Drugs, Identity and Youth Culture - Part 2
Medicinal Use of Hemp OilVarious accounts of the benefits of hemp oil in cancer treatment can be found on the internet. There are many benefits with hemp oil usage, but equally some drawbacks too. Often hemp oil is used as a single source of treatment where many other proven natural methods exist. Hemp oil has proven useful in certain applications, particularly cancer treatment, but is far from a single solution to a variety of illnesses besides cancer. It has many undesirable effects on the endocrine system including the adrenal glands and brain chemistry, primarily, as well as mitochondrial function, cardiac function, and the lipid soluble components that dissolve into the fat tissue. Those with conditions that are partly driven by endocrine system abnormalities, such as Fibromyalgia, M.E. and Multiple Sclerosis, may get some pain relief benefit from smoking or otherwise consuming cannabis or marijuana (oil), but it will likely disrupt their endorcine system further in the medium and long term. It may well be a better bet than taking precription drugs for pain relief but that is just going from one drug to another, albeit slightly less damaging to one's health, whilst not addressing the root causes of the condition, which could be treatable by holistic means (albeit not as 'sexy' and requireing more mental effort than smoking a joint). Hemp oil etc. may also potentially cause psychosis in a small but significant number of individuals - as it is a highly concentrated source of THC. Cannabis is general also has psychoactive effects on those prone to mental illness including depression. For medicinal uses, for specific applications only, e.g. cancer, I believe that non-psychotic cannabis-based drugs have a place, but otherwise is a mixed bag at best in my opinion.
Why Do People Take Drugs?'Because I want to'. 'Because it's fun'. 'I decide what to do with my life'. 'I'm being careful and moderate about my drugs consumption so it shouldn't impact my health and life' etc. 'I'll take drugs any time I want. Whatever! Whatever! [Eric Cartman, South Park]'
Drug users often see the act of taking drugs as empowering. They are taking control of their lives and making a decision, in spite of what they have been told in school and probably partly because of it. It is satisfying to go against what one is told, and it can give the person a sense of finding out the 'reality' and be at the cutting edge of discovery of what is good and what is not after years of misinformation, conditioning in school and ineffective drugs education.
Unfortunately, children and teenagers, in their attempts to feel like adults, show that they have autonomy and can decide for themselves and do what they want, rarely actually do anything creative or positive. Nearly always the attempts to carve out one's own life are negative self-expression and adoption of negative, destructive behaviours, which make them feel like they are in control or have power, in the short term. It is the same for binge drinking. Youth is all about discovering things, learning about relationships, learning about one's body, learning about sex, education, and preparing themselves for their future careers (optional in many cases!) Hopefully a person will have been educated properly about the benefits and dangers of drugs, and make a sensible decision to not bother taking them and not hang around with negative 'wasters' ['Negative Creep' by Kurt Kobain], and engage instead in more positive activities, including different sports, creative, artistic or intellectual pursuits, to discover themselves, push themselves to the limit and really enjoy being the best they can be.
Teachers don't seem to understand that sport is there is develop children's characters, to help children conquer fear, to develop bodily co-ordination and to fully engage in an activity relative to other children, to build confidence. Sport is a metaphor for survival in nature, for war, which is a metaphor for life itself. It is all about soul, spirit, self-expression, the confidence to interact with one's environment and with others, testing the human spirit, overcoming fear and pushing oneself and one's limits. Testing one's spirit is what life is all about. Vitality, self-expression, spirit, honesty with self and confidence and belief in oneself. There is no objective purpose to sport, and this is often why children or teenagers who haven't been encouraged regard it as pointless and rather 'redneck', going against their intellect, and take no interest. However, it is the teacher's job to try to encourage such children into the games, explain strategy to them, and give them a feeling for what they should actually be doing. If one believes a sport to be intellectually demeaning, then this is all the more reason to be good at it, to challenge the mind's command over the body and to overcome one's fear etc. One then then put it down and say it's not for you. But to not even properly engage in it smells of fear and lack of self-esteem, hidden behind some layers of rationalisation and superiority. Sport is all about the mind, the physical aspect is just one expression of its meaning. All top athletes are the best because of their minds, mindset and self-belief, not because of their bodies. Quite often there is a will and a desire to participate, but because everyone else is so much better, one really has no idea what one should be doing and what finer points to start working on first.
