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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Delighting In Addiction

Quite way our humanoid species is so prone to delusions of one sort or another is a great puzzle. It is one of the reasons I suspect that our species wasn’t the best or brightest of the various humanoids in Earth history, just the most aggressive and predatory. One major weakness is the vulnerability to addictions of one kind or another.

Why do I sit at a computer gazing at pictures of old steam engines? At least this is relatively harmless and the damage is limited to the time I waste and the lost opportunities. It is when we become attached to substances that get into our heads and bring about changes and mood and behaviour.

One real problem is that we suffer pain and none of escape it. So anything that stops or reduces pain is welcome. Also, as we have inherited aggression we get into fights.

There is a literature about what warlike caste or group hyped itself up with what substance to overcome the fear that should be natural to us. Additional to the prevention of pain is the gaining of pleasure, good feeling and being seen to be good or desirable.

This is a feature that has been exploited down the ages by many people for many reasons. It is also the characteristic most targeted by the modern media and marketing businesses. The history of this is a long one. But to take a couple of examples, in the late 18th and 19th Opium and its derivatives became wanted for all the reasons above.

Not long after it became available at cheap prices it began to be put into all sorts of products made and sold on the basis making life better and easier. Notably, it went into products like laudanum. It was said at one stage anyone who could afford it would dose their children when teething or suffering illnesses as well as themselves.

Eventually, the side effects and potential long term damage caused by using it in quantity became evident and the search was on for a substitute. Cocaine arrived after it became known that the leaves of South American coca plant could have a strong effect on “well being” if chewed.

The chemists soon worked on this to produce the variations amongst which cocaine became the most popular. It soon became present in all sorts of products, medical, personal and household.

It was also highly regarded by many; Sigmund Freud apparently was a great fan writing learned articles praising its benefits. Celebrities and famous people made full use of it. I think in 1911 the USA National Bureau of Chemistry tried to use their legal powers to force the Coca Cola company to put the cocaine back into cola on consumer protection grounds.

So what products do we have today that are composed almost entirely of synthetic chemicals, largely uncontrolled, being pushed into almost everything you buy and whose marketing features happy children, lovely mothers and ladies and strong men who are Alpha A dominant?

Oh yes, and they are “healthy” and make you better. And they are engineered to be addictive with the “come again” chemicals.

Any ideas?

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