by Nicholas Saunders
[ Appendix 2 ] [ Index ] [ Appendix 4 ]
Appendix 3: Human rights and the use of drugs
An American viewpoint Just as the United States is the origin of most trends in recreational drug use, Ecstasy included, so its political campaigns against drug use tend to influence policies against drug use in other countries.
The criminalisation of MDMA is a case in point. When the US government outlawed MDMA in the US in 1986, it also pressed the World Health Organisation to make the ban worldwide. The US government's 'War Against Drugs' is deliberately international in scope, involving cutting off supplies at source.
Alexander Shulgin is one of the few people campaigning against the American 'Just Say No' campaign on civil liberty grounds. Below is an extract from a lecture he gave to students of the University of California, Berkeley. Though anti-drug policies differ between the US and Britain, the underlying issues are the same.
A subtle and insidious form of freedom loss can be seen in our schools. There is de facto censorship being implemented within the colleges and universities by the Government, in the way it funds research and thus controls its direction. There is an outright propaganda campaign being presented through the informational media, and there is no challenge being brought by those who know the facts and should be insisting on adherence to truth. Let me touch on these one at a time, as each of them is directed at a different population target.
In the public schools, the efforts are being directed at the student. The message is, "Just Say No." There is no effort to inform, to educate, to provide the complex body of information that will allow the exercise of judgement. Rather, there is given the simple message that drugs kill. This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, and the egg is suddenly fried. Your sweet, virginal daughter was killed because she didn't learn about drugs. She should have learned to, "Just Say No." None of this can be called education. It is an effort to influence behaviour patterns by repeating the same message over and over again. It is propaganda.
All kinds of drugs are deeply, permanently, infused into our culture, into our way of life. Their values and their risks must be taught to our children, and this teaching must be done with honesty and integrity. And what is the status of research in the medical schools, and the universities, and the industrial laboratories across the nation? I can assure you that since psychedelic drugs are not officially acknowledged as a valid area for human research, there is no money being made available in any university or medical school for the exploration and study of their actions and effects in humans.
It is a fact of life that all research today, at the academic level, is supported almost exclusively by federal funds, and if a grant application does not meet the wishes or needs of the granting agency, the research will remain unfunded, thus it will not be done. In the controls which have been put into place over the pharmaceutical industries, there is another effective mechanism of prohibition of inquiry. Research on drugs can only be approved for eventual medical use if the drugs involved have accepted medical utility. And there is an official statement that there are no drugs, not one single drug, in the fascinating area of the psychedelics, that has an accepted medical use. They are all, you understand, Schedule I things, and - by definition - neither they, nor any of their analogues, have any medical utility.
As for the messages being pushed in the media? All too often, a lurid story is presented, and a later retraction is ignored. A couple of examples can illustrate this.
Consider the phrases, "Even the first time can kill," and "Even pure material can kill," as applied to cocaine use. Both were promoted as statements of fact, as an outgrowth of the tragic death of a sports figure named Len Bias, who died from an overdose of cocaine. This happened at a critical time, just weeks before the biannual drug bill was to be voted on. According to the newspapers, the autopsy report stated that the young man was a first time user, and that he had used pure cocaine. This is patent nonsense. Neither the purity of a drug, nor the frequency of its use in the past, can be gleaned from an analysis of the body's tissues after death. When the final autopsy report was released, it was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and it seemed apparent to the scientists involved that Mr. Bias had been given a large quantity of cocaine by mouth (in a soft drink, perhaps, as there was no alcohol in him) and the suggestion was advanced that it might not have been self-inflicted. Translated, that means there was a possibility that he had been murdered. This latter view was not advertised, and the two catchy phrases are still used for their "educational" value. Even the first time can kill. Even pure stuff can kill.
The anti-drug bill, needless to say, passed by an impressive margin.
Then, there was a train crash outside the city of Baltimore, in early 1987, that killed 16 people and injured 170 others. The newspapers trumpeted the discovery that the engineer responsible for the accident was found to have tested positive for the presence of marijuana in his body. This has been one of the major driving forces in focusing the public's attention on the need for urine testing as a necessary aspect of public safety, especially in transportation.
