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In Senior School Muster last week, I shared my reading of Chasing the Scream by Johan Hari, a book fundamentally about the war on drugs. The findings within the book, however, offer a more inclusive message and one that I felt was important to share with the students given our focus on environment and culture.

Later that afternoon, a student asked me, ‘so you think we are all cocaine-taking rats?’

I share your alarm!

What the student is referring to – of course – is my report of a rat experiment that proved addiction was less about chemical hooks and more about environment and connections. The author presents the idea that addiction is not a disease, but an adaption. ‘It’s not you’, he writes, ‘it’s the cage you live in’.

Hari also presents the idea that if we fail to bond with other people, we will find a behaviour to bond with. And if the only bond that we can find that gives us relief or meaning is with online gaming, internet shopping, a YouTube channel or social media, we will return to that bond obsessively. This gives me real food for thought as a parent. Given these ideas, why may it be that the young people around us spend so much of their time on technology – is this a response to a feeling of isolation or ‘dislocation’, or is it the cause of it?

I shared with the students that the book urges us to re-focus our perspective to see that the problem isn’t in the addicts (or the rats), but in the cultureand every one of us has a part to play in this. He goes on to advise his readers to stop thinking about ‘individual’ recovery and start thinking about ‘social’ recovery.

In applying this reading to our own context, we can be reassured that, at St Peter’s College, we are active in the idea of social recovery through our Mentor groups, House events, chaplaincy, counselling provision – as well as the sports teams, choirs, music ensembles, outdoor journeys, Service Learning opportunities, and all the clubs and societies, which not only enrich our time here, but, perhaps more importantly, offer us connection and meaning.

Your feedback is always invited, especially around the experience of your son and his reflections on our culture.

Best regards,

Marcus Blackburn
Deputy Headmaster/Head of Senior School