Other bits and pieces

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rock Paper Scissors

Many years ago (either thousands or millions or something like that) the only known method of food preparation commonly put into practice around the globe was basically one of two methods:

1) Whack or stab something until it died and put it in your mouth, or,

B) Pull something that doesn't appear poisonous out of the ground and put it in your mouth.

Over time, people (and by people I'm guessing women) figured out that if you use the fire that men invented you could transform raw food materials into something that was actually pleasurable to consume. Before long, some genius Neolithic chemist invented leavened bread. Bam!! The world was now a place full of culinary concoctions that would baffle the human imagination. Ten minutes later, an even greater genius figured out how to ferment it. The world had its first real vice.

The Greeks (or Spartans) first started enjoying the squishing of grapes through their toes and the taste of wine around 4500BC. The Persians first started brewing beer (good beer, not like Coors) somewhere around 3500 BC. By the middle ages, when most of Europe had decided it was fashionable to live in huge cities with no sanitation systems, and basically advanced to an unlivable cesspool, fermented beverages had become pretty much the only liquid someone could consume without it killing them. By about 1100, monks in Ireland and Scotland figured out how to produce whiskey, and at the same time destroy any chance of either culture leveling up past bar-room drunk. Fast forward a few hundred years and the vice that was booze was pretty much the favored libation in some form or another in every household, palace, mud hut, or wigwam around the globe.

When Europeans gallantly discovered the already discovered and inhabited lands of North America, the Indians not from India that lived there knew that, due to a vast technological delta in weaponry, there was only one shot at killing off the English squatters: They introduced them to tobacco. (That whole peace pipe thing was just a joke, Powhatan was trying to give John Smith cancer.) Smoking tobacco was an instant success in European court and became the overnight designer drug of the 1700s. It was so popular that even in the 1950's one would not find it uncommon to come across advertisements touting doctor recommended cigarettes.

Now, this may not be news to a few of people, but all of these things have something in common: They are bad for you and they are all a drug. We all know they are bad for you depending on how much you consume, blah blah blah. Alcohol was temporarily and laughing sort of halted in America after the Volstead Act of 1919, but after a few years, and backed by overwhelming popular demand, was back on the menu. The people had spoken; we like our vices, and that's final.

But something is missing from this list. Sneaking along in hit or miss popular use since about 2500BC was a little fast growing plant called cannabis. Various cultures from China to South America and everywhere in between had been smoking this stuff, either connected with some sort of ritual to celebrate something cool no one could remember, or just as an inspiration for Thracian Taco Bell throughout most of recorded history. And like the other drugs I've already mentioned, it's...brace yourself...bad for you. That's why it's illegal. Wait, what?

Why is Mary Jane illegal while booze, smokes, bacon fat, Twinkies, and Woopi Goldberg are not? It must be worse. Yeah that's it. If you smoke cigarettes you could get cancer, but if you smoke pot you'll grow a third eye in your ass (think about that...and how bad that would really, really be). Nope, that's not it. It's not as bad for you as too much sugar. Maybe it leads to violence and crime. We wouldn't want that on the streets right? Oh wait, we already have booze. The truth is that Marijuana is not illegal for any real moral or health reason. It's illegal because of Nylon.

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 made possession and transfer of cannabis illegal. The act was heavily supported by the newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was in bed with Andrew Mellon (Secretary of the Treasury and richest man in the world), and the Du Pont Family. Mellon was heavily invested in the Du Pont's new synthetic fiber, Nylon, and Hearst, in addition to newspapers, was a timber mogul. Their collective target was the hemp plant, which produces excellent natural fibers, is renewable, and grows faster than timber. But no one in their right mind is going to pass a law against super-paper. They needed to make America afraid of something...and fast.

Hearst's newspapers began running many articles vilifying cannabis as a scourge on society and specifically emphasized marijuana’s connection to violent crime. Yeah, they actually managed to convince the general public that a drug that could sedate Genghis Khan was leading people to rape, murder and attack midgets. Popular opinion swayed...check, congressman lobbied, check, point, set, match. Marijuana is evil, it will kill us all. So, grab your pitchforks, believe everything you read, run to the polls. The drug and it's bitch of sister, hemp, were duly criminalized so all the children would be safe from sleepy-eyed pot heads looking for a snack.

In the end Hearst was kind of right, he just didn't know it. Marijuana actually is connected to violent crime. It started when Hearst and his fiber-rich colleagues managed to criminalize it, and the war on drugs became mainstream news...which Hearst could report in his newspapers. Since 1937, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and billions of dollars have been wasted in and against the trafficking of one of the slightest threats to civilization in recorded history. The war on marijuana has to be the dumbest undertaking since Hadrian tried to keep the Romans out of Scotland by building a 3-foot wall.

Never doubt the power of the media to galvanize the sheep against the goats.

© Raymond Smith 2011

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