ON THE INFLUENCE OF EMOTION DRUGS ON HISTORY
(Actually posted 8/26/07 1:55 PM. I just changed the date to keep the order of the posts the way I like it.)
In the early 1500's, the Spanish culture landed in the Americas and encountered the early native American cultures.
And VERY shortly after that, on a historical time scale, the early native American cultures were gone. With hardly any effort at all. Wiped out, crushed, extinct, one with the dodo bird, baby. While the people who had composed those cultures were still there, the cultures themselves had been eradicated.
(Certainly pockets lingered. But as a significant historical force, they were gone.)
Hardy a whisper of what those early American cultures were remains behind today. There is no more than the barest detectable trace in the current American cultures of any of the old Aztec/Maya/Inca and so forth cultures. (With one notable exception. More on this in a bit.) Certainly nothing in our law, religion, or societal customs can be traced back to any early American culture.
Why were these early American cultures wiped out so easily?
Yeah, disease had a lot to do with it. And also the Spanish had vastly superior technology. The early American cultures were what? About Late Stone Age? Not even metal. The Spanish were WELL beyond that. They had steel swords and armor, not to mention matchlock firearms.
Why were the Spanish so superior in technology, though?
This is actually a strange thing, that the Spanish were so superior. The more you think about it, the odder it gets.
Because the early Americans should've been about EQUAL in technology. At the very least.
They really should've. Right? They had the time. They had the time, and the resources. They surely had the time and resources to develop technology equal to--or even SUPERIOR---to the Spanish. Humans had been in the Americas since the time of the glaciers, man! They could've done it. The competitive pressures to innovate---wars, floods, plagues, etc---were EXACTLY the same as the Spanish. They had more than enough physical resources and time to develop and even surpass anything the Spanish had. Time to develop steel, time to develop guns, time even to develop the germ theory of disease that could've done so much to keep their entire culture from being erased.
There's NO physical reason the Spanish couldn't have landed and found the early native Americans driving around in Cadillacs.
And yet---it didn't happen. Their culture wasn't technologically equal to the Spanish, and so it got rubbed out. With the greatest of ease.
(Cultures, it seems, undergo Darwinian selection pressures just as much as physical organisms do.)
Now I don't think it was because the early Americans were less intelligent than the Spanish. Not for any idiotic racial reasons. They had their innovations and clever inventions. They studied and knew the stars, engineered and built massive temples and cities. They had the motions of Venus in the sky all mapped out, a thing that took centuries of precise record-keeping to do.
Without question, they could think. As well as the Spanish.
But they were like, SL-O-O-O-W to do it, man, you know?
It's as if some unknown factor---SEVERELY retarded the rate of growth of the early American cultures. Something that was NOT present in Spanish culture, European culture.
(From here on in, I'm going to refer to Spanish culture as European culture. Certainly from the standpoint of the early American cultures, they were the same.)
What might that factor be? It would have to be something that was all over the early American cultures, but NOT present in European culture, and also capable of SEVERELY slowing the growth of a culture.
Is there one single factor that meets all these criteria?
Um, well, yes, there is ONE such factor. There is one STRIKING difference between early native American culture and European culture.
(A brief pause here to define what I mean by “emotion drug.” The definition is obvious, but must be stated for reasons of rigor.
An “emotion drug” is a chemical substance whose SOLE purpose is to induce a specific emotion in a user's brain.)
Emotion drug use was endemic in the native American cultures---but NOT in the European cultures, not to the extent it was in the Americas. Early Native American religions actively ENCOURAGED the use of emotion drugs, while the religion of the Europeans----Catholicism and all the religions that derived from it---actively DISCOURAGED the use of emotion drugs.
To put it crudely---the Pope DIDN'T smoke dope. But in the early native American cultures, the Pope-equivalents DID smoke dope. And encourage everybody else to do it, too. Plus ingest mescaline. And alcohol. And mushrooms. And marijuana. And peyote. And coca.
Man. Look at that list. That incredibly LONG list of emotion drugs they left behind is very strong evidence getting stoned was a MAJOR part of their culture. With all the emotion drugs they had available, those early native American dudes must've spent a LOT of their time ripped out of their minds, huh.
And damn, tobacco. I nearly missed tobacco because it is so common and everyday. (You could make a strong case tobacco is the early native Americans' revenge for having their culture wiped out, couldn't you.)
Funny. A lot of the emotion drugs existing today---come DIRECTLY from those early native American cultures. In fact, thinking about it, emotion drugs are the one and only significant cultural thing they left behind. Other than that---nothing.
(Sure, chocolate and potatoes, the odd word or two. But these are extremely minor. They have had no effect on the bedrock of our culture.)
Could extensive emotion drug use actually HARM a culture over time?
Well, if somebody's stoned out of his mind on whatever---he, or she, is NOT, like, you know, THINKING. Right? So, if you compared the two cultures in the pre-invasion centuries, what you would see in the early American cultures is a great number of people NOT thinking, as opposed to the Europeans, where you would see a great number of people with their index fingers earnestly pressed against their temples like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, staring off into space, and THINKING.
Thinking about ways to make their lives better, to get what they want. Like, well, how to make steel, and ways to forge that steel into swords, armor, and guns.
Thinking, fundamentally, about ways to make their lives HAPPIER.
Would a significant fraction of a culture's populace always being stoned at any one time, NOT THINKING, have a severely retarding effect on a culture's progress over centuries?
There is another somewhat more subtle retarding effect.
People do what they do to be happy. You can describe all human action as an effort to achieve happiness.
Emotion drugs---MAKE you feel happy.
And you don't have to do ANY work for it. Or, more accurately, not as much work as you would have to do otherwise.
And this airy-fairy stuff means what, in practical terms?
