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Society’s view on drugs in dire need of change


Published in the Daily Illini October 10th, 2011


The passing of Steve Jobs has sparked a national moment of reflection on the revolutionary technological contributions he has made to our society. Our everyday lives are flooded by his ideas; therefore, it is important that we consider what he regarded as a crucial source of inspiration.

Jobs was interviewed by New York Times reporter John Markoff and told him that using the drug LSD was “one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life.”

This occurred when he had just dropped out of college in 1972 but obviously changed the course of his thinking: “He said there were things about him that people who had not tried psychedelics — even those who knew him well, including his wife — could never understand.”

Jobs’ genius was knowing how to create a material lust through sleek, user-friendly and innovative products, that could bridge the gap between physical objects and human desires. It is not a coincidence that people often describe their LSD “trips” in terms of making unique, awe-inspiring connections: They have artificial yet deeply real moments of physical-spiritual transcendence.

People love their Apple devices because they can naturally connect with their functionality, allowing a fluid relationship to build between human and technology.

The mainstream media’s gushing praise and near across-the-board approval of this truly brilliant man is, at best, a societal contradiction in relation to perceptions of drug use and, at worst, a hypocritical denial of the failure of drug prohibition. If Jobs had been caught using LSD, he would have faced criminal penalties — a considerable cost for a divine revelation.

I am not condoning the use of any kind of drug, only that our society’s attitude and governmental policies toward them are completely misguided. Drugs being considered “illegal” has, and will continue to destroy the nation from the inside out.

Drug prohibition shares striking similarities to the 14-year prohibition of alcohol that resulted in widespread organized crime, aiming to serve human beings’ apparently insatiable demand for booze. There has been a similar, yet massively larger growth of organized crime across the United States, Mexico and South America, as a result of the high profitability of illegal drugs. Stephen Downing, a retired deputy police chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, notes that before Richard Nixon accelerated his “war on drugs,” gang membership for two gangs (the Bloods and Crips) was at about 50 people. After the ‘war’ began, 20,000 gangs sprouted up, with membership at around 1 million, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Downing also cites U.S. law enforcement statistics that show marijuana accounting for 70 percent ($38 billion) of Mexican drug cartel profits. Imagine that $38 billion landing into the pockets of Americans through legal transactions, rather than drug syndicates. And despite the consistent popularity of petitions to legalize marijuana on the White House website, last week he chose to break another campaign promise and re-establish the hugely controversial, counter-productive Bush-era policy of Drug Enforcement Agency raids on marijuana dispensaries in California.

And the problems seem to be getting worse. Despite being the world’s largest jailer (with 2.3 million prisoners - China is second with 1.6 million despite having four times the population) policymakers remain oblivious to health-based evidence and the prescriptions of medical doctors, the fact that marijuana use is widespread, even amongst our best athletes at the height of their career (Michael Phelps), or that thousands of people are murdered every year as a result of the unregulated, high-risk drug trade.

Our culture needs to radically reassess what drugs are and what they do to people. Steve Jobs did not grow as a human being despite his drug use, but because of it. This is certainly not the path for everybody, but proper education on the dangers of abuse and addiction, as well as providing clinical treatment, is how people can learn to grow when faced with decisions about drug use.

The decision Steve Jobs made revolutionized his own mind and then our world at large. Empathy and understanding toward our fellow citizens will begin the far-overdue dialogue in our society about drug culture, because jail is the worst place to expand your mind.





Jean Michel
Hoffman



film

theatre

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selected writing

Jean Michel is a film and theatre director, writer and artist based in New York City.
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Mark