After The Drug War, Part 1

  After The Drug War, Part 1

Posted by FoM on December 20, 2001 at 06:42:02 PT
By Joel Miller 
Source: WorldNetDaily 

The perennial question aimed at those of us who want drugs legalized (besides this rhetorical wonder: "You just want to smoke pot, right?") is "What then? What do you do to stem drug abuse once the legal and political sanctions are kaput?" It's a fair question, considering that most Americans labor under the assumption that the drug war helps to curb abuse in some meaningful way. 
The fact that more and more drugs are available with smaller and smaller price tags puts the lie to that notion, but, for the many millions of Americans who still take it as gospel, an answer may help to elucidate a deeper dynamic of drug control – one that operates without legal strictures and governmental regulations. Part of that answer requires looking into our past – digging up our cultural roots – because a major key to control is found there. Without doubt, Christianity has held a powerful grip on the worldview of the West. "It is Christianity … as it has existed in its main and minor streams throughout the past 2,000 years … which has had the formative impact on Western culture," wrote Thomas J. Burke. "It encompasses both the Roman Catholic and Protestant forms, for these have provided the main frameworks in which Western man has created his worldview." That worldview has manifested itself in myriad ways – art, learning, historiography, politics, etc. – but one powerful area, almost totally ignored by both Christians and non-Christians today, is dope. A Christian culture comes with built-in controls for drug abuse – and they're not the standard fare typically heard from the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertons. The overwhelming message about intoxication in Scripture, as Falwell and Co. would agree, is "Don't," and the history of the drug trade makes the effect of this injunction clear. But much of that history shows that government-sanctioned prohibition had nothing to do with it. Other forces were at work. As the East and New World opened to traders and colonists, a wide array of psychoactive substances became available to the West: cannabis, chocolate, coca, coffee, jimsonweed, mescal beans, morning-glory seeds, opium, peyote, psilocybic mushrooms, qat, tea, tobacco, yage or caapi from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, and some 100 other hallucinogens and oddities in the Americas alone. Given the huge variety of mindbenders, it might seem odd that the drugs that caught on among Westerners were chocolate, coffee, tea, and tobacco – all very mild psychoactives. Some may argue that the reason more potent drugs didn't reach popularity had more to do with the cost of harvest and shipment of the substances, and that some of the drugs – such as coca (used to make cocaine) and qat – have short shelf lives, making an ocean voyage to the Old Country at full potency a difficult proposition. But, while there is truth to this argument, as historian David T. Courtwright explains in his book, "Force of Habit," "Nonmaterial considerations also influenced Europeans' judgments about which drugs should become cash crops and international products. As Christians, they were suspicious of chemical shortcuts to altered consciousness." Look no further than tobacco to see that this is true. Moderate use of tobacco was praised by Cordelier monk Andrι Thevet who warned in his 1557 book, "Singularitιs de la France Antarctique," that "if you take too much of this [tobacco] smoke or scent, it goes to your head and inebriates you like the fumes of strong wine." The potential for intoxication did not, however, by itself stem tobacco's use. Just as Christians drank beer, wine and spirits, the sticking point was inebriation; drinking moderately was praised. Wrote Thevet, "The Christians who are now in those parts have become amazingly fond of this herb and its smell, even though at the outset its use is not without its dangers until you are used to it; for this smoke makes you perspire and feel faint, even to the point of falling unconscious – as I tried out for myself. That is less strange than it may seem," he continues, "for other fruits may be found which offend the brain, however delicate and good to eat they may be." Christians got around the intoxication problem with tobacco by both accustoming themselves to the drug and cultivating the mild Nicotiana tabacum strain of the plant instead of the N. rustica member of the family, which sometimes contains as much as 16 percent nicotine. But there was still another problem. Beyond Scripture's command to not be drunk, there is also the command to flee false religions. Indian shamans used tobacco – especially rustica – in rituals, and ingested so much they could actually hallucinate on the weed – some even overdosed – and, observed Courtwright, "The (Christian, civilized, rationalizing) Europeans were, to put it mildly, uninterested in shaky blastoffs to