It's embarrassing I know, but I have never taken a trip. Of the psychotropic variety, that is. Everyone I know has done so, but somehow I missed out. I have no great philosophical objection to it all. Quite the opposite - so many people have told me that I really must do it that I've put the word out that if anyone comes across a goldtop mushie, pop it in some honey and give me a hoy. One day...
And yes, thank you, no need for anyone to pile in and tell me of the wickedness of this. I get it. A cousin of mine went out on a Friday night once and disappeared for three days. Finally he turned up in a casualty ward, naked, cut to pieces, and barking like a dog. No one knows quite what happened to him but it's assumed he took a trip. A bad one, obviously. Sure enough, he got better but he's now on a daily regimen of anti-schizophrenic drugs and will be for the rest of his life. That LSD (an industrial strength chemical concoction) is bad, in no way condemns the natural hallucinogens which ancient peoples have been taking under the guidance of elders for millennia. Natural v chemical. Tradition v the latest thing. Wisdom v no idea.
These dichotomies aside, if only my cousin had had someone like the father of a Swedish friend of mine. His father was an original hippy and had been there and done that, and he told his son that no one should take a trip until they're at least forty. It was his opinion that any earlier than this was dangerous, what with a young mind not quite having settled down into a solid variety of 'this-is-who-I-am', if you can dig it. For this original hippy, even thirty was too young.
I expect those of you reading, and who are in their forties, will get the concept. Me, I'm so glad I'm in my forties. Sure I miss the thoughtless physical health of my youth - the endless energy, the instant healing, the indestructibility, etc. But between that and me having a handle on who I am, I'll take the latter. And when I heard the Swedish hippy's advice it struck a chord. I got it. Had I heard it when I was thirty, say, I suspect I would have been too nebulous a concept for me. I may or may not have followed the advice depending on whether someone else said something different. "Nah! That's bullshit!" - "Um is it? Okay."
Being young is about not knowing what to think. As it was, my friend's Dad's advice was no do-or-die for me, what with already being past forty, and never having taken a trip anyway. But all that aside, the kernel within that advice is a thing worth rolling around in one's head and wondering at.
Along these lines, let's jump - to the word 'break', as in break, broke, broken. This can mean various things. In the context of 'The photocopier is broken', it could mean something as simple as a fuse being blown. No biggie, let's just call the repairman. But for that part of human existence that preceded photocopiers (and other diabolical machines), when a thing was broken it was necessarily in pieces. Think clay pots. You break a thing, and it becomes useless.
Funnily enough, with humans it's the other way around. You break them and suddenly they become really very useful. Perhaps the most useful thing there is. What sort of 'broken' is this? Think horses. A human can be broken just like a horse can be broken, same same. Which is to say, we break their will. (Now there's a word for you. What is one's 'will' in this sense? Hmm... 'the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action'. Not bad. But might we not call this 'knowing who one is'?)
When we break a horse, we break its will and it is no longer what it was. It is no longer its own master but instead is subject to us. What we broke was its definition of itself. And so it is with a human who is broken. A broken man, whether by someone else's hand, or mere circumstance (ie. 'After his son died he was a broken man'), loses his spark, his impetus, his definition of himself. And when one man breaks another it is invariably so he might subject that man to his own will. The man is redefined - servant to the fellow who broke him.
It's not just this being broken that humans and horses have in common. Were they to be released from their fealty each could recover their sense of themselves. A horse that escapes it's corral will turn wild again, which is to say rediscover itself as a horse. 'I am a horse! I run about! I root mares! I do whatever the fuck I like!' (Um, apologies for this being very 'male'. Certainly I could make it all non-sexist but the clunky syntax required would make it flow like a bucket of wet sand. Between flow, and catering to the rigidities of non-sexism, I choose the former. Words are one thing, and deeds are another. Oh wait, have I broken the flow here? D'oh!)
Where was I? Oh yes, breaking a man. It strikes me that this has been a constant throughout history - men breaking men in order to subject them to their will. Hmm... there's an book angle for you. "Men as Beasts - The History of Breaking the Human Will". Howard Zinn eat your heart out.
Anyway thank God we've left all that behind - master/servant - all that rubbish. Now we have freedom. Ha ha ha ha - as if! The motherfuckers of this world (psychopaths, whatever) have never quit. In much the same way that horses have been replaced by horsepower, breaking a man's will has likewise scientifically progressed to hitherto unimaginable heights. Which is to say, 'depths'.
