Saturday, May 26, 2018

"One pill makes you..." – Contrasts on a psychedelic theme

Charlotte Shane reviews two recent books about psychedelics, Tao Lin, Trip, and Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind. Here's a passage from the end of the review:
White families make millions from selling huge quantities of marijuana, while people of color are incarcerated for possession of minor amounts. Young white people broadcast paeans to microdosing on their podcasts, and wealthy white moms write about it in books, but there’s no national conversation about meaningfully reconsidering the incoherent and murderous “war on drugs.” (LSD and psilocybin are Schedule 1 substances, alongside heroin, cannabis, and MDMA, meaning the government regards them among the most addictive and the least medicinally useful.) How to Change Your Mind is steeped in the belief that drugs might be OK in institutionally circumscribed contexts, when overseen and administered by professionals, but that they should not be left in the hands of the pleasure-seeking masses. (“[Do] I think these drugs should simply be legalized? Not exactly,” Pollan writes in his conclusion.) Take a moment to picture the populations best positioned to benefit from an arrangement like that, and imagine how much opportunity for mismanagement, price gouging, and general abuse it might allow.

Lin regards psychedelics as subversive, and powerfully pure, because they can make people happy and healthy. (Overwhelmingly, this is the case, and even terrifying trips rarely result in lasting damage—though the drugs can have disastrous results in schizophrenics.) But Pollan looks at an aspect of the psychedelics trend that Lin doesn’t: Its role in Silicon Valley. He mentions Steve Jobs’s claim that dropping LSD was “one of his two or three most important life experiences,” and name-checks Stewart Brand, who thinks that “LSD was a critical ingredient in nourishing the spirit of collaborative experiment . . . that distinguish[es] the computer culture of the West Coast.” As a further endorsement, he adds, “I know of one Bay Area tech company today that uses psychedelics in its management training. A handful of others have instituted ‘microdosing Fridays.’”

While some drugs can guide a user toward enduring openness or empathy, no drug will instantly render a selfish man selfless, or a cruel woman kind. And if psychedelics are becoming somewhat ubiquitous in Silicon Valley, it’s proof that they can’t automatically instill ethics in a community used to operating without them. (Would you take a drug that made you as a creative as Steve Jobs, if it also made you just as much of an asshole? Don’t answer that.)

No comments:

Post a Comment