the spirit world." Most drugs used in the Americas were, as Amerindian expert Jack Weatherford points out in his book, "Indian Givers," used "in a primarily religious context." This was of immediate concern to Westerners. The Greek word in Scripture translated as "witchcraft" is "pharmakeia," which was smuggled into the English language as "pharmacy" and "pharmaceutical." Drugs, to the Christian, had a connection to false religion and the Devil. The main critics of tobacco bellowed their disapproval from this position. England's James I pointed to tobacco's religious role in the Indian cultures in denouncing the drug. Likewise, Italy's Girolamo Benzoni in his 1568 "La Historia del Mondo Nuovo" condemned tobacco's religious functions by saying that "such a pestiferous and wicked poison can only be an invention of the devil." In fact, in the late 1400s, after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World (and cigars), one Luis de Torres was arrested by the Inquisition in Madrid and sentenced to 10 years in prison for smoking – which the church deemed some sort of sorcery. "Ironically," write Eric Deschodt and Phillippe Morane in their book "The Cigar," "the time would come when Spanish clergymen would have the best cigars in the world made for their sole use." Why the u-turn from loathing to loving? By observing the multitudinous ways in which, and reasons for which, Indians used tobacco, wrote Courtwright, "Europeans came to understand that tobacco use did not necessarily entail hallucinations." In fact, given the amount and frequency of tobacco use by Indians, most smoking was for non-religious purposes – they simply enjoyed it. And it wasn't long before Westerners did as well. In 1615 alone, report Deschodt and Morane, the English imported £200,000 of the stuff from Trinidad and the Orinoco. In time, the Dutch Reformed, French Catholics, and English Presbyterians and Anglicans all cultivated and used tobacco. Baroque master Johann Sebastian Bach actually wrote a paean to praise his pipe in which he allegorized smoking to the gospel, concluding by saying: On land, on sea, at home, and abroad, I smoke my pipe and worship God.Historically, mild psychoactives have not been pooh-poohed by Christians, nor does Scripture condemn them. For instance, the Bible routinely praises the joys and blessing of wine. The fact that it can intoxicate doesn't mean it has to if responsibly used. As Christians have historically and scripturally understood it, if psychoactives can be used in ways that do not intoxicate and do not participate in false religions, then there is nothing wrong with using them. There is, in fact, benefit in using them – namely, they bring enjoyment and pleasure – which is why coffee, tea, chocolate and tobacco became popular in Christian cultures such as Europe and America. Of course, that was then. Whatever vestige of an overarching Christian culture there is in the West is just that – a vestige. The issue, as I will take it up tomorrow in part two, is how to sift some of these cultural drug-control factors out of the past and apply them to today. For the most part, the Christian West – due to generally agreed-upon social and cultural norms – reigned in drug abuse. Psychoactives were still used and enjoyed, mainly responsibly, without a top-down program of prohibition as we experience today. People in large part chose to use the substances around them in non-abusive ways. If we scrap drug prohibition, as I'd like to see, doubtless more people will use drugs. Not to diminish the role of the individual, who is the only moral agent responsible for his or her own decisions, a major question in the drug reform movement is how we – without the same cultural controls as in pre-prohibition days – will respond. Tomorrow: "After the drug war, part 2: Controlling excesses" Related offer: Americans have been told for 200 years that drinking alcohol is bad news – but is it? "God Gave Wine," a book by Kenneth Gentry and published by Joel Miller's Oakdown Books, details what the Bible really says about alcohol. Get it at: Miller is the commentary editor of WorldNetDaily. His publishing company, MenschWerks,recently published "God Gave Wine" by Kenneth L. Gentry Jr. Newshawk: puff_tuffSource: WorldNetDaily (US Web)Author: Joel MillerPublished: December 20, 2001Copyright: 2001 Inc.Contact: letters worldnetdaily.comWebsite: Articles:Narcowar's Terror Nexus Toke Over The Line, Sweet Jesus?

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Comment #2 posted by el_toonces on December 21, 2001 at 00:14:30 PT:
Love Miller's work
Miller is one of the few honest journalists covering this topic....I can't wait for Part Two!;)Pax vobiscum,El
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Comment #1 posted by DdC on December 20, 2001 at 13:37:09 PT
America was NOT founded on Christianity!
American High Society our Stoner Forefathers!
America was NOT founded on Christianity! PotHeads Will Survive
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