Six months later, a review of the evidence in this case resulted in the appearance of a report which showed that the supervisor of the testing laboratory which had presented the marijuana findings (the FAA lab in Oklahoma City) had been fabricating drug test results for months. Results were being reported from tests that had never been performed, because there had been no one in the laboratory who knew how to run the sophisticated instruments.
When an effort was made to challenge the specific findings in the case of this engineer, the original computer data had apparently been lost. And there was none of the original blood sample left for a re-analysis. It will never be known if that engineer had indeed been impaired by marijuana, but political and emotional capital is still being made from the original story.
The constant repetition by the press of the very term "Drug War," has an insidious influence on public opinion. It evokes an image of our side, as opposed to their side, and the existence of a struggle for victory. Not to be victorious is not to survive as a nation, we keep hearing. There is a continuing message being advanced, that most of our nation's troubles - poverty, increasing unemployment, homelessness, our monstrous crime statistics, rising infant mortality and health problems, even dangers to our national security involving terrorism and foreign agents - are the direct results of illegal drug use, and all of these problems would neatly disappear if we would simply find an effective solution to this one terrible scourge.
Do you remember hearing the word, Krystalnacht, from the history of the rise of the Nazisto power in Germany, in the late 1930's? This was the night of broken crystal, when there was a sweep of the state-empowered police and young Nazis through the Jewish sections of the German cities, when every pane of glass that was in any way related to the Jewish culture - be it the window of a store, a synagogue, or a private home - was shattered. "If we rid ourselves of the scum known as Jews," the authorities said, "We will have solved the social problems of the nation."
I see a comparable move here, with merely a few changes in the words. "If we rid ourselves of the drug scum of our society, if we deprive them of their homes, their property, their crack houses, we will have solved the social troubles of the nation."
In Germany the Jewish population was attacked and beaten, some of them to death, in a successful effort to focus all frustrations and resentments on one race of people as the cause of the nation's difficulties. It forged a national mood of unity and single-mindedness, and it allowed the formation of a viciously powerful fascist state. The persecution of the Jews, needless to say, failed to solve the social problems of Germany.
In our present-day America, the drug-using population is being used as the scapegoat in a similar way, and I fear that the end point might well be a similar state of national consensus, without our traditional freedoms and safeguards of individual rights, and still lacking resolution of our serious social troubles.
How severe is the illegal drug problem, really? If you go down through the generalized statistics, and search out the hard facts, it is not very large. From the point of view of public health, it is vanishingly small. Just the two major legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol, are together directly responsible for over 500,000 deaths a year in this country. Deaths associated with prescription drugs are an additional 100,000 a year. The combined deaths associated with all the illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and PCP, may increase this total by another 5,000. In other words, if all illegal drug use were to be curtailed by some stroke of a magic wand, the drug-related deaths in the country would decrease by 1 percent. The remaining 99% remain just as dead, but dead by legal, and thus socially acceptable means.
The drug problem may not be the size we are being told it is, but it is large enough for concern. What are some of its causes? There is a feeling of helplessness in much of our poor population, particularly among young Black and Hispanic males. There is a total absence of any sense of self-worth in most of the residents of our inner cities. There is extensive homelessness, and an increasing state of alienation between the middle-to-upper and the lowest classes. On one side, there is a growing attitude of "I've got mine, and the hell with you," and on the other, "I've got nothing to lose, so screw you."
There is a shameful public health problem of massive proportions (AIDS, teen-age pregnancies, rising infant mortality and the abandonment of any serious effort to help those with debilitating mental illnesses). There are children who have no families, no food, no education, and no hope. There is near anarchy in the streets of our big cities, matched by a loss of community integrity in the rural areas. All of this is blamed on the "drug problem," although the use of drugs has nothing to do with it. Drug use is not the cause of any of these terrible problems. It may certainly be one of the results, but it is not the cause. Nonetheless, a major national effort is being made to convince the American people that winning the "War on Drugs" will indeed cure us of all ailments, if we would but relinquish a few more individual rights in the pursuit of victory.
