The Worst Addiction
Dan Stone - 10/04/01
When I first conceived of the idea for Millions are Horrified!!! I had
no intention of writing a strictly political column--far from it! I'd meant
it to be more of a general ongoing madcap rant at just about every aspect
of these apocalyptic times we live in, as mirrored in the popular culture
of tv, film, literature, with all that political crapola serving as the
cherry on top of the delicious confection that results from the mix of my
natural charm, affability and an especially tender and gentle humor that
I've become famous for, the kind that makes children beam and click their
heels, and small dogs do amazing flips and jumps and endless tricks spontaneously
for my delighted amusement... but politics has been the pervasive focus
of the column, and that's just not my fault, that America is now being led
by a semi-sentient eggplant in an expensive suit who cannot repeat the phrase
"semi-sentient eggplant" without screwing it up completely...
and that behind that seemingly harmless eggplant lurks a conspiracy of forces
so vast and powerful and obvious that no one dare say its unholy name aloud...
and this has been part of the problem for me, trying to get over the colossal
horror of the goofy sock-puppet we've been given to interact with, to stop
giggling, get past all that and face the hideous demon that lies behind
the curtain... for we must understand the nature of the creature if we are
ever to face it and survive.
(I'm not allowed to say anything against Bush now anyway, that much is
becoming obnoxiously obvious as the man himself... that Bush, he's such
an analogy... and sooo, I've decided to say something even more verboten...)
And what is the face of this demon who besets us?
It is a human face, and all too familiar to us all.
It is the face of the Worst Addiction.
To which one might ask, "Do you mean smoking? Or drinking? Sex?
Drugs? Rock n' Roll? Excessive flossing?
"How about tv, or football? Video games? Computers? 1-800-HOT-HOT!-lines?
"Psychic friends? Too much food? Not eating enough? Chewing your
nails? Or other people's nails? Or roofing nails?"
Jesus, gimme a chance to answer here, will ya?
First, let me just say that ALL are problematic... we humans are creatures
of habit, through and through... we don't always think very deeply about
this obvious fact, but when you consider the simple example of muscle memory
(experienced most noticably by musicians or typists, whose fingers learn
to handle all sorts of complex maneuvers without much thought or mental
effort), it gives one an interesting insight into the fact that our addictive
impulses are capable of a momentum all their own, and very strong at that...
We in America, those of us 37 or older anyway, are all aware of the old
maxim that too much of a good thing is almost always a bad thing, that no
matter how wonderful or desirable the temptation may be, too much of it
always results in terribly destructive consequences. For the most part,
we humans understand this as a universal truth, from which no desire is
All but one.
No, I'm not talking about miming, though that is the second-worst of
'em all, bar none. Even Freud and Jung agreed on that (though they were
both blissfully unaware of this, as neither would hear a word of it... the
best they could do was to agree to disagree about something they both agreed
about, a compromise foisted upon them by well-meant relatives but one which
they both found unutterably disagreeable in the extreme, which was doubly
ironical again... at which point Freud, the older of the two and unable
to handle the strain, exploded, and Jung went to India, whistling a happy
tune all the way.)
Now where the hell was I?
Oh yeah... I'm speaking, instead, of the unspeakable Worst Addiction
Known to Man.
And it's so bloody basic and simple and utterly obvious a point, and
it is this:
If you breathe too fast and too deeply, you hyperventilate and pass out...
and nothing kills brain cells deader than an overabundance of oxygen in
the blood supply... not even Pauly Shore movies.
If you eat 'way too much, you can get trapped in your own house and one
day have to be taken to the hospital by crane, after they take a whole wall
out... and the tragedy is, while you're gone, looters will come and steal
all your Sara Lee...
If you smoke too much dope, you can become a much different sort of zombie
than the one you were hoping to become. If you smoke too many cigarettes,
you can be incarcerated simply for demonstrating to some idiot in a bar
the none-too-subtle difference between sharing a little second-hand smoke
and an actual assault on another person. If you smoke both, simultaneously
and constantly for years and years, you could end up just like me...
