I lost my dog Sukhi.  A few times actually. He is a friendly Chihuahua and in the summer when all the doors are perpetually open, he would escape through impossibly small holes in my fence.  On more than one occasion, I found myself handing out flyers with grainy black and white close up photos of my dog in a twelve-block radius from my house.  By the fourth escape neighbors joked and the local drug dealers who slug their wares in the near by park knew him on sight.  “Don’t worry, we’ll get your Houdini home.” They told me, smiling as they took a flyer from my sweaty hands. Red eyed, puffy faced from crying, they always had a moment for me.  In the midst of their hustle-bustle they looked me in the eye and took the time to reassure me before dismissing me, efficiently moving on to the next deal.  They admonished Sukhi when they saw us walking through the same park, “You shouldn’t scare your mom like that Mr. Houdini!” They laughed.  It was reassuring to know that these men and women would watch out for my little escape artist.
I am not in any way romanticizing these men and women or sentimentalizing slinging drugs in a park.  I share this because I do not fear for their humanity, their capacity to witness, have compassion for, and connect with my pain.  While they may be hardened by tough circumstances, they have not lost an essential human ability to feel empathy.  They have not, in other words, been socialized to evil.  I cannot, unfortunately, say the same for another set of drug dealers who, although they are not slinging at my local park, are most certainly an intimate part of my world.
Let me be clear, when I say socialized to evil I am not being hyperbolic.[1]  Before you begin your emotional, spiritual, somatic and psychological journey inside Drug Dealers, it is my obligation to provide a frame from which to consider your experience, and that is the human capacity for all of us, any of us, each of us to be socialized to evil.  There are, of course, powerful examples of our inherent resistance to such socialization and numerous studies attempting to discern the conditions in which one can resist, and the conditions in which we perpetuate and collude.  Sadly, many of us do collude with evil.  We collude with silence, with disbelief, with theories of bad apples, we collude when we ignore, or minimize suffering, collapse in despair or remain lodged in unfocused rage.  Human beings acclimate easily and rapidly.  It is what makes us adaptable and this is a positive trait.  Children surviving abuse and neglect adapt to a world that does not keep them safe by choosing from a variety of coping strategies including turning off the hope of being protected.  This is adaptable. And devastating.  The Stanford Prison Experiment,[2] which replicated prison conditions in a university basement for a sociological study had to be shut down after only six days.  The premature termination occurred because college students participating as mock guards in the simulated prison adapted to their roles with shocking plasticity, becoming alarmingly menacing, abusive and cruel. Among the many things demonstrated by the study, was people’s ability to rapidly adapt to expected social roles, with corresponding changes in behavior and even values.
Socialization, or the process through which people acquire a sense of identify and learn the norms, values and behaviors appropriate to their social position, occur unsurprisingly, in social contexts.  Science, art, literature, medicine, and psychology are all as critical to socialization as media, peer interactions and family.  They provide the evidence, data, justification and language of socialization.  Psychology, along side medicine and psychiatry has a long and tainted history of socializing society to horrific evils, slinging dangerous and deadly drugs in the name of profit is only one of them.[3]  
The frame I offer for considering Drug Dealers is not about twenty bad men who got greedy, it is about twenty men and their corresponding companies who are in no particular way unique or spectacular (although I have no doubt their mansions are spectacular).  These men have the power, credibility, means and access to act out their socialization—the socialization of entitlement, of superiority, of the necessity of expendable human beings, of human collateral, the socialization to evil.
Socialization to evil can been witnessed in the loose teeth and swollen head of David Prince, who suffered from brain and bone cancer as a result of being a test subject in Holmesburg prison in the 1960’s.  It is elucidated in the scared skin and severed calf nerve of Alsons Skorski, another Holmesburg inmate who was a test subject for athletes foot powder.  The sense of entitlement that comes with being socialized to evil is exemplified in the professional resume of Albert M. Kligman, the doctor, researcher and entrepreneur who spearheaded the largest human experimentation factory in U.S. history at Holmesburg prison, while establishing long standing business relationships between prisons, research facilities and drug companies such as Dow and Johnson and Johnson.  The collateral damage is rendered inconsequential because it occurred on disposable bodies.  Expendable (and socially isolated and invisible) people like David Prince, Alfons Skorski and the hundreds of men who were experimented on suffer horribly.  Their health, well being and physical bodies destroyed in the name of medical advancement which just happened to make some people very, very rich.[4] 
Even our heroes can be disposable.  Consider the 60,000 Puerto Rican and African American service men enrolled (without informed consent) in a once secret government program to test the scientific theory du jour that black or darker skin might be more resistant to mustard gas and other chemical agents.[5] The men, like the experimentees at Holmsburg Prison could not access medical care to treat the horrific conditions they suffered as a result of being human subjects for dermatological, pharmaceutical and biochemical testing, as they could not explain what happened to them, both because they were sworn to secrecy and because they simply did not know what had been put on or in their own bodies.