This war cannot be won. And we will only lose more and more of our freedoms in a futile effort to win it. Our efforts must be directed towards the causes, not just the consequences of drug misuse. But, in the meantime, things are going downhill at a rapid rate. People tell me that I am a defeatist to suggest the obvious answer, which is to legalize the use of drugs by adults who choose to use them.
I have been accused of giving the message that drug use is okay. Remove the laws, they say, and the nation will be plunged overnight into an orgy of unbridled drug use. I answer that we are already awash in illegal drugs, available to anyone who is able to pay, and their illegality has spawned a rash of criminal organizations and territorial blood-lettings, the likes of which have not been seen since the glory days of Prohibition.
Yes, it's possible that with the removal of drug laws a few timid Presbyterians will venture a snort of cocaine, but in the main, drug abuse will be no worse than it is now, and - after some initial experimentation - things will return to a natural balance. There is no "Middle America" sitting out there, ready to go Whoopee! with the repeal of the drug laws. The majority of the population will, however, benefit from the return of the criminal justice system's attention to theft, rape, and murder, the crimes against society for which we need prisons. Pot smoking, remember, is not intrinsically antisocial.
Let me ask each of you this simple question. What indicators would you accept as a definition of a police state, if it were to quietly materialize about you? I mean, a state that you could not tolerate. A state in which there is a decrease in drug use, but in which your behaviour was increasingly being dictated by those in power?
Each of you, personally and privately, please draw an imaginary line in front of you, a line that indicates: up to here, okay, but beyond here, no way!
Let me suggest some thoughts to use as guides. What about a requirement for an observed urination into a plastic cup for drug analysis before getting a welfare check, or to qualify for or maintain a job at the local MacDonalds, or to allow your child enrolment in the public schools? Would any one of these convince you that our nation was in trouble?
More and more companies are requiring pre-employment urine testing, and insisting upon random analyses during working hours. Not just bus drivers and policemen, but furniture salesmen and grocery store clerks. Some local school districts are requiring random urine tests on 7th graders, but as of the present time they are still requesting a parent's permission. Recipients of public housing, of university loans, or of academic grants must give assurance that they will maintain a drug-free environment. Today, verbal assurance is acceptable, but what about tomorrow?
What about the daily shaving of the head and body so that no hair sample can be seized to provide evidence against you of past drug-use? There are increasingly strong moves to seize and assay hair samples in connection with legitimate arrests, as a potential source of incriminating evidence of past illegal drug use.
What if you had to make a formal request to the government, and get written permission, to take more than $300 out of the country for a week's vacation in Holland? Or $200? There used to be no limit, then the limit dropped to the current level of $10,000, but this number will certainly continue to drop as legislation becomes more severe with regard to the laundering of drug money.
A lot of what I have been talking about has to do with the "other guy," not you. It is your drug-using neighbour who will have to live in fear, not you. It is easy to dismiss these invasions of personal rights when they don't affect you directly. But let me ask you a not-quite-so-simple question, the answer to which is very important to you, indeed: where are your own personal limits?
To what extent do you feel that it is justifiable for someone else to control your personal behaviour, if it contributes to the public's benefit? Let me presume that the idea of urine tests for cocaine use is okay with you. You probably don't use cocaine. Would you allow demands upon you for random urine tests for tobacco use? What about for alcohol use? The use of coffee?
To what extent would you allow the authorities into your private life? Let us presume that, having committed no crime, you would permit a policeman, who is visiting you officially, into your home without a warrant. But what about officials entering your home in your absence? Would you still proclaim, "I don't mind; I've got nothing to hide!"
I doubt that there are many of you who feel disturbed about the existence of a national computerized fingerprint file. But how about a national genetic marker file? What about police cards for domestic travel? How would you react to a law that says you must provide hair samples upon re-entering the country from abroad? How would you feel about the automatic opening and reading of first class mail? Any and all of these things could be rationalized as being effective tools in the war against drugs. Where would you personally draw the line?