Teacher's don't seem to think it is worth pointing out that children are 'allowed' to practice in their spare time. Teachers are often refereeing a game just to have a good time and focus on the best players who are always in key striking positions. Teachers seem to allow the worst players to be in goal or defence all the time, where they feel left out of the game and stand around doing nothing for most of the game, ignoring the action, and then are scolding everytime the other team's best players score a goal. The teachers should be doing the opposite, mixing the worst players (or least encouraged players one should say) in with the best players in attacking and defensive positions, so that the least skilled and see what the skilled are doing, and be put under pressure, and have for example an experienced defender or goalkeeper who can direct the others. But can most teachers be bothered? Are they interested? Even in private schools where parents pay exorbitant fees, the teachers still don't bother. Many teachers seem to be only there to have a good time with the children they like and forget that they have a vital role in each child's growth. If a school has three games sessions per week, one of those sessions per week could be dedicated to game training, for example. This would ensure that each pupil is put under some pressure to practice the core skills required in the game and gain confidence (e.g. passing, goal scoring, goal keeping, tackling, ball control etc), especially those pupils who don't normally get 'stuck into the action' during games and are left out. Many schools only schedule training sessions once a year if at all for the lesser skilled games. It really is no additional effort, but it would require a will for teachers and referees to actually want to help children grow as people, rather than just being 'jobs worth' and doing the minimum that is required of them.
Many parents push their children to perform well at school, get Straight A's. Some push them to succeed in sports, to be the best. Some encourage hobbies and creative interests. Some take little interest in any of these things. Ultimately, what grades you get at school is not that important. GCSEs are a stepping stone to A-Levels, assuming the child stays on at school until the age of 18. As long as your grades are fairly good, that's enough. However, getting top grades is not the issue. The issue is having a consistent attitude to learning and taking an interest in life, society and learning new skills, having the right attitude, wising up, the will to apply what one learns to the world around one, and wanting to be in a position where one can do what one really wants, which one will take with one for the rest of one's life. Being at school may be dorky, and showing a keen interest in learning may not always be cool, unless of course a given teacher makes it really fun in the class to learn that subject and exudes a real passion for the subject matter. Sometimes if one is purely focussed on the grades, one isn't focussed on why one is studying the subjects, and what happens after the exam. What career one wants to pursue, and what specialties are open to one. It is too easy to perform in the classroom, but have no belief that one can really have the perfect job one wants. One may think, 'oh, I could never do that'...but the people who are living these dreams or professions were 'human' and were probably less academically gifted than you. It is all about passion and drive. Wanting to express oneself.
Unfortunately, children at school are often so horribly negative and fearful, and try to put up a 'front', and anything resembling interest in anything or than music or television is regarded as 'square' and peer pressure collectively acts to discourage this in many cases. I think parents should encourage their children to be free thinking and tough enough to ignore peer pressure and do their own thing, and tough enough to stand up for themselves physically and mentally (an inevitable consequence of being an individual, you get picked on and people want to fight you, but eventually will treat you with respect and reverence, once you have hit a sufficient number of aggressors). Of course this is not easy, as children depend on a peer group or close friends to feel secure. The trick is to have a close circle of friends who actually treat one with respect and encourage each other.
However, frequently, those with a low self-esteem or those lacking self-knowledge (those who are clueless in personal terms), tend to be most susceptible to manipulation, peer pressure and often are those that experiment with drugs. Low self-esteem can come from not engaging in social or sporting activities, perhaps through lack of encouragement, and perhaps through being told that one is no good at something. Which may be the case, as one has never really partaken in that activity very much. But it is these people who NEED the encouragement and should partake in that sport or activity MORE OFTEN, and should not just be criticised or assumed that they have no talent in this area. Parents should encourage their children to take part in activities (this does not mean suggest it once, then forget about it) on a continual basis during their childhood and never tell their children that they are no good at anything. Negative self-beliefs in one area often spread to other areas. Parents should help their children get to know themselves, but getting them to think about jobs and functions and processes in society, relationships and encourage social engagements, and give compliments and encouragement. Parents should activity question their children to help them figure out what they are really interested in and what their strengths are, and encourage them to build on these interests and strengths. Often those who lack confidence and have little self-knowledge focus inwards and do not take such an active interest in the traditions or activites within a society, which in turn does nothing to help them figure out what they want to do with their lives, doing nothing for their sense of direction or focus. Children and adults alike need certainty, need focus to be at their best. Low self-esteem, uncertainty and lack of focus leads to psychological problems. The Personal Orientation web page contains further thoughts on peer pressure, friends and self-esteem.
