I was a little let down, as the taxi pushed through the rain into downtown Vancouver, at how little had changed. This feeling intensified over the next few days : other than a few new buildings scattered here and there, and a new colour scheme on the buses, it seemed to me as if nothing much had changed in Vancouver in the five years since I last set foot in the homeland. In fact, not much that I could see had changed in the 20 years since I first moved there as a thirst-bedeviled freshman.
After living in Korea, where the entire country reinvents itself every five years or so, and the one constant is change and ferment and fresh concrete flowering skyward fast as bamboo, it was a little disconcerting. I had never thought of Canada as…well, stodgy, until now.
But over the next couple of weeks there, I noticed that at least one significant thing had changed, other than the amount of grey hair on friends and family.

“And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your mortality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears – that’s what soma is.”
-Brave New World

I had read that the drug companies were getting more aggressive with their carpet-bomb marketing in North America over the past few years. Read about the scattershot Ritalin-dosing of children, read about the emergence of the Prozac nation, read about the drug companies inventing ‘female sexual dysfunction’ in order to manufacture a market for more of their pills. But I wasn’t prepared for the fact that there wasn’t a single commercial break that I can recall on network TV over those couple of weeks that didn’t have at least one drug advertisement. When did heartburn become ‘acid reflux disease’? How many cold medicines do people actually need? ‘I love my Tylenol PM‘? How putrid is that? f–k you lady, why don’t you try loving your children instead (yelled I at the television screen, much to the long-suffering chagrin of my lady love). There were ads flogging drugs for conditions I haven’t even heard of, ads with happy grinning families running across manicured green parkland with their lassie-like dogs, free of the ravages of anal warts or whatever the hell had been plaguing them before Smithcline-Beecham showed up on the scene.
Now, I’m not one to claim, ever, that drugs in and of themselves are a bad thing. Better living through chemistry, say I. But I’ve always been more inclined to think that the body should be allowed to deal with minor illnesses on its own, and that drugs are better employed in the context of recreation than medication. Indefensible position perhaps, but I don’t really give a sh-t. Unless I’ve got Ex-lax™ to ease the way, of course!
I also have a strong tendency to think that the habit of medicating for every minor complaint is a sign of weakness, and creates and fosters weakness, and weakness is bad. Weakness in mind or body invites the triumph of evil men, evil deeds and thoughts. But that’s a whole other rant, perhaps.
So, anyway, unprepared as I was for the constant deafening barrage of druggy blandishments on the TV, I was substantially less prepared for the fact that half the f–king people I know are apparently now on SSRI’s : you know, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Prozac™ and Zoloft™ and Paxil™ and I don’t know what-all else. When did this happen? When did all these people decide that they couldn’t handle their lives anymore without being constantly medicated? Or when did their drug company whore-doctors convince them of it?

“All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects.”
-Brave New World

Now, look, I know (based on extrapolation from what I’ve seen amongst friends and relatives recently) that probably half of the people reading this are on scrips for one of these drugs, too, and I don’t want to antagonize or insult unduly. There are, certainly, some people for whom these ‘miracle drugs’ (given us by the gods) are a means by which they can live a normal life, overcome the ravages of aberrant brain chemistry, fight clinical depression.
But I’ve got to think that there are way too many folks out there who are just too goddamn lazy and irresponsible to take responsibility for their own mental states, just like there are too many people who think of themselves as victims, who blame their parents or their spouse for their problems, who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, who don’t vote and then complain about the government they get (and so richly deserve), who drive an SUV because, hey, if I get into an accident, it’s the other guy who’ll get hurt, who dismiss concerns about environmental degradation with a wave of the hand and a demand for incontrovertible proof…
Sorry, I’m ranting again.
But hell, I’ve taken just about everything there is to take at one time or another, and I didn’t do it to escape, I did it to explore. Hooray for me, right? Well, sure, why the hell not? I reckon that if your life is bad enough that you have to stay perpetually medicated, you need to change your life, change your doctor, get off the SSRIs, and get the hell out of the house. Find some people to drink a beer (yes, I see the irony) with and dance in the rain on a beach somewhere. Find someone new to have sex with, if that’s your thing. Climb a mountain, sail a boat, or if you’re too fat or lazy or poor to do that, find someone who loves doing it, and ask them about it, and watch their eyes as they describe the joy it gives them, and find something that makes you feel that joy too. Something other than chemicals.
You know, unless you really are f–ked up. In which case, pop those puppies like gummy bears, I say.