Each of us must carefully draw that line for himself or herself. It is an exquisitely personal decision, just where your stick is to enter the ground to mark that boundary. This far, and no further.
There is a second and equally important decision to be made.
Let's ease into it by recapitulation. The first requirement is to establish a line, up to which you will allow the erosions of liberties and freedoms, all in the good cause of winning the drug war.
The second requirement is to decide, ahead of time, exactly what you will do, if and when your personal line has been breached. The point at which you say, "This has gone too far. It is time for me to do such-and-such." Decide what such-and-such really is. You must figure it out well beforehand. And beware. It is so easy to say, "Well, my line has been exceeded, but everything else seems benign and non-threatening, so perhaps I will relocate my line from right here to over there." This is the seductive rationalizing that cost millions of innocent people their lives under the Nazi occupation in Europe.
If you can move your line, then your line was not honestly positioned in the first place. Where is your line? And if your limits are exceeded, what will you do?
Stay continuously aware of where things are, politically, and in what direction they seem to be heading. Think your plans out ahead of time, while doing everything in your power to prevent further dismantling of what rights and freedoms are left the citizens of your country.
Do not give away your rights simply to make the police enforcement of criminal law easier. Yes, easier enforcement will catch more criminals, but it will become an increasing threat to you, as well. The policeman's task should not be easy; the founders of this country made that clear. A policeman's task is always difficult in a free country.
A society of free people will always have crime, violence and social disruption. It will never be completely safe. The alternative is a police state. A police state can give you safe streets, but only at the price of your human spirit.
In summary, remember that the accused must always be assumed innocent, and allowed his day in court. The curious citizen must always have open access to information about anything he wants, and should be able to learn whatever interests him, without having some other person's ideology superimposed on him during the course of his learning.
The maverick must be allowed to retreat to his private domain and live in any manner he finds rewarding, whether his neighbours would find it so or not. He should be free to sit and watch television all day long, if that's what he chooses to do. Or carry on interminable conversations with his cats. Or use a drug, if he chooses to do that. As long as he does not interfere with the freedom or well-being of any other person, he should be allowed to live as he wishes, and be left alone.
I believe that the phasing out of laws regarding drug use by adults, and an increase in the dissemination of truth about the nature and effects - positive and negative - of different drugs, the doing away with random urine testing and the perversion of justice that is its consequence, will certainly lead to smaller prison populations, and to the opportunity to use the "drug-war" funds for desperately needed social improvements and public health matters, such as homelessness, drug dependency and mental illness. And the energies of law-enforcement professionals can once again be directed towards crimes that deserve their skill and attention.
Our country might possibly become a more insecure place in some ways, but it will also be a healthier place, in body and spirit, with no further profit to be made on drugs by young men with guns on the streets of our cities. Those who abuse drugs will be able to find immediate help, instead of waiting for six months or more, in confusion and helplessness. And research in the area of drug effects and possible therapeutic use will come alive again in our centres of learning.
And we will once again be the free citizens of a free country, a model for the rest of the world.
Finally, I want to read an excerpt from a letter I received only yesterday, a letter sent by a young man who has found the psychedelics to be of great value to him in his growth as a writer:
Is it any wonder that laws prohibiting the use of psychoactive drugs have been traditionally ignored? The monstrous ego (or stupidity!) of a person or group of persons, to believe that they or anyone else have the right, or the jurisdiction, to police the inside of my body, or my mind! It is, in fact, so monstrous a wrong that, were it not so sad - indeed, tragic! - it might be humorous.
All societies must, it seems, have a structure of laws, of orderly rules and regulations. Only the most hard-core, fanatical anarchist would argue that point. But I, as a responsible, adult human being, will never concede the power, to anyone, to regulate my choice of what I put into my body, or where I go with my mind. From the skin inward is my jurisdiction, is it not? I choose what may or may not cross that border. Here I am the Customs Agent. I am the Coast Guard. I am the sole legal and spiritual Government of this territory, and only the laws I choose to enact within myself are applicable!!!
Now, were I to be guilty of invading or sabotaging that same territory in others, then the external law of the Nation has every right - indeed, the responsibility - to prosecute me in the agreed-upon manner.
