Sunday, March 1, 2015

Drugs, Freedom, Prison, and the Doobie

The United States is quickly changing.  With Gay marriage and LGBTI rights, with a variety of national first ever achievements by women and minorities, the US seems to have embraced the change that President Obama promised when he was campaigning back in 2008.  Obviously, not everything promised comes true.  And it was doubtful that in 2008 most people could have foreseen the green wave of marijuana legal use laws coming into power in various states and perhaps even the District of Columbia, the nation's capital.

But just because marijuana is being legalized doesn't mean America is going to hell.  There have been dystopias written about such a world system, and they are frightening, and not for the fact that I believe they can happen, but for the writing and true horror expressed in those stories.  If you count alcohol as a drug, and it is, and tobacco, we've had legal drug use for centuries.  And we should be honest about marijuana use as well, there has been a mostly don't get caught but just be discreet use of the product attitude for about 30 years.  

I've posted the covers of a number of books related to the topic, and I'll mention, in brief why you might find them of interest, with regard to this subject.

Narcopolis by Jamie Delano is a wild tale that is not a cautionary tale about drug use, but rather, it is a speculative look at how a society might use drugs to make their world a utopia, and how others might not agree with that world view. This clash leads to some dramatic dissonance between reality and the comfy place the drug world allowed the society to experience.

Kallocain by Karin Boye is about how fear, conformity and the use of and prevalence of a drug called Kallocain draw citizens into a web of distrust, rather than safety or comfort.  It is a fantastic look at how honesty and trust cannot come from force or from the use of truth serums.

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas by the Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson is said by some to celebrate the world of drugs, and gambling and violence.  But what it really gets into is the desire to live free from laws and to exercise that freedom, regardless of the possible harm to one's body, or reputation.  Many mistake it for what it is not, which is, a road trip book.  It is an example of how we as a being chafe at authority and use whatever means available to escape it.

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr. is slightly similar to Fear and Loathing, in that it presents a world that is pumped with violence and drugs.  However, there is no way this book is misunderstood as anything other than what it is, a cautionary tell from the streets, about drugs, prostitution and violence.  There is a cycle on the street that people get hooked on drugs, then are forced to prostitute their bodies, and then are kept in line as prostitutes through violence.

The Filth is a comic book graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Chris Weston. Morrison gets at modernity's real issues, and drugs are both good and bad in that assessment.  Drugs are used to dull the minds of the genius in this world, they keep the minds of that group under mediation psychotropic drugs make sure they never stray.  Other medicines, perhaps like the ADHD medicine we hear about, keeps children who used to be thought over active but creative, from reaching their peaks of achievement.  But drugs open the minds of people, allow them to escape the drudgery of this existence, and by that, they can rise above the Filth of this existence. 

A Scanner Darkly by Phillip K. Dick demonstrates how wild drug use can be, as in this work both the protagonist and antagonist share a common foe, and share a common goal, despite being at odds.  I can't reveal more without revealing spoilers but... Drug use here is at the heart of the novel, it causes people to perceive the world differently, and causes effects such as paranoia and fear at degrees far higher than normal.

Kiss My Asbo by Alistair Fruish is a work that covers a society thoroughly infiltrated by drug use, crime, and the iron hand of the government.  Take the blue pill, and get out as fast as you can.

Confession of an English Opium Eater, Thomas De Quincey's autobiography, is an extraordinary work of power.  It shows the effects upon a life of Opium use, how it ravishes his life, but since it was not yet illegal, nor worried over, it was thought to be a means of examining life through a different medium.  It was seen by some artistic people as a clue that opium and other drugs opens the gateway to the subconscious as well as a direct corridor to the creative center.

William S. Burroughs was a JUNKY was the second book written by Burroughs, and it covers the sorrow filled existence of a heroin addict.  It was originally published under a pen name, it was considered a work of great controversy due to the direct and ugly world that was exposed.

Batman: Venom by Dennis O'Neil and many others, is a comic book tradepaperback (TPB) story that demonstrates the power and corruption, as well as the addiction that follows the use of the drug Venom.  This drug later is used to power Kane, a very dangerous opponent. 

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh  Whereas JUNKY by Burroughs was controversial in its time, Trainspotting told of a much larger tragedy, filled with immense amounts of human lives wasted by the addictions they had, mostly by heroin, but other addictive behaviors as well.  To ignore the heroin use and try to say the work is about anything else would be a joke.  The run down areas of Edinburgh and other areas, and abject poverty serve as a backdrop of the hopelessness that allows and encourages people to dispose of their lives, and not try very hard to get it back.  Some do, of course, but many get addicted again, and others get involved in other sorts of behaviors.

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley is less a book about drug use as it is a book about a dystopia where drugs are used as part of the way humans are stripped of their individuality, made to sleep at various hours, for the state's benefit, and to gain better abilities at whatever society needed them to achieve.  The book is magnificent, easily one of the best of all time.  It isn't however, the best of the books regarding drug use.

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