Children and adolescents are also exploited.  For example, the inventor of the lobotomy was given a Nobel Prize in 1949 with the mainstream medical community claiming that the procedure, which used an actual ice pick driven into the skull to remove sections of white and grey matter from the brain, would be as quick and easy as a trip to the dentist. By 1960, thousands of lobotomies had been preformed and parents were getting this current miracle cure for “moody” teenagers like Howard Dully, a 12 year old boy who received a lobotomy in 1960 by Dr. Freeman at the request of his stepmother who had grown tired of his “defiant behavior.”  Lest you think the lobotomy has gone by the wayside along with other “miracle cures” such as using mercury to cure syphilis, in 2015 the lobotomy, now called Cingulotomy, is still being preformed and hailed by many doctors as a cure for mood disorders. 
There are also an alarming number of children being prescribed (and over prescribed) medications lauded as a “safer” alternative than surgically removing part of the brain in order to deal with emotional and behavior issues, which are often far better served by addressing social and environmental factors.  In my home state of Washington for example, there are parents who have been denied educational services for their children based on their refusal to put their child on psychiatric medication even when the parent’s refusal was based on horrific side effects (tics, seizures, heart murmurs, memory loss, bone density loss, kidney failure…) of previously prescribed medications.  If the family has the means and access to fight the school, they may be able to connect their child with much needed services.  Unfortunately many families cannot afford attorney’s fees, do not have an employer that will allow them to take time off, and are often dismissed as uneducated, ignorant, even suffering from a mental health disorder themselves—otherwise why would they deny treatment to their child.  Adults can also be exploited in the same manner.  People on Medicaid for example are considered non compliant and can be dropped from necessary coverage if they choose to not take prescribed psychiatric medication even when the side effects disrupt their health and well being. 
Psychiatric medication is not the only viable treatment for emotional and mental health issues. It is one option that should be a choice.  While making this choice can be complicated and messy it must not be forgotten that psychiatric medication is just one form of mental health care.[6]  The unfortunate reality that psychopharmacology may be the only treatment prescribed or covered by insurance companies speaks more to the lobbying and corporate power of pharmaceutical companies than their efficacy as the only viable treatment.  There are endless accounts of people addressing mental health conditions with diet, exercise, holistic practices, trauma informed somatic therapy, social or spiritual supports, herbal and homeopathic remedies, yoga, animal assisted therapy, meditation to name a few.  While psychiatric medication may help some people, many have suffered horribly at the behest of “medical advancements” often amounting to nothing more than a new an improved psychopharmacological version of an ice pick to deal with unruly behaviors.[7]  Consider that in 2014, Dr. Peter Breggin a Harvard-trained Psychiatrist and former full-time consultant at the National Institute of Mental Health, author of the bestseller Talking Back to Prozac and medical expert in criminal malpractice said, “All classes of psychiatric drugs can cause brain damage and lasting mental dysfunction when used for months of years.”  Prescribing medications that can cause mental dysfunction to cure mental illness seems, to me, a bit like prescribing cigarettes to cure lung cancer, which up to the 1950’s was extoled by medical experts as a mainstream medical treatment for everything from mood disorders to cancer. 