But what I think? Where I focus my awareness? What biochemical reactions I choose to cause within the territorial boundaries of my own skin are not subject to the beliefs, morals, laws or preferences of any other person! I am a sovereign state, and I feel that my borders are far more sacred than the politically drawn boundaries of any country.
To which I can only say amen.
A British viewpoint In Britain, one of the few civil liberties arguments against the suppression of Ecstasy comes from the ranks of the Young Conservatives. Paul Staines is a former member of the radical right Committee for a Free Britain, who ran a "Freedom to Party" campaign at the Conservative Party conference in 1989. His arguments for legalising Ecstasy and acid house parties (and putting LSD in the punch at the Young Conservatives Ball), are expressed below:
Imagine a regime so totalitarian that it will not allow its young citizens to dance when they want. Imagine that this regime introduced a law which banned dance parties unless they were authorised by the state, and even then the parties would only be allowed to be of limited duration and on state-licensed premises. Naturally this regime would, in line with its ideology, only apply these laws to parties held for profit.
The populist pro-government newspapers would of course launch a propaganda campaign against what it would call evil dance party organisers. The pro-government press would conduct a hysterical smear campaign, describing the party organisers as criminals.
In order to combat the subversive profiteering free-market dance party entrepreneurs the state would form Lifestyle Police. Using undercover agents they would infiltrate the parties, discover where they were to take place and then, using helicopters and road-blocks, they would try to prevent the parties going ahead, by turning away thousands of dissident party-goers and arresting the organisers.
This is truly a regime of which Stalin or Hitler himself would be proud, implementing socialist policies to protect the citizens from their own moral weakness.
If you think this is hyperbole see The Guardian, 3 February, 1990: "Police fear Acid House boom in spring". This reports "a combined intelligence unit drawn from twelve police forces, the Home Office's most powerful computer system, sophisticated radio scanners, monitoring of underground magazines, light aircraft, helicopters, roadblocks and arbitrary arrests." These are surely the hallmarks of a totalitarian state.
The lifestyle police and the safety Nazis Sadly the above is not a fantasy, it is based on reality. In Britain in 1990 all this happened, not under a Communist regime, but under an increasingly authoritarian Conservative government. What the tabloid press called the Acid House Party generated a momentum for yet more restrictions on our civil liberties.
This is another example of the Lifestyle Police in action, but the Lifestyle Police are not the police in uniform, they are the conservative, intolerant bigots who demand uniformity. The Lifestyle Police and lifestyle policies are supported by comfortable suburbia and the reactionary readers of the Daily Express. For them different means dangerous. They truly believe that they represent decent values when in fact they have narrow intolerant values.
The Lifestyle Police have infiltrated almost every aspect of our culture. They are the foot soldiers of organisations like the National Viewers and Listeners Association; Mary Whitehouse is the Lifestyle Policewoman par excellence. The Lifestyle Police are controlled by members of a powerful but little known clandestine entryist political party known as the Safety Nazis. They are politically active in the Conservative Party and the Green Party. In America the Safety Nazis' greatest political success was the Prohibition Act. Only the valiant actions of the Mafia managed to save America by machine gunning leading Safety Nazis.
Safety Nazis want to ban things: video nasties, cigarettes, drink, drugs, loud music, pornography, toy guns, real guns, artificial additives, swear words on TV, fast cars, unusual sexual practices, dancing around Stonehenge on the solstice and Acid House parties. They also make you do things for your own good, like wear a seat belt and watch public information films. Overt Safety Nazis are active in the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the Health and Safety Executive, the Health Education Authority, Alcohol Concern and Action on Smoking and Health.
Safety Nazis have a secret greeting: Sieg Health. Their ultimate totalitarian objective is to take over the world and make it a nice, safe place.
The difference between the Lifestyle Police and the Safety Nazis is one of degree. Safety Nazis are politically motivated. They are consciously in favour of safety, despite the ramifications for freedom of choice and individual liberty. Safety Nazis positively enjoy food scares. They go out of their way to deliberately protect the public, they think up laws and regulations, they smile a lot, they care and they are boring. Extremely boring.
