Posted by Irresponsiblity
John Harris writes “the popularity of cocaine [in Britain] speaks volumes, embodying the spirit of our times while also feeding it”. He’s right. It’s no mere chemical coincidence that Britain has Europe’s biggest coke habit. Harris rightly notes that cocaine “is not a drug to plug you into the collective consciousness… it is not contemplative or mind-expanding”. Unlike ecstasy, acid, or even good hash, it doesn’t alter the contours of the world or blur the edges of reality. Cocaine is a Klieg light, not a lava lamp. It does not, however, make people brittle and anxious. Life makes people brittle and anxious. The drug is an antidote. Britain is a miserable place to live. People are battered by bureaucracy, terrified by the economy, insulted by what passes for public services, infuriated by transport, hectored by the media, shrouded in damp, and told repeatedly that things are bad and only going to get worse. Taking cocaine is a protest, however flawed, against a culture of oppression and enforced impotence.
The appeal of cocaine is precisely that it serves up the short-term illusion of control, without fundamentally challenging any social structures. In this respect, it works for the pinched moralists who decry it, as well as the people who take it. Unlike acid it doesn’t ask you to believe in a higher state of consciousness, and it doesn’t engender pesky, idealistic energy like ecstasy does, which might actually prompt people to change things. Coke is a perfect, sad, little drug for people whose pleasures are crammed into a few guilty hours between Friday night and Monday morning. It’s not addictive, just moreish. It doesn’t leave you with a hangover (though the booze might). There are no bad trips, and no comedowns. All coke offers is a few hours when you stop worrying and just exist, when you’re yourself, only more so.
The drawbacks, as Harris notes, are violence and people talking at each other without listening. This is merely the undercurrents surfacing. People who are ruled by fear instinctively resort to violence; cocaine disinhibits them enough to act. And in a society where individual needs and opinions are ignored, where ‘experts’ and pundits rule the collective conversation, people are desperate to raise their voices, whether anyone is paying attention or not.
The UK’s real problem isn’t cocaine; it’s that society makes cocaine appealing. In a more humane culture, cocaine would be a matter of indifference. Happy people, people who are part of a community, who feel valued and in control of their lives, won’t look for affirmation in a line of white powder. But until then, the dealers are going to get richer. Think about it: a gram of coke, sixty quid; feeling like a worthwhile human being for a few hours, priceless.