American’s (sometimes appalling) faith in scientific and medical advancement dovetails atrociously at times with arrogance, abuse and exploitation.  Henrietta Lacks, for example, was an African American woman who in 1951 was diagnosed with cancer.  Her doctor, George Otto Gey, extracted some of her cells, without informed consent, and was able to use her cells, which were the fist human biological materials ever successfully replicated, to launch a multi-billion dollar industry.  Her cells remain one of the most important research tools in medicine and were central to the development of the polio vaccine, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization.  Her cells, know as HeLa have been bought and sold by the billions and more recently been the subject of a best selling book and movie.  The family was not aware of any of this for over a quarter century and did not receive any notification, information or payment of any kind.  It would be nice to be able to place this kind of exploitation in an historical context.  That would be tragically incorrect.[8]  In the 1990’s a white man named John Moore was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia.  His doctor, David W. Golde, removed some of Moore’s cells, which he then developed into a replicating cell line named “Mo” which he commercialized.  Moore’s cells, like Henrietta Lacks, provided a lucrative and distinguished career for Dr. Golde.  While Moore was not only unaware of what his doctor was doing with his cells, the “treatment” Dr. Golde recommended (and that Moore paid for out of his own pocket) was actually research for Dr. Golde’s professional development.  When Moore attempted to sue, he eventually received a token settlement covering his legal fees based on the fact that he had not been informed about the research.  Because of new changes in Patent law, Moore, like Lacks, was not considered the owner of his own body. 
In the 1980’s two critical changes in patent law occurred, both driven and funded by pharmaceutical companies.  The first made it possible for pharmaceutical companies to control price and access to new and newly available drugs by controlling the patent on a particular drug formula for twenty years.  The second radically altered the ways in which pharmaceutical companies, university research facilities and public health institutions interact by allowing private pharmaceutical companies to patent a person’s cells or organs.  This approach to finding and justifying the need for and control over bodies (and body parts) seems nothing more than a sophisticated update on medical grave robbing.  Tasked to physicians assistants, grave robbing was routine business up to early 1900’s in order to supply universities with bodies to experiment and practice new techniques on.  Needless to say it was mostly the poor and people of color whose graves were robbed because if the university was caught experimenting on their loved ones, the families had few social, political or economic resources to hold doctors and universities accountable.  In Henrietta’s’ time her body was viewed as property even as slavery as a social institution was being dismantled, while Moore’s cells were privatized via patent law into scientific property. 
This paradigm of arrogance in the name of scientific advancement and sense of entitlement over peoples’ bodies, from which the medical, psychiatric and psychological professions operate, has a long history.  The present day expansion of private pharmaceutical companies into every aspect of our daily lives is nothing new but it is more insidious.  The trifecta of direct to consumer advertising which resulted in an enormous uptick in both the cost and number of prescriptions (with no change in drug efficacy), private pharmaceutical companies funding and subsequently dictating university research, and the expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from 106 disorders in it’s first publication in 1952 to over 300 in the most recent edition, (most with corresponding psychopharmological treatment protocols)[9] has resulted in a massive mainstreaming of pharmaceutical and medication management of just about every aspect of our daily lives.[10]  From a historical perspective it is not a large leap from ice pick lobotomies to chemically rearranging brain chemistry—both performed with absurd confidence and willful minimizing of the collateral damage in the name of science.  How else could medical and psychological professions that vow to do no harm allow brain atrophy, dementia, diabetes, obesity, heart palpitations, crippling tremors, seizures, and even death to be side effects?  My peers in the psychological world are tasked to help people heal, but we are harming. A lot.  J. Marion Sims, a physician considered the pioneer of gynecology developed surgical tools and techniques by experimenting on women slaves in horrifying ways tantamount to torture.  In 2015 the American Psychological Association was found to be complicit in US torture by colluding with the US department of defense and the CIA in allowing psychologist to participate in torture.  Two prominent psychologists, Dr. James Mitchell and Dr. Bruce Jessen, were paid $81 million dollars to design torture protocols, advise on aspects of torture such as forcing detainees to stand on broken limbs and rehydrating via recta tubes.  They also assisted in actual torture sessions including waterboarding detainees.  There are many paths to socialization: the faith in ever advancing scientific technologies; the conviction that certain bodies are expendable or at least worth experimenting on, side effects be damned; the professional rationalization of harmful protocols and minimizing of damaging side effects, often done in prestigious sounding Latin terminology or with consumer savvy bouncing blue balls and sleepy time moths.[11]
The impetus to experiment, to explore the world is as old as scientific inquiry.  The business of human test subjects, however, is relatively new, evolving alongside slavery, the development of mental institutions, prison expansion and more recently market privatization.  Manufacturing expendable bodies suitable as test subjects has been normalized as the cost of doing business in a culture that both venerates disposability and views certain bodies as disposable.  The (human) collateral damage or “expendables” is excused and minimized in myriad manner including de-humanizing subjects, testing on vulnerable populations and finding (or creating) avenues and loop holes through which to profit (sometimes obscenely) from an ever expanding psychopharmalogical industry.