If you do too much heroin, say one of those $1000 a day habits ya used
to hear so much about?... if this is the case, wake up, ya silly fuck! If
you can somehow manage to pull down that kinda bread consistently, just
what in the hell are you escaping from anyway? Sounds to me like heaven
on earth, jackass!
If you drink too much, you act like an asshole... and yes, I'm talking
to everyone who ever lived... but especially to those alive and reading
this right now: Yes, I mean you... every time, too...
(...okay, and me too...)
If you watch too much tv sports, or talk shows, or Cops, or daytime dramas,
or if you play too many video games, or have any interest in golf
at all... never mind, I just realized: I don't even wanna talk
If you do too many things at once, you're just asking for trouble...
talking on a cel phone while eating a Big Mac and getting a bj, all while
you're driving?... see what I mean? Sam Kinison did...
(All those warnings about drinking... but honestly, what kind of friend
would let a friend read and drive?)
(And if you're driving right now as you're reading this, all I can say
is: Watch those fries! You're gonna get grease all over my article... oh,
that's not grease... eww!... hey, that's kinda cool, come to think of it...)
If you run too much you get shin splints. If you sit too much you get
a rare ass virus. If you talk too much, and are a Republican, you get your
own radio talk show--which is great for you, but terribly destructive of
If you have too much sex, amazing earth-shaking sex with the hottest
babes, day in and day out, everyone will hate your guts-- but this one really
doesn't count, cuz you'd never give it a second thought, now would you?
We know this stuff, we all understand it. Too much of a
good thing. Any good thing, always. Anything at all.
Anything but power.
We all recognize the need for those limits, everytime.
Except when it comes to the Worst Addiction. The Greatest Addiction.
The dirtiest little secret of them all.
Thru the nineties, as I watched Bill Gates climbing to the dizzying heights
of 60+ billion dollars, I seemed to be the only one concerned about this
up-til-then truly mythic concentration of wealth in the hands of
a single human being... it was at least ten times anything seen previously,
and I feared, not without reason I think, that the precedent this single
event established was the beginning of the end for our global economic system
and a speedy return to a New Dark Ages that will make the old Dark Ages
look, well... old... old and tired and not terribly creative, really...
Imagine for a moment being one of the super-rich, living safe and secure
in your ivory tower, balancing your relationships with your enemies and
your allies, experiencing the ebb and flow of everyday living as we all
do, but feeling for the most part fine and fat and happy and not terribly
concerned for the future, which seems like a constant promise, an ever-brightly-shining
beacon of hope... when suddenly, upon a darkening horizon arises a new behemoth,
a living nightmare of such size and fury that it casts an immense shadow
over all before it, blotting out the once-warm sun... all view this new
god with slack-jawed awe, and in that moment of helpless terror and sudden
confrontation with that which is not truly the unknown, but certainly
more foreign to this group than most, every incredibly rich person, habituated
over long years to always feeling powerful and confident and ever at the
advantage, is immediately reduced to a tiny, squalling, helpless infant...
And this is why today every insanely rich person in the world feels that
they MUST attain at least some similar level of personal wealth as Gates,
or they will NEVER feel safe and secure again.
Which is why, I guess, corporate bigwigs everywhere have been firing
hundreds of thousands of people in droves, and giving themselves fat raises
while they're at it, ever since Bush & Co. started that squatting thing
they've been doing up there on PA Ave... even after the country's recent
tragedies, we witness truly unexplainable phenomena such as airlines being
given billions in bailouts while simultaneously laying off and letting go
workers left and right, the very people who were instrumental in creating
all that wealth and power through their collective work... if I was layed
off by the airlines, I'd be struck by the irony of my tax dollars being
used to give bonuses to the very guys ganging my ass, instead of it being
used to defend me and keep my contribution to that company respected...
