‘The Inquisition’ is one of those morbid curiosities of history. For centuries powerful religious authorities stretched the bounds of inhumanity in oppressing people whose ideologies either threatened their own, or merely differed from it.
We look back in horror of what people will do to other people in the name of some funny old moral idea. I think that in two hundred years time, historians will be fascinated by the lengths the state went to in its attempts to control drug use. The shear harms it does to its own citizens through prohibition.
The war on drugs will be viewed as a political hysteria, a fad, a trick. It will be viewed as an unneccesary harm done to populations by the state. Historians may also come to understand that huge financial interests that motivate drug prohibition: just as in the Inquisition, this is all about a minority who have power, stopping at nothing to prevent the loss of that power.
Future generations will be shocked, as per usual, by humanity’s inhumanity, by man inhumanity to man.
Like the Witch-Trials and so many other moral hysterias: future generations will be bewildered by the irrationality, the moral-blindness, and the ignorance that underpins the war on some people who use some drugs.
As in the inquisitions of the past, the oppressing force does great violence in the name of an obscure moral principle: “taking drugs, even psychedelics, is morally wrong”. But isn’t it morally wrong to lock some one up when they did no harm to others? Isn’t that a greater harm? Isn’t it unjust to deprive people of their liberty and their prosperity simply for exploring their minds?
Our “leaders” are just people. What gives one of those individuals the power to tell you what you can and cannot do with your mind and body? People have explored this stuff for thousands of years, I cannot fathom why the state is so determined to control it.
In our time, it is no longer the Catholic Church who are the main oppressors of liberty. It is the police and the private prison industry, the alcohol and pharmaceutical corporations, the state representatives of the military-industrial complex, and the many economic powers reliant on keeping the population as blind consumerist slaves.
See: ‘Psychedelics: Consumer-Capitalism, Power & Authority’
These are the powers that be, the status quo. Drug prohibition is fueled by their interests: not your interests, nor the interests of wider society.
Like the inquisition,drug prohibition is a form of spiritual oppression.
Psychedelic drugs are known to bring about states of being that users describe as “spiritual”, the very word “psychedelic” means ‘soul revealing’. Many of the users experiment with psychedelics as a part of their personal spiritual practice and to imprison them for doing so is indefensible.
The Catholic Church felt the need to torture and murder the Cathars , a mystical gnostic Christian sect who advocated renouncing worldly goods, following the example of Jesus, and bypassing the corrupt organised religions, in order to get closer to God. It certainly sound pretty similar to our current situation with LSD: a drug used to bring about spiritual experiences, but experiences that also undermine the power-structures controlling society, and the consequent reaction of the state in the form of violent persecution.
There is a community of individuals in this country, thousands strong. If only 1% of this country used psychedelics there would be 60,000 people being criminalised for having done nothing wrong.
This is a form of persecution, this is a form of persecution of a minority religious group, it is immoral and it has to stop. In the name of justice and fairness, Cognitive Liberty UK demands an end to this oppression by decriminalising LSD and Magic Mushrooms.
We term it ‘The American Inquisition’ because, quite frankly, this whole ‘drugs war’ catastrophe was caused by The United States. It is, in essence, a bi-product of America’s fetishistic puritanism: the same puritanism that has spawned these ‘moral panics’ and consequent brutal persecutions for thousands of years.
“A government that is permitted to set punishments for drug ‘offences’ in which a person has done nothing more than grow, manufacture, distribute, or use, the psychoactive agents which have been denoted as “controlled substances,” participates in an even more pernicious form of censorship – a censorship of consciousness itself – by choosing to punish people for no other crime than choosing to experience or enable particular states of mind.”
– Richard Glen Boire
What is censorship? Censorship is any attempt to control the circulation of ideas or information within a given society. Given that psychedelic drugs can manipulate psychological states, and some of these states have a propensity to cause people to “learn valuable lessons” and “gain meaningful insights”, some drugs can be understood as ‘information communicators’ in themselves.
If this holds, then it must follow that any attempt to control such compounds is a form of censorship. Whether or not censorship is the primary aim is an open question, but in the case of LSD there are clear indications (see here) that the early attempts at controlling the substance were motivated by the desire to control certain political dynamics that were emerging (in part, because of LSD?) in America at the time.
Whatever LSD showed people, it seemed to encourage “dropping out” on some fundamental level from the mainstream of society. Many of the clichés of the hippy movement signify fundamental value changes: “free love”, “peace”, “going with the flow” etc. I have heard it said that when LSD was tested on soldiers, the thing that worried the army superiors the most was that the subjects didn’t want to go and kill people any more.
