May 27

“Opioid of All Opioids”: Anne Wilson Schaef, Michael Moore

In a recent commencement address at Brandeis University, filmmaker and historian Ken Burns had many great things to say. Among them were words, as he stated, that departed from the neutrality he usually takes: “There is no real choice this November. The Presumptive Republican nominee is the opioid of all opioids.”

The opioid of all opioids…

I immediately thought of Anne Wilson Schaef** (1934-2020), who believed that we all have at least one addiction of some kind, which has a lot to do with society’s dysfunction and demands. Beth Ann Krier, Los Angeles Times, writing in 1990, quoted one of Schaef’s frequent lecture statements: “We live in a society that demands addiction. The person who is best adjusted to this society is not dead and not alive because if you were fully alive, you couldn’t support the system.”

In contrast, being “fully alive” and not numbed by addiction, she’d stated in her 1987 When Society Becomes An Addict, means…

…you are constantly saying, ‘No’ to many of the processes of society, the racism, the polluted environment, the nuclear threat, the arms race, drinking unsafe water and eating carcinogenic foods. Thus it is in the interest of our society to promote those things that take the edge off, keep us busy with our fixes, and keep us slightly numbed out and zombie-like. In this way our modern consumer society itself functions as an addict. 

Both addicted individuals and the phenomenon of society-as-an-addict can exhibit many of the same traits:

  • Self-centeredness: The U.S. believes it’s the center of the world.
  • Arrogance: …And the rest of the world revolves around us.
  • Control Issues: The main aim of government.
  • Perfectionism: Too-high standards regarding both policing the world and helping it.
  • Depression and stress: Can lead to irrational decision-making.
  • The need to create crisis: Such as unnecessary wars.
  • Dishonesty: Equals much of politics.
  • “Stinking Thinking”: Always with the quick justifications for misguided actions.
  • Confusion: Just look at the bizarre process of choosing presidential candidates.
  • Denial: Should be a river in the U.S., not Egypt.
  • Forgetfulness: Thus, bad actions repeat themselves.
  • Dependency: Many “hostage-captor” type of relationships.
  • The Scarcity Model and the Zero-Sum Model: Not enough of anything to go around for everyone.
  • Negativism: Because of continually failing to meet unrealistic standards.
  • Communication gap: Ineffective countercommunication and interrogation are the norm.
  • Avoidance of responsibility and blame: Dems vs. GOP, e.g.
  • Tunnel Vision: And light at the end of it is an oncoming train.
  • Frozen Feelings: As in, out of touch with them.
  • Ethical Deterioration: Or, “spiritual bankruptcy.”
  • Fear: Drives many actions.

Interestingly, as she’d written in Women’s Reality: An Emerging Female System (1981), our dysfunctional society derives from the “White Male System.” What would she say today about the way many in our country have fallen prey—in an addicted, cult-like fashion—to one particular white man, “the opioid of all opioids,” and what would she say about his mostly white male enablers who would ruin the world to achieve their self-centered goals?

Filmmaker Michael Moore is someone who can also imagine a better society with women as rulers. Moore’s 2015 Where to Invade Next is about “how other countries around the world — with their happy workers, superior schools, humane prisons, healthy sexual attitudes and fully empowered women — are putting U.S. progress to shame,” noted Justin Chang, Variety.

Stephen Holden, New York Times: “Watching it made me feel like a deprived child with my nose pressed against the glass of a magical toy store in a faraway land. On one side is a happy, harmonious land of productive people. On the other is a world of misery, anxiety, war and greed.”

Guess which side is the U.S.—then watch the trailer:

**Allegations found online indicate Schaef may have exploited clients in various grievous ways. This post is not an endorsement of her practices, and I did not know her personally or professionally.