Re: Drugs - what makes them do it?

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Tue Jan 11 2000 - 14:09:54 MST

From: Anders Sandberg <>
>These are the common responses I tend to hear to explain the WOD from
>the non-party line point of view, but I don't buy them much. If
>longing to transcend existential angst makes people take drugs, why do
>they not start to meditate?

How do you know that they do not start to meditate? You may not hear from them
again if they do.

>If drug use threatens the ruling class,
>shouldn't we see a war on printing/internet too?

As if we don't. As if we haven't.

>(not just a dislike
>for "yellow press" or moral panics about child porn but a serious
>concerted attempt to get rid of the evil stuff). If the ruling class
>was so upset about people finding ways out of existential angst, why
>are they not cracking down on religions and comedy?

I don't believe the ruling class considers the people capable of finding ways
out of existential angst. After all, the ruling class has failed to find such a
way, and it considers its own capabilities superior to those it rules.
"religions and comedy"? The ruling class makes a distinction here? <sneer>
Remember Waco? Remember McCarthyism? Crack downs continue, but perhaps you
haven't felt the impact yet in Sweden.

>I think we need to think a bit more carefully about the problem than
>spouting what is essentially the "non-conformist party line" (the
>above claims can be found practically verbatim in the writings of RAW,
>Leary et al). After all, as transhumanists we need good arguments
>ourselves as well as an understanding of why people act the way they

I don't read RAW or Leary, so thanks for the heads up on why I should not start.

>Existential angst is really just the idea that ordinary life has a
>negative emotional valence - which doesn't seem to hold true in
>general. People have a large variability in emotional states and
>personalities. I actually laughed aloud when I read Sartre, and he
>claimed that people who did not feel existential angst actually were
>repressing it. My personal theory is that much of existentialism was
>founded by people who would have benefited from prozac :-)

I think we need to think a bit more carefully about defining what existential
angst means to others before spouting simplistic definitions. Existential angst
can mean more than just the idea that ordinary life has a negative emotional
valence. For example, it implies that people need to abandon outmoded religious
traditions which many hold dear. Sartre does write in a laughable style, and
translations from the French make his style even more comical. Nevertheless it
seems probable to me that some people do indeed repress existential angst. In
addition, many people repress their longing for release from this angst.
Prozac... just another drug, albeit a legal one (if properly prescribed by a

>A more likely set of reasons for people taking drugs is a combination
>of pleasure- or novelty-seeking, peer pressure, cultural conditioning
>as well as (conscious or unconscious) self-medication. Then what
>happens of course dependens on the interaction of the drug, person and
>environment, the outcomes can be quite variable.

Yes, many thrill seekers may in fact take drugs for fun. But you apparently
missed the point of the original question about the type of people mentioned.
Not the type of thrill seeker you describe. And yes, set and setting matter.

>Now, the attempt to suppress drugs is an interesting social
>phenomenon. I have no doubt that there are people much more in the
>know about the history of drug legality worldwide, but overall it
>seems that banning drugs as substances of abuse was something that
>occured relatively recently, in the 30's and 40's if I don't
>minsremember. Of course alcohol has a longer legal history but may
>fall under other sociopolitical forces, as did opium during the opium
>war (where banning it was very much a statement about foreign

It is more than an "attempt" to suppress drugs. Two million prisoners in the US
(half of which are there because of drug-related offenses) says that it is more
than an attempt. It is a fact.

>What was the reasons for the bans? I think (here the historians might
>help) that concerns about public health was the major official
>reason. Before this time, public health was a problem that was too
>hard to deal with, but at this time it appeared more and more possible
>that it could be fixed by a benevolent state and hence that it should
>be fixed; hence the anti-drug stance previously taken mainly by
>smaller organisations could now be implemented nationwide.

Drugs were not as much of a problem in earlier times perhaps because people did
not have as much access, because people did not want them as much (not enough
existential angst) and because the penalties were more severe. Public health was
not the motive, except as public health converged with control of the public,
and making the public productive units for the ruling class.

>Hmm, got a bit longer than I intended. My flu seems still to affect my
>writing inhibitions, making them somewhat erratic (I answer some
>posts, but maybe not the ones I ought to answer). Interesting. Worth
>doing a study on...

Take some drugs for your flu symptoms, Anders.
Get well soon.


J. R. Molloy

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