Ben Lee – Ayahuasca

Ben Lee - Ayahuasca

Hell yes, I’m supporting this musical project and Ben Lee’s new album Ayahuasca that in turn will support psychedelic research and conservation work. Very curious of the resulting art!

I love this new way of creating CDs and experiences by asking for support and selling musical work and related services ahead of release. In a drastically altered music business this might be the future shape of independent work. It’s wonderfully direct and connected, which I truly enjoy.

Beautiful effort with depth and integrity that I can support easily as it meets my needs for contribution, connection, shared vision and meaning.

Been Lee’s Pledge Music page for his new album Ayahuasca

Guardian-Mixmag drug survey

Guardian-Mixmag drug survey

Drug research is rarely impartial and media articles on drugs are rarely more than judgmental, biased official PR against drugs with little in the way of fresh or even useful information.

Which is why I sat up when I saw this Guardian article on young people and drugs. Guardian and Mixmag have teamed up to produce one of the larger international drug surveys last year with over 15,000 respondents on a range of questions about consumption habits, attitudes etc.

The most important ‘finding’ here, one that most drug users and their friends already know, is that your average white middle-class drug taker is highly functional: holding down jobs, having family and friends, hobbies, relationships, using drugs in order to enhance their lives rather than to destroy it. Many people already know this but I haven’t really seen this published and stated anywhere before, I usually see the opposite, drug takers always depicted as depraved deprived dysfunctional and usually clueless. For many the opposite is true: young professional drug takers are often smart, live very productive lives, make careful and complex decisions about drugs and know both the risks and the benefits.

Still, bowing to mainstream pressure, the Guardian highlights a much more predictable ‘finding’, which is that up to a fifth of drug users will, at some point, knowingly ingest something unknown. The article calls this high risk behaviour and it sure is, wouldn’t we all want to know exactly what is in a drug? Without decriminalisation however there’s no chance anyone will know for sure what they are taking, let alone calibrations and impurities. The logical answer to this is not to condemn risk takers but to ensure we can help minimise the harm. We do this with bungee jumping (safety testing the ropes etc) and flying across the world (safety videos, testing etc) yet why not offer the idea that we could safety test drugs before ingestion, or, even better, manufacture it in a lab so that consumers will be sure of the purity and potency or the product.

But harm minimisation is still a dirty word and as a society we still prefer to simply judge and condemn others who do not share our habits and lifestyle. However there are some good signs: out of this research a phone app was developed that gives judgment free advice to drug takers based on their individual habits. Perhaps this is a first baby step towards true harm minimisation, let’s hope it is (though I’m inclined to be very cynical!)

Future of psychedelics at Evolver

Future of psychedelics at Evolver

Evolver is a global social networking group with local ‘spores’ and monthly topics. Smart, switched-on, progressive people drive the self-organising local groups who meet up once a month to discuss topics from polyamory to dreaming to hyper-localisation to organic farming.

Evolver

I got involved when I was invited last month to talk to the Sydney group about polyamory. It went down beautifully.

This month I turned up to discuss the future of psychedelics. We had two expert guests, one via a video link-up from Mullum, Rak Rasam, who discussed where current psychedelic movements are going and took some deliciously complex questions from the group. The other was an ayahuasca community leader who was there to relay info about local activities and chat about this wonderful sounding South-American psychedelic plant that’s used for ritual healing.

More info on this plant and its uses here: Ayahuasca.com

It is wonderful to open your mind to new ideas and find such a lovely group of progressive smart people locally to have lovely discussions with… next month’s topic is dreaming. Get involved, come along and hook up! :)

If you aren’t in Sydney, perhaps you want to start a local Evolver spore in your city.