For me, Sept. 11 was just another in a series of dark days in America...
the world changed, but it did so very slowly, by degrees, and no one seemed
to notice... for some time now I've been aware that people who were once
just greedy powerful ignorant uncreative morons are now desperate and terrified
greedy powerful ignorant uncreative morons... and I don't mean to be mean,
but they all seem to be missing the bigger picture...
I know what you're thinking: This is such a funny column that you don't
want it to ever end... but space dictates we continue next time... otherwise
we all risk being overwhelmed completely by too much truth.
Too much of a good thing, y'know?
Next Week: I explain this stuff in greater detail, completely overwhelming
most readers with the sheer horror of it all, and we do the math together
(nearly losing our lives in the mere attempt.)
Or: I just get killed in the most surprising and mysterious circumstances
sometime before my next deadline, and everyone else goes about their business
as if nothing untoward has happened.
Millions are Horrified!!!
by Dan Stone --10/11/01
The Worst Addiction Part II:
Running the Numbers, Then Running Like Hell
In last week's column, I identified the Worst Addiction Known to Man,
the really terrible and destructive one before which all others pale, as
power. Money, connections, access to the media, the ability to control the
entire environment from which others perceive you... power, man. Grease,
guts, wampum, the Stuff. I pointed out that we recognize the concept of
too much of ANY good thing as the universal law it is, in all matters except
this one, which is never EVER questioned.
I spoke of the mega-super-filthy-rich, noting that when Bill Gates broke
every record for personal wealth in existence back in the nineties, roughly
by a factor of ten, it made all those other Gods Who Walk as Men feel as
weak and inferior as we generally understand these people to actually be...
cuz really, what sort of pathetic geek needs such huge reserves of leverage
to hold over the heads of their own brothers and sisters, constantly and
And I spoke of the anomaly peculiar to this addiction alone, in that
it is self-expanding and self-empowering... and if given enough rope, what
a fantastically confusing and dangerous scenario becomes evident.
So many columns I was gonna write before the Attack... I was gonna do
one on the administration's stepped-up Wars on Drugs, and Bush's personal
War on Words... then there was the War on Welfare and the Poor, and the
War on the Environment, and the War on Math... and education and free speech
and all these swell new things to attack or bomb or levy fines against...
I was going to write a piece on the unveiling of the Republicans' new Twin
Wars on Peace and Human Reason... but now it's not a joke anymore, and therefore
much less funny.
Long before Sept. 11, 2001, a lot of us knew there was a secret war going
on, in America and all over the world... and it's a war about money, as
always. Every war in history has been an economic war hidden behind a lot
of talk of religious ideology and insignificant cultural differences and
meaningless code words such as 'values and pride', and a million other red
herrings... people argue at length about the minutiae of the moment, ignoring
the unassailable fact that depraved social conditions are always
the end result of poverty, and that long-term lack and limitation can create
some frightening monsters out of perfectly decent people, and that we, the
human race, are all in it together, all sharing this spinning place together,
and for only a brief time at that.
Several months ago, when everyone was arguing about the tax cut, it seemed
to me an incredibly lopsided proposition... we'd had these fantastic glory
days economically, the fat were fatter than ever... it seemed to me they
shoulda just stopped taxing anyone who was still making less than $15 an
hour, and give 'em all two weeks off and a grand to go blow in Vegas, let
all of us share a little in all this incredible prosperity we were
reading so much about... the rich had ten or twenty straight years of phenomenal
profits and easy sailing, why shouldn't the poor and lower-middle class
in this country, the people who do all the actual work, have one?
(putting aside for the moment the plight of the world's poor, as we seem
to have made that our national policy anyway--just looking at how we treat
each other here)... but instead, the rich fought tooth and nail for
more, more, more, ending up negotiating tax cuts that are really just huge
rebates on all those titanic profits that came to them during this last
of those unbelievably plentiful golden years (read Plenty: quite enough,
as much as one could need or desire--Oxford-American Dictionary)-- and even
as the rich gave themselves gift upon gift in a roaring gushing rush of
near-infinite largess, they continued fighting as one against a living wage
for the masses (The War on Life) and stalling on every front when it came
to making common-sense sacrifices or investments for the sake of the larger
environment (The War on the World-- this world they do not seem to know
they are located in, and depend upon...)
