Thuum is the other aspect. There is nothing cold about the being known as Yan-Thuum to those occultists who have rediscovered its existence, Yan-Thuum is an entity of vicious heat. The heat is starvation, cruelty, anger, sadistic pleasure. It is the singing in the veins of the hunter as it closes on its prey, the absolute knowledge of superiority over a lesser creature. Yan-Thuum kills not for food, but for dominance. It eats of the flesh of prey not to salve mere hunger, but to affirm that it is deadlier than any that dare oppose it, that it is the overlord of its domain. All lesser creatures pay homage to Yan-Thuum, not out of a vain hope that they will not be chosen to be hunted, but on the offhand chance that another’s prayers will be seen as less fervid and will be devoured in their stead.

Thus is the cult of Yan-Thuum one of ecstasy, of the devout constantly trying to outdo their rivals in shows of devotion to the entity that will end them all in time. The shadows where these fanatics walk are often tinged the sickly brown-red of dried blood, for in the throes of worship the cultists have been known to turn on one another with blades, teeth, nails, anything capable of properly debasing their fellows in a show of piety. It is not unknown for members of the fringe group, caught up in the drugs and rituals, to consume the fallen in an orgy of violence. These tortured souls are almost always insensate and mad when they come to, a state that the cult attributes to their weak flesh being ridden by Yan-Thuum itself. These shells of human beings are kept in highest reverence, for theirs are the forms that have known the touch of the All-Consuming-Maw. Those few that remain more or less intact after such an ordeal will leave the cult and found their own chapter, chased through cities and countries by awed supplicants. It is in this way that they have come to be found through much of the civilized world.

The less said about the chapters of the cult found in the untamed wilds of the land, the better.

-From “Religions of the North,” a journal by Hadric Luistoter