In 1993 I gave an interview to Antero Alli for his Seattle underground news journal, Talking Raven, Journal of Imaginative Trouble. Antero, founder and director of ParaTheatrical Research, is a polymath, and has an uncanny knack for seeing the things other people can’t (see Angel Tech: A Modern Shaman’s Guide to Reality Selection). I highly recommend that you explore his writing.
I made one good friend from this interview; and one solid enemy. The ideas expressed herein I think are pretty good, but I’ve never met anyone willing to take them to the next step. Institutions tend to be institutional.
Interesting read, anyway, so I’ve included it.
This is the interview, as it was printed, word for word.
Interviewing the Law BRUCE HANIFY Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Yakima County, WA: Narcotics Division
Over the last several issues, TALKING RAVEN has featured interviews with knowledgeable experts and professionals from respectable institutions and government agencies. I knew this “intoxication” issue would be incomplete without talking to a narc. Bruce Hanify is not your average narcotics officer; his peers respect his work and probably consider him a maverick in his field, which is prosecution. Mr. Hanify is one of those guys you head off with in a court of law after you’ve been arrested for a ncarcotics-related crime in Yakima County, WA. To many outsiders, Yakima is a postcard-perfect picture of wholesome Northwest Americana. (One of my favorite actors, Kyle MacLachlan, hails from Yakima.) To Bruce Hanify, his co-workers and superior officers Yakima is a major drug war conduit with an incestuous underbelly of state welfare programs. Hanify was vacationing on the Olympic Peninsula when he agreed to meet me and chat about “intoxication.” Well over six foot and maybe 200 pounds, Hanify, 38, has a fighter’s gait and sometimes speaks tru da side uv hiz mout when making a point. His short combustive laugh, like a misfired shotgun blast, occasionally peppers our conversation. Hanify’s eyes are kind, I thought, from seeing too much that wasn’t. During an otherwise pleasant meeting, I couldn’t help feeling under the influence of a series of small, completely irrational teenage paranoid flashbacks: “I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M TALKIN’ WITH A NARC, MAN!” — ANTERO ALLI
TALKING RAVEN: What do you do and long have you done it?
BRUCE HANIFY: Half of my work at this point is drug practice which involves search and seizure and privacy-type issues and I’ve been working for the Narcotics Division since 1990. The law enforcement emphasis in Yakima, which I think is the same for most Washington counties, is in theory to go out and get the dealers .… an art form in itself. But, in practice, a lot of the people that get nailed are people who are guilty of simple possession. In other words, the Class “C” felony, which means, in actual sentencing, 20 to 30 days in jail for mostly cocaine and some heroin cases. Then, you’ve got the misdemeanor marijuana offenses, which I personally do not deal with, but our office does. At least half of the drug cases filed in Yakima every year are cocaine cases; Yakima is known as a major conduit for cocaine supply.
TR: Where does the Yakima cocaine come from and how does it get there?
BH: Statistically, the belief is that it comes mostly from Mexico through California. It probably comes via mostly illegal immigrants running it up to make a quick buck. It’s a lot like the prohibition era in that respect; poor people looking for money.
TR: From your personal experience, what are some of your ideas and theories about why the so-called “drug problem” might never be solved?
BH: Let me explain that by sharing a perspective I have about modern society. If you look at a society that is democratic, like ours supposedly is, you look at where psychic energy is invested. This country invests enormous sums of psychic energy in welfare or state-dependence, and also on drug and substance dependence. You don’t realize this until you prosecute and you see people coming in and getting the most attention they’ve ever had in their lives while they’re being prosecuted for a crime. The judge will ask them about their past and their history. For the first time in their lives they’re asked about their personal history and it’s in the context of being prosecuted. Most people don’t understand the enormity of this be we’ve developed whole populations, in terms of tens of millions of people, who are dependent upon the state to define them and part of the fuel for that dependency is drug and alcohol use.
TR: Speak more on this connection between dependence on the state and drug addiction .…
BH: It doesn’t mean I’m right, but I’ve never met an alcoholic or drug addict who’s ever said, “Howdy, I’m sure glad I’m dependent on drugs.” When people describe their condition of dependence, they describe despair. When you look at the principle of despair and ask yourself, “Is the cure for despair punishment and incarceration?” The naswer has to be no. But if you look at the actual things our society does, the answer has traditionally been more dependence, more welfare, more structures in the school, and more incarceration itself. Prison especically is a form of dependence. I’ve seen people who, for the first time in their lives, have family because they’re being prosecuted; the judge is their family. The defense and the prosecutor are their family.
TR: Let’s return to the so-called “drug problem.”
BH: We recently had prosecutor’s training where certain Supreme Court justices, who shall remain unnamed, were invited to speak with several hundred prosecutors. One of the nine Supreme Court justices asked a table of us who work criminal appeals, “What do you think we should do about the drug wars? We’re spending so much money on this; the court systems are tied up by drug cases.” Now, this is a Supreme Court justice [Note: It was Richard Guy of Spokane, with whom I had worked for a short time out of law school.], a real level-headed guy without a stand on the issue one way or another, wanting us to tell him what to do. From my experience with police officers going out on crime calls, I think about it from the angle of “What makes a human being give up his or her claim to independence and self-government in order to become overly dependent and invoke the machinery of the state to shape his or her life?” That’s a very interesting and very dangerous concept. What concerns me the most and what your readers can be certain of is that people in government at policy-making institutes, understand that we have whole populations dependent upon the invocation of the state to shape and determine the course of their daily lives.
