david brooks conservatives marijuana (“been there done that”)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 6 min­utes.

DAVID BROOKS’ latest ed­i­to­rial (Jan­uary 2, 2014) fea­tures the rather inane title of “Weed: Been There. Done That.” At least that’s how it ap­pears on The New York Times web­site, the orig­inal pub­lisher of Mr. Brooks’ columns. In our local Seattle Times it was al­tered to “Mar­i­juana: been there, done that.” 

Why? There is nothing ob­jec­tion­able or un­print­able about the orig­inal title, nor is it gram­mat­i­cally in­cor­rect as an ed­i­to­rial page title! Ho hum . . .

David Brooks’ jour­nal­istic back­ground in­cludes stints with sev­eral well-known pub­li­ca­tions, in­cluding The Wash­ington Times (founded and guided by the “rev­erend” Sun Myung Moon), The Wall Street Journal, and The Weekly Standard.

Ummmm, each of these news­pa­pers (sic) is marked by a de­cid­edly con­ser­v­a­tive ed­i­to­rial position/slant (pro-business, anti-union, pro-imperialism, anti-populism, etc).

Mr. Brook’s columns gen­er­ally re­flect a sim­ilar at­ti­tude to­wards pol­i­tics and life. As does this one on weed. And I am being aus­tere here in my editing of his piece: I en­courage all my readers to click on over to the NYT site and be­come Mr. Brooks’ readers, if only for a day.


DavidBrooks Pot teenagers 900

In ‘the six­ties,’ get­ting to­tally high high high was often called “having your mind blown.” To have one’s mind blown, one must have a mind, some­thing that may or may not be so for most teenagers.

I smoked marijuana

Brooks opens his piece on pot with nos­talgia that after reading the ar­ticle in its en­tirety, comes across as a sorta some of best friends are black (or gay or Jewish) but that we hear from self-consciously big­oted people:

“For a little while in my teenage years, my friends and I smoked mar­i­juana. It was fun. I have some fond mem­o­ries of us all being silly to­gether. I think those mo­ments of un­in­hib­ited frolic deep­ened our friend­ship. Then we all sort of moved away from it. I don’t re­member any big group de­ci­sion that we should give up weed. It just sort of pe­tered out, and, be­fore long, we were scarcely using it.”

He then goes on to crit­i­cize weed and cas­ti­gate smokers, prof­fering the oldest of lies con­cerning this phys­i­cally in­nocuous sub­stance: “that it is ad­dic­tive in about one in six teenagers.” Read lit­er­ally, that could mean that it is NOT ad­dic­tive to non-teenagers, but of course, that is NOT what Brooks meant.

And I make these state­ments keeping in mind that we live in a cul­ture where the meaning of ad­dic­tive has been so pab­u­lu­mized (look it up) that any­thing done compulsively—hell, repetitively—is cat­e­go­rized as ad­dic­tive (think the ab­sur­dity of sex addiction).

An­other lie he re­it­er­ates is that “young people who smoke go on to suffer IQ loss and per­form worse on other cog­ni­tive tests.” Well, yes, if they smoke stag­gering amounts of weed daily and take these tests during their smoking time. Normal use has zero ef­fect on said cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and test scores.

Thank­fully, he by­passes such other hi­lar­ious lies about mar­i­juana that it causes male breasts to in­crease in size, leads to ho­mo­sex­u­ality, and is a “gateway” to harder drugs. The rest of his column is mere and pure jabberwocky . . .

And that sums up the mar­i­juana ex­pe­ri­ence for count­less mil­lions of Amer­i­cans since at least the 1960s: silly people—usually under the age of 30—doing silly things under the in­flu­ence of one of the most amazing sub­stances found in the nat­ural world.


Beeler cartoon marijuana GitHer 800

Car­toon on med­ical mar­i­juana use and its abuse by dis­dainful, un-American se­niors by award-winning ed­i­to­rial car­toonist Nate Beeler for The Columbus Dispatch.

My experiences with weed

Need­less to say, that was cer­tainly NOT my ex­pe­ri­ence with mar­i­juana. My first ex­pe­ri­ence was mind-manifesting (look it up), consciousness-altering, and life-changing. Reg­ular smoking of good old fash­ioned Mex­ican weed in the early ’70s tem­pered my chronic in­somnia, made me more aware of others’ feelings—especially my pen­chant for sar­casm, in­creased my ability to im­merse my­self in music, and a host of other things.

(Refer to my piece “the trans­mo­gri­fi­ca­tion of free will into jukin’ bone” on my other site, ratherrarerecords.com, for a bit of self-deprecation of my former con­de­scending self.)

Per­haps most telling of this sub­stance’s un­her­alded ef­fects was the fact that it cured a life­long af­flic­tion. Since as long as I could re­member, I suf­fered what was called then de­bil­i­tating mi­graine headaches. They came on sud­denly and unpredictably.