The Lifestyle Police are everywhere. Your grandmother could be one. They mean well. They have proper jobs. They are normal. They exert a subtle pressure on their peers and offspring. They think it's disgusting, even though they do not think very hard. They are decent upstanding members of the community. Their methods are so subtle that even they themselves do not realise that they are Lifestyle Policemen. They are unwitting collaborators with the Safety Nazis.
What an acid house party is The Lifestyle Police and their allies the Safety Nazis do not like people enjoying themselves. Why else would they introduce a law to stop people dancing all night? Graham Bright MP introduced a private members bill, The Entertainments (Increased Penalties) Bill, to prohibit Acid House parties. The penalty for having a good time is six months in prison and unlimited fines. Since I derived a great deal of pleasure and a substantial proportion of my income from these parties I want to use the example of Acid House parties to illustrate the anti-libertarian nature of the Lifestyle Police.
Before going any further it would be wise to explain what an Acid House party is, since I assume that the majority of people reading this have not attended such a party.
The origin of the term Acid House is the subject of some debate. It was claimed in the debate in the House of Commons, as well as endless articles in the music press, that contrary to popular belief Acid House Parties did not derive their name from the colloquial term for the hallucinogenic drug LSD. The term acid, it was claimed, comes from the streets of Chicago, where it is a slang word meaning to steal, and acid music takes its name from the fact that an acid music track will include samples of music stolen from other recordings and then mixed in to form an end product. Since this particular musical style grew out of the Chicago House sound it was christened Acid House. That at least is what it says in Hansard and you can't get much more official than that can you?
I know this to be completely untrue because I made up this explanation at a press conference held to launch the Freedom to Party Campaign at the Conservative Party conference in October 1989. I was attempting to desperately play down the drug aspect in a forlorn attempt to discourage anti-party legislation, reasoning that the British public might accept massive noisy parties, but thousands of teenagers on drugs were definitely not acceptable. (This, incidentally, is the most successful lie I have ever told. Japanese music journalists have solemnly repeated it to me in the course of interviews and from MTV to ITN it has been broadcast as a fact. Only once was I caught out, when at a seminar held at the DMC World Disc Jockey Mixing Championships, a DJ from Chicago stood up and told the 1,000 or so people in the hall that I was talkin' a complete load of fuckin' bullshit - which I was. This proves that if you tell a lie often enough people will believe it - except when they know it's complete bullshit.) Despite my best efforts the Safety Nazis simply changed their reasons for wanting to ban the parties. They wanted them banned not because they were party pooping killjoys, worried about drugs, but because they were concerned about the physical safety of party-goers at unlicensed venues!
The Safety Nazis outwitted my best lie by changing their tactics.
The parties got their name from the widespread use of the drug LSD (acid) at the parties in the early days. The whole scene revolved around drugs, anybody who knows anything about it will tell you this, unless you are a journalist or a policeman. A plentiful supply of drugs is sure to make the party kick - LSD, MDMA, cocaine, cannabis - the more the merrier. Combine this with pulsating music played at 80 plus beats per minute, thousands of young people dancing wildly, more lasers than the Strategic Defence Initiative, a 50,000 watt sound system and special effects that would make Steven Spielberg proud and you have a truly superior form of entertainment. It might not be to your taste, but for those of us who do like that kind of thing, it is unbeatable. The fact that we had to beat police roadblocks to get in made it even better, since forbidden fruit tastes sweeter.
Britain's puritanical licensing laws Britain's archaic licensing laws demand that public entertainments such as nightclubs must be licensed, not just for fire and safety as one might reasonably expect Safety Nazis to demand, but also to serve drink, to play music and to allow dancing. Why do you need a licence? Because the Safety Nazis want to make sure that you're safe! Why do the licences only let you dance till a certain hour? Ask the Safety Nazis. Licences allow music and dancing only until a certain hour, usually 3.30am in London. Few nightclubs in London are licensed beyond that hour. In effect there is a state enforced curfew, strictly monitored by the Lifestyle Police. Break the curfew and you lose your licence, putting you out of business. The whole situation is crazy and without any logic.
