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Gaza and Drugs

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

December 31, 2023

es, the subject of drugs is related to the current nightmare in Gaza. In fact, the connection is so obvious, that it almost seems like it's not worth mentioning: surely, everyone has thought of it by now, right? Wrong. For therein lies the problem of the western world's dogmatic hatred of "drugs": it has blinded us to all of their potential godsend uses. For, as a matter of fact, no one but myself has thought of this relationship between Gaza and drugs: namely, the fact that psychoactive drugs could be used to bring parties together for the purpose of compromise and understanding1. In fact, there is an entire class of psychoactive substances that could help accomplish this goal, one which is actually referred to as "empathogens." (Empathogens: get it? As in empathy producing substances?) But somehow the penny never "drops" for us moderns. It's as if we've been brainwashed from childhood to believe that drugs are bad. (Oh, wait, a minute: we HAVE been brainwashed from childhood to believe that drugs are bad: by groups like DARE and the mendacious Partnership for a Drug Free America. In fact, some of us even received teddy bears as kids in return for just saying no to time-honored medicines!)

That's the Gaza bit, by the way. I'm not going to dip my toe any deeper into that stream. My goal is only to make one single solitary suggestion: namely, that such nightmares are NOT inevitable - not in a world that looks upon drugs as potential godsends rather than the spawn from hell.

The rest of the essay will attempt to establish that point, while revealing some of the absurd attempts on behalf of prohibitionists to make us both think and act otherwise.

Consider the following quotes about the E-fueled "Summer of Love" in 1989 England, spoken by DJs who were active at the time2:

And how did British politicians respond to this unprecedented triumph of peace, love and understanding? Did they give thanks to God and recommend the use of E and other empathogens to the world as a means for staving off nuclear annihilation?

Not quite.

In fact, in the decade that followed, they did everything they could to end the harmony by cracking down on Ecstasy and those who were using it.

And what was the result?

As a result of the crackdown, the dance floors in England became so violent that concert organizers had to hire special forces troops to keep the peace. Special forces! Why? Because the crackdown encouraged ravers to switch from the peace-inducing drug, E, to anger-facilitating drugs like alcohol.

Tribal peoples were never so dimwitted. Polynesian leaders have a history of drinking the psychoactive kava prior to meeting with potential enemies, the Mesoamerican tribes basically worshipped empathogenic mushrooms, and there is evidence that the ceremonial pipe of the North Americans was not always filled with plain tobacco - and even when it was, their go-to tobaccos (such as Nicotiana rustica3) was prepared in such a way (or used in such a dose) as to induce transcendent states of mind, what the ethnobotanists would glibly dismiss as "hallucinations." These tribal peoples, whom even William James, alas, referred to as "dark savages," clearly saw no prima facie reason why "drugs" could not be used to induce understanding, whether between human beings or between one human being and the world.

Yet in researching these topics, I get the distinct impression that almost everything that is written for established sources (such as magazines and museums) is designed to downplay (and often just ignore) the use of psychoactive drugs (or at least the utility of such use) by native peoples. But this is what one should expect from a world in which almost all the academic papers about psychoactive drugs concern misuse and abuse. During the Drug War, moreover, we take the anti-scientific attitude that drugs can be voted up or down - without regard for context of use or dosage, etc. Even Botox has good uses at a proper dose - but if we can even imagine one negative use of a psychoactive medicine, we westerners conclude that the drug has no positive uses for anyone, anywhere, ever.

To be honest, I even mistrust many official Native American sources on these topics, for the Native Americans are also Americans and as such have lived and breathed the same anti-drug culture of the mainstream, in which it is considered common sense to think "drugs are bad." Even when the author understands the spiritually profounder truth, I fear they might downplay the psychoactive aspect of bygone drug use simply because they know such a discussion would be a turnoff (or at least a distraction) to the western reader who has been taught to associate such substances with profligacy and hedonism. Rather than taking up the perilous struggle of convincing a brainwashed reader of the sincerity of ancient drug use, I fear such writers may avoid the subject entirely by downplaying the psychoactive angles for fear of raising the puritan hackles of their audience.

The sad thing is, even progressives don't "get it." Instead of promoting empathogenic drug use to end worldwide hostility, their focus seems to be on denouncing the cultural appropriation of shamanic practices. I dislike that term "cultural appropriation" by the way, because cultural appropriation is how the world has always worked since the day of the Neanderthal. Cultures appropriate the best practices that they can find in other cultures. We all learn from each other, or at least "we should do," as the Brits would phrase it. What we need to be decrying is "capitalistic appropriation" and "materialist appropriation" and/or "hedonistic appropriation" of shamanic practices, whereby we may be seen to be cheapening and even ridiculing the original practices that we are engaging in, as for instance when one employs ayahuasca to fuel a sex orgy. That said, I would recommend adopting a sense of humor toward those who are sincerely attempting to emulate past practices but who (as we see it) are making a complete hash of the job. Their heart is in the right place and that should be enough for us. Moreover, what seems silly to us may blossom into a new helpful paradigm. We should not nip new experimentation in the bud by charging well-intentioned people with the supposed crime of "cultural appropriation."

Those progressives who dogmatically invoke the charge should remember that conservative courts would be happy to agree with them.

In 1972, the Church of the Awakening established by John and Louisa Aiken was forced to go underground because the federal government affirmed that you have to be a Native American, genetically speaking, in order to legally use peyote in America. They thereby outlawed a religion by outlawing its central sacrament4. Thus a seeming victory against "cultural appropriation" was also a clear and obvious defeat for religious liberty. Progressives should denounce this as an outrage, but the dogmatic among them actually agree with the court!

