Thursday, April 16, 2015

VIDEO: John Robson Discusses The Discovery of LSD

I'm glad John Robson brought up the topic of LSD in the 1960s. I know he was trying to make a point about trends and periods needing each other, but my interest is about the influence of the drug itself.

I did some research on the drug in university. I don't think we've given this drug the credit (blame?) it deserves for the culture.

Beatniks and then hippies used LSD as a mean to gain insight into oneself and of the world as a kind of spiritual experience. The hippies were rebelling against the conformist and superficial Christianity of their parents. They perceived American Christianity as inauthentic, whereas LSD and various other kinds of drugs and experiences were means to develop one's individualism and thus authenticity.

John mentioned in the video that LSD made people a lot less rigid. I would go a lot further. The danger of the drug was not just in the loss of rigidity. The drug had a tendency to make a person reject social and moral conventions altogether. Many people came away from and LSD with the belief that nothing was black and white, that social rules were arbitrary and phoney. While they may be fine for things like how to dye your hair, it's a bit more serious when it leads you to start a farming commune when you have no experience in agriculture, or you give your kids LSD as some hippy parents are alleged to have done. The LSD experience led to a philosophy of absolute relativism that anyone with half a brain can see, is intellectually and practically unsustainable. You do your thing, I'll do mine is all well and good, but sometimes what individuals do has a negative impact on others, and people with a conscience can't just stand by and let it happen.

Without drugs, I think a lot of people could have been shown the stupidity of absolute reativism through basic argumentation. However, with the drugs, I think it made argumentation futile. Many hippies saw the world through the prism of the insights that they developed through their drug experiences, and it's hard to persuade people they're wrong when they've experienced a thought they see as deep and meaningful. And with millions of people reinforcing that idea, it became culturally difficult to fight the tendency. The one thing that did help is that people graduated from college and had to do something with their lives: they couldn't just live off of Mom and Dad, or on their bogus commune, for the rest of their lives. People had to eat. And having to get a job made them face reality.

Some day I think people will come to understand the wide-ranging influence of LSD. And I don't say this as some disgruntled social conservative who hates drugs. It's just reality. The influence of LSD and its values could be felt in pop art, music, film and the like. People hear Jefferson Airplane and think their music was just groovy, but behind that groovy sound is what people heard while tripping.