Essay date: December 29, 2020

Why the Drug War is Worse than a Religion

s a white kid who grew up listening to so-called black music in the '70s (not just the crossover hits of Labelle but the deep album cuts such as "Isn't it a Shame" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") I would occasionally experience the awkward phenomenon of having my white friends snicker or break into what for me was unwelcome parody when I made the mistake of playing one of my favorite soul hits during a get-together at my place. It actually made them uncomfortable to hear singers expressing so much emotion. Sure, they had grown to like "Lady Marmalade," but when Labelle really let herself go, emotionally speaking, on such lengthy ballads as "Isn't it a Shame," complete with melodious moaning and impassioned scatting, my white friends began to squirm in their seats like so many grade-schoolers, despite the fact that their college days were already long behind them.

In that reaction, I think we can see the real motivation behind America's Drug War: the white man's insistence that we all be as emotionally restrained as he is, that we "let ourselves go" a little, perhaps, in the same way that my friends could find it in their hearts to enjoy "Lady Marmalade," but that we never really truly "shake it like we mean it" in this life, as Labelle most obviously did in "Isn't it a Shame?" It strikes me, moreover, that this "white reaction" to soul music is "all of a piece" with the Caucasian preference in Shakespearean times for behavior to be "meet" and "seemly" and to not offend the sensibilities of the community with any emotional excesses. In short, the white race, if we must call it so, has placed such a premium upon thought (which is, indeed, the very touchstone of its own existence, according to Descartes) that it has come to fear any forays into the long-since unfamiliar lands of unbridled emotion.

With this backstory in mind, the Drug War may be seen as the enforcement, not simply of a religion, but of a whole way of "being in the world," a whole way of approaching life. We must be aggressive and ambitious, yes, and so the use of caffeine is not only legal but encouraged. However, we must not be TOO aggressive or ambitious (after all, that would not be "meet" and "seemly" and it might even empower the user to promote the overthrow of the uptight status quo) and so the use of cocaine must be punished. In this way, the Drug War turns Aristotle's Golden Mean into the law of the land. "Dance if you must," it cries, "but never, never, shake it like you really mean it." Of course, even the Drug Warrior agrees that occasional self-forgetfulness is necessary in this life, and so we are free -- and even encouraged -- to use alcohol and beer. However, we must never achieve this self-forgetfulness with the help of a substance that inspires us to question the very thought-centric nature of the society in which we live (and so psychedelic use will be punished). Americans have to be uptight by law, and the last thing that the Drug Warrior wants is for us to realize through substance use that there are other perhaps more satisfying ways of seeing the world.

We can say then that modern drug law is designed to legally oblige Americans to be "uptight" (or "meet" and "seemly" as Shakespeare would have called it) and to have only those thoughts and feelings that are not quite passionate or novel enough to rock the boats of the thought-obsessed powers that be. And so the Drug War is far worse than the mere establishment of a religion, for in such an injustice, the tyrant may be appeased with a mere outward show of obedience. No, the Drug War tyrant is far more ambitious: he insists that we FEEL the way that he wants us to feel (namely uptight) on penalty of law.

EDITOR'S NOTE March 30, 2022: The substances that we ban today actually inspired entire religions. One of the earliest human religions, the Vedic which gave rise to Hinduism, was inspired by soma, a psychedelic concoction created from the bounty of mother nature. Plato's views of the afterlife were inspired by the psychedelic kykeon at Eleusis. The Mesoamericans sought divine guidance from sacred mushrooms.

Thus the Drug War is not only the outlawing of specific religions, but it's the outlawing of the very source and fountainhead of religious feeling itself, and so the Drug War is religious tyranny twice over.

Next essay: The Drug War as a Greek Tragedy
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You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at Brian has written for Sociodelic and is the author of The Drug War Comic Book, which contains 150 political cartoons illustrating some of the seemingly endless problems with the war on drugs -- many of which only Brian seems to have noticed, by the way, judging by the recycled pieties that pass for analysis these days when it comes to "drugs." That's not surprising, considering the fact that the category of "drugs" is a political category, not a medical or scientific one.

A "drug," as the world defines the term today, is "a substance that has no good uses for anyone, ever, at any time, under any circumstances" -- and, of course, there are no substances of that kind: even cyanide and the deadly botox toxin have positive uses: a war on drugs is therefore unscientific at heart, to the point that it truly qualifies as a superstition, one in which we turn inanimate substances into boogie-men and scapegoats for all our social problems.

The Drug War is, in fact, the philosophical problem par excellence of our time, premised as it is on a raft of faulty assumptions (notwithstanding the fact that most philosophers today pretend as if the drug war does not exist). It is a war against the poor, against minorities, against religion, against science, against the elderly, against the depressed, against those in pain, against children in hospice care, and against philosophy itself. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazi fies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide. In short, it causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, meanwhile violating the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America.

If you believe in freedom and democracy, in America and around the world, please stay tuned for more philosophically oriented broadsides against the outrageous war on godsend medicines, AKA the war on drugs.

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