For black-hearted secret organisations like the CIA et al, keen to have the world subject to their will, this ability to truly break a man, to make him act against his most deeply held principles, constitutes a variety of holy grail - Mind Control. If one could control a fellow's mind, who needs super powers? Bugger kryptonite - between being able to weaken Superman, and turning him into your biddable asset, it's a no-brainer. Or to put it another way - why would you shoot a horse when you could ride it instead?
And then there's MPD/DID. The acronym stands for Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder - the former is the old term and the latter the new one apparently. This is that old chestnut of fiction wherein two or more personae ('alters') exist within one mind. Think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, albeit with Hyde as an alter appearing merely by having his name called. In searching for a non-cinema metaphor, MPD/DID is to the breaking of the human will, what the Reserve Bank system is to your local loanshark.
And in much the same way that Reserve Banking's private ownership doesn't exist in the media, MPD/DID is similarly misrepresented as the fantastical stuff of fiction, not to be taken seriously. However, having read the account of witness X1 (amongst myriad others) from the Dutroux scandal, I now have MPD/DID down as non-fiction. Besides this, if you plug it into Dave McGowan's Programmed To Kill, and the battle between Recovered Memory Syndrome and the CIA's False Memory Syndrome, a 'what-the-fuck-is-going-on-here' picture starts to sharpen into something possessed of shape, colour, and form.
It seems we're permitted to know about MKultra and its assorted drug and hypnotism experiments. But perhaps this was merely a side-show to the true three ring circus of Operation Monarch. According to Ron Patton this involved Josef Mengele. We all roll our eyes - bloody Josef Mengele! More Boys From Brazil fiction! Yeah, maybe, maybe not.
Given that American practitioners of the black arts wholeheartedly embraced the personnel of Japan's Unit 731 (and their experiments in biological warfare), the default position would have to be 'why wouldn't they?'. That the Germans pursued Mind Kontrolle like the Americans pursued mind control is beyond plausible. That they did this in concentration camps with the prisoners as experimental subjects, likewise. It's precisely what the Japanese did with 731. And Mengele? Why not? Every other goddamn thing about the Holocaust has been misrepresented, why not him too? It's perfectly possible that the various stories of him in Brazil were complete fiction. The Boys From Brazil certainly was.
What if we were to call MKultra a search for a drug induced shortcut to MPD/DID? And it seems the shortcut, by way of LSD, failed. LSD, in breaking the link between reality and fantasy, seems only to produce less than useful casualties like my cousin. No problems, if LSD doesn't provide the answer, move on. And since it's not addictive and thus unlikely to produce the staggering profits of smack, coke, and meth, then it isn't really worth pursuing. If there's any proof to be found in one's own microcosm, I have encountered all three of above and yet never bumped into LSD. The experiment is over and it no longer suits the motherfuckers to have it out there.
So they chucked in MKultra. But there's no way they chucked in the search for mind control. For motherfuckers, this holy grail will never lose its appeal. Best to stick with the tried and true - smashing the psyche of the young. Certainly that one can take a child, brutalise them, and turn them into killers is old hat. Evidence of it is everywhere, from Sparta of yore, to China's Cultural Revolution, right through to the Congo of today.
But we are white men. As if we couldn't come up with something better than Africa's blank-eyed child killers. Even Henry Lee Lucas and his grand guignol slaughterfests, whilst serving a definite purpose, leave a lot to be desired. Really, MPD/DID is the go. To be able to take a mind and fracture it into discrete entities each capable of different things answers the brief pretty well. And yeah yeah, suffering beyond comprehension, a mind smashed to pieces, with only a shell remaining - like motherfuckers give a shit.
And so we arrive at X1, and all those like her. She survived and with help is attempting to reconstruct herself. You'd have to wish her luck in her endeavours to find peace of mind. There but for the grace of God etc. etc. But I suspect she's in a minority of those MPD/DID victims who escaped their snuff film fate. Who knows how many went on to inflict their own misery upon others?
Did anyone read Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea Trilogy? The magic of Earthsea pivoted on everything having a secret name. This name was always guarded since possession of this knowledge gave one power over whomever it was. When I read this book, way back when, I greeted this concept with a shrug. Nice idea, but as best I could tell it seemed to have no great connection to anything. Not anymore. Now I really wonder at it. It's a precise description of the mechanism by which an MPD/DID slave is controlled. Curious. Never mind a shrug, now I shake my head. Did Ursula LeGuin just fluke this?