non compos mentis, Thoughts That, If Not Deep, Are At Least Wide, Uncrappy

Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. Imagine, just for a moment, an America in which the government constantly lies to cover the evils of the capitalist consumption culture (yes, it’s got its good points, unfortunately we tend to ignore any and all bad ones), the mainstream media that spoon-feeds propaganda to the masses, and our own cultural history (remember high school American History, when we learned that the ‘average working class folk’ [that = everyones’ grandparents] had to unionize and fight red in tooth and claw just to achieve a 40 hour work week and reasonable benefits?) is obscured and twisted into a black n’ white, right V. wrong transcript(communism is bad and evil, remember, even though it has never been realized, and anyhow, it’s not as if us Americans committed genocide in acquiring the North American Hemisphere). Just maybe, all these pills pushed my Big Pharm (the Victory Gins, if you will) are a manner by which Americans forget their reality. It’s in the back of everyones’ mind, but no one talks about it, so it eats away at the very soul. What better way to eliminate this nuisance than by synthetically increasing your seratonin and dopanime output?

  2. Canada, for all intensive pusposes, = America, except that most people in Canada are more cognisant than your avaerage joe american of what America(‘s government does) pulls off in the name of freedom and justice. It’s much simpler to ignore/forget than to confront.

  3. You seemed in the grips of wild clarity up until the SUV comment, which is a marketing fad, and shall pass someday.
    Have you ever tried SSRIs?

  4. Heh. Yeah, that was pushing it a bit. Too much time at Metafilter…
    And no, I haven’t tried any of the, uh, medicinal SSRIs yet.

  5. I wonder how many people use the act of buying an SUV as a temporary mood-enhancer?

  6. Well, I tells ya, renting that one in BC (to tackle the treacherous backroads of the far north, rather than display my insecurity about my penis size) enhanced my mood no end.
    ‘Til I had to take it back and pay the rental charges, of course.

  7. It is a sign of the state of the world that we live in today that The Bottle does not even make it into the top five PAGES when one Googles ‘demonic shit weasels’.
    That’s how many of them there are.

  8. Welcome back, StavrosTheWonderchicken

    Stavrosthewonderchicken is back, leading off his return with a great post on the situation on the ground in Korea, Cloudy, Strong Chance of Rain and a screed about our legal drug pushers. I discovered the wonderchicken 6 months or so ago, when he crack…

  9. I hear you stavros – all around me, people are taking themselves and their kids to the doctor because their shit was a funny colour or they have a slight sniffle. Meantime, I went to my doctor to get a compulsory physical and found out that he had retired two years earlier.
    The same goes for the huge increases in kids with asthma and ADD and every other thing here – I believe that, were these kids to get off their arse and do some exercise, they would be fine. Don’t even get me started on people and the causes for mental state-related problems.

  10. But don’t forget! You can still go to jail for 5 years for smoking pot! Because drugs ‘r bad, mmmkay?
    A friend of the family who earned her MD worked (and maybe still does?) in pain management for a while. She said none of her patients could really stand the slightest twinge. They wanted never to feel pain, when in fact it’s pretty much a reality of having a body and being alive in it. At what point did Western culture arrive at the conclusion that pain was to be avoided at all costs? Not that I’m a masochist, but is it really that bad? Remember when you were a kid and you whacked your head and it hurt like a mofo and you cried for about 3 minutes, then got up, rubbed your head, and went back to playing your game like nothing happened? Why can’t adults be like that?

  11. I’m glad I’m not the only one that is sick of this kind of stuff on TV nowadays.
    Want to get your life in order? Pack up your vehicle (if you got one), head out to the woods to the most isolated campground you can find, and stay there for at least a week. By the time you return home, you’ll be surprised how good you feel and how clear your head is because you haven’t been saturated with all the BS from “Real Life”.
    Then again, maybe this is why people take these drugs in the first place. They hate their jobs, hate their lives, and will do anything for instant gratification. Therefore, they rack up their credit cards which gets them more in debt, thus more dependent on the job and life that they hate so much. Eventually, they just want out of the “Real Life” reality so much, because it’s making them physically ill, that they finally make the leap to these drugs, as they help to “numb” their existence.
    I remember hearing about a test that was done on animals, where they would put a dog in a cage that had it’s floor wired to “zap” the dog with a small jolt (and not sure where I heard it but maybe something to do with cruelty to animals). Initially the dog would leap and yelp at the pain, but after a while, when the jolt was applied, the dog would just sit there and not even move because it was helpless to do anything to stop the pain. This kind of reminds me of this kind of drug usage. People lives are so painful mentally and emotionally (forget about physical pain), that they just want some way to “ignore” the pain and “pretend” their lives are fine and “normal”. Sad to say the least.

  12. Dear wonderfowl,
    I am sure that if you check the Metafilter archives, you will see that at least ONE of your web acquaintances lives better thru chemistry.
    *big beeper wink*

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