As I lived at home, my mother would usu­ally get me into my bed and close the Venetian blinds and my door and make as little noise as pos­sible. I would lie there, head held straight, eyes to­wards the ceiling.

If I moved my head an inch in any di­rec­tion, the pain was so in­tense as to cause nausea and bring on the tears.

These began as a child and lasted into col­lege. Until I began smoking weed on a reg­ular basis. Like so many other won­drous ef­fects this plant has, I re­ally didn’t even no­tice that I wasn’t having them any­more. They had once been a reg­ular part of my life, now they weren’t.

I have not had a mi­graine headache since 1970 and I don’t even re­member what they felt like!


DavidBrooks Pot Colorado 700

Government encourages pleasures

Mr Brooks’ final lines for his column typify con­ser­v­a­tive con­tra­dic­tions: he is in favor of in­di­vidual free­doms ex­cept when he dis­agrees with them. For­tu­nately, he couches his meaning in the voice of what I as­sume is a form of com­pas­sionate con­ser­vatism:

“I’d say that in healthy so­ci­eties gov­ern­ment wants to subtly tip the scale to favor tem­perate, pru­dent, self-governing cit­i­zen­ship. In those so­ci­eties, gov­ern­ment subtly en­cour­ages the highest plea­sures, like en­joying the arts or being in na­ture, and dis­cour­ages lesser plea­sures, like being stoned.

In le­gal­izing weed, cit­i­zens of Col­orado are, in­deed, en­hancing in­di­vidual freedom. But they are also nur­turing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.”

A bril­liant re­buttal to Brooks’ piece is the first letter in the Com­ments sec­tion that fol­lows the ed­i­to­rial on the NYT page. Cred­ited to ‘gemli,’ it reads:

“This first-person con­fes­sion of ca­sual pot-smoking is de­signed to make us think that everyone is equally sus­cep­tible to temp­ta­tions, and equally ca­pable of brushing them aside to de­velop pas­sions for sci­ence and lit­er­a­ture and en­large­ments of the heart.

But nothing demon­strates more clearly the tone-deafness of Brooks and his like-minded con­ser­v­a­tive friends who think that everyone starts out on equal footing. This is a fa­vorite theme of Mr. Brooks: People of Quality rise to the top, while lesser sorts wallow in a de­spair of their own making.

In­stead of mol­ly­cod­dling the dis­ad­van­taged by making jobs avail­able, or raising the min­imum wage or pro­viding better schools in poor neigh­bor­hoods, Brooks thinks the role of gov­ern­ment should be to en­force con­ser­v­a­tive moral values. See what hap­pens when stoners grow up to write columns in the Times? Kids, please, don’t smoke!”


I used the phrase “phys­i­cally in­nocuous” above meaning that the ac­tive “psy­choac­tive cin­stituents” in mar­i­juana (tetrahy­dro­cannabinol, or THC, is the pri­mary consciousness/spiritual shaker-upper) does no phys­ical harm to the body in even mod­er­ately high doses. Of course, any­thing that is smoked draws smoke into the lungs, which is ALWAYS bad for the smoker.

Fi­nally, get­ting high al­lowed me to over­come my anx­i­eties and in­se­cu­ri­ties re­garding the act of making love to a woman. It al­lowed me to relax into the joy of sex and con­necting with an­other through the act of be­coming one with the gods.

For that alone, I am for­ever in­debted to the great god Ganja . . .


DavidBrooks Pot joint 700

FEATURED IMAGE: For many of us, get­ting high and playing chess is a de­lightful com­bi­na­tion. On the other hand, if you pass from high­ness to being stoned, then chess can be nigh on im­pos­sible an en­deavor. Also, back in ‘my day,’ our joints were pinched off at both ends and called joints; the joint in the photo above ain’t no joint, but a form of what they call blunts. I guess . . .


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For a while back when I was a teen my friends and I smoked dope. 

Then we gave up on weed and started drinking al­cohol de­spite the ob­vious health rea­sons that it is ad­dic­tive; that drinking and dri­ving is a good way to get your­self killed; that young people who get reg­u­larly pissed go on to suffer I.Q. loss and per­form worse on other cog­ni­tive tests. 

I’m not too sure be­cause I’ve just downed a few dry mar­tinis, but we gave up be­cause each of us had a few em­bar­rassing mo­ments when we were pot smokers and whereas al­cohol kills people, de­stroys fam­i­lies, and stunts lives, cannabis doesn’t kill anyone. Let me put that in some sort of con­text: EVER.

We gave it up, second, I think, be­cause someone told us that Carl Sagan was a stoner and sci­en­tists weren’t cool. Then we went on to de­velop higher plea­sures – like single malt whiskies and be­cause get­ting pissed isn’t repet­i­tive and un­like dope, al­cohol made us fun­nier and more cre­ative. Until I dropped out of uni­ver­sity my aca­d­emic studies and uni­ver­sity grades con­firmed this. All of us grad­u­ated to more sat­is­fying plea­sures and dis­cov­ered a deeper source of hap­pi­ness by get­ting better at some­thing – like get­ting mar­ried and divorced.

