Tag Archives: chasing the scream

Well, did I do it?

imageIt was during my Christmas break in 2015 that I set myself a challenge – Read 52 Books in a year.  1 a week – should be easy?

It all started with Steven Gerrard – a christmas present

The road to wigan pier followed closely.  George Orwells tale of how we can show a brighter future

As it was the centenary of 1916 Easter Rising there were plenty of books relating to that theme

Jimmy Wren’s The GPO Garrisson was one such story of all the people in the GPO that week

Kieran Glennon’s From Pogrom TO Civil War took in a slightly later time in Irelands Nationalist history

Roger Casement is not only a figure in Irish Nationalist History, prior to (and during)his involvement in Ireland culminating in his trial where he stated “Ireland has wronged no man, that has injured no land, that has sought no dominion over others – Ireland is treated today among the nations of the world as if she was a convicted criminal” he was a British Foreign diplomat.  His most notable work was exposing the slave trade in Congo and the  horrendous slaughter of Peruvian Indians.  The Devil and Misteer casement tells the story of Peru whole King Leopolds Ghost spoke of Congo

Russian troubadors Pussy Riot have had a lot written about them Words Will Break Cement is one of those

Kim Gordon has spoken a lot about how Pussy Riot are strong Women in a band and her Girl In  A Band book tells of her time in Sonic Youth and beyond

Chasing The Scream challenged my perception on the so-called War On Drugs and has really made me think about its relevance

As part of the challenge I asked my kids what book they would like me to read – Pele was my youngest ones choice.  A strange book about a character who exists in a world of stardom and almost seems like an alter ego of Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Luca Caioli asked is Messi More Than A Superstar and the answer is very much yes in his mind, interesting that humility is his biggest trait after being a superstar ball player

During Easter Week I decided to take a 360 turn and see how many Ross O’Carroll Kelly books I could cram in this year.  Ross is the obnoxious, sexist beast known to so many Dubliners. The teenage Dirt-Bag years is one of the early ones, his formative college years, a J1 American Visa and the theft of a statue from UCD all get the O’Carroll gloss.

One of the hardest books to read was The Wrath of Cochise, not for the level of detail of the blood feud between the Chiracuau Indians and the US Army but just the level of detail.  Terry Mort has a way with words, and it’s a long way. It was enlightening to read about the ‘White men’ being willing to loose lives in wars and use that as a tactic or about the Irish Bounty hunter James Kirker.  it is interesting that this small island has produced many people who travelled for different reasons and had an impact around the world. Kirker was a hugely successful bounty hunter, willing to work, and kill, for the highest bidder.  There were many Irish recruits into the US Army in the 1850’s – over 30% of those enlisted were Irish hunger having forced them from their homes. Then there were those being sold into slavery, a tale of woe that still continues.

I re-introduced myself to the world of pop punk and Lookout records through Larry Livermores two book and the story of Lookout. Interesting that a label with no initial aspirations other than to release records and get bands heard ended up as a multi million dollar business and the tale of how those millions made people want more. Another label I re-introduced my self to was K Records. Love Rock Revolution, the story of K was published a few years ago but I missed out on it then. It tells the story of Calvin Johnson and K, much like Lookout, a label that saw huge increases in sales when Nirvana got signed but thankfully unlike lookout K is still going.  Sarah records was another label I listened to many bands from and Pop Kiss tells its story with a glorious jangle.

The Lost Women Of Rock Music – Female Musicians of the punk era by Helen Reddington is still altogether too true as it tells the battle females have just to be recognised in rock.. Punk promised to breakthrough  as more and more females joined bands but the establishment re-established its hold and MTV had a different story to tell. It drove it underground

NOFX were a band whose antics when they were in ireland I had blocked out of memory. I knew there was a story around a fireplace and an inscription but the tides of time held no grudges. it was sad to read stories of how fireplaces in other cities, belonging to other peoples parents, were treated with similar disdain. Like spoilt children the drug fuelled lifestyle of nofx left casualties in their wake. We had to run other gigs after they left town, we had to mend a lot of bridges. This book is not surprising in its tome. Pity I like their music so much.

Jack Doyle’s autobiography slowed me down and made me realise I wouldn’t meet my target.  Instead of 1 book a week I went for one a fortnight.  It halved the overall number but still was hopeful and realistic.

This was bropught to fruitiion with somw time over Christmas allowing me to complete my final two.  How Champions Thnk gives some snippets into the mind of sucessful people and it finashed in style with the Aesthetic of Our Anger – a critique of anarcho punk, politics and music.  Although this book is aimed more at an academic audience it is an excellent reflection on the influence of Crass throughout popular culture.

