This is a story about winos...
If you've ever spent a night in a cheap sleeping bag, you'll know what it's like in the small hours of the morning, when the temperature plummets and you can't get warm - you're frozen to the bone and your body shakes to move your muscles, burning energy to heat your blood, which keeps you awake. All you can think about is how nice it would be to be snug and warm and cosy. A rough night will teach you to appreciate your duvet, blankets, heating boiler or furnace, roaring fire and other sources of warmth, like spooning with your sweetheart.
I've slept on a glacier, and it's horrible how quickly the ice leeches away the heat from any body part that strays off your sleeping mat. Concrete is just the same - without some insulating barrier between you and the floor, the cold seems to rise up and enter you... your lips turn blue and your teeth chatter.
In this city of concrete, brick & cement, limestone and granite, there are far more homeless people than I'm ever used to seeing. I've been homeless and slept rough in London. The UK's capital city is a magnet for those seeking to improve their fortunes, through employment opportunities, begging from rich tourists or simply the high quality narcotics.
"Have you scored?" yells a man behind me, to a man at the other end of the road. It's 9:30am on a Wednesday, and these two beggars look familiar to me. My ten minute walk to the office takes me past almost 15 men, who all congregate along the route between the city's two main railway stations - each with their own 'patch'. Some sit quietly with a paper cup on the pavement in front of them; eyes downcast but intently watching the world go by in their peripheral vision. Some look me square in the eye from several hundred metres away - well aware that I am pretending to not notice them - before timing a polite and muted "spare some change please?" request to perfection... all I can say is "sorry mate". Some linger at an intersection, where they step into my path... "excuse me" they say, and my eyes flick up to meet theirs... they know immediately that the element of surprise has not worked - I saw them before they saw me - and I continue my walk undiverted.
How do I know that it's a man who slept rough in that doorway, and he was probably an alcoholic and/or a heroin addict? If one wishes to be pedantic, I don't.
Speaking frankly, a woman who sleeps rough is is at risk of becoming a rape victim at some point. Another unspeakable and unpalatable truth is that a woman in the grips of addiction is not going to spend her nights having her body illegally violently sexually violated against her will, when she could spend that time turning tricks - there are an insatiable number of punters for blowjobs and sex - to pay for just enough heroin and crack to numb the pain of another shitty day of human existence.
What I say is not sexism, prejudiced or anything other than the situation as it stands in the UK - sadly, there are enough rapists out there to make sleeping on the streets a dangerous thing for a woman to do, so our local government will ensure that they are not complicit in any acts of rape or sexual assault that get perpetrated on the streets, though their negligent inaction.
A single man with an alcohol and/or drug problem is not considered to be vulnerable enough to be housed by the local government. In fact, the alcoholics and addicts who line the busy thoroughfares of this bustling city, are viewed as a liability with regards to giving them money and a place to live. "They'll only spend it on drink and drugs" completely misses the point about cause and effect, but statistically it's proven to be mostly correct. Council houses (a.k.a. social housing) and apartments have been turned into absolute shitholes by so many men in the past, that the local authority treats their homeless adult single male population like a plague of modern-day lepers.
Thus, I can make an educated guess that this almost entirely unused fire exit doorway, was where a man laid his head to rest last night. He was probably a heroin addict, but this means nothing - whether it's a symptom or the cause of his destitution is a non sequitur, because homelessness and addiction are intractable. It is as if we ask "which came first? the eggshell or the egg yolk?" without considering the ridiculous notion of having one without the other, and completely ignoring the chicken.
The United Kingdom was flooded with cheap alcohol during the boom years of the 1980s, when the British pound sterling was strong versus the French franc, and enterprising men and women set off across the English Channel to bring back vast quantities of wine. France grew grapes and fermented them in a country that was predominantly rural and agricultural. England, by comparison with our nearest neighbour, has dense areas of population clustering around factories, coal mines, steel mills, dockyards and other organs that were necessitated for the functioning of an empire, as well as the defence of the realm.
Heroin's quality and availability once fluctuated wildly in the UK. The fields of opium-yielding poppies flourish in Afghanistan and Thailand, but the trade routes - the Silk Road - were at the mercy of incredible geopolitical forces. Now, thanks to the intervention of the USA and the UK in illegal foreign wars and 'regime' toppling, the supply of high-quality cheap narcotics has never been in more rude health.
If you think a homeless heroin addict single man is a fool and a failure, you are wrong; completely wrong. If you think in terms of 'bang for your buck' a £10 bag of heroin is going to get you a lot more fucked up than £10 of alcohol. If you think that injecting drugs is insane, you haven't considered the insanity of putting something you've paid your hard-earned money for, into your acidic stomach, where nearly 1/3rd of it will be destroyed. The rational thing to do is to put 100% of your intoxicant directly into your bloodstream.
