I abhor 80s culture. Yet, while i lament high heel converse shoes, two aspects of the 80s rival for my complete intolerance: Reagan/Bush administration and cocaine. As Burning Man preparation rushed through San Francisco, i got to overhear lots of shopping lists. In the past, it used to humor me that acid was placed on the same shopping list with gas masks and ballerina skirts. With acid completely gone and ecstasy usually tainted with DXM, it doesn’t surprise me that other drugs are serving as replacements. The psychedelic club scene saw a shift to meth and alcohol. The psychonauts shifted to research chemicals. But why on earth are some Burners shifting to blow?

Filthy nostril hair
Impairs my cocaine habit
I must blow my nose

(from 1999 Haiku4Beer camp)

First off, the idea off a Burner trying to snort coke in one of the dustiest BMs ever humors me to bits. Have a line – 2/3 coke, 1/3 playa. But it really breaks my balls to think that some people see Burning Man as an experience that requires ego-enhancement. Gah. Then again, i deplore the people who drink on the desert as well (particularly those whose drunkenness forbids them from comprehending “leave no trace” as they shout misogynistic taunts at the naked women).

Why oh why is cocaine back? I know… it’s about culture and Barlow does a good job of clarifying on his discussion of the Republican Drug:

Once again, one can see clearly what the War on Some Drugs is really about. It’s the culture, stupid. It certainly isn’t about public safety, since coke and booze are the perfect combination for social depravity of all sorts. Instead, it provides a beautiful opportunity to jail the blacks and hippies who prefer the non-Republican drugs. It makes huge bank for one’s wing-tipped colleagues.

I’m an adamant believer in entheogens and the opportunity to explore one’s mind and soul through altered states. There’s nothing empathy building about drugs like cocaine, meth and alcohol. This trio is notorious for an increase in domestic abuse, rape and general violence. They often bring the dissociative power of self-indulgence and cruelty, bringing out the worst of humanity by allowing the psyche to be distanced from the body. I’m still not a fan of bars because it makes me twitch to watch aggression come in bottle form, but i can handle a drunk far better than a meth or coke addict.

But as much as i can intellectually understand that this is a cultural battle, it absolutely boggles my mind that any “compassionate” culture would prefer the wreckage and hatred of meth, coke and alcohol. While i’ve met many people who have found religion and connection through entheogens, i’ve only seen religious and familial carnage emerge as a result of the deadly trio. There’s a reason that MDMA was used in marital therapy, not cocaine. How can a political party be known for family values as well as family-destroying drugs?

::sigh:: Of course, i have to remind myself that life – and especially politics – are ripe with inconsistencies. Still, that doesn’t make me feel better. Can we resurrect the 90s yet? I’ll cope with flannel and cords again.

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9 thoughts on “cocaine

  1. joe

    Great one, danah… It’s interesting that Barlow characterizes it in mere economical terms: There is a demand for altering substances, cocaine is very, very cheap. It’s interesting that the demand for altering substances doesn’t seem to highly discriminate between certain substances… so that people may not have cocaine at the top of their list, but it’s not *off* the list or at the bottom. Or is it merely the gimmick and novelty of *cheap* cocaine? Is this a short-term phenomenon or does the shift to the white stuff mean that we as a culture have our priorities in different places due to the reality of right now?

  2. Ryan Shaw

    I’m inclined to agree with Joe that shifts in drug use patterns are primarily due to economic factors, not cultural ones. The rave scene in the UK saw similar shifts as supplies of various drugs ebbed and flowed (with interesting effects on the music produced). While it’s tempting to make generalizations about coke-snorting stockbrokers and mushroom-chomping hippies, I’ve actually known a lot of mushroom-chomping stockbrokers and coke-snorting hippies. Freud was a cokehead and Paul Erdos was a machine for turning speed into theorems. It comes down to personal preference, I think. Personally, I don’t want to live in a world where the government hunts down drunks for promoting self-indulgence and cruelty any more than I want this world where ecstasyheads are hunted down for promoting promiscuity and, um, dancing too much or something.

  3. zephoria

    Actually, my experience has been that availability and personal preference trump economics. But there’s a twist to the personal preference. For example, the reason that LSD morphed into acid and meth in certain clubs was about side effects. LSD made people 1) stay up all night; 2) have a level of liquidness that let them dance. Meth kept people up all night and alcohol provided a decent substitute.

    Cocaine was always a weird drug in terms of economics. There’s a “show” effect to high-end coke (similar to the show effect of high-end bud). Thus, there’s a delicate balance between quality and cost. Also, while coke may be cheaper, you’re still talking about a very short high for a decent amount of money. That’s not comparable to the common entheogens.

    Ryan’s definitely right in that drugs and professions are not necessarily linked but there is an overarching cultural component to drugs in part because of the supply chain. As for famous people using drugs, of course. It doesn’t make me any happier with the substance because, unlike Ryan, i cannot support the government turning a blind eye to the kind of drug-produced victim cruelty that emerges such as violence. An increase in rape levels does not a happy danah make.

  4. Wax Banks

    apophenia: cocaine

    danah boyd (whose insistence on no-capital-letters I find more or less empty, but will on this occasion happily indulge since what I’m linking to is informative and sharp and weird hip) talks about cocaine: I’m an adamant believer in entheogens

  5. Wax Banks

    Drug cultcha!

    danah boyd (whose insistence on no-capital-letters I find more or less meaningless to me, but will on this occasion happily indulge since what I’m linking to is informative and sharp and consciously hip) talks about cocaine: I’m an adamant believer

  6. Randy

    Drug policy has always been a political tool to keep economic classes in separate cells, and that is an intentional pun. Back in 1996 I had the pleasure of meeting the National Drug Czar in Washington D.C. with a group of other high school seniors overachievers. One of the girls asked him point blank, “Why is the jail sentence for crack cocaine so much more sever than straight cocaine? The guy was in absolute shock, and fumbled through some boloney answer trying to mask the truth. We knew the answer because no self respecting lawyer, or broker, or white collar goob will touch crack because white men vote, and all of the other stereotypical answers which are sadly correct. She just wanted to see him squirm a little.

  7. doctor paradox

    coke is the nastiest, most self-absorbed drug. it makes total sense to me that it is the republican drug of choice. i read “compassionate conservatism” as meaning “we give lip service to compassion while we suck your livelihood and hard work through our noses.” unilateral compassion. we can’t have people doing entheogens, now – they might want some of that compassion reciprocated.



    danah, i’m using your post as an intro to the word “entheogen” ([define: entheogen] at google having failed me utterly and [define: psychedelic] seeming to only include “lab madness” oriented definitions rather than “soul-window”). rock on, dear lady.

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