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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Theory About Eastern European Addiction

I've spent some time observing the addictions issues in Russia and Romania, the latter far longer.  There are some important differences between what is going on here and what is happening there, and I have some theories as to why there are differences and what these differences are.

After all, if you try to work with Eastern European (EE) addicts using Western assumptions, you are liable to make some big mistakes.  There are differences in culture and circumstances that play a big part in either feeding or treating addiction in the individual.  It is important to not impose our own assumptions onto others.  Otherwise, we deprive ourselves of the ability to relate to them as they are, and instead make them illusory extensions of ourselves.

So, here is my theory: while the Western European/American (WEA) and EE societies share a common cultural problem of materialism and anti-spirituality, which aggravates addiction by stifling the relationship with God that humans desire and need, they arrived at their materialism in profoundly different ways.  And, while materialism has had a common effect in both worlds, they have also have dissimilar foundations based on how they got there.  The differences in these foundations are critical in treating addicts, since the path we know as being 'restored to sanity' may place the addict either at odds with or into harmony with his society.

Here's a summary: materialism has been creeping into the West since the Enlightenment, the blossom of which was the French Revolution.  From that point forward, atheism and materialism became acceptable topics in the West.  Universities, once tasked with providing religious formation, became increasingly 'secular.'  Science took on the new centrality of education.  And the sciences extended themselves into the 'social sciences' in which scholars devoted themselves to unpack and repacking such notions as gender, marriage, the family, government, etc.  Traditional education was replaced with the modern system of the schoolhouse and age division independent of the parent.

German theologians were busy undermining the Scriptures and thus continuing the work of Luther in destroying both what was left of the Church and faith in general.  Marx and his cohort soon pick up on this social engineering and the 'revolutionaries' arise.  They eschewed proper families and advocated for sex-love based 'pairing,' mostly because of their concern for property ownership which families naturally accrue.  They wanted to bring an end to 'bourgeoisie' families and relationships.

Of course, all of this theory changed when the Bolsheviks took full power over Russia and created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  Now, they had to stop talking and start actually 'caring' for the workers and peasants of the former Russian Empire.  Now, the high ideals of Communist Party were going to be put to the test.  The first thing that needed to happen, after the expulsion or execution of Russia's intellectuals, was the sealing-off of Russian thought from the rest of the world.  By 1935, the 'Fourth International,' was not only ignored by the Soviets, but was outright opposed.  Soviet thought had been largely ossified as both Lenin and Stalin struggled to make their grand experiment work.

While on paper the Soviets continued with their revolutionary thinking about undermining the family, it is also very clear that on a practical level, they needed healthy families to raise their children.  The idea of dumping everyone in an orphanage became, in the case of the latter days of Romania, a strategy of last resort.  Communists realized that raising kids in barracks simply would not work.  So, Soviet propaganda essentially reinforced families and marriage along much the same lines of pre-revolutionary culture.

The 'experimentationists' and those seeking to undermine family structures were left in the West.  Not much later, Hilter's rise meant that those ardent social engineers would be unwelcome in the Third Reich, and they fled to America and settled in US universities (many returning after the war, but plenty stayed on after the armistice).

So, while the West went on to experience the crazy days of the 1960s and the complete undermining of social morals as social theory, the Communist East was tucked well behind the Iron Curtain and rather scandalized by it all.

Both systems resulted in abandonment of children, divorce, and unstable home lives for children.  The difference was that in the WEA version was far more detrimental because people really took to believing it, whereas EE citizens developed a far more cynical approach.  In essence, Eastern Europeans still know that family and gender roles are good, even though they don't follow them.  Western Europeans and most Americans don't share this.

WEAs are not certain about how men and women are supposed to interact, and how a family is supposed to operate.  EEs have few questions, even if they are not following what they know to be right.

This is important when we are talking about recovery: many Americans have children, but need to go to classes on how to be parents because they have absolutely no idea what to do.  They have been raised without proper parenting, and they have no examples.  While I have seen similar classes in Romania, they are far more rare.  And, frankly, there isn't the demand.  Once people 'wake up,' they still have a culture that supports them in taking the right actions.

The problem now is that, after 25 years of 'freedom,' the clock is ticking.  EE is gradually being influenced by WEA media images, though they are clearly not as far along in this devolution.

So, when we are talking about being 'restored to sanity,' in terms of family life, EEs have somewhere to go.  In the case of many American addicts, family life is largely an unknown, make-it-up-as-you-go-along proposition.  There are entire neighborhoods where all the fathers are in prison or utterly absconded.  The men don't know to be sober and sane men because they have not seen it before... anywhere.

We make fun of 'Leave It To Beaver,' but why exactly are we?  It is because that type of home life is unknown to so many Americans.

A big part of building a large-scale recovery strategy in Russia, Romania, and throughout EE will be the reinforcement of family life both to heal addicts and prevent new ones.  The same is true of the US, but it will require far more work because of the poor social condition of the modern American family.

My hope is that both societies can work together on this, because we face the same outcomes if we don't.

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