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“Traditionally the approach to addiction in the U.S. has been consonant with our national ideology of rugged individualism and self-determination. The belief has been that a few unlucky people, through character flaws and general weakness, become addiction. As a culture, we tend to despise these people, just as we despise anyone (the poor, children, the disabled) who reminds us that we are all vulnerable and that no one is really independent.

Prevention traditionally has also had an individual focus – ‘just say no,’ resist peer pressure and so forth… The credo of indiviualism and self-determination ignores the fact that people’s behavior is profoundly shaped by their environment, which in turn is shaped b public policy. Certainly individual behavior and responsibility matter, but they don’t occur with in a vacuum. THe American tradition of individual repsonsibility and promise has been perverted ato an extreme form of isolated individualism, an individualism no longer connected with active citizneship and commmunity participation. The result is ioslation, alienation, a failure to nurture the next generation or to care for teh earth. As social critic Stanley Crouch said, ‘We get confused about the difference between heroic individuality, which makes possible a greater social freedom, and anarchic individuality, which is ruthless, narcisssitic, a moral and dangerous. A long time ago, Alexis de Tocqueville suggested that America’s strenght was also its vulnerability, that the nation’s virbant individualism might in the long run ‘attack and estroy’ society itself, for it can create individuals so atomized or self- inovlved that they no longer feel bound by a common interest.’ ”

– Jean Kilbourne, Can’t Buy My Love


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