Thursday, July 15, 2010

Prohibitionism: A Religious Cult

It occurred to me that prohibitionists are a lot like religious fanatics. They believe what they believe, because... Well, because that’s what they believe. And they believe it to the max. But, you might argue, their beliefs are not based on any kind of logic or truth. So what? That hasn't prevented their success for the past 70 years. In fact, like most religions, their purely subjective beliefs sound very convincing to lots of people. So much so, that those beliefs have become ingrained into our society. Most people today can recite the prohibitionist prayers without even thinking about it.

Prayers, you say? OK, maybe not prayers exactly. I guess they are more like mantras or incantations. “Just say no.” “Only dopes use dope.” “This is your brain on drugs.” “Think of the children.” “It’s a gateway drug.” “If you legalize it, everyone will use it.” “Those hippies and potheads just want to get high all the time.” I’m sure you’ve heard these and many others, and never really thought about them. Non-prohibitionists might laugh them off, and see them for what they are, meaningless sound bytes. But to a hard-core prohibitionist believer, those mantras are gospel. They are common sense and common knowledge. Anyone who questions the prohibitionist beliefs is trying to destroy the moral fabric of our society. There’s no room for doubters in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Damn those hippies and potheads! Literally.

And just like religious zealots, prohibitionists believe that they are taking the moral high ground. They are the ones that know how people should behave, what they should and shouldn’t do, how they should live their lives. But, unfortunately, they are not content living their own lives according to their beliefs. Like many other religions, they have missionaries, who go out upon the land and preach to anyone who will listen. Ever hear of the Drug Czar? They want everyone else to know about their beliefs, and live their lives accordingly. And they want to punish those who don’t, the infidels.

Of course, you can’t argue with a religious fanatic. You can’t convince them with a logical argument or empirical evidence. That’s because their beliefs are not based on logic or evidence. They know what they know. They’ve always known it, and anyone who doesn’t know what they know is ignorant or delusional. Or worse, evil and deserving of punishment.

So they have their incantations, their moral standards, their missionaries, their intricately-crafted and deeply-rooted belief system. It looks a lot like a religion to me. Except for not having their own special prohibitionist god. But that’s OK. They can and do borrow a god from other religions. Which is what makes them, technically speaking, a cult.

So why does it even matter what they are? Because knowing what they are can help us understand how to fight them. Information, facts, and logic are not effective weapons when dealing with cult members. Sadly, short of an intervention and intensive de-programming, there is very little that can be done to change their world view. Which is why their cult has endured for so long. I wish I knew of an effective means of de-programming them, but I don’t. And, I don’t mean to sound overly pessimistic, but I think the media campaigns I’ve seen recently, in California and elsewhere, will do little to actually change the minds of any of the hardcore fanatics. Might as well try to convert a Baptist to Islam.

No comments: