History will look unkindly, as it should, on the engineers of millions of Americans’ spiritual and physical imprisonment.
The United States, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, houses 25% of the world’s prison population. The US government imprisons more of its citizenry than does the Communist Party of China — even though the CCP rules over 4 times as many subjects.
One in five US prisoners are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.
The US prison population began to grow steadily in the 1970s. President Richard Nixon — the one with the “conservative” governing philosophy — signed the draconian Controlled Substances Act of 1971. The federal bureaucracy wrote the legislation itself, carving out an entire new industry to preside over.
In the lead up to the passage of the act, there was no substantive public debate about the absurdity of a supposedly “democratic” (whatever that means) government daring to dictate to a “free” people what substances they are allowed to introduce to their own systems.
If personal autonomy means anything, it’s the capacity for an individual to control what goes into or out of his own lungs or kidneys. No more basic civil liberty exists.
The US prison population exploded in the 1980s following the racist crackdown on crack cocaine. Never mind that the CIA itself directed cocaine importation en masse to fund its corporate power-grabs in Latin America. Ronald Reagan went on television anyway and declared crack cocaine to be “epidemic.” He pointed the finger at inner-city slum dealers instead of the operation’s overseers in his own administration.
One nationally televised teleprompter speech later, the War on Drugs was on. But what does it achieve? What entities promote it and how do they benefit?
The Drug War serves a critical and multifaceted importance to the American Empire.
First, the standard benefit from the government’s purview is more funding, more government jobs to hand out, and more economic power. Once an emerging federal bureaucracy is fully formed and its funding mechanisms well-oiled, extricating it becomes exponentially more difficult by the year.
Local economies grow around the public sector industry. Those jobs become indispensable aspects of the overall fiscal health of the communities. The bureaucracies burrow into the tissue of society so that removing them without inflicting massive pain on the entire system becomes impossible.
Cancer works the same way.
That means federal goons on the streets and in the office by the truckload: more DEA, more FBI, more DOJ lawyers, more federal judges, more parole officers, and more IRS staff. These are secure, relatively high-paying jobs for workers with few marketable skills (i.e. law enforcement officers and office clerks).
Newly-minted federal employees become dues-paying public sector union members. They go on to lobby the government to maintain their mission in perpetuity so as to secure their long-term financial viability. Brand-new drug laws refresh the ranks of the federal goon squad, increasing its political sway.
In this way, the institutional power of federal bureaucracy festers. Power consolidation being the overriding goal, exploring new niche markets like drug law enforcement is an effective strategy to achieve growth. That is the first and most obvious federal incentive for the Drug War.
Second, other nightmarish power consolidation tactics explain the Drug War as well.
They are, for example, the pharmaceutical corporations’ economic interest in forever postponing the legalization of their competition, the emerging prison-industrial complex, and the slave labor it provides for corporations.
The owner class no longer need pay even a minimum of $7 an hour; non-unionized prison laborers will work for 33 cents an hour in hellish conditions and no 401(k).
Third and finally, the Drug War serves a more insidious function than those which underpin its economic attraction for the ruling class.
This ulterior motive for the Drug War is difficult to pinpoint and even more difficult to explain.
Anyone who has experimented with his or her consciousness, though, will intuit the War’s significance in this less obvious regard.
Graham Hancock and others have dubbed it the War on Consciousness.
The oligarchs understand that drugs – those of the psychedelic persuasion in particular – offer users the remarkable capacity to spotlight the laughable presuppositions on which their power is erected and maintained.
There is no “there” there. The unimpressive pettiness and jealousy with which political actors safeguard their power are laid bare by the awesome power of psychedelic drugs.
On therapeutic dosages of psilocybin, the insignificant nature of state red tape becomes palpable. We all become, for the duration of our journeys, Franz Kafka, dumbfounded by the officiousness of bureaucratic lunacy.
The thin air out of which government conjures its alleged authority appears more utterly substance-free than ever to the first-time user. The shaky foundations on which government’s claim to authority are founded and the questionable means by which it executes its rule become conceptually digestible.
In short, psychedelic adventurers discover that the emperor has no clothes.
Were the citizenry to embark on such a spiritual quest, American Empire might find to its dismay that its subjects are not sufficiently frightened of Al Qaeda, or Iran, or whatever Boogeyman of the Day.
Being unimpressed with the alleged threats presented by leadership, the citizenry might then inquire as to why the government spends more on the military than the next dozen highest-spending nations on Earth combined. More poignantly, they might wonder what psychosocial purpose endless war serves for the ruling class.
As the late Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, put it, “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
Citizens on psychedelics would assuredly filter through the warmongering propaganda more skillfully.
A free and informed consciousness is the epicenter of revolution. All subversive activity flows, by necessity, from an uncaged psyche.
The liberating revelations conferred by psychedelics are what the oligarchs fear above all.
Ben Bartee a Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs. Contact him via his portfolio or on LinkedIn.