we are all getting bunked

in this terrifying vancouver election, i’m not terribly interested in any given candidate’s claim to be Left or Right: i’m much more concerned about how they understand power, if they are self-confident enough to take an immense amount of shit (and not it personally), if they are curious and ask questions because they want to understand, rather than want to show that everyone else doesn’t. so when i tweeted about getting bunked in the legal marketplace and not knowing what to do about it, Candidate Brandon Yan asked what “bunked” means.

(the question made me happy)

“when the retailer misrepresents the product, or it is a smaller amount than purchased, or it is not product at all,” i wrote.

getting bunked several years ago would piss people off. it would happen particularly often on the weekend before cheque day. this is a low-income area and people get desperate. but a seller who rips off their customers isn’t going to be in business very long. wait, it’s only 10 bucks, you say. true. but people have to do things that perhaps they otherwise would not have in order to earn that ten. and then to go home, and open a flap of crushed chalk? if you don’t know what that’s like, i don’t want you to.

of course in 2018 you wouldn’t have time to get pissed off – if you were opiate-naive you’d be dead before this sentence ended. and the street retailer probably has no idea what they have in inventory (other than that “it’s really good”).

for some 25 years, the phrase “open-air drug market” has been used to describe my neighbourhood, the downtown eastside. apparently the objectionable thing about this is that it’s “open,” visible for anyone to see – thus an offense to tourism, business, the children, and decent people everywhere. therefore it is an affront to the Law, and is also known as Street Disorder

its visibility could have been considered one of its safer characteristics. “you only bunk once” it was said. you would be instantly called out, and encouraged to cease your participation in the marketplace – since now your action is widely known, you’ve undermined trust in all other retailers. it would be unwise to attempt to sell in the neighbourhood again. the fact that you tried to bunk us would never be forgotten.

that was a collectively self-regulated illicit market. there’s no customer service desk, no receipts. debts were paid and collected. there was coercion, violence.

meanwhile, in the world off the block, as the cost of everything exploded, the incomes of poor people were unchanged – which is to say, decreased. revenues fell in every market but the property market – and while the cost of illicit drugs isn’t factored into the cost of living by policy analysts and economists, it should be, because demand is steady. and it doesn’t matter where they were first produced – you can synthesize these chemicals anywhere, and it’s much cheaper (and more profitable) to produce and sell synthetics like fentanyl or whatever the next thing will be than it is to import all that bulky plant-based dope. customers had less money, and that money had to do more work. thus it’s poverty that explains the impact of synthetic opiates, explains precisely why thousands of deaths don’t mean a thing.

the illicit drug market is capitalism unregulated, revealed as an unending nightmare, in its purest and therefore most brutal form. this is the war of all against all, but we’re cannon fodder, ritual sacrifices and with our technology we can make synthetic substances in small undetectable quantities in the laundry room and yeah you will get high —

then everybody started dying

the collective self-regulation of the market? yeah, that fell apart quick. nobody knew for certain what happened to you know, that guy – or her, she was here the other day. where did she buy? no one knew. and drug users generally speaking already had some trust issues.

but now we have no trust in anything, or anyone, and if it’s even fathomable, are more isolated from each other than when this began. the hopelessness, like a wave, the undertow. we cannot trust each other again.

but then what? the use of psychotropic substances is a constant in human history. and there is less potential for harm in societies that are less harmful.

so… this all will be re-built, either illicit, improvised, awaiting the next crisis, or as an externally regulated market. either/or.

it’s not like we can remove the profit motive and transform social relations by rejecting capitalism through the free exchange of substances that relieve pain and produce pleasure


users are only ever interested in getting high

the solution isn’t to ‘reduce poverty’ or ‘tax the rich.’ the well is poisoned. the solution isn’t to beat them at their own game. the solution is to Change the Game.