[Marxism] food for thought - Drugs and Social Progress Since the Greeks

Dennis Brasky dmozart1756 at gmail.com
Mon Sep 7 21:04:22 MDT 2009

> The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization, 101
> by Christy Rodgers / September 1st, 2009
> clip --
> Last year, a disenchanted classics major named D.C.A. Hillman published a
> book called *The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western
> Civilization*. It was his revenge on the academic community that had
> censored his thesis, forcing him to remove the section dealing with
> recreational drug use in Greek and Roman times in order to graduate.
> It’s a short but pithy book, aimed at the hypocrisy of the modern U.S.
> stance on (some) drugs as much as at the stuffy classicists who maintained,
> in the face of reams of textual evidence, according to Hillman, that “[the
> Romans] just wouldn’t do such a thing.” I’m not a classicist, but Hillman
> doesn’t have to work very hard to convince me that Rome’s pleasure-seekers
> didn’t just drink lots and lots of wine in those saturnalian romps of
> theirs.
> *The Chemical Muse* is a brief overview of the evidence that the ancient
> Greeks and Romans were both aware and tolerant of the use of psychoactive
> substances: opiates, cannabis and other plant-based drugs, while they
> simultaneously warned of the dangers of “poisoning” (what we would refer to
> as overdose) and prescribed precautionary remedies for it. In fact,
> according to Hillman, the only aspect of drug use that was criminal in these
> societies was the intentional poisoning of another person with a drug.
> Hillman is mostly interested in presenting his case from a civil
> libertarian standpoint; since our own imperfect understanding of civil
> liberties is largely derived from Classical society via the Enlightenment,
> he wonders how we can have descended to a position so much less enlightened
> in this regard than our primitive forebears in the ancient world.
> But in his defense of Greek and Roman recreational drug use, Hillman barely
> touches on what is to me, the heart of the matter: drugs may have stimulated
> the very visions and insights that gave early poets and philosophers levels
> of understanding that Western civilization has built on ever since, while
> systematically purging the parts of those understandings that didn’t gibe
> with any practice not useful to refining social control and/or increasing
> the production of profit. Hillman does make note of the pre-Socratics, chief
> among them Pythagoras and Empedocles, for whom mysticism and rigorous
> investigation of the natural world were no contradiction. He says: “the
> roots of Western philosophy reach deep into the fertile soil of the human
> imagination, where shamanism, divination, and narcotic experiences have held
> sway for thousands of years.” While this idea alone could easily be the
> subject of a book, Hillman is more interested in documenting classical
> references to drug use than to linking it to the production of important
> concepts and archetypes, from mathematics to theology.
> full --   <
> http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/09/drugs-and-social-progress-since-the-greeks/
> >
> The late Brazilian bishop Dom Hélder Câmara said it well: “When I give food
> to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food,
> they call me a Communist.”
> ------------------------------

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