I have been to nightclubs in pre-perestroika Moscow that were open all hours. I know of nowhere else in the world - except Ireland - that has more restrictive licensing laws, and in Ireland nobody pays the law any attention. If ever there was an area crying out for Thatcherite deregulation it's the archaic system for the licensing of music and dancing.
Hedonistic resistance Fortunately over the years illicit underground warehouse parties have developed to cater for those people who quite reasonably like to party all night despite the law. People would set up a sound system in an empty warehouse and hold a party. If you were in the know you could turn up, pay cash at the door, and party till the next day in the company of a few hundred other party-goers. Drinks would be sold off the back of a van from crates. A little rough and ready, but fun.
Then in late 1987 and early 1988 a new style of music became popular in Ibiza, the sunny holiday hideaway isle for London's avant garde. The music was energetic and people liked to dance to it all night under the influence of a new designer-drug called Ecstasy. The loose Ibiza lifestyle encouraged parties that lasted for days, and if you were reasonably fit, took the right drugs and refrained from alcohol, you could dance around the clock. Ibiza, you will understand, does not have licensing laws or Life-style Police.
When the holiday was over, so was the party. Some of the more enterprising party people decided that they could recreate the atmosphere by holding warehouse parties. As London's party culture absorbed Ecstasy, the demand for underground warehouse parties grew, hundreds of people wanted to do the new wonder drug and dance all night. If you could not get any Ecstasy then some old fashioned acid would do.
Amongst the enthusiastic crowd who went to the parties was a young man called Tony Colston-Hayter. An imaginative, entrepreneurial technocrat with a relaxed attitude to legal formalities, he revolutionised the scene. He thought big. Instead of using dark, dodgy warehouses in London's docklands catering for a few hundred party-goers, why not organise parties for thousands of people in bigger venues?
How he did it provides a fine illustration of free enterprise's ability to innovate by taking advantage of technological developments. The parties were attracting the attention of the police, who would raid them and close them down as soon as they found out the location, unless the party was already in full swing, in which case they just turned people away rather than precipitate a riot.
Colston-Hayter reasoned that if he could get the people to the location in large numbers before the police arrived, the party would be unstoppable. He made use of a system called TVAR - Telephone Venue Address Releasing. The system worked as follows. During the day a production team would set up the venue, which could be a large warehouse or even an aircraft hangar. In total secrecy generators, sound systems, lighting, lasers, crash barriers, fire extinguishers, portaloos, merchandising stalls, food stands, soft drink stands and even a first aid room would be set up.
At a given time Colston-Hayter would use his cell phone to call a computer which would digitally record his spoken directions to a meeting point, usually somewhere on the M25 orbital motorway which circles London. The computerised system was linked to hundreds of phone lines.
The phone number would be printed on the tickets, and at a given hour would be party-goers (and the police) would phone that number and within minutes thousands of callers from all over the South East of England would be in their cars and on the way to the meeting point. At the meeting point accomplices with cell phones would report back to him. Once a critical mass had been reached, and this might be as many as a thousand cars, he would record a new message giving the venue location. The sheer weight of numbers would render the police unable to stop the convoy of freedom loving party-goers heading for the party.
The profits on a party attended by over 10,000 people could be up to #50,000. The total turnover could easily be in the region of #250,000 - fines for licensing offences were a maximum of #2,000.
Lifestyle police brutality The police and the authorities became tired of being outwitted and resorted to roadblocks, bugging phones, harassing organisers and mass detentions - at one party 836 people - only 12 of whom were charged - were detained overnight at 30 police stations. The tabloid newspapers waged an hysterical scare campaign, branding party organisers as evil drug pushers who were poisoning Britain's youth. A special police unit was set up to deal with the parties and undercover police were used. The police pressurised the phone companies into preventing organisers using the TVAR system. Pirate (i.e. free market) radio stations which broadcast party location information were raided and shut down.