Teenagers tend to hide behind youth culture fads in order to feel empowered, that they can dress how they like and so on, like putting on a uniform or out of the box personality, but this rarely coincides with them being themselves and free thinking. Trends go in and out of style, and regrettably, rave culture, punk and drugs have permeated youth culture, and have encouraged more and more teenagers, especially in the UK, to experiment with drugs. It is probably worse now than in the 1960s (but without the 'love' and sense of 'hope' and with more cynicism and negativity)! The situation is most likely exaccerbated by the increasing use of computers and the internet (sense of alienation and impersonalisation), the increasing diversity and complexity of society, the increasing sense of internationalism, overloading of information and possibilities and the decreasing sense of control over one's life. Post-enlightenment has reached its logical conclusion. Perhaps it will swing around the other way again in the future.
It should be noted that the perception of a 'scene' is just that. It is often perpetuated by the music press, which is often over-examined by enthusiastic teenagers. If we look at a particular music 'scene' for example, the scene is more something created by the fans than the bands themselves. Bands are just a collection of individuals with different personalities and ideas. They may get along with other bands to varying degrees, and in many cases associate because of similar sounds even though personality and attitude may differ markedly. Fans may regard all bands in a 'scene' as sharing a common belief or philosophy, and regard that philosophy as a hard and fast 'rulebook' of how they should be or what they should think. This however is a perception and a form of self-limitation, and is a detrimental mindset for personal growth. It is ironic that the bands themselves are doing whatever they want, and say whatever they like, but some of the fans follow them sheepishly, try to look, act or think like them, and are not being themselves at all, but trying to be someone else. Those fans who try to piece together the ideology of a plethora of different groups and perhaps in different musical genres face an impossible task and may well end up totally confused. Fans should bear in mind the spirit of the actual bands themselves, people who know who they are and what they want (usually), and take a record in the spirit in which is was created, i.e. a piece of art by a group of individual personalities; Lyrics that are personal to them and that may not necessarily reflect another person's experience; and to not take it all so seriously. The bands sure don't (usually). Some bands are stereotypes and try to reflect the 'scene' and the 'way of thinking' and a particular example of such as the Anarcho Punk scene of the mid 1980s in the UK, where bands all shared a common conformist stance of pacifism, vegetarianism, anarchism, having little personality and generally being quite miserable. Bands often reflect the culture in which they emerged from, and when listening to bands from other countries, especially for teenagers who are often ignorant of other cultures, may not understand what is being said, and may take a guess based on their own 'scene's values' or take the lyrics totally out of context and read too much into them, as above. For example, it would be easy for a UK teenage listener of 1980s US Hardcore bands to come to the conclusion that 'all sports are bad and if you like them you must be an idiot', when the actual lyrics often referred to stereotypes of 'jocks' or American football fans, and indeed one needn't even be a 'jock' to like them and participate in them. It was merely the 'stereotype' that was being mocked, and it is easy for the meaning to be totally lost on the audience, reinforcing their own self-hating miserable attitudes, rather than boosting their empowering ones about being themselves etc. This is exaccerbated when the bands don't quite practice what they preach, or put their money where their mouth is (in terms of their actual behaviour reflecting their stated values), where one will often copy the lowest or least creative form. Individual bands are often very heterogenous, but this is rarely seen by the actual fans.