It is critical to interrupt this socialization and imagine other possibilities, other forms of socialization.  There are many ways to do this: direct action; public dissent and protest; class action law suits; reclaiming, creating and offering alternative healing modalities; challenging and calling out our colleagues; using the arts to expose the underbelly of mainstream psychopharmocology; and informing and empowering ourselves and loved ones.  In addition to helping people heal, art like Drug Dealers have the power to identify and disrupt the corporate contortion obfuscating the damaging reality of a privatized pharmaceutical industry.  Art can direct and hold our gaze, shake up intellectual plot lines, force one to bear witness, offer possibilities of revenge, retribution and imagine radical alternatives.  This is why art like Drug Dealers are so important. 
We need multiple ways to hold CEO’s, corporations and the medical and psychological professions accountable.  Being ravaged with badass art is one way to do this.  CEO’s are a reasonable and credible target for individual and collective rage. It is also important to hold them in the larger historical and social context in which they have been socialized and allowed to act on their entitlement.  Like the primary functioning cog in an enormous machine that makes other machines function, they are entirely replaceable.   Jail them, kill them, another one will take their place, like zombies, but with expensively moisturized skin and fancy manicures
It is important to ground Drug Dealers inside history and provide information about the “human collaterals” of psychological, psychiatric and medical “advances.”  It is maddening to hear about each atrocity and bear witness to the legacy of evil—it can make one feel insignificant and powerless. That is what it is designed to do because that is how people or “collaterals” are viewed.   It is important to remember the historical long view, not to overwhelm, but to ground one in the legacy of socialization to evil that supports systems of de-humanizing.  De-humanizing is, at the core, about creating human garbage, human beings that are not only replaceable, but also utterly disregardable.  Dismantling systems predicated on the ideology that some bodies are inherently worth more and some bodies are inherently not only worth less, but are patentable and disposable means being able to identify intersections across multiple modes through which this ideology is acted out. 
It is important to support the work being done by various people to challenge pharmaceutical company control over research and drug development, reform APA policies so that psychologists can not participate in torture in a professional capacity, draft new drug testing policies, recall dangerous and deadly drugs and hold individuals and companies responsible for their criminal actions.  It is also important to envision alternatives to these systems and to never loose sight of the reality that these policies and structures are not our only possibility.  There are many different ways of healing and treating emotional distress.  I hope Drug Dealers inspires visions of radical alternatives to health and well being.  One purpose of systemic power is to make us forget we can act, to simultaneously evoke hopelessness, disempowerment, smother optimism and agency while providing various “evidence based” options for numbing and distracting.   We must rise out of this psychopharmological fog to imagine and move towards other possibilities, other ways of taking care of ourselves, and the people in our world.  While I do not have a particular vision in mind, I do take hope and inspiration and direct action from those who dare to speak up and act out including former inmates and test subject survivors from Holmesburg prison, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, artists, writers, healers who offer accessible alternatives, and all those daring and courageous people who do not pathologize or reactively diagnose human suffering, but work to address the conditions in which suffering occurs.
[1] The Nazi Doctors, Medical Killing and The Psychology of Genocide by Robert Jay Lifton
[2] The Luciffer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn evil, by Phillip Zimbardo
[3] Politics in Healing: The Suppression and Manipulation of American Medicine, by Daniel Haley
[4] Acres of Skin: human Experiments at Holmesburg Prison by Allen M. Hornblum
[5] Undue Risk: Secret State Experiments on Humans by Jonathan D. Moreno; The Virus and The Vaccine: Deadly Cancers and Government Neglect, by Debbie Brookchin and Jim Schumacher
[6] Saving Normal, by Allen Francis; Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of The American Psyche, by Ethan Waters
[7] Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself--And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future, by  Harriet A. Washington
[8] Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington
[9] Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM5, Big Pahrma and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life by Allen Frances
[10] The Book of Woe: The DSM and The Unmaking of Psychiatry, by Gary Greenberg
[11] Overdosed America, by John Abramson
Bibliography section article Bibliography Section Catalog Bibliography Section Web Link PDF icon small Sold Dot