But it seems pretty pointless arguing with these guys, given we're dealing
with the Worst Addiction here... ever try talking sense to a drunk?
And how can we expect ANYONE at these levels to manage ANY semblance
of good or reasonable judgement, when those who are actively shaping world
policy and designing the future we will all have to live in are, to the
last man, ALL as drunk as Siren-struck sailors, giggling and plastered on
the Wine of the Gods, experiencing a reality as foreign to most of us as
the world of The Matrix, unable to mentally conceive of or even physically
count anywhere near the very numbers that measure those insane disproportions
that divide Them from Us? How can you expect anyone as rich as Bill Gates
to NOT go insane with power eventually, when he's like a tiny little man
no bigger than an inch tall strapped into the driver's seat of a fully-fueled
747, and though he can't reach the controls he's got a little remote unit,
but he can't see where he's going at all... AND he's doing EVERYTHING else
too, all of it 'way too much, cuz he can afford to, man... and ALL
AT ONCE, he's mixin' EVERYTHING together and ridin' the peak of this crazed
and dizzying experience like the furious hurricane of blind fortune that
it is, and his ego keeps telling him, "It's ok, Bill... God
is your copilot!"... cuz he's always been the lucky type, y'know?
God save us from these creatures.
Mr. Gates, it's nothin' personal... this is really to ALL you billionaires
everywhere, you sick sick puppies you, and I'm tellin' ya for your own good...
that's just too much shit to expect ANYONE to keep together.
I have never heard these words spoken in a voice other than my own, not
to mention agreed with publicly, or seen them printed anywhere... most people
seem to think I shouldn't even be allowed to say them.
A lot of 'em don't understand. It's so easy to say the word BILLION...
but it's actually a pretty inconceivable figure for the average human mind
to deal with, ya can't even run these numbers, it's just too big... and
then ya add in the War on Math factor (no, not the War on Max Factor, that's
a different war) and an army of really well-paid 'economists' to propagate
fantastic and specious superstitions and confabulations as fact (in the
last place you'd look for 'em, the utterly rational and unassailable universe
of math itself, in which they can't actually exist, meaning that all economists
should be in agreement about basics such as poverty equals crime,
not the other way around), and you end up with an equation nobody
We should all wake up right now, especially the insanely-rich, and recognize
that this is the Worst Addiction there could ever be... because it is the
only addiction that actually enables you to protect and empower your addiction
further and further til it reaches out and savages others' lives effortlessly,
sometimes without any awareness of the damage it does... it empowers itself
and furthers the addict's ability to also indulge in every other
possible desire to ever flit across their hungry, curious, passionate and
all-too fallible human minds, creating a latticework of mutually supportive
addictions that are in one important way stronger than the sum of the parts,
creating greater opportunities for further imbalance and consequences of
the most serious and far-reaching and insane and chaotic and mindlessly
Power is the Worst Addiction, and so it follows naturally that it is
the one we MOST need to agree to set sane limits upon, for the shared sake
of every living thing on the face of this planet.
Imagine that! Sane limits on individual wealth! A system of rebalancing
those imbalances of power that ultimately are the root cause of all the
endless war and suffering and discord throughout the vast majority of mankind's
Yeah, I know: Sounds lahk kommyounism ta mee!
Look, how's this for simple?: How about if you couldn't make more dollars
per week than you could actually count up to, out loud, in the same period
But it's gotta be consecutive... if you get tired and fall asleep before
the week's up, you only get the number you got up to til you passed out...
I know that sounds terribly harsh and cruel to some, but hey, life's
not supposed to be perfect, is it?
When I make this argument, people tell me that life doesn't work that
That's funny. As I've just pointed out in these last two columns, EVERYTHING
ELSE works exactly that way.
And maybe that's why, in the larger sense, nothing else is working
very well in this whole confused mess of a world right now.