Civil liberties were crushed in order to stop young people committing the heinous crime of dancing all night without a licence. If that was not enough a draconian new law was introduced in July 1990 which meant that party organisers could face up to six months in prison and confiscation of all profits. It was at this point that I decided to get out of the business.
The Safety Nazis advanced another step on their long march.Late last year Dr. Timothy Leary, the guru of psychedelia, was refused entry into Britain. He was due to speak about his ideas [on 'Virtual Reality' computer software] to willing audiences. The Home Office refused him entry, but where were the human rights activists protesting about restrictions on freedom of speech? If a NORAID fund-raiser for the IRA had been refused entry, endless left-wing Labour MPs would have protested. If a bloodthirsty, CIA-backed African guerilla leader intent on publicising his anti-Marxist struggle had been refused entry, every Conservative MP who has been on a free trip to South Africa would be up in arms.
Timothy Leary is an interesting man with interesting ideas, yet I am not allowed to hear what he has to say.
The Lifestyle Police strike again.
Self liberation and uptight Conservatives I have fond memories of taking LSD and pure MDMA, trance-dancing and thinking that I had turned into a psychedelic, orgiastic wisp of smoke - it was the most staggeringly enjoyable, mind-warping experience I have ever had. The sense of self liberation was awesome and is to be recommended. The only word to describe it is WOW!
Acid House parties represented the perfect environment for drug taking, they provided a marvellous market place for drug distributors and consumers. The chances of being arrested were minimal because of the massive number of people. The atmosphere allows you to enjoy your trip in conducive surroundings, safe in the knowledge that thousands of others are doing the same. The feeling that it is a shared experience is very powerful, people are friendly. If you should bump into someone Eeed Up on Ecstasy they will just smile, you will say sorry, they'll say it's okay, you'll smile and dance off - in a bar even the most minor collision is likely to result in an unpleasant exchange of words, if not a fist fight. Alcohol leads to aggression, MDMA encourages tolerance.
A lot of my Thatcherite/Libertarian friends get very suspicious when I tell them about the love and peace aspects of taking Ecstasy. To them love and peace equals hippies equals leftist. The feeling of unity and shared enjoyment to them smacks of collectivism, not the rugged individualism that they favour. But the drug actually removes inhibitions, liberating your mind from petty concerns. You feel a sense of solidarity, but it is totally voluntary, there is no coercion. Libertarians are opposed to coercive collectivism, but if I as an individual choose to enjoy a collective experience because I want to, than that is up to me. I suspect that a lot of right-wingers, Conservative, Thatcherite or Libertarian, cling to their inhibitions and are actually afraid of letting go. Many Conservatives by their very nature fear the dynamic. They are wary of the unusual and prefer tradition, stability and the conventional. The idea of losing their inhibitions to the extent that they might say or do something embarrassing horrifies them.
Some people, particularly those of a Conservative inclination, have an irrational dislike of drugs, often based on what they believe or know about drug addicts. Somehow drug pushers are evil, akin to poisoners. A lot of drug pushers are unpleasant, but that is because it's an illegal business, and criminals are often unpleasant, violent people. Some drug dealers I know are ruthless, dishonest, dangerous psychopaths, while others are honest, peace loving, fair minded people who just happen to be in a business of which the majority of people are said to disapprove. If alcohol or tobacco was made illegal a similar situation would arise with them. Most British Conservative groups are not at all sympathetic towards legalising drugs, the Committee for a Free Britain being the only one that has come down in favour of decriminalising drugs. This might have something to do with the fact that during my time at the Committee for a Free Britain we got through quite a lot of the stuff.
Yet uptight Conservatives are probably the people who would benefit most from taking drugs, particularly Thatcherites, with their machine-like obsession with efficiency and abstract attachment to the freedom to make money. I'm as much of a believer in Capitalism as the most earnest of Young Conservatives, but couldn't we put acid in the punch at the YC ball and then really have a party?
From a leaflet published by The Libertarian Alliance, 25 Chapter Chambers, Esterbrooke Street, London SW1P 4NN (071-821 5502) =A9Libertarian Alliance 1991