Monday, February 2, 2015

Are we addicted to Existential Anesthesia?

I am not sure when I started spelling BLOG --- R-A-N-T. I suppose its been building for a while, until it finally spilled over into bad spelling.

You see, the day is fast approaching---when my beloved Tanner, along with the rest of Oregon, becomes a legal marijuana zone. As willed by a vote of the people my mythical city, in the heart of a very real Willamette Valley, is about to be part of a rapidly spreading social experiment---one that offers our population the freedom to indulge themselves with impunity. As you might suspect, I have some very real October reservations about the wisdom of that so-called “progress.”

Let’s begin with the obvious---ours is already the most medicated culture in history. For the most part that medication is perfectly legal---the product of both human need and a highly effective pharmaceutical industry that spends hundreds of millions to convince us, and a cadre of well-funded lawmakers, that we need what they are selling. 

I will be the first to admit that when I seek the relief and healing of today’s medicines I am thankful to have them available. Yet I realize that even as they heal me, they are instrumental in creating and funding a delivery system designed to insure huge profits for both vendors and providers---while leaving our population to pay by far the highest health-care costs in the world, for something less than the best results.

Yet beyond those legal and socially acceptable forms of medicinal intervention, our society is awash in a sea of chemical “coping” agents---from booze, to narcotics, to pot, and a whole array of manufactured “designer” drugs. Our citizens are increasingly addicted to those pharmaceutical aids, both legal and illegal. Moreover, a widespread, often underground economy is equally addicted to the profits that our coping produces. More than ever before, our “land of the free and the brave” is addicted to its addictions.

And now we come face to face with the latest round of coping capabilities. Marijuana, long relegated to the shadow side of the conversation, has been liberated. Now, firmly established in the daylight, it will be available to one and all---young and old. Tipping the scales in that sometimes contentious debate was pot's new role as a productive and popular source of coveted tax revenue.
But before I address my concerns about my state’s “progressive” expansion of pot’s availability, give me a moment to limit the scope of my objections. Like many states Oregon already has a modest medical marijuana program in place. Though not everyone agrees with that, I accept the evidence of the drug’s medicinal capabilities and have no problem with it being available in that form, given proper regulation and oversight.
Rather, it is the brave new world of universal marijuana acceptance that has me concerned about what lies ahead. This new reality has yet to make its way into any of my Tanner stories. But rest assured, it has more than a few of us October and November types wondering what good or bad, help or harm, will come from this new state of affairs. At least one old fossil I know feels the need to have his say about that.
I don’t pretend to speak for anyone else. I may be the only one who harbors unsettling visions of where our chemically-sated society is heading. Of course our efforts to escape the harsh realities of life are nothing new. That is surely as old as mankind. Everyone has moments when they want to avoid a hurtful circumstance. There was a time when scotch-on-the-rocks was my favored retreat. Fortunately, somewhere along the way I learned that whatever I was running from would still be there in the morning.
But I worry that with today’s increasingly effective, and sometimes lethal, means of avoiding life as it is, more of us are opting to use, even rely on, those means of escape. I am so concerned  about that trend that I have given it a name. I call our societal attempts to escape reality Existential Anesthesia or EA.
Of course, with true October logic I tell myself that if anyone needs Existential Anesthesia to face their circumstances, it would be we October and November types---the ones worn down by decades of dealing with real life. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

But instead it seems that many of our young are succumbing to EA in one or more of its often enticing forms. At the very time of life we want them to be curious, alert, and clear minded---ready to face the daunting challenges that await them---I fear that too many of them, overwhelmed by those possibilities, are turning to EA---seeking an emotional retreat that is too often a dead end. 
The advocates tell us we must accept the reality of a “new way”---one that makes pot available to everyone. They tout its “decriminalization,” a change that will allow future generations to avoid the legal residue of youthful indiscretions. And I'll admit, those arguments ring true. Yet how many lives, young and not-so-young, will be impacted by the reinforced message that we have the right to indulge ourselves in potentially harmful, but perfectly legal ways? How many of us will learn to cope by retreating into a TCH haze?
We tell ourselves, or others tell us, that escape, in a socially acceptable manner, is fine---even therapeutic. They say it can be a wonderful stress reliever. Yet in the end how often does that retreat resolve the ills driving their urge to escape?
Still, in the end this is not an argument I am going to win. The forces behind this new form of EA are growing. They will eventually have their way. I may not agree, and will sometimes give thanks that I won’t be around to see how it ends. But then I remember that my children and grandchildren will be there, dealing with that outcome. It seems that I must pray for their well being and accept what I cannot change. Unless, of course, I choose to pour myself a tall scotch-on-the-rocks and try to forget it.
So what do you think? I know there are a lot of opinions out there. I’d like to hear yours. If you would like to “Comment” feel free to choose “Anonymous” to avoid exposing your personal details. If you are inclined to share the post via email use the “M” symbol to do that. Let me know what you think about this.

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