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The Best of All Possible Utopias

How drug use can help save the world

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

November 20, 2023

irst, let me anticipate eventual pushback by stating up front that I am not a starry-eyed utopian, about drugs or about anything else for that matter. What I maintain in this essay is rather that the proper appreciation, understanding and use of psychoactive substances in modern society would provide humanity with its greatest possible chance of avoiding self-annihilation. If there's a more likely way to end the cycle of killing and vengeance, I have yet to hear it.

Ironically, I think the real starry-eyed optimists are the Karl Marxes, Hegels and Rousseaus (AND ELON MUSKS) of the world, who think everything will be fine if we only get the correct socioeconomic systems in place, in line with the laws of history or the proclivities of human beings, etc. These are the real "dreamers" in the pejorative sense of that word.

For the fact is, sober human beings will never be happy, even if you can show them with mathematical formulas that they live in the best of all possible social and economic worlds.

As Shelley writes in "To a Skylark":

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;

The principal problems of the world are ultimately not social or economic, but rather psychological and/or spiritual. This is not to counsel that the oppressed adopt a masochistic quietism in the face of unjust laws, etc., but rather to say that oppression itself would have been far less likely to arise in the first place had the entire world tended to its own "psychological gardens," rather than prioritizing the acquisition of money and weapons to defend one economic system (or religion, or race, etc.) over another.

The problem in question is hinted at in the quote by La Bruyère with which Edgar Allan Poe prefaces his short story, "The Man of the Crowd"

Ce grand malheur, de ne pouvoir être seul.

This is, in fact, the status quo of most individuals. They cannot stand still and bask in a sunset, they cannot enjoy the odd shapes of the clouds on the horizon, they cannot appreciate the sounds of the cardinal at their windowsill: all because they are focused, not on this moment, but rather on the fears and anxieties about the future. (This is especially true of men, perhaps due to their biochemistry. When was the last time you saw women overturning police cars on the nightly news? When was the last time you saw women on the news surrounding one of their political foes and beating him into the ground? Women, it seems, are comfortable staying at home and channeling their protests in more peaceful ways.1)

But human beings need not live this way, in constant enmity, with a constant elephantine chip on their shoulders. There are drugs that motivate. There are drugs that elate. There are drugs that increase compassion for our fellows. There are drugs whose use conduces to an almost surreal appreciation of Mother Nature's bounty. There are drugs whose use conduces to a profound appreciation of music, many times more powerful than that which could ever be cultivated even in the most popular drug-free music appreciation course on earth. There are many drugs that make the present okay to live in and enjoy - or else to use productively to learn more about oneself.

I am not just speaking here of opiates and soma and mescaline and coca - or even of the hundreds of elating and mind-improving drugs synthesized by Alex Shulgin -- but of hundreds of plant- and fungi-based medicines that most Americans have never even heard of, simply because our government does not want us to even know that they exist - until the cat is out of the bag, of course, at which point a well-publicized crackdown is sure to follow. For make no mistake: the Drug War is nothing less than a fanatical Christian Science Sharia with respect to psychoactive medicine.

To the puritanical west, the therapeutic use of psychoactive medicine smacks of hedonism and flower children. But personally I'd rather have a world full of silly flower children than a world full of innumerable terrorists, each bearing a deadly desire to promote their favorite religious or economic system "by any means necessary." Although it may seem heresy to westerners to use psychoactive medicines therapeutically like this, all tribal people have used psychoactive medicines therapeutically for millennia, so I am scarcely a wide-eyed fanatic for suggesting that the western world try doing the same. It's not like the status quo is working, as the bloody history of the last 200 years proves in spades. (You remember the tribal people: the folks that the west annihilated because we placed economics first rather than prioritizing the creation of those states of mind in which we could live easily both with ourselves and others.)

Speaking generally, there are basically two attitudes toward drugs: the western view that sees them through the jaundiced lens of puritanism, and the tribal view that sees them as potential godsends when used wisely.

My utopia proposes merging the best of both worlds, creating a world in which we actively learn about and use psychoactive medicines of all kinds to help us achieve positive goals: appreciation of nature, compassion toward others, ability to concentrate and to endure - in short, to be able to live with ourselves at long last.

My utopia in short is: compassion first, economics and religion second.

To achieve this goal, human beings have to get over their psychosocial hang-ups in double-quick time, those deeply ingrained habits of mind that make them unable to live comfortably with themselves and therefore with others. And surely the only way for the vast majority of human beings to accomplish this transformation is by learning how to wisely use the very sorts of psychoactive drugs that militant moderns are keen to disparage. This is not the suggestion of a dreamer. To the contrary, the starry-eyed people are the ones who think that this urgently required eradication of humankind's antisocial tendencies will ever take place without the wise and considered use of the godsend medicines that we have been taught from childhood to detest.

Author's Follow-up: October 20, 2023

Ooh, boy, I get a headache just thinking about how people are likely to misunderstand what I'm saying above. To be clear, I'm not siding with any economic system. My point is that positions on such topics should not be the touchstone by which we judge people. Let's make sure everyone first has their head screwed on straight and is pleasantly disposed toward "the other." Only then can discussion of such issues prove productive. Who knows? We may begin to have discussions in which both sides learn something from each other -- rather than putting all their energy into winning points at all cost.

Author's Follow-up: October 24, 2023

Elon Musk champions the 21st-century version of the Crystal Palace, against which Dostoevsky raged on psychological and philosophical grounds in "Notes from Underground."

Author's Follow-up: January 19, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

The typical conservative ploy is to mock the Flower Children of the '60s -- but let's remember what they were reacting to: a world that had almost irradiated the East Coast multiple times due to hatred that could have been combatted with empathogenic medicine. We laugh at the flower children, but we'd be singing a different tune had the Soviet Union or the US Air Force blown up the entire East Coast of the USA -- using those weapons that the insane warmongers insisted that we needed.

I'd rather live among loopy flower children than among warmongers who have nearly literally destroyed the USA -- and who have only failed to do so so far thanks to stupid luck.

Cursed are the hatemongers, for they will inherit a pile of radioactive rubble.


1 Upon re-reading this, I actually said "Ouch!" because I see that it is susceptible to a very uncharitable reading indeed -- especially for those who judge by the words one uses rather than by what's in the heart -- in other words, for those who are guilty of the Cordelia Fallacy. (up)

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