In amongst this sordid trip through MPD/DID, the thought occurred to me (since I'm that sort of fellow) 'What if it was me being subjected to this?'. Would I cope? Or succumb? If someone wanted to split my mind, would they succeed? Could I hold on to my will, my sense of myself?
In turning this thought around, the phrase 'know thyself' popped into my head. It's an oldie but a goodie that I'd never taken beyond face value. Like LeGuin's secret names, I'd merely shrugged - know thyself - um, okay, sure, why not? But under the light of MPD/DID, 'know thyself' now seems fraught with meaning. Madly, I wonder if it might not originally have been a warning from an ancient sage familiar with some antediluvian version of mind control. Hmm... an unlikely prospect. And besides, surely the MPD/DID variety of smashing-of-the-will must necessarily be restricted to a tiny number of people. Statistically individuals like X1 couldn't comprise more than a tiny fraction of one percent of the population.
Not so fast! Perhaps this isn't an either/or proposition? Perhaps it's another continuum? What if people like X1 were merely the furthest extreme on a bell curve? (So extreme, that in much the same way that statisticians reject such extreme anomalies under the 2.3 standard deviations rule, we too do likewise and reject it as a subject too far. We really just don't want to go there). Back to this continuum now, isn't our sense of know-thyself under a daily assault? In fact, couldn't we describe everything we're on about here - from Adbusters' simple sense of dislocation, through to the Protocols plans of destruction for everything 'not them' - as an assault on our ability to know-thyself? What is the media (Hollywood, games, advertising - all the same thing) apart from a machine that does precisely this? Isn't it our sense of know-thyself suffering death by a thousand cuts?
And then there's who the media is aimed at. It ain't me, that's for sure. One doesn't have to spend very long immersed in the media before realising it's almost entirely directed at the young. As with MPD/DID, when assaulting know-thyself it pays to start young. Otherwise, not so long ago there was no such thing as 'youth culture'. A single generation ago people would have understood each of these words separately but to connect them would have had them scratching their heads. Ha! Now that I think about it, 'youth culture' is a perfect oxymoron. With culture being a thing that develops slowly over countless generations, how could 'youth' and 'culture' possibly be put together in any sensible fashion? Honestly?
Regardless, the media relentlessly beats young people about the head with perverse ideas of who they should imagine themselves to be. A lot of it is connected with turning them into hell-bent consumers, sure enough. So what's up with the media's relentless sexualisation? What does this have to do with consumerism? Whether eight year olds are wearing g-strings or granny pants, the money would flow regardless. So what are our kids being made into? And why?
And whilst this is a long way from what was done to X1, it's still the same road with everyone being shepherded towards the same destination, with know-thyself receding ever further into the distance.
Between our venerable Swedish hippy urging his son to wait until he's forty, and the CIA handing out vast quantities of LSD; between parents hoping for a 'normal' family and the media's mad deification and sexualisation of children; and between peace, love, and understanding, and the endless inculcation of us-and-them with death to towelheads - could we not define all of these as a struggle to hold on to know-thyself?
Am I the only person to ask some variation of the question, 'Is this my country?', or better still, "Who are we?'. I don't think so.
Whilst it's early days for yours truly with this line of thought (with much work to be done), could we describe Siddhartha Gautama's ascension to Buddha-dom as him arriving at a complete state of know-thyself? For mine, it's inescapable that the ultimate truth of know-thyself is that we are one with the universe. The black opposite of this, desired by those who would break us/break our will, is that we each become our own universe. Thus we become individual, self-obsessed molecules bouncing off each other in a state of complete chaos. We lack all coherency - in both meanings of the word. It's a smashing of our 'one-ness'. Whether this one-ness is within our own heads, à la X1, or collectively, as in our sense of community, I'll posit that it's all the same thing.
I have no idea if that Swedish hippy dad quite knew what he was doing when he passed on his advice to his son. And never mind the specificity of it as being about psychotropic drugs. That's a useful thing to know, sure. But above that, his words and the wisdom that underlies them are pure gold, perhaps the only thing worth knowing. Thyself. Within this lies everything. If one could pass on one single thing to one's child, says I, this is it.