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Objective sanity in a crazy world, or madness in a sane world. Probably both.

I was reminded of my byeline today.  A sane voice in an insane world or vice versa.  When I originally wrote this I saw the truth that lay within but largely wrote is out of a sense of humour.  The reason I was driven to think of it today was because of discussion of psychological disturbance in Oliver James’ book Britain on the Couch.

It shows how good my attention span is these days that I have taken to writing a blog by something that was mentioned at the beginning of chapter one.  At least I made it through the introduction anyway.  James describes the case of Jim, a lawyer who has led a fairly successful life and has had no history of mental illness.  He has reached the age of 33 and is progressing well in his career and is married to what sounds like a marvelous and intelligent girl.  Things begin to fall apart on a trip to Scotland with an old friend from university.

In Scotland Jim is convinced to try MDMA.  The result is a weekend of deep introspection that leads to a crisis.  Jim realises that his life does not hold the meaning he had previously accepted it did.  The MDMA seems to have pulled the trick of enhancing Jim’s world view so that he can look at his own life from a distance with a far broader viewpoint and what he sees leaves him in serious conflict.

That is as far as my attention span has so far allowed me to read, but it got me thinking.  Jim’s life is relatively successful but he has been conditioned like most of us to plug away at his job day after day as one of the cogs in the mechanism of society.  It is probable that Jim is giving himself too little credit for his importance but it has led him into crisis.  The crisis strikes me as being a sign of having been overwhelmed by an insane society.

We all need to survive and we do that by fitting into our niches the best we can.  Sanity is to conform to the standard set by everyone else around us.  If we look normal then we are normal.  When we stop being normal it becomes pretty obvious to the rest of the world.  We become the loony, the mad bloke that everyone avoids.  The problem is that in being normal we are conforming to a society that has no objective comparators in our daily experience.

If we look far enough we can see the example of many other different societies but largely they are all in as much difficulty as our own.  Corrupt politicians and collapsing economies seem to be a theme to most advanced societies.  In order to really make a judgement about the way in which a society operates we need to take years of study at university, perhaps even writing a Phd before our understanding is solid enough to take action.  Or we could pop some MDMA on a weekend away like Jim did, and then those years of understanding will hit home in about 20 minutes instead of 5 or 6 years.  It is hardly any wonder it caused a crisis.

The things about which Jim was concerned within his life were simply who he was.  They were aspects of his nature as a homo sapien and of the world around him.  The resultant neuroses was the natural response in someone who has not had the chance to build a coping mechanism to deal with the circumstances in which he found himself.  A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
This ultimately led me to realise that the world around us all is mad but only when held up in comparison to our ability to cope with it.  If we can cope with the world then it is relatively sane.  If we can’t cope with it then we appear to be insane, though really if the world is that difficult to cope with then it is hardly a shining example of balance itself.  Perhaps my byeline should read that I am a sane voice in a sane world and an insane voice in an insane world simultaneously.  Though that is far less catchy.

Drug abusers or drug users?

I think a big part of the problem with modern drug use/abuse is that in order to grow we must test boundaries to discover what is safe and what is not. We must experiment. I do not mean specifically pertaining to drugs but just in general. While we are at a young age we experience. We learn the meaning of things by testing the boundaries. We live in a world of dualities. We reach towards pleasure naturally but often find that this causes the consequence that we are pushed towards pain. Drug misuse many would say, is a choice, it is the choice to follow our natural evolutionary instinct to learn about our environment. When drugs take hold of you you no longer have that choice, then I think it has many parallels with disease in that it disrupts the ease with which one approaches life.  It fits the etymology of the word and can legitimately be characterised as a disease.

There are solutions of course. In our youth we are seeking sensation, we wish to go to the boundaries of pleasure and pain because we have a need built into us by evolution to map the limits of experience. People can tell us what they are but we cannot understand by being told, we can only understand by experiencing. In older age, maturity, we are far more willing to take things on faith. Someone will tell us something and we will be able to compare it to analogous experiences we have had and understand it through analogy and metaphor. We do not need experience so much then. We do not need the heights of ecstasy we were seeking earlier. We would be content to just be, but we are not. Either we have become habituated to the use of drugs or there is something that is preventing us achieving our natural equilibrium.

Psychological discomfort is something that the mature drug user is constantly trying to combat. The cause of psychological discomfort is the discordance between the world in which the biology of his brain has evolved and the world in which his brain now inhabits its body. People are not built to fit into the modern world. Drug use has been heavy for centuries and perhaps millennia into totally different worlds but it is becoming more widespread the further we move from our original state of nature.

People who ‘abuse’ drugs are not drug abusers. They are self medicators trying to find a solution for not fitting into the modern world. For not understanding it. In every environment we have entered throughout hundreds of thousands of years we have always lived according to Darwin’s principle of survival of the fittest. The human population becomes trapped in an environment with certain conditions and the maladjusted cannot deal with the change in their natural environment with the result that the strongest survive and the weak die out. The modern world of bureaucracy and forms and pollution, etc, is one of the most extreme environments that we have ever found ourselves placed in during our entire evolution on this planet. It is a world created by this new organ we have been developing, the sentient brain. As a construct of the sentient brain it is naturally the sentient brain that is the tool that is needed to negotiate it, but being a new organ in evolutionary terms it is still evolving.

There is nothing wrong with the maladjusted brain. It is not broken, it is merely suitable for a different environment but the problem is that the well adjusted brains are creating the environment and they are creating an environment in which they will flourish. evolution does not promote the survival of the fittest whilst killing of the unfit in humans anymore. Our humanity causes us to care for our maladjusted members and thus they survive. Unfortunately while their bodies are given the opportunity to live within tolerable limits their brains are the issue and brains are not well understood so these member of our society self medicate with drugs.  Drugs that are illegal only on account of the tendency to be habit forming or open to abuse due to their nature of creating extremes of sensation that are the reason for their potential to cause addiction.

Those who do not ‘abuse’ drugs live their life without ‘abuse’ for two reasons. 1) they are the well adjusted inheritors of the world. Or 2) they do not self medicate because a doctor prescribes alternative drugs that do not have the unfortunate side effect of creating extremes of sensation. This is what most mature people want. They do not want extremes of sensation. They just wish to avoid the knowledge that they are living in a world that has been created by determined, intelligent, mercenary people when they would rather be living in a natural world that had not been reformed by human will. There are huge amounts of drug users being given mind altering prescriptions by the medical services. The only difference between those on these substances and the mature users of illicit substances is that one is prescribed by a doctor and the other is prescribed by a lost soul in a world not of their making. One is no more or less an abuser than the other.

Of course it is plain that these people who do not fit into the modern world love many of the features of the modern world. I.e., computers, televisions, etc. Who wouldn’t love these things? However, if you were to take all these thing away and eradicate the memory of them and place those people in a peaceful 18th century country side environment then they would find themselves psychologically far more easily adjusted to their environment. It is true there were many physical hardships in those times but in general people’s minds had greater strength back then. The people in the modern world if exposed to those kind of hardships would be far less able to cope due to the additional weight of all they experience in the modern day.