TR: You mentioned the principle of despair a little while ago. Wha are some of your thoughts about possible cures and alleviations for despair?
BH: I have a real life story about that because of what I do to stay in shape. When people hear I do this, they wonder about me, so don’t get me wrong, but I work out in a boxing club. Most of the people who work out there are typically young men twelve t0 eighteen years old. Everyone of those young men thrives on someone saying, “I believe in you. You’re a worthwhile person and you have something to work towards.” Young men need to be told that by an adult person who will help him get there through discipline. We don’t really provide that in our society. At the same time, we’re pretending that a greater law enforcement mechanism or greater welfare spending will give these kids what they don’t have. So I think the problem is spiritual and moral in nature.
TR: Describe the most appalling encounter you’ve had during actual crime calls.
BH: Generally speaking, when you see households of ten or fifteen kids under the age of eight who swear like sailors and hate authority figures, without any psychological framework to guide them. It’s devestating. The adults they’re growing up with are mostly drug-dependent. When these kids encounter demonic rage — the kind you see at murder scenes — within himself or herself, there’s absolutely no structure in place to deal with it.
TR: What do you mean by “demonic rage” at murder scenes?
BH: Since I’ve been prosecuting I’ve learned that less than 10% of the people we process through the system are truly criminal. A good 85% to 90% we process are welfare-dependent, drug-dependent people who don’t know how to direct their own lives. That small percentage of people who are truly cruel, truly rapacious and truly murderous — when you see that, there’s a terrible feeling asociated with that which you learn to intuit. That intuition is a great asset to have when you’re on the streets. My theory about the energy of demonic rage is that some people, at various points in their lives, become susceptible to possession by the force. I don’t mean to sound religious or anything, but if it possesses them, I think it’s pretty much a permanent possession. I also think if you’re a 14 or 15 year old kid without much psychological framework or discipline who opens their psyche to drugs, you can become susceptible to that kind of possession.
TR: Let’s change the subject. Here’s a more exotic question. Several kinds of opium poppy grow wild in the state of Washington, in people’s backyards, and on hillsides. Had any poppy cases yet?
BH: No; none. I don’t personally know where the plant is categorized, but I can tell you that in title 69.50 of the Revised Code of Washington, every single mind-altering substance in the world is classified as a Schedule I, II, III or IV drug; it’s probably in there somewhere. In terms of law enforcement, there hasn’t been a lot of attention paid to it yet but when there is, legislation is sure to follow. That’s usually the way it works.
TR: I want to talk more about despair. In my own life, I’ve managed to kick the habit of cynacism, but am still working on despair which I’m looking at now as an addiction and as something that feeds on itself. Once you enter a condition of despair, it might be a symptom or a product of overdependence elswhere, robbing your autonomy and diminishing your place in life. I’m thinking that despair might be a natural outcome of self-diminishment … Have you met or known any adults overwhelmed by despair who have kicked the habit?
BH: It’s interesting how you phrased that the way you did. You said the addiction to despair may be the product and outcome of some other addiction. As a prosecutor I’ve noticed that our society, and maybe most Western societies, preaches a doctrine of Must Feel Good .… a dogma of self-esteem. You don’t dare feel any sort of depression. As any creative person knows, depression is part of the process of creating. I am suspicious that despair may be a symptom of our institutional determination and insistence that people feel good all the time. I suspect the pharmaceutical companies and doctors’ interest in Prozac is to make sure no one ever feels bad. In my own warrior philosophy I believe one of the engines of progress in a human being is feeling bad about something. I write poetry, for example, as an outlet for whatever that feeling is. When society and the pharmaceutical people try and condition that out of you, the question then is where does the creativity go? What would be the natural psychic response to that loss of creativity? It may be despair.
TR: Got any examples of good luck stories of people kicking the habit of despair?
BH: There are success stories. I used to hear a lot of drug addicts and alcoholics say they hit the road to recovery in a “Blue Light Special.” That means until seeing the flashing blue lights in their rearview mirror, they don’t even understand they have a problem. As a prosecutor, you see the need for state intervention in many people’s lives to alert them to the fact that there is a problem. Once they begin to work the force of that problem, as you yourself have begun to work the force of trouble in TALKING RAVEN, I think you’re on the road to freedom. I don’t think the freedom comes in six months or two years. I think it comes in ten or fifteen or twenty.
TR: The virtue of persistence.
BH: By virtue of understanding that soul engaged in life sometimes feels bad and sometimes looks but but that’s part of what being human is. Trying to drug it away or psychotherapize it away or State it away with some sort of huge welfare system is … bullshit. (Blasts of combustive laughter) Editor’s Note: Mr. Hanify has been writing quite a bit lately. We were pleased to publish his provactive piece on wrestling demons, “COMMUNION”, somewhere in this issue.
Bruce Hanify 2011 All Rights Reserved