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One take on marijuana: Marijuana won. Who lost?

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For fun. For a high. For “recreation.” Smoking marijuana is now legal in Colorado, as of January 1, 2014. Not only marijuana for medicinal purposes — that is old hat — but marijuana for any purpose. Legal.

Why? The logic, such as it is, seems to run like this: If people can have legal access to a substance that they can enjoy, and that it easy to abuse to the point of stupor, and to the point of rendering individual lives meaningless and of destroying families, and that can kill people if used while driving or operating machinery — namely, alcohol — then it is only right and fair that people can have legal access to another substance — namely marijuana — that they can also enjoy or abuse, and with which they can also render their lives meaningless and destroy their families or others.

The logic seems to be that nothing should stand in the way of the highest value: the right to self-indulgence. To personal enjoyment. To the focus on me. Nothing should cloud the priorities that have come to color and indeed permeate our society: the endless pursuit of achievement-less pleasure.

Read related IJN editorial, "Another take on marijuana: Acting responsibly"

Included in that nothing that should not stand in the way of the highest value of self-indulgence are these:

• The effect of adult self-indulgence on younger people; the negative role-modeling that inevitably seeps down to, is perceived by, and is imitated by, younger people, with the key word “younger” connoting ages that go lower and lower, from high teens down to middle teens down to pre-teens, in direct proportion to the number of pleasurable substances that are legalized

• The opacity of the campaign that has marijuana initially, supposedly, pushed solely, legitimately, compassionately, idealistically, for medical purposes; when, in fact, the campaign intentionally veils the true, ultimate purpose behind the push for medicinal use — that is, the entirely free and unrestricted use of marijuana, not just for medical healing, and not just in private places. The supposedly “medical marijuana” campaign is merely to soften up, to enlighten, the voting public, which can then be given the full dose in a coming election: unrestricted use.

• The joke that suddenly witnesses a veritable explosion of medical conditions and of suffering patients that require marijuana, when, it is clear to all, that for all the good that marijuana can achieve for a limited number of suffering people, it is the high, the self-indulgence, the achievementless pleasure, that drives much of the supposedly medical trade. Make that, charade.

All of which raises the question: Where is the idealism in this society? What idealism is left? Put another way, how has the definition of that which gives pleasure changed?

In the last two generations, two broad answers to that question emerged: opposition to war, and the advancement of human rights. Without doubt, interwoven into the promotion of these ideas was the parallel acceleration of self-indulgence, to whose logic the end point now begins to emerge. Now we have the solipsistic focus almost entirely triumphant over the focus on pleasure derived from the advancement of the peace and the rights of others.

Once upon a time, one of the key arenas of human rights was that of Soviet Jewry. Today a key arena is China, whose citizens enjoy little if any democracy and virtually complete lack of control over their intimate lives. Totalitarianism has truly taken its measure with China’s one-child policy. Once upon a time, there was an outcry against the oppression of Soviet Jews. Where is the outcry against China’s abuse of human rights? It is buried in energies devoted elsewhere — in, for example, campaigns to legalize marijuana. Idealism used to mean others. Now it means me.

In a word, ethics have been squeezed out.

All of which raises a still deeper and more troubling question: Where is American civilization heading?

As leisure time grows, as more and more products are produced with less and less work, as more and more of what used to be deemed luxuries become necessities, what spiritual goals remain? When spirituality is defined as that which is merely human, that which is merely “high,” this actually squeezes spirituality out. When, au contraire, spirituality is defined as that which is human-in-connection-with, or at least in-aspiration to-be-in connection-with, that which is metaphysical, beyond the human, then spirituality soars. If self-indulgence, if “highs,” if the pursuit of every imaginable substance that provides some kind of kick, is to define spirituality, it is an empty spirituality indeed.

And from that, whence the future of a caring, creative, contributing, civilization?

Have your say: Do you agree with this take, or the one presented in the parallel IJN editorial? Post a comment on the IJN blog

Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Last Updated ( Thursday, 02 January 2014 14:06 )  

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