Terence talking

Legendary psychonaut Terence Mckenna (1946-2000) gave a very short interview about drugs and politics in Mexico in 1996. Here’s an excerpt.

Drugs is a word which has polluted the well of language. Part of the reason we have a drug problem is that we don’t have an intelligent language to talk about substances, plants, psychedelics, states of mind, sedative states of mind, states of amphetamine excitation…

We can’t make sense of the problems and the opportunities offered by substances unless we clean up our language. Drugs is a word that has been used by governments to make it impossible to think creatively about the problem of substances and abuse and availability and so forth and so on. It’s a kind of paradox, isn’t it?. Drugs mean that which cures us and the greatest social problem of the generation. So right there you see the schizophrenia involved in thinking about drugs.

I mean, apparently there are good drugs sanctioned by science and medicine and bad drugs used by brown people in strange rites and growing in unusual plants in distant parts of the world. This kind of thinking, because it’s naive, leads of course to social problems and bad politics and bad social policy. (…)

To my mind, human history is the story of one substance after another distorting or transforming human values and society. A perfect example would be sugar. Most people don’t even think of sugar as a drug. (…) we may think cocaine has distorted moral and political values in Latin America, but sugar brought back slavery! (…)

Every society chooses a small number of substances, no matter how toxic, and enshrines them in cultural values, then demonizes all other substances and then persecutes and launches witch hunts against those users, whenever some political pretext requires witch hunts and persecutions. So it’s an old game and it’s been played in many places.

Hopefully the advancement of society toward ideas of universal human rights, and that sort of idea, certainly must include the idea of the universal human right to take responsibility for, and to alter, your own state of consciousness as you see fit. I don’t even think we can pretend we are on the edge of a civilized dialogue until we grant that people’s minds, like their bodies, must be a domain free from government control.

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