Tuesday, March 2, 2010
You Can't Do That
I've always been fascinated by taboos. Most taboos cannot be convincingly defended on the grounds of natural morality or reason. Their sole purpose seems to be the maintenance of social order. In other words, control. One of the things they do is condition us to accept arbitrary restrictions.
Some taboos, particularly apparel and food-related ones, seem to be about maintaining the separation between Us and Them. These ones usually go way back and are attributed to the will of some supernatural authority. I don't put any store in such things but I can see why others would. What I find really weird are those taboos maintained by supposedly secular societies like mine. These somehow manage to persist unquestioned even when they directly conflict with professed social values. I am referring to our taboos concerning female sexuality and drugs.
Modern secular societies claim to reject the belief that women are inferior, flawed and in need of control. Yet when it comes to sexuality, old habits die hard. It is still considered totally acceptable to despise women who don't toe the line sexually. There are lots of names for women like that. I don't need to repeat them. A double standard is persisted in by both sexes. Women who neglect, or refuse, to cloak their sexuality are openly sneered at, even by many who believe themselves liberated. Women who are overtly sexual are widely considered to have no self-respect. It seems to me that there is a reversal of cause and effect here. At the very least it's a negative feed-back loop. This is not a minor thing. It is a source of deep shame and loathing for all women, whether they are conscious of it or not.
It's an old story and we all know it well. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl are turned on by one another and act on it. The next morning boy loses all respect for girl because she's clearly a slut or she would have said no. Eventually boy meets a "nice" girl, marries her, and then spends the rest of his life complaining about her lack of sexual generosity, even though that's what made her acceptable in the first place.
In abuse counselling, this is what's known as "crazy-making behavior". I realised what the game was pretty early on and promised myself that I would not play. Actually, I went further than that and deliberately flouted "the rules" as a matter of principle. I did it for myself. I made a conscious decision to give the finger to all who would have me live in shame. I'm glad I did. I have no wish to be romantically involved with someone who can't respect me as I am. If I am to be despised, I'd just as soon have it in the open instead of festering in my subconscious.
It doesn't matter how many laws are passed or affirmative actions taken. Any professed commitment to feminine equality will remain a joke as long as this taboo persists. Venus/Aphrodite is a powerful and valid archetype in the feminine psyche. The next time you encounter a women embodying it, please consider honouring her right instead of muttering "whore" under your breath.
Drug use is a new taboo. It's pedigree goes back no more than a century or so. Like most taboos, it's all about control. I've used "drugs" regularly for most of my life. Their influence is hard to overestimate. There is a great experiential gulf between those who use them and those who don't. Let's be clear about what we're talking about here. By "drugs" I mean substances that have the primary effect of altering one's experience of reality.
My parents were drug users. I grew up in a home where weed was smoked often. It did not have any negative effect on the quality of parenting I received. When "under the influence", my parents and their friends were more relaxed and talkative. That's all. (My partner was much less fortunate. His parents were alcoholics.) They occasionally used other drugs as well, but not around us kids. I first smoked weed when I was 15 with a couple of slightly older friends. I remember a great deal of giggling and a whole new level of music appreciation. When I was 16, and living in Victoria, my best friend and I were offered an opportunity to try LSD. We took half a hit of blotter each, and our friend (who gave it to us) abstained in order to baby-sit and entertain us. He took us on a day trip to Vancouver and drove us around the city, visiting and sightseeing. It was probably the most fun I've ever had. Our friend had an eight-track tape player in his car and only one decent tape. So we listened to Nazareth's Greatest Hits all day. Every time I hear Nazareth, I'm reminded of that magical day. We laughed so much our sides and cheeks ached. With LSD, unlike sex, the first time usually is the best. I tried a bunch of other things later on. I was reckless and very lucky. I never injected or got addicted to anything (except tobacco, but that isn't really considered a drug). Some people I knew were not so fortunate. There are some drugs I don't use and consider intrinsically harmful. Those would be the ones that are physically addictive and/or highly toxic. The substances I do use and consider beneficial or harmless (when used responsibly) are: weed, mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy, and all traditional shamanic sacraments. There are still some things I haven't tried, but intend to.
Mind-altering substances are taboo in most modern societies. Few people bother to ask why. "Drugs are dangerous", we're told. Well some are and some aren't. Why are they all lumped together as though this were not the case? And why is an exception made for alcohol? Alcohol is more dangerous than most drugs. Lots of things are, including down-hill skiing and automobile racing and logging. "Drugs are dangerous" is bullshit, comparable to "They hate our freedoms". The real reason drugs are taboo is that they show you a different reality. This is also their greatest benefit, in my opinion. A great deal of our "reality" is programmed, much more than most people realise. If you had nothing to compare it to, you wouldn't even think to question it. Once you have something to compare it to, you can and very often do. It's like in astrology. The reason we can identify the planetary vibrations is by comparison. They show up differently in different patterns. But what is the vibration of Earth? You can't see it because it is pervasive. You would be able to, if you had a selection of natal charts for people born on the moon, or Mars. There are aspects of our programmed "reality" that do not stand up to questioning. That's why drugs are banned.
For instance, the prohibition of marijuana is impossible to justify on any grounds except mind-control. Compared to alcohol, it's effects are very mild. Marijuana is like a magnifying glass. It focuses your attention and increases sensitivity. Any experience that isn't intrinsically unpleasant becomes more enjoyable. Values shift toward the sensual and aesthetic. Seriousness is decreased and one's sense of humour is more easily triggered. Authority and status lose their importance. "Because I said so" no longer seems like a good reason to obey orders. Aggression is reduced. Violence and conflict are seen as undesirable.
The new reality that marijuana reveals can upset your programming. It is incompatible with military values. It makes authoritarian rule more difficult. It also interferes with the status consciousness and dissatisfaction that drive economic growth. These are the real reasons weed is illegal. The powers that be don't want you smoking pot because it makes you harder for them to control. Obviously they can't tell you that, because then you might ask what right they have to control you. Everybody knows that can of worms is best left unopened.
The taboo against drugs is so strong that even some people who use them are affected by it. People who should really know better often uphold elitist and puritanical views. One example is the push to legalise pot on medical grounds. At least some of the medical marijuana proponents, if they're honest, will admit that it's really a stepping stone on the way to full acceptance (but not all). I've also heard a lot of people insist that psychedelics can have spiritual value but abhor their recreational use. There seems to be a need to justify them. Why? The fact that using drugs is enjoyable should be sufficient. (I was going to preface that last sentence with, "In the absence of real harm", but I decided not to, since so many legal forms of entertainment are no less potentially harmful.) I don't see why it has to be either/or. I don't feel the least bit bad about dropping a few hits of acid and then spending my trip enjoying a bubble bath and some great tunes with my beloved.
There's this assumption that normal consciousness is more in touch with "reality" than drug-induced altered states. I'd beg to differ. If it were, humanity wouldn't be in such a mess. Clearly, normal consciousness is not immune to distortions of reality. Quite the opposite. It is what allows some of the most serious and dangerous distortions to remain intact. It's all about control.