If one is used to sneering or sarcastic sounding vocals, it is sometimes hard to get out of the mindset of sarcasm and sneering and assume everything a singer sings about is sarcasm or making an ironic point. One conditions oneself into permanently expecting sarcasm and may find it very difficult to genuinely express one's positive feelings or understand when someone else is doing so. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to this as they are often embarrassed about themselves and feel insecure, and may develop a twisted set of views based on this sarcastic or knee-jerk interpretation of genuine expression in music and seeing what they are conditioned to want to see in the music. This is particularly the case when one cannot heat the lyrics properly or one has pirated the album and hasn't got the lyric sheet. Many people hear the odd word here or there or mishear a word, and often reach wildly off-track conclusions about what the songs are about. They may fill in the gaps between the lyrics they think they have identified with their 'instruction manual belief system' and add 1 and 1 and make 3, ascribing disempowering, low level meaning to something which may not necessarily be about that at all. Such people may also totally misunderstand the humour in the music and lyrics and take everything seriously, and largely misunderstand a band and totally get the wrong end of the stick. They may mistake humour and joking around as sarcasm, sneering and point making. When a song is painting a picture of ironic look at a certain person or character, some fans may read too much into the lyrics. Instead of trying to understand what type of character is being portrayed, many find the need to assume the band is singing about a 'bad type of person' in whom every single characteristic or trait is negative, and any charactetistic ascribed to this character is negative and something one should strive to be the opposite of. Real life is not like this! And such a tendency shows a lack of life experience. This is unfortunately what happens when people look to bands to tell them 'what to do and think', when bands are put on a pedestal, and when people with some emotional maturity and life experience are over-analysed by those without it.
People who feel they do not like the society they live in, and who feel they have to rebel against it, or act in such a way that they are making a 'statement' are often ironically not really rejecting the traditional values of their society at all, but still living them and a slave to them. This includes the western industrial society's bias towards keeping one's consciousness in one's 'head', rather than in one entire body, and being aware of one's body and one's surroundings. Eastern concepts of balance, natural fluidity of motion and grace are still lost upon such people, and everyone else, whatever values they claim to hold. The tendency is to allow one's mind to force its will onto the body and its environment. Rebellion can become an exercise in intellectual domination, and even domination over oneself. 'Rebels', goths, punks and so on are still often 'victims of consumer culture' in terms of diet, health, drug abuse (but a 'different', 'righteous' drug!) and to some degree cultural rules over communication and non-sexual displays of affection. Where stoners feel they are liberated in terms of communication and goofing around is often that which is anally retentive and purile.
The lack of identity amongst teenagers is a void that is frequently filled up by youth culture and the use of drugs. A teenager may have 'smoker' ingrained as part of his or her core identity. This is clearly ridiculous, but it happens all the time. It is just as ridiculous as someone whose core identity is someone that likes beer. Not someone of amazing xyz qualities, but that just happens to drink beer sometimes. Their identity is a drinker. This is very anally retentive and self-perpetuating/reinforcing. Creating an identity for oneself when one does not know oneself is really rather stupid, and results in a foolish drug consumer identity or as an identity in opposition to something else, rather than actually having anything to do with who one is. Lack of certainty is inevitable to an extent with teenagers, as they do not have the life experience, experience of pain in a wide manner of relationships, that makes an adult wise and mature. However, it is meant to be fun discovering these things! That is what life is all about.
Ironically, many cannabis smokers externalise their psychological problems, as do highly political teenagers, such that the reason they do not feel good about themselves is not their own fault, but society's. They may create ludicrously high expectations or a set of conditions that must be met in society for them to be happy that will never be met. We are not saying that society is free from injustice. The irony is that, whilst a cannabis user may make out that he is concerned about the pollution in the environment, animal welfare or human rights, he clearly not concerned or does not care about polluting and poisoning his own body. If one can't look after one's own body, then one is really in no position to complain about the planet not being looked after properly.