If we followed the logic of the homeless man, we would all have a canula in one of our veins, and we would pay £1 for pure ethanol to be squirted into our bodies from a syringe, whereupon we would be immediately intoxicated to the point of near-blackout.
Before we go any further, I should make it clear that I am not advocating injecting drugs - or drug abuse of any kind - nor have I ever injected any drugs, or had another person inject me with narcotics.
If one wishes to consider the desperate plight of an addict or alcoholic, one only needs to think about the period when many homeless men would drink methylated spirits. Methanol differs from ethanol chemically, but methylated spirits - known colloquially as meths - has been deliberately poisoned by manufacturers, in an effort to discourage human consumption, without success. I can buy 5 litres of meths - roughly the same volume as 7 bottles of wine - for around £10, but to drink it would kill me. Out of desperation to avoid delirium tremens, which can cause seizures and death, alcoholics will drink small amounts of meths to self-medicate for their physical dependence on alcohol, despite the fact that it will cause them to go blind.
The war on drugs and the war on terror have now created a reliable supply chain, whereby the most powerful narcotics on the planet are available at unsurpassed purity and at rock-bottom prices, as never before witnessed in human history.
Competitive free-market economics has given rise to a swathe of pharmaceutical giants, vying to innovate with new medications that are 'better' than anything seen before, in a race for profits. Fentanyl and carfentanil were born into this world in the 1960s and 1970s, respectively. Carfentanil is so potent, that an aerosol mist of it could be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Although the Russian government does not officially acknowledge it, carfentanil has been used in a terrorist hostage situation - pumped into a building as a gas - resulting in the deaths of 125 innocent civilians in a single incident, from opiate overdose.
The rise and rise of the zero-hours contract McJob and a hopeless future for unskilled labourers, in the face of global capitalism, has created insecurity and the total destruction of the prospect of happy and contented family life for a scandalous number of men. While pram-faced mothers, with gold hoop earrings and their hair held back tightly in a scrunchie, will be prioritised for social housing, our entire welfare system discourages work and parental bonds. Economically, a single mother is better off than one who stays with the father of her children. Dads have been made redundant by cheap Far-Eastern labour. People respond to incentives, and so we have created a generation of children from broken homes. We have created an unacknowledged mountainous scrap-heap of homeless single male drug addicts, in a society that has no better use for them, other than to let them rot.
We are all familiar with the concept of supply and demand, but there is also something intrinsic in our genetic programming that makes us seek out value for money. It seems obvious that given the choice of intoxicants, I would select 1 gram of carfentanil instead of 1 gram of morphine. An amount of carfentanil the same size as a grain of salt is enough to kill me by overdose - carfentanil is better value for money, being about 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
The opium smokers became morphine addicts, then diacetylmorphine (heroin) addicts, then fentanyl addicts and now carfentanil addicts. The subsection of the population who have abandoned hope are always driven to seek the strongest mind-altering substance that they can obtain, for the money which they beg (panhandle), borrow or steal in order to support their 'habit' each day.
1 kilogram of carfentanil could kill the entire population of the United Kingdom. Carfentanil is produced in bulk quantities in the Far-East, where - ironically - all the manufacturing and mining jobs have gone, leaving vast numbers of men economically redundant.
In this city where I now live, the capitalists drove the cloth-making industry into a race to the bottom, negatively affecting the prosperity of nations such as India, which has over a billion inhabitants. It seems apt that the 'payback' for this global suicide pact should be so publicly conspicuous. Homelessness and addiction are openly on display, as symptoms of a world that is sick with an illness that's called capitalism; vulgar greed and hoarding of wealth.
I am full of sorrow that so many of my fellow citizens are left bewildered as to what happened to their once-great nation, and seek solace in all the wrong places. To help even one man (#frank) exhausted my economic reserves. All I have left is the power to spread word to more people than I could ever manage to speak to individually, using the power and freedom of the Internet. I preach to the converted, so often, but to stop and speak to the abandoned men - each in their 'patch' - is impossible in the face of a capitalists waving a fistfuls of dollars in front of a sea of hungry people.
All I can say to my readers who own computers, smartphones and Internet connections - you have a golden ticket that the man who slept on the cardboard in the doorway last night, does not have. He's viewed as trash, just the same as the remnants of his existence left behind when he awoke and moved elsewhere this morning.
Tags: #homeless #frank #addiction #drugs #alcohol