So next year I will try and better this, wish me luck

This years List

1. King Leopolds Ghost

2. The Devil and Me

3. Steve Gerard – My Story

4. Jimmy Wren – The Gpo Garrisson

5. Kieran Glennon – From Pogrom to Civil War

6. Paul Howard – Ross O Carroll Kelly, the teenage Dirtbag years

7. George Orwell – The Road to wigan pier

8. Johan Hari – Chasing the scream

9. Pele – the autobiography

10. Kim Gordon – Girl In  A Band

11. Masha Gessen – Words Will Break Cement

12. The Wrath of Cochise – The Blood Feud That Sparked the Apache Wars

13. Larry Livermore – Spy Rock Memories

14. Larry Livermore – How to Ru(i)n a record label

15. Jeff Alullis – NOFX The Hepatitis Bathtub and other Stories

16. Kevin Prested – Punk USA – The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records –

17. Mark Baumgarten – Love Rock Revolution – The Story of K Records

18. Luca Caioli – Messi: More Than a Superstar

19. Michael White – Pop Kiss – the life and afterlife of sarah records

20 Helen Reddington  – The lost Women of Rock Musc

21.Dave Dictor – MDC

22. The Defects – Nervous Breakdown

23  Michael Taub -Jack Doyle The gorgeous God

24  Adrian Chiles – We Don’t Know What We’re Doing

25 William Macaskill -Doing Good Better

26  Bob Rotella – How Champions Think

27  Mike dines and Matthew Worley – The Aesthetic of our anger

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Chasing The Scream

Chasing The Scream

Johann Hari

Bloomsbury Press



As a starting point to this review I have one question.  According to the lancet, What is the most harmful drug?
Coincidentally shortly in the week where two people were shot and murdered in separate instances on Dublin’s streets I started reading ‘Chasing the scream’, courtesy of El presidente. Ironically enough this book was given to me as a present by one of the very few adults I know that doesn’t drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs. When I look in the mirror I see another one. I have never participated and found it ironic ( and still do to a certain extent) that I know people who wish to “smash the system” and will boycott nestle or other companies over dubious business practices but seem to think it’s ok to assist in the profits of alcohol companies or drug lords. Just because I don’t take them though doesn’t mean I can’t see the merit in decriminalisation and the case is made constantly throughout these pages. Just as people who drink alcohol have a 90% chance of becoming alcoholic the figures are similar for drug users. Imagine how different the world would look like if the money was taken from fighting drug crime to treatment centres and awareness
This weeks killings in Dublin were acted out in open spaces with many people acting as bystanders, dragged into events by virtue of “being in the wrong place at the wrong time”. The perpetrators and victims, if media are to be believed, were involved or linked by blood relation to Dublins criminal underworld. Much of this underworld are involved in the sale and distribution of drugs.
And that’s where Chasing the scream comes in. It charts the beginning of the drug war and how just over a century ago department stores were selling heroin nets. We begin with three individuals born into a time when the war on drugs had not yet started but was about to play a huge part in their lives
Harry Anslinger was an FBI agent assigned to what was become the war on drugs. Whether it was a war on drugs or on minorities using them is up to question as much of Anslingers language would not be tolerated today
Billie holidays story is a real tale of wrong place wrong te. Orphaned and destitute
Of course every war has victims. Victims of circumstances and in some cases geography. Soldiers don’t always have a historical reason or a sense of belonging. Sometimes they just fall into it. Chino is one. Destined for a life of destitution, it seems that Chino was always going to end on the streets in a spiral of drug abuse and violence. The war on drugs creates many casualties and drug dealers in many instances are casualties “..exploded and discarded shells, left behind on a global battlefield”. People in their radar can be casualties but the majority of violence isn’t around the action of taking drugs, it’s around the fight for power. Hari explains that in great detail and looking at the recent killings in Dublin only copper fastens that. A fight over territory so that more money can be made. He also speaks to people on all sides, including  those responsible for enforcing the law, however it is noticeable that increasing arrests haven’t led to decreasing number of drug deals
There are other victims written about here. New York, Mexico, Texas. All places with people struggling through life and somehow with a vision for a better world, a world that if it arrives is only temporary. Take Mexico and its 70,000 dead (that’s SEVENTY THOUSAND PEOPLE murdered in a country). What hope is there?  We need hope but with the drug war continuing it is hard to find it.
There is a fascinating chapter on the people who fall into addiction. There is a a theory that says addiction is not about usage it’s more akin to easing pain. The 10% of drug users who become addicts do so for a reason and maybe it’s not down to repetitive use.  Why do addicts keep doing it? we are asked  “because it makes them feel good, and the rest of their life doesn’t make them feel good”. Hari asks why isn’t more time spent looking at the people and their environment rather than biochemistry and the brain. Of course it is a valid point even if you’re sceptical of the underlying reasons. The way we view addicts is another aspect for consideration if someone is being treated for alcohol addiction there is almost sympathy, how different is that viewpoint for a drug addict. Portugese authorities are starting to view their addicts with sympathy. As drug use is no longer criminalised on lisbons streets there is a feeling “we all want to protect our children from drugs, we all want to keep people dying as a result of drug use. We all want to reduce addiction. And the evidence suggests that when we move beyond the drug war, we will be able to achieve these goals with shared success.
Another interesting aspect and a potential solution to assisting addicts and society at large is the idea of a social recovery. We are all in a rush to be consumers. Working more and buying more. This is have devastating effects on our environment but yet we continue. Why not pursue this? Cities like Licerpool, Vancouver and Geneva have all, to varying effects, set up injection clinics where heroin is provided in a controlled environment. This has reduced drug crime and deaths. Why not spend money in this rather than in crime prevention and detention?
Former Swiss president, Ruth dreifuss, is asked what she would say to David Cameron and Barack Obama should they be stuck in a lift together. “You are responsible for all of your citizens, and being responsible means protecting them and giving them the means to protect themselves. There is no group that you can abandon”. Yet it seems those involved in drugs are being abandoned.
As someone who walked the streets to first stop animal experiments in March 1983 and whose feelings haven’t wavered since I’m disappointed to read of tests with rats around the use of opiates. These tests are given ink but I can’t point to their validity. It sidetracked the issue for me and would be far more comfortable if it wasn’t raised.
I finished this book as we entered our general election frenzy and smiled wryly as hari observes “in a true democracy, nobody gets written off. Nobody gets abandoned. The revolution lives”. Some day maybe. To a country near you.
Oh an the answer is alcohol

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