Quite often, teenagers will seek a grand cause, a higher purpose, a sense of meaning and significance, so that they don't have to think about themselves and their own lives, they can feel like they are contributing to a higher purpose and sense of meaning, and project their problems and feelings on unhappiness onto the outside world. Then you can feel justified in not treating yourself well or loving yourself or looking after yourself, as it is really insignificant compared to the cause you are focussed on (animal rights, anarchism, white power, whatever it is). Now you have given yourself permission to feel bad as much as you want, as your conditions for feeling good about the world will never be met. You may feel you are worthless, and that justice is the only goal. Putting yourself metaphorically (or actually) at the back of the queue out of a false sense of humility. Naively, you may think that (tens of) thousands of years of human corruption will suddenly be washed away by your idealism. Temptation, greed and jealousy are present in every society, in every time, and always will be. Everyone is susceptible to such weaknessess and temptations at one time or other. The feeling of alienation through political ideas or moral values can often lead to the sense of alienation and nihilism of the drugs lifestyle. Perhaps this is not one's intention from the outset, but people often become what they never thought they ever would! Children often never think they will be old and frail. Communists never think they could ever become capitalists. Capitalists never think they could ever become communists. Teenagers might think they could never become middle-aged and boring, obsessed with money and financial planning. But it happens all the time! If one's happiness is dependent on others believing in your cause and seeing it to completion, then you will have a long wait! You can't rely on others to believe in your cause, and everyone is entitled to their own ideas, however sensible or ridiculous. Let's hope your children don't adopt the dope lifestyle as their 'cause'.
Idealised societies or scenes can be imagined that are so constructed that if they could ever exist (in a sustainable manner) they would remove the need for one to face up to one's own fears, character deficiencies, weaknesses and allow us to continue to hide away from one's own low self-esteem. For example, if I had an assertiveness problem, then I might dream of an ideal society where I would not have to be assertive, where people were naturally empathic, considerate, egalitarian and sharing.
It is easy to understand how kid and teenagers can adopt the mindset of 'grand causes'. When you are growing up (usually), one's parents provide for one. Of course, many parents encourage their children to work for their pocket money or to 'hustle' a little for themselves, and to work in their holidays in their late teens (e.g. supermarkets, fast food restaurants etc.) However, for those that have everything provided for them, by caring and doting parents who wish to look after/spoil/protect their children, everything appears to come out of thin air for such children. No work or effort is required. In this mindset, it is easy to lose the connection between work and reward, the reward coming for no input. Thus it is easy to develop the attitude of the world owing one a living, or that society owes it to its inhabitants to look after them and stop all injustices, as such a person sees no other goal in society (earning money is not really perceived as important as one is provided for 'out of thin air'). However, as one grows older, and has been working for oneself, and reliant on oneself for many years (as no one else is looking after you), then there is often less predisposition to believe that society owes you a living or that fixing injustices is your primary goal anymore. This is exaccerbated when one has more responsibliities and has to provide for others, such as one's children or family. The roles are now reversed. This is why many middle class children become vegetarian or socialists/anarchists in their teens, and often becoming 'right wing' in middle age. This is a gross generalisation of course, and this is not to say that many causes are not worthwhile, but it does seem to apply to some extent with many people.
Many dope smokers, and indeed punks, goths or anarchists may feel that society is a cruel place, and may well oppose infringements of civil liberties, wars and animal rights abuses. This externalisation of one's problems is often at the expense of the self. Whilst one feels that one is against the infringements of liberties of, violence against and killing of one's fellow man, one ironically has no problems with violence towards oneself, abuse of oneself and the slow killing of oneself! It is thus considered immoral for the government or industry to poison people, but it is perfectly acceptable for the average consumer to poison himself through ignorance or laziness! Is this not a double standard? If life precious, but not so precious that one would stop self-destructive and self-abusive behaviour and thoughts? Negative thinking and addictive patterns of self-hatred and low self esteem, poor diets full of excessive simple carbohydrates, sugar, additives, toxins and the poisoning of the body and damaging of the liver and brain cells with recreational drugs, alcohol and cigarettes...should we not call Amnesty International and have these people locked up and protected from themselves?! ;-)