Some basic things I learnt on the night (and some I already knew):

* There is a serious psychedelic revival happening in the West, semi-underground. While we are waiting for official research to catch up, these groups just go on doing their thing, which is a blend of traditional tribal knowledge and new agey ideas channeled through a progressive liberal outlook and small-scale self-evolving groups

* psychedelics are a wonderful way of exploring your own consciousness and pushing this exploration into new territories

* there are lots of wonderfully engaged, adventurous individuals out there who are more than happy to share their experiences and ideas

* ayahuasca is a South-American plant with strong psychedelic properties, it is used in shamanic rituals, traditional tribal and neo-shamanic both, in order to explore, discover, open your mind, inspire and most interestingly help you heal yourself on a psychic, spiritual, psychological, emotional level. Ayahuasca contains DMT which is a bit of a scary sounding substance.

* psychedelics are just as illegal as they have been for several decades, but 1) fortunately this doesn’t stop individuals from obtaining them for personal use and benefiting from their various wonderful qualities and 2) there are some promising signs, even if they are few, that official psychedelic research might make a slow come-back

* there are many more sociological, anthropological, philosophical, psychological etc insights to be had relating both to psychedelics, people who use them today and new neo-shamanic movements that combine their use with traditional ways of exploring yourself and the world, and constantly fermenting new ideas on how this can be connected to our modern lives today

* I’m ready for some new adventures in my life! ;)

Festival of Dangerous Ideas – drug debate and Hitchens

Festival of Dangerous Ideas - drug debate and Hitchens

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas was a wonderful long-weekend event at the Opera House here in Sydney, hosting many debates on some of the most contentious social issues and ideas: atheism, democracy, polygamy, drug reform, minorities, culture wars.

I like their motto:
‘Bombs, guns and bullets may be dangerous. Closed or complacent minds make them lethal.’

Today I attended the drug debate titled ‘Make all drug use legal’. Amongst the speakers was Norm Stamper who used to be the police commissioner of Seattle and who now heads the 13,000 strong organisation called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. His points need to be heard high up in politics and right around the public sphere: most on the frontline, lawyers, cops, judges etc know that the ‘war on drugs’ is a monumental failure, billions are squandered on fighting cartels and putting citizens behind bars without achieving anything at all, law enforcement is corrupt (cops themselves take part in drug dealing and criminal organisation) and capricious and the community cannot trust it and this lack of trust undermines democracy, that the whole system is completely bankrupt and untenable and only politicians and drug lords stand anything to win from it.

The SMH article on this debate

There needs to be a serious progressive reform if we are to put an end to bloodshed and money wasting, if we want to stop locking up addicts and casual drug takers instead of dealing with serious crime, if we want useful pragmatic information on drugs instead of hypocritical scare-mongering garbage, if we want to seriously structurally deal with organised crime that damages the fabric of society. Portugal is very successfully trialling drug decriminalisation (google it if you like!) as do several Latin American countries whose progressive reform is finally, first time in history, NOT blocked by the incumbent US president (Vincente Fox in Mexico previously had to block his own progressive bill in Parliament because of Bush’s phone call to him!!). The Portuguese example should delight drug reformers, it shows how decriminalisation across the board produces results: addicts getting treatment with less drug-related corruption and crime.

Now we just need the political will to push through with a more progressive agenda, and social movements behind to keep pushing politicians to finally fall in line with the population that is itself way more progressive on drug reform than their elected representatives. There are good signs, and this debate itself is a door opener for a wider Australian debate. Most of the mainstream media in Australia have been pandering to a strong moral panic on drugs which made this debate even more difficult to start up. But now it has been ignited and I hope the international progress on drug reform is going to grow and we will join it very soon. Years ago I never thought there’d be reasonable mainstream debate on drugs let alone any policy change, but maybe I was wrong… let’s hope I was and this time there’ll be results. My own views on drug reform are even more liberal than that of any of these public activists, so it’s unlikely that my ideas on pharmas producing good clean designer drugs (taxed and regulated, of course) would ever come into the debate, but any move forward is awesome.

The night before Hitchens was in conversation with Tony Jones about ‘how religion poisons everything’ which I watched live online. It was fantastic, Hitchens was in fine form, but unfortunately neither this, nor any of the other talks or debates are available online so far…. so you’ll have to do with this snippet form another Hitchens talk :) I might take up the debate on atheism, agnosticism and religion another time… :)

Hope to be able to put up some videos from the festival itself a bit later… :)