Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Brave New World of Drug Use

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Brave New World of Drug Use

Article excerpt

Two famous novels of dystopia have been written this century: "1984," by George Orwell, and "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley.

Orwell sketched a future in which technology would be used by totalitarian regimes to control every aspect of people's lives. In some ways, Orwell's powers of prediction proved eerily accurate. The Soviet Union did airbrush people out of history, just as in "1984." Even non-totalitarian regimes, like ours, have attempted to manipulate language to limit thought. And, of course, the Soviet Union (and other regimes) did attempt to control people utterly.

Where Orwell proved quite wrong was in the effect that technology had on the totalitarian state. Technology proved totalitarianism's undoing. Computers, satellites and even radio undermined the regime's monopoly on information. And the West's superiority in weapons' technology, specifically computers, forced the ruling elite to acknowledge its unbridgeable inferiority. But Aldous Huxley's dystopia is proving more apt for our times. Huxley imagined a world in which people would willingly drug themselves with into apathetic and artificial happiness, thereby posing no threat to the regime. In our time, it is not the state that pushes drugs, but still, the populace does ingest them very willingly. We live in a world remarkably free of the traditional scourges of human life - hunger, disease and war. Americans live longer, healthier and more comfortable lives than any human beings in the whole history of mankind. And, yet, we resort to drugs to a truly remarkable degree. For 12 years, from 1978 to 1990, drug use declined in the United States. But, according to data from William Bennett's update of the Leading Cultural Indicators, drug use among the young began a sharp increase in 1993 that is continuing. In 1991, only 5.7 percent of eighth-graders said they had used drugs within the past month. By 1996, that figure was 14.6 percent. Among 12th-graders in 1991, 16.4 percent reported using drugs in the past month, while 24. …

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