Still, you'd think that this case would be a rallying cry for freedom lovers everywhere. But nothing of the sort. Today, the phrase "Church of the Awakening" does not even bring up any case-related links in a Google Search, at least not in the first 50+ results. But this is to be expected in a society where we have been taught from childhood to look at all psychoactive drugs through the puritanical lens of misuse and abuse. Otherwise such a case would have long since become a cause célèbre for fans of religious liberty everywhere. Instead, law-and-order judges have committed the perfect crime by robbing us of religious liberty under the cover of the Drug War ideology of substance demonization.

In a related 1984 case brought by the Peyote Way Church of God, the court found that the use of peyote was not central to the religion in question5. What the justices meant, of course, was that the use of a psychoactive substance was not central to their (the justices') religion and that as abstainers themselves, they literally could not fathom why it should be central to anyone else's religion. It's as if I had never prayed before in my life and yet I ruled in court that prayer was not central to Christianity, simply because from my parochial point of view, nothing would change about Christianity were prayer to be forbidden.

This is such prima facie religious intolerance that one does not know where to begin in arguing against it. What do you do when all the common sense you could adduce has been determined to be invalid? There can be no peyote church without the use of peyote. To argue otherwise is to render words meaningless.

But then federal courts will go to any extreme of choplogic in their laughable attempts to "justify" Draconian drug law. And since the doctrine of "garbage in, garbage out" applies even in America's courtrooms, we end up with wacky rulings. In 1991, for instance, the Supreme Court "ruled that ordinary acts such as traveling on a Greyhound bus are reasonable cause for a drug squad search of all passengers and luggage.6" Who knew? If you're wondering why it's not okay for drug squads to harass opera goers in the same way, it's because, as GK Chesterton pointed out long ago, prohibition is a law made by the rich, who know perfectly well that it does not apply to themselves. That's why Trump wants to execute drug dealers, but is happy to make exceptions when his friends intercede. That's another of the endless downsides of drug laws: they naturally lead to nepotism and corruption in government: witness the destruction of the rule of law in Mexico thanks to the US style Drug War that they have undertaken with the all-too-eager assistance of the US government.

As noted above, I'm not concerned here with the details of the current nightmare in Gaza. I am not a specialist on Middle Eastern affairs. Nor am I trying to promote a specific fix for the current situation "on the ground. But nightmares of this kind are not inevitable, if and when we decide to start profiting from so-called drugs rather than demonizing them. My conclusion may be stated in the following simple syllogism.


Peaceful compromise succeeds when two adversaries are favorably disposed towards each other AS human beings.


The world is full of substances called empathogens that can inspire compassion and fellow feeling between human beings.


We should harness the power of empathogens to bring adversaries together.


1 Actually, I believe Rick Doblin once shipped MDMA to world leaders. I'll add the source when I recover it. And no doubt other sane individuals have scooped me. My point here is only that such vital no-brainer ideas are not exactly being shouted from the rooftops. (up)
2 Quass, Brian, How the Drug War killed Leah Betts, 2020 (up)
3 American health professionals will pounce on this tobacco use as dangerous. Their temptation is to judge the use in the abstract, but health is a question of a balance of factors. If a certain usage pattern improves psychological and spiritual health, this must be taken into account as well, for the response of the organism to a substance is influenced by a wide array of factors, including cultural beliefs. Human beings are not mice for whom a psychoactive substance can be deemed to have the same effect for every individual. (up)
4 Greer, J. Christian, Greer Psychedelic Churches, (up)
5 Peyote Way Church of God, Inc., Plaintiff-appellant, v. William F. Smith, Attorney General of the United States , JUSTIA US LAW, (up)
6 Quass, Brian, Drug Warriors and their Prey, 2023 (up)

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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

Materialist scientists cannot triumph over addiction because their reductive focus blinds them to the obvious: namely, that drugs which cheer us up ACTUALLY DO cheer us up. Hence they keep looking for REAL cures while folks kill themselves for want of laughing gas and MDMA.
Addiction thrives BECAUSE of prohibition, which outlaws drug alternatives and discourages education about psychoactive substances and how to use them wisely.
"Dope Sick"? "Prohibition Sick" is more like it. For me the very term "dope" connotes imperialism, racism and xenophobia, given that all tribal cultures have used "drugs" for various purposes. "Dope? Junk?" It's hard to imagine a more intolerant, dismissive and judgmental terminology.
Drug warriors aren't just deciding for us about drugs. They're telling us that we no longer need Coleridge poems, Lovecraft stories, Robin Williams, Sherlock Holmes, or the soma-inspired Hindu religion.
The DEA should be tried for crimes against humanity. They have been lying about drugs for 50 years and running interference between human beings and Mother Nature in violation of natural law, depriving us of countless potential and known godsends in order to create more DEA jobs.
Prohibition is a crime against humanity. It forces us to use shock therapy on the severely depressed since we've outlawed all viable alternatives. It denies medicines that could combat Alzheimer's and/or render it psychologically bearable.
That's why we damage the brains of the depressed with shock therapy rather than let them use coca or opium. That's why many regions allow folks to kill themselves but not to take drugs that would make them want to live. The Drug War is a perversion of social priorities.
It is consciousness which, via perception, shapes the universe into palpable forms. Otherwise it's just a chaos of particles. The very fact that you can refer to "the sun" shows that your senses have parsed the raw data into a specific meaning. "We" make this universe.
In fact, that's what we need when we finally return to legalization: educational documentaries showing how folks manage to safely incorporate today's hated substances into their life and lifestyle.
Just think how much money bar owners in the Old West would have saved on restoration expenses if they had served MDMA instead of whiskey.
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