One of my close friends de­voted him­self to working long hours at a crappy job. Others to having kids that they never saw. 

Fi­nally, I think (but not much) we had a vague sense that un­like drinking or taking pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tion and phar­ma­ceu­tical mind-altering drugs, smoking weed was not ex­actly some­thing you were proud of your­self for, but then again nei­ther is having a meal nor using the bath­room, so just like my life I’m not sure where that ar­gu­ment is going. We were in the stage, which I guess all of us are still in, of trying to be­come more debt-ridden, stressed out, and con­formist sheeple. This process usu­ally in­volves sub­verting the powers of ob­ser­va­tion and reason by drinking al­cohol be­cause al­cohol is legal - not a quality one as­so­ciates with marijuana. 

I think we had a sense, which all people have, or should have, that the ac­tions you take change you in­side, making you a little more or a little less co­herent. That’s why as a drinker I opted to be­come an in­de­cent, facile, re­ac­tionary car­i­ca­ture of my­self. I can now call on Amer­i­cans to fight and die in point­less wars that never touch me per­son­ally whilst I live a com­fort­able life in Wash­ington D.C. As an opin­ion­ated media dick head, den­i­grating the poor and less fortunate. 

Smoking all the time, un­like drinking all the time, seemed likely to cu­mu­la­tively frag­ment a person’s deep center, or at least not do much to en­hance it. That said, to be honest, I’ve never been able to find my deep center be­cause that would scare me.

So, like the vast ma­jority of people who try drugs, my friends and I moved on to al­cohol and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. We left mar­i­juana be­hind. I don’t have any problem with some­body who gets high from time to time, but I guess, on the whole, I think being stoned is not as par­tic­u­larly up­lifting a form of plea­sure as vom­iting al­cohol into the toilet and should be dis­cour­aged more than encouraged. 

We now have a couple of states — Col­orado and Wash­ington — that have gone into the busi­ness of ef­fec­tively en­cour­aging drug use. By making weed legal, they are cre­ating a sit­u­a­tion in which the price will drop sub­stan­tially. One RAND study sug­gests that prices could plummet by up to 90 per­cent or if you’re smarter than me you could grow your own. As prices drop and legal fears go away, usage is bound to in­crease. This has hap­pened be­fore when the Pro­hi­bi­tion era ended. It com­pletely gutted or­gan­ised crime.

This is simple his­tory, and it is con­firmed by much re­search. Col­orado and Wash­ington, in other words, are di­min­ishing the number of drinkers and the at­ten­dant misery, car­nage, and vi­o­lence which comes from the bottle.

The people who de­bate these policy changes usu­ally cite the health risks users would face. In America every year many thou­sands of people die di­rectly from pre­scrip­tion pain killers but not one – ever – from mar­i­juana. Many people these days shy away from talk about the moral status of laws like three strikes and you’re out or in­creasing num­bers of people living on the streets be­cause that would imply that one sort of gov­ern­ment you might choose is better than another. 

But, of course, there are the core ques­tions: Laws pro­foundly mold cul­ture, so what sort of com­mu­nity do we want our laws to nur­ture? I’m talking the Pa­triot Act in par­tic­ular, but there are many others. What sort of in­di­vid­uals and be­hav­iors do our gov­ern­ments want to en­courage? I’d say that in healthy so­ci­eties gov­ern­ment wants to subtly tip the scale to favor tem­perate, pru­dent, self-governing cit­i­zen­ship. And the fact that in America thou­sands upon thou­sands of people are in­car­cer­ated for simply smoking dope shows how subtle our gov­ern­ments are. In those so­ci­eties, so­ci­eties like our own, gov­ern­ments subtly en­cour­ages the highest plea­sures, like en­joying a few beers, some phar­macy pur­chased mood-altering med­ica­tions, or being in na­ture shooting an­i­mals, and dis­cour­ages – through the use of crim­inal records, in­car­cer­a­tion, and so­cial stigma - lesser plea­sures, like being stoned. 

In le­gal­izing weed, a God-given plant with a myriad of uses, cit­i­zens of Col­orado are, in­deed, en­hancing in­di­vidual freedom. But they are also nur­turing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be: up­tight and with high blood pres­sure or vi­sion im­paired be­cause of glau­coma. And by le­gal­ising cannabis states like Col­orado are doing a great, in­deed fun­da­mental dis­ser­vice to or­gan­ised crime to­gether with the big drug com­pa­nies and all the em­ploy­ment these un­nat­ural, chem­ical sub­stances provide.

Paul Krugman is off today, but David Brooks is al­ways off.

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