ARE WE ADDICTED TO EXISTENTIAL ANESTHESIA?
(Originally posted 7/23/2017)
I call it ‘Elder Wisdom.’ The kids and grandkids are apt to describe it as “Gramps has gone off the rails again.”
I suppose the truth lies somewhere between. Still, when my sometimes-suspect mind pauses to consider the matter it finds an ever-growing mountain of evidence to support my logic. The concerns that I first addressed in an earlier post, back when Oregon was preparing to legalize marijuana, were real then and even more real today.
“But why?” I wonder. What had me so upset about what I considered, (and still do) a cultural dilemma? After all, I am not a social critic. I write about late-life relationships. What prompted my emotional detour? Whatever it was, I have yet to outgrow it. With that, I offer Existential Anesthesia Redux.
I suppose I am a bit worked up, trying to find the logic in the wave of illogical claims. Whatever the reason it is enough to turn today’s BLOG into a RANT. I suppose it has been building up for a while and finally spilled over.
You see, a while back my beloved Tanner, along with the rest of Oregon, became a legal marijuana zone…..as willed by a vote of the folks who populate my mythical city, in the heart of a very real Willamette Valley. With that vote they became 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 October (& November) reservations about the wisdom of that so-called “progress.”
Let’s begin with the obvious…..ours is already the most medicated culture in history. A large part that medication is perfectly legal…..for instance, the opioid epidemic that threatens our nation…..the toxic result of human need coming face to face with highly effective corporate lobbyists who spend hundreds of millions to convince us, and a cadre of well-funded lawmakers, that we need what they are selling.
Disclaimer #1 - 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. Like a lot of you, there have been times when I owed my life to their effectiveness. Yet I realize that even as they heal me, they are also instrumental in creating and funding a delivery system designed to insure huge profits for both vendors and providers…..while leaving our
citizens to pay by far the highest health-care costs in the world, for what are often less than the best results.
Yet beyond those legal and socially acceptable forms of medicinal intervention our society, indeed the whole world, 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 pharmaceutical aids, both legal and illegal. All around us lives are being ruined and families destroyed. Our streets are filled with the homeless survivors. At the same time governments rely more and more on the tax revenues generated by the sale of those products. And all the while a thriving underground economy is equally addicted to the profits that our ‘coping’ produces. Bottom line……more than ever before our “land of the free and the brave” is addicted to its addictions.
And now we find ourselves living in a world that includes yet another round of ‘socially accepted’ means of coping. Marijuana, long relegated to the shadow-side of the conversation, has been liberated. Now, firmly established in the light of day, it is available to one and all …..young and old. As I mentioned above, tipping the scales in the sometimes contentious debate leading to its legalization was pot’s undisputed ability to be a productive source of coveted tax revenue.
Disclaimer #2 - Before I dig deeper into my state’s “progressive” expansion of pot’s availability, let me take a moment to limit the scope of my objections. Like many states Oregon already had 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…..the new world of ‘recreational’ pot. Though that new reality has yet to make its way into any of my Tanner stories, rest assured that 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.
To be clear, 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, mankind’s efforts to escape the harsh realities of life are nothing new. Those tendencies are surely as old as the species. Everyone of us has moments when he or she wants to avoid hurtful circumstances. 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 in today’s increasingly chaotic world….with its ever-growing availability of more effective, even lethal, ways of avoiding life as it is….more of us are relying on those means of escape......those ways to dull the pain. 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 late-life 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 more and more of our young people are succumbing to EA in one or more of its often enticing forms. And they are apparently doing that at an ever-younger age. At the very time of life we hope they are curious, alert, and clear minded…..ready to prepare for the daunting challenges that await them…..it seems that too many youngsters, overwhelmed by those possibilities, are turning to EA…. seeking an emotional retreat that is likely to be a dead end.
Still, the advocates of that brave new world 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 freshly 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?
They 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 form of retreat actually resolve the ills that drive our urge to hide and escape?
The fact is, however, in the end this is not an argument I am going to win. The forces behind the acceptance of marijuana as a valid form of EA are growing stronger. 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 will pause to 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.
Postscript…….Oh my, if only Existential Anesthesia was simply a matter of marijuana. Looking back, when I first offered my thoughts on what I considered a cultural misstep, legal pot was more or less my main concern.
But today’s cultural landscape has become literally unrecognizable to many of us. Our city sidewalks are cluttered with ragged tents and purloined shopping carts. Used needles are everywhere. Oregonians are overdosing at a rate never seen before. To the earlier list of anesthetic aids we can now add vaping, oxycodone, and the most lethal of all, highly addictive fentanyl…..and too, to stretch the metaphor just a bit, there is our individual and national addiction to the wonders of Debt, which they tell us will solve all our problems.
Seems that I remember reading somewhere….”the land of the free and the home of the brave is addicted to its addictions.”
So what do you think? I’m guessing that you have an opinion on these matters. I’d like to hear what you have to say. If you would like to “Comment” feel free to choose “Anonymous” to avoid exposing your personal details. If you are inclined to share this post I hope you will. Let me know what you think about this.