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Language Log

Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 - 5:32 a.m.

Things not going well for my brother. I should say, he is not going well. It's not "things", it's him. They sent him to another rehab program in Tampa, but his girlfriend reports that he "didn't like it" and left. Now he's doing things like going to her work, demanding money, and refusing to leave until she gives it to him.

Sounds familiar to me.

Mom wants to go see him for Xmas. Not sure that's a good idea for a number of reasons, but I won't be the one to try to dissuade her. I don't even know what I'd do in her situation-- possibly last time to see my son? Even if it's very likely that I will not like what I see, not one little bit? I don't know.

Studying African societies, one inevitably hears about the social safety net: how they are surprised to hear about the existence of the homeless in the U.S., because there families take care of their own no matter what. This inevitably makes you, as a Westerner, feel like a non-caring asshole. But I'd like to know exactly what they'd do in this situation. I also know that beating the bejesus out of suspected thieves is fairly standard in many places there. What then when your family member is a thief and a bully. Plus, what about all those beggars? I suspect there's more to the story. Perhaps I should ask one of my Tanzanian friends.
I also wonder what differences there are in how alcoholics are treated, or how alcoholics behave-- I mean, it seems to me like they all have the same personality once they get to a certain point of alcohol dependence. Is that biology or cultural, or both? Are there cultures where drunks don't turn into self-absorbed, lying braggarts who alternate between whining and sullenly (or aggressively) griping how mean everyone is to them and disrespectfully demanding from others the resources they can't generate for themselves? Or is that just how they are in the West?

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