March 29, 2020
The DEA's War on Alzheimer's Researchby Ballard Quass
and how philosophers completely ignore the great philosophical problem of our times
Funny how we all come to regret some basic decisions in our lives. Take me, for instance. I am just a trifle galled by the fact that I did not become a board-certified philosopher in my 30s when I had that chance, because now, everything that I write on the subject of drugs is merely my opinion, (lil ol' me, one among billions), and so my thoughts on these topics are just as easily ignored as the next fellow's insane musings.
That said, I will maintain until my dying day that philosophy* is studiously ignoring the great philosophical problem of our times: the way that humanity has created a problem out of linguistic whole cloth merely by referring to natural godsends pejoratively as "drugs," beginning round about 1914 when the Harrison Narcotics Act decided that the root of substance abuse was to be found, not in human behavior, amoral capitalism and social arrangements, but rather in PLANTS, the very plants that surround us, thus turning nature overnight into a great temptress rather than a great healer.
Since then, a faux morality has arisen under the battle cry of "Just say no to drugs!" -- which is clearly a political statement, since nobody ever means that statement literally (given its implied exemption for alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, Valium, and anti-depressants, etc.) : hence that statement always means: "Just say no to those substances that have been politically determined to be bad for you and which we are not allowed to study because they are too evil to even touch!"
The use of the word "drugs" these days is so loaded with false and dubious presuppositions that you'd think philosophers would have a field day ending the drug war, not with the usual statistical arguments, but by appealing to first principles, beginning with the absurdity of outlawing Mother Nature's plants.
Instead, they're musing about whether any of us really exist, whether we're not all victims of a Matrix conspiracy, one so clever that it actually made Martin Luther King seem like a hero to us back in the '60s when he may have well been a mere holographic projection of some great hidden alien manipulator who got a kick out of forcing us puppets to become passionate and compassionate about mere mirages. (Yeah, right.)
Just when the world needs philosophy the most, the philosophers have literally gone mad, and modern science along with it. (Even the seemingly sensible Neil deGrasse Tyson has asserted that we humans may well be mere data points that are being manipulated by some God-like computer programmer, and if that's what the sensible scientists are thinking, heaven shield us from the irrational ones.)
Some readers (assuming this stuff is eventually read, if only decades from now) might say that "drugs" are a parochial issue, since many folks get along just fine using only the politically approved substances available to us, but this is wrong. The drug war has devastating effects on everybody's health, no matter how determined a particular individual may be to avoid illegal substances.
Take Alzheimer's disease. One would assume that everyone, including the government, is in a hurry to defeat that scourge.
Wrong. The DEA has outlawed the mere research of a whole class of drugs (namely psychedelics) which show the power to regenerate memory and facilitate -- if not actually cause -- the growth of new neurons. In a sane world, these tantalizing hints would be followed up with a huge government investment in research in order to glean the therapeutic benefits of this new discovery.
We also know that stress can promote, if not cause, cancer. So when we ban substances that reduce stress, we give cancer a green light to spread in those patients who are genetically disposed to acquire it.
But the scientistic drug war logic has so blinded us to our own interests that we knowingly prevent this vital research, merely because it would involve the free use of substances that politicians have decided to demonize and ban.
This situation won't change until philosophers stop counting aliens on pinheads and finally take up the task of unveiling the illogical and disingenuous premises behind America's imperial drug war, which it maintains worldwide on threat of invasion. Is a country leaning toward socialist policies of which America disapproves? No problem. Let's invade in order to topple a "narcoterrorist." Is an eastern country growing plants that pose a threat to the liquor industry? No problem. Cut off their aid until they let us come in and burn their plants.
America is just plain screwed by the drug war, and American authors are self-censoring. Thus folks write whole books about the depression problem -- entirely ignoring the role that the drug war plays in limiting our emotionally therapeutic arsenal to a handful of addictive Big Pharma meds. Thus folks write whole books about relaxation techniques, totally ignoring the fact that the drug war outlaws all substances that could help us understand and adopt the kind of peaceful mindset that the authors are promoting.
I could go on and on -- were it not for the fact that I failed to get the above-mentioned philosophy certifications 30 years ago and thus have to go back to my day job even as we speak.
But I hope someone digs up this post after I'm gone and does me the favor of recognizing that America is on the wrong politically motivated track -- and that philosophers need to wake up and take notice: not for vague libertarian reasons but for the health of world democracy and ourselves when we grow old -- when, God forbid, we ourselves suffer from the Alzheimer's curse for which our anti-scientific drug war has blocked the cure.
*to the extent that it's currently staring at its board-certified navel, wondering if reality even exists -- and here I will mercifully refrain from naming such over-rationalizing offenders as Daniel Dennett and Donald Hoffman
The Drug War Comic Book
On Sale here January 2021