politics vs harm

Images of Emergency

a speculative history

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

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