It is clearly easier to appreciate something that you have created, built up, found, earnt or worked for yourself rather than something which is simply given to you as a present. For example, if you've saved the money to buy a car, choose the specification and buy it yourself, it feels great. But simply being given a car as a present or as a company car doesn't create the same feelings, and you are more likely to abuse that car as a result and not treat it with as much respect as if you bought it yourself. However, just because it is harder to appreciate something that you've inherited or been given, doesn't mean it can't be done! It simply requires a little more effort. The effort to put it in perspective and look at the situation objectively. This is often the reason why the middle classes in developed countries are often accused of being unappreciative, fussy, demanding, miserable and sometimes rather flakey. For teenagers, this is why so many middle class teenagers get depressed or are rebellious. When you get so much without having to lift a finger, everything loses its meaning. Far from doing their children a favour and showing them love, all it does is to create apathy and a sense of being spoilt. By getting more does not make one happier. Often it has the reverse effect. Meaning and gratitude is all important and without these we have nothing. Spoiling children and taking away their self-determinism and fight to get/earn what they want in life, making things too easy for them and not encouraging them to pursue their dreams and goals, separates cause from effect and takes away one's ability to feel good about things and often results in a loss of direction and disassociation. One aspect of this loss of meaning is the tendency to develop beliefs like 'I didn't ask for this' etc. and to simply look at what is wrong around you, lacking the ability to engage in the world around you in a positive way, and simply expecting more of everything to happen to you to make youself feel good, rather than feeling good and being grateful with what you've been blessed to actually have. It is sometimes referred to as the middle class disease. However, in industrialised countries, living standards have increased significantly over the last 30 years, and many segments of the working class are now rather affluent and try to ape the middle classes in their materialism and spoiling of children. So the 'disease' simply spreads to all segments of society.
Some people, mainly wasters, argue that the 'best' musicians and writers were 'on drugs' and therefore this is justification for the average joe to take drugs as it makes him more 'creative'. However there are some flaws in this argument. It should be noted that in the 19th Century, conventional medicine was rather barbaric and superstitious, and opium was frequently prescribed as a treatment for the common cold. This led to a large number of people becoming opium addicts. So because a person was addicted to opium does not mean that that addiction was a contributing factor in that person's life achievements. It was not a 'lifestyle choice' as such. Most classical and baroque music was composed by those who were not 'on drugs' - and whom arguably created the finest music ever made. One should perhaps also consider that those musicians that created great music were first and foremost great musicians. They had creative talent and drive, and by taking drugs were perhaps able to 'loosen' up their style a little and experiment. However, it should be noted that in most cases, drug use led to a gradual personal and physical decline and often resulted in premature death, thereby robbing the world of more of their creative works. In addition, it should be noted that many of these musicians had a creative peak and often went off the boil quickly, often because of the banality, stale nature of the lifestyle and capping of one's mental level caused by habitual drug use and 'getting wasted'. Some musicians were too wasted to record anything in the 60s and 70s and some became mentally ill as a result. One should bear in mind that only those with a very strong will made it through their stoned musical careers, and those who had weak wills fell by the wayside and were not heard from or raved about, so you only hear of those with stronger wills (in general terms, with exceptions of course). Those with a strong will are able to experiment a little musically, and carry on in spite of their self-destructive habits, but on a personal level their lives may well have left a great deal to be desired. Some wasters may be under the impression that simply taking drugs means that talent comes out of nowhere and they are instantly great musicians. However, it is probably just as well they are stoned, as otherwise they would notice that what they were playing was total cr*p! Some late teenage wasters write songs about various drugs or drug implements, in an extremely anally retentive manner, as if it is funny or naughty; a little like a young kid saying the word penis and laughing. If a waster could see a group of beer drinking jocks writing songs about a 'can of beer' or a 'beer glass' and sniggering, would they not be totally disgusted or consider them to be total idiots? Look in the mirror, homeboy. The best and most alive music is more often than not played when one is sober or straight rather than when one is stoned or wasted. Food for thought!
Funnily enough, the 420 celebration, 20th April, a pro-cannabis smoking and counter culture 'holiday', reputed to have been started in 1971 when kids were getting stoned after school at 4:20pm, is the same date as Adolf Hitler's birthday (born in Austria on 20th April 1889). So stoners and cannabis dependent users are celebrating on the same day as Neo-Nazis. Isn't this ironic? Most cannabis users I asked about this didn't know! Perhaps they were too stoned to notice this rather crucial fact! How unfortunate, but the joke is on the cannabis smokers (unfortunately as usual) who often believe they are being very clever.