In this day and age we are quite wary of censorship, whatever its form, and whether or not it is merely tacit. Censorship is an explicit attempt to control the minds and actions of a population, it is the invisible propaganda. As Boire says, the war on drugs is “the censorship of consciousness itself”, or, in plain speaking, mind-control.
Censorship is seen by most of us as inherently sinister: paternalistic at “best”. When we look at governments of decades past and their attempts at film and book censorship they always seem so quaint and puritanical, and we should note that any attempt at censorship usually caused an increase of exposure to whatever book or film it was.
When a book or a film is censored it is, in its simplest terms, a censorship of certain experiences. Are psychedelic drugs different?
People searched in vain for thousands of years looking for the secret of turning base metal into gold.
Gold is now worth $51/gram, Cocaine ha a street-value of $50-70/gram.
Since criminalising drugs increases their street-value, it is because of drug prohibition that criminals all over the world have the ability to grow something that is worth its weight in gold.
We invented alchemy, but through such a perverse system that only organised crime gangs can profit from it. The same gangs who lead the world in the oh-so-noble enterprises of sex-trafficking, the illegal arms trade, and God knows what else.
A UN report said “the global drug trade generated an estimated US$321.6 billion in 2003.
There are many vested interests at play in maintaining the war on drugs. A lot of people are making their living from it, a lot of people are making their riches from it, not least of all the criminals at the top.
Since the world drug black-economy is worth so so much, we have to consider that somewhere in the world there are a small group of people who profit from it more than any one else. It makes sense to think that they would rather drugs stay illegal than become legal: if drugs were made legal, the governments of the world would take all their markets, all their profits, etc. Those individuals no doubt carry a great deal of financial and political power, I wonder to what extent they have used it to influence and maintain drug policy over the last century?
Perhaps politicians may fear the wrath of such barons more than the wrath of its own people. With the money at their disposal, I’m sure a few horses-heads could be mustered if ever our PM thought to legalise the market and tax it.
The alchemy of drug-laws manifests in broader terms. There are so many jobs created by the war on drugs that the actually morality of imprisoning human beings is somewhat lost in the frenzy: the lawyers, the police officers, the prison workers, the civil servants, in the end there’s a whole economy in drug-prohibition.
In America we can even see Police Unions (amongst others) lobbying to keep cannabis illegal. Can there be clearer evidence that the war on drugs is motivated by the financial interests of certain industries instead of the public-interest?
If we’re not careful here in Britain, we could end up with an industry of mass-incarceration too. We’ll be just like the land of the free: locking up 1% of our population for nonsense crimes: all to make a few old men a bit richer.
Making more jobs is not the sole responsibility of the government: one of their responsibilities is ensuring that the laws of the land are just and fair. The current drug-policy does real harm to the lives of thousands of people, because it harms them, society is harmed. It is divisive, it is oppressive, and unnecessarily excludes people from contributing to society.
Cognitive Liberty UK asks the UK government to carefully consider the merits of legalising certain drugs, and decriminalising others.
“We believe that drug prohibition is the true cause of much of the social and personal damage that has historically been attributed to drug use. It is prohibition that makes these drugs so valuable – while giving criminals a monopoly over their supply. Driven by the huge profits from this monopoly, criminal gangs bribe and kill each other, law enforcers, and children. Their trade is unregulated and they are, therefore, beyond our control.
History has shown that drug prohibition reduces neither use nor abuse. After a rapist is arrested, there are fewer rapes. After a drug dealer is arrested, however, neither the supply nor the demand for drugs is seriously changed. The arrest merely creates a job opening for an endless stream of drug entrepreneurs who will take huge risks for the sake of the enormous profits created by prohibition. Prohibition costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year, yet 40 years and some 40 million arrests later, drugs are cheaper, more potent and far more widely used than at the beginning of this futile crusade.
We believe that by eliminating prohibition of all drugs for adults and establishing appropriate regulation and standards for distribution and use, law enforcement could focus more on crimes of violence, such as rape, aggravated assault, child abuse and murder, making our communities much safer. We believe that sending parents to prison for non-violent personal drug use destroys families. We believe that in a regulated and controlled environment, drugs will be safer for adult use and less accessible to our children. And we believe that by placing drug abuse in the hands of medical professionals instead of the criminal justice system, we will reduce rates of addiction and overdose deaths.”