2011-08-24

Drugs, Revisited

My second-most popular blog post of all time, as measured by site hits, is my article on the death of notorious drug addict Amy Winehouse. In that article, I outlined exactly why doing drugs is an act of self-abnegation.

The article rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Some felt that I was attacking the whole concept of psychiatric medication. I wasn't. I am actually a strong supporter of psychiatric medication, when it is required. Such medications are a boon for our society and have helped many great people overcome problems and go on to lead not only healthy lives, but amazing lives that have had grace and impact.

Some felt that I was attacking the concept that drug addiction is a physical disease, and not a mental one. I was. My opinion is that drug addicts are a class of people who are mentally (not physically) incapable of properly evaluating short-run pleasure/pain versus long-run pleasure/pain. There exists medical and psychological evidence to support my viewpoint, although I concede that it is not universally accepted one way or the other.

Jeff's Objection - Part One
Some felt, as loyal Stationary Waves reader Jeff felt (see his full comment in the original article's permalink):
However any time you try to speak about an entire classification of people as a whole, then you can’t make all encompassing statements like those which you are making. People are people… period. They will come from any direction imaginable and do things for any reason imaginable and judgments like those you are choosing to lie down could only be made on a person to person basis. More so, those types of judgments could only be made by somebody who knows the subject very closely and even then you would have a personal bias. You are making assumptions about stereotypes… hardly informative about anything at all except for your own personal motivations and hardly insightful into the minds of either addicts or artists. 
 The above argument I have heard many times, and I summarize it as follows: "Judging and generalizing is mean." I accept that judging and generalizing rubs its victims the wrong way. However, I also respond as follows (and this is really, really important):

Our own personal values are meaningless if it is considered wrong to enforce them in our own minds. In other words, that I think drugs are a disgusting abomination is a meaningless personal value unless I actually live and act as though I really do believe it. Part of this is condemning drug use and drug addiction wherever I see it. I am sorry if this offends some readers, but I also remind them that they, too, hold such a value: the value of not judging anyone.

Of what use would Jeff's values for not judging people be if he didn't speak out against what I said? Jeff's value is very important to him, therefore he was moved to speak up for his beliefs. I laud Jeff for this! This is wonderful. Our values are very important.

But it is for this reason that Jeff cannot seriously object to my judging Amy Winehouse. If I failed to judge her, I would not be standing up for my own, personal beliefs.

But Was I Really Judging Amy Winehouse?
In truth, I don't think I was judging Amy Winehouse at all. My article outlined the following logical chain:
  1. I accept the truth that cogito ergo sum, i.e. "I think, therefore I am."
  2. I accept the contra-positive, "If I am not thinking, I am not really living."
  3. I rephrase point 2 above as follows: "Acts bereft of thought (such as doing drugs) are acts of self-abnegation."
  4. Therefore, doing drugs is an act of self-abnegation.
  5. People who willingly engage in self-abnegation do not wish to live, at least not during the time they are self-abnegating.
  6. If they do not wish to live, why should I care if they die?
Now, Jeff and others may disagree with one or more points above. They may not, however, accuse me of "being judgemental." This isn't a value-judgement, it's a chain of logic. You can disagree with the logic, but you can't accuse logic of being judgemental. Logic doesn't judge. Logic is objective.

Jeff's Objection - Part Two
Jeff goes on to make the following statement:
The only caveat I could think of here was that drugs are one of many ways to see the space and content of your mind in a different light and that insight could and has been used to understand higher thinking.
Relating this to my logical chain above, it is clear that Jeff disagrees with my Point #3. In other words, Jeff believes that drugs are a path to understanding "higher thinking."

It is insufficient to say that I simply disagree with this statement. Nor do I believe it's a matter of opinion. We may deal with this argument by asking one simple question:

When one is experiencing higher thinking, would one be more-able, or less-able to operate heavy machinery, sign a legally binding contract, give legal consent for sexual encounters, and drive a motor vehicle?


If the answer is "less-able," then we are not talking about "higher thinking." We are instead talking about an inhibited mental state.

Now, I certainly don't think we have to disagree as to whether people who are under the influence of recreational drugs are capable of giving legal consent or operating heavy machinery. One is simply no longer experiencing reality when they take recreational drugs. As that which is not real can never be a more advanced version of that which is real, we can rest our case.

Hence I have shown that a drug-induced state is an inhibited state. I take it as given that the active pursuit of an inhibited state is either flagrantly irrational or just plain thoughtless, but in either case, it is an act of self-abnegation.

Why abnegation? Because preserving one's life means either consciously making self-preserving decisions (i.e. not seeking inhibited or damaged states of being), or at least trying to think about what those decisions might be if they are unknown (i.e. pursuing only functional levels of thought and consciousness).

Conclusion
I don't doubt that the average drug user is capable of justifying their drug use any which way. The rationalizations for drug use are endless. Anyone who has ever spoken with a drug addict or alcoholic knows that. Their drug use is always "someone else's fault." They always "couldn't help it." Always, those critical of drug use "just don't understand me or anything about my life."

There is nothing different about these kinds of statements than what you get from the average teenager who has been prevented by his parents from just doing what he wants.

That drug use is dangerous, damaging, and mentally inhibiting is undeniable. No one can tenably claim that drug use is inert or even net-positive. All who attempt to do so are merely rationalizing the artificial highs they wish to experience.

There is much to say about drug-users, but all that really needs to be said about them is non cogitat, non est.