In an emotion-drug culture, happiness is only a snort, a swallow, or a toke away.
And so it is very, very easy to get away from reality in an emotion-drug culture, from anything that makes you unhappy. Like being tired from carrying rocks on your back to build temples with all day. Or your entire family dying from some weird disease. Or having a permanent headache from the boss bopping you on the head all the time as you carry him around in his palanquin. Things like that.
Instead of sitting down and dreaming up inventions like the wheel to make your life easier (which the Maya NEVER did), or creating an antibiotic to cure that weird disease, or planning a revolution to kick that head-bopping boss out, you could just sit down and get stoned to make all the pain and bad feelings go away.
Emotion-drug cultures have a definite built-in tendency to remain STATIC, don't they? Nothing's going to change very fast in an emotion-drug culture.
This is NOT true in a culture where emotion drugs are illegal. You can't easily escape from something that makes you unhappy.
You can only---deal with it directly. By changing something about yourself or your environment. You just CAN'T get away.
In an non-emotion-drug culture---you are FORCED to deal with the real world, FORCED to think. If you want to be happy.
You think this would have an accelerating effect on a culture's progress?
There are effects on moral progress, too. So much moral advancement has taken place because of empathy, the ability to feel what the victim is feeling. Emotion drugs severely hamper the feeling of empathy. The more intense the emotion drug, the more diminished your ability to feel empathy. The more emotionally cut off you are from other human beings.
If you're on emotion drugs, you feel happy---NO MATTER WHAT YOU'RE DOING. You can do anything you want to people, and it's not going to affect your own emotions the least little bit.
Like bending people backward over onto stone altars and cutting their beating hearts out of their chests, for example. Not just every once in a while, but ALL the damn time.
Think that's evidence of retarded moral progress? The Spanish were certainly no moral paragons, but at least they didn't routinely bend people backward over stone altars and rip their hearts out!
(The possibility of having your heart ripped out one day isn't going to generate a whole lot of like, you know, LOYALTY to a culture, either. You can only imagine the conversation.
"Wait a second. You evil invading imperialistic capitalist Spanish DON'T rip peoples' hearts out?"
"No. We don't do that."
"No, never ever."
"Oh, I have seen the light! Bless me, Father, for I have sinned!")
One more subtle effect. The most subtle effect of all, but perhaps the most significant, powerful, dangerous, lethal effect of them all.
How many geniuses are there in a culture, at any given time? Not many, right?
What if even ONE of those geniuses spent all of his time STONED? Would that have a retarding effect on a culture's progress?
So much progress is not due to mass action, but rather to the solitary effort of a single individual. What if that single individual decided he liked emotion drugs better than thinking?
What if Newton had spent all of his time stoned? Maxwell? Pasteur? Galileo? Einstein? Gibbs? Curie? Fleming? Salk? The list goes on and on.
Except, whoops, they couldn't do that, because emotion drugs were FROWNED ON in the cultures they lived in. There weren't even that many emotion drugs to use in the first place. Certainly not compared to what the early native American cultures had.
What about the early native American scientific geniuses?
Oops. Pardon me. There aren't ANY known early native American scientific geniuses, are there? NOT ONE. No Aztec Newtons, no Maya Maxwells, no Inca Pasteurs. NOBODY, MAN!
(Oh, they had their potential scientific geniuses, right enough. But they were either stoned, or trapped in a retarded culture that had developed no place for their genius to flower.
"Hey, Jaguar Paw! Let's go invent the germ theory and keep thousands and thousands of our people from dying when the Spanish arrive!"
"Naah. I'm gonna kick back here at the temple and do some spirit-travelin'." (D-e-e-p drag on joint) "Oh, man, this is some really GOOD spirit-travelin'!")
So when you add all these effects up, what does it mean?
It means one day Spanish sailing ships arrive at your beaches, instead of YOUR sailing ships arriving at THEIRS. It means the Spanish come rowing ashore carrying steel swords, armor, and guns, and you, well, you AIN'T driving Cadillacs. You're still stuck in the Stone Age. With rocks, clubs, throwing sticks, and spears.
It means when the Europeans arrive, your culture gets STOMPED, and it's not even close.
Are there any historical lessons we should take from this? Something that applies to societal conflicts the world's societies are currently having?
Given all the preceding----would you, the gentle reader, make emotion drugs LEGAL in YOUR society TODAY?
The world's stable societies are currently engaged in an epic battle to stop people from using emotion drugs.
And they're LOSING. Big-time. Emotion drugs are far more common than they were fifty years ago. When you look at this struggle on a historical time scale, it is quite clear they are losing this battle.
It is also quite clear WHY they are losing this battle.
They don't understand the enemy. Don't have the slightest clue. You can tell that by what they're calling this war.
The “War On Drugs.”
What? We're fighting penicillin, sulfonamides, aspirin, quinine? That doesn't make any sense, man!
And it doesn't, either.
It's not the “War on Drugs.”
It's the “War on EMOTION Drugs.”
They're fighting it entirely the wrong way, too. The world's stable societies are trying to fight this battle by citing what are, essentially, unimportant side-effects. Tobacco is loaded with carcinogens and give you cancer. Marijuana is also loaded with carcinogens and can give you cancer. Alcohol can cause cirrhosis of the liver and a host of other problems that will kill you also. Psychedelics can cause permanent brain damage. Just a pinch too much of other emotion drugs will kill you in a heartbeat.
But that's not the most lethal effect of these things, is it? Not by a country mile. The most lethal effect of these things is what they fundamentally do, make people feel happy.
You cut these things loose in your culture----AND ONE FINE DAY, YOUR CULTURE JUST WON'T BE THERE ANYMORE. It will have been out-competed and rolled over by some non-emotion-drug culture. Just like what happened to the early native American cultures.
Y'all have a good one.