With the country going to hell, nobody would get judgmental if you wanted to take the edge off. Maybe it’s a beer after work, or a quick hit on the bong, or a couple of happy pills.
Regardless of the specific drug you prefer, the fact is that humans like to get buzzed, and almost every culture has a method of altering our consciousness.
But like most aspects of contemporary life, racial and class differences are prevalent in this most basic of activities. For example, both the government and big businesses have a growing interest in the pharmaceutical, medical, and psychological benefits of psychedelics.
Apparently, eating shrooms and dropping ecstasy can be good for you, at least under the right circumstances.
Now, this appears to be a positive development for those spiritual seekers who have long embraced hallucinogenics as the key to some forbidden realm of reality. Personally, I find it odd that a divine being would create a hidden world for no apparent reason, and then allow humans to glimpse it but only if they stumble upon the idea of eating a specific and rare plant. That seems elaborate, arbitrary, and cruel. But if it’s your thing, enjoy your spiritual quest.
However, many aspiring shamans view the mainstreaming of drugs as a “growing and largely white business [that] adds to the economic distress of poor, non-white communities while denying them access to the powerful mind-altering substances that might help them.”
As we saw with the legalization of marijuana, Latinos and Blacks continue to get locked up while rich white guys horde the cash.
Since the 1960s, many Latino-centered mental health clinics have helped “people keep their psychological fabric together with the aid of mushrooms, LSD, and other substances provided in the psychedelic underground.” But now, the shiny businesses that well-connected entrepreneurs have established are creating “a gentrification of consciousness, a brave new world of psychedelic haves and have-nots.”
And yes, Gentrification of Consciousness is an excellent name for a punk band.
In any case, if you’re a Latino looking to expand your mind and reach cosmic levels of awareness, there’s a strong possibility that you will get arrested. In contrast, wealthy investors dabbling with hallucinogenic research can build respectable “careers, organizations, and for-profits by mining the ancient and contemporary pasts of non-white cultures.”
This form of cultural appropriation strips the “journeys to altered states of all their historical, cultural, and religious significance” and makes them acceptable for mass consumption.
It’s sort of like Hot Topic but for drugs.
So how upset should we be that rich white people have found a new way to gentrify? After all, by itself, this hijacking of a subculture is not that significant.
It is, however, another example of how upper-class white people are rewarded for activities that put ethnic minorities in jail.
It is also yet another cultural land grab by people who have already pilfered heavily from minority communities.
At this point, it appears that everything Latinos or Blacks create will eventually be declared illegal, be monetized by affluent suburbanites, or suffer both indignities simultaneously.
Of course, you might insist that there’s a chance that this detrimental activity will stop one day, and that corporate executives will respect the history and practices of ethnic minorities’ cultures.
Sorry, but if you believe that, you must be high.
Featured image by jurvetson/CC0 1.0