Richard Rieben

This comes to me as a rough memory from the 1960s. An episode of the "original recipe" Startrek series.

You have these people on this planet who are taking a medicine to keep themselves well, yet they are a sickly people nonetheless. When they stop taking the medicine, they get extremely ill and desperate, although few die. Bones discovers that the "medicine" is a powerfully addictive narcotic, which, while lessening their overall health, gives them a sense of well-being. When deprived of this "medicine," they go into intense, painful and death-like withdrawal (from the addiction). When they are completely removed from the drug, they go through withdrawal, and then, over time, become truly healthy (and not just an illusion of well-being).

Not being a fantasy, sci-fi, or Startrek buff, I do not know the details of that particular episode, or who wrote the screenplay -- or even the title. It was a brilliant piece of political satire, as were many of the original Startrek episodes.

This is the rest of the story ...

There are various explanations and rationales for how the medication came to be instituted so broadly in the beginning. It was probably the lack of obvious side effects (only noticeable over time, and more so in later generations), and, mostly, the narcotic comfort that could be found in the drug -- the illusions of security, of paternalism, of a controlled status quo, of maintaining social values, and of diligently reinforcing all of these illusions (by buffering -- or excluding -- the rough, rustic, unpolished, robust and vibrant realities).

It was discovered early on that the "medication" was a drug. Though not by anyone with the authority of Bones or with the superiority of a first class starship at their command. It was discovered by individuals, singly and most often by disaffected outsiders (or who became "disaffected outsiders" soon after). If they managed to find a voice -- to inform others -- they were frequently suppressed. They were suppressed as much and as often by the addicts as by the suppliers. Those profiting from the situation (and a very powerful elite was indeed profiting from the arrangement) were careful to control the media, such as to impress upon the populace how lucky they were to have this wonder medication, and how kindly were the dispensers and suppliers of such medication.

The societies throughout the planet had extremely intricate distribution centers and networks. They endeavored to not only make everyone dependent upon the drug, but to exaggerate the dangers of not having the drug. The people honestly believed that they would die without it. This information was channeled through the society's best scientific wizards and academics (who, alas, did not have spaceships, or any real grasp of science -- or reality). Based on these exaggerated dangers, society trained up the populace to be extremely defensive and protective of their drug, the distribution network, and the suppliers. Also, to provide ample, overflowing support, as grateful beneficiaries of this life-saving medication, for the suppliers, their agents and all the necessary machinery of production and distribution.

The individuals who discovered the health-deteriorating nature of the medicine, and its delusory appeal as a narcotic, as well as its powerful addictive nature ... these individuals were much maligned for saying such "untrue," "unhelpful," and "negative" things. They were considered traitors to the people (although, foremost, traitors to the suppliers).

Through many years of life on this planet, after the introduction of the drug-as-medication, individuals continued, sporadically, to see through the charade, and they continued to be suppressed or killed for their efforts to communicate this information.

Eventually, a compromise was reached. It was conceded, at a very high level, that the high drug doses did not promote the productivity of the population that the suppliers desired. The problem was that when they lowered the dose, there were even more individuals who saw the game clearly, and vocally.

The compromise was achieved, finally, by ensuring that the clear-sighted individuals were were subtlely organized as a "liberation movement," and infiltrated with agents of the suppliers. The agents ensured that the movement would always retain a lack of credibility, a lack of "official" media acknowledgement, and an unfocused direction (by devising a variety of avenues to implement and achieve mass withdrawal, and by continuing beliefs as to the necessity of some level of the "medication" -- or an alternative substance of a similar nature).

The compromise worked well, but only for about fifty years or so. In the later decades of this movement, an increasing number of individuals not only saw through the medication game, they became increasing suspicious of the "liberation" movement, as well. Again, their vocalizations were suppressed or "reasoned with," such that most of them were co-opted back into the well-infiltrated "liberation" movement.

This movement, it should be noted, had, through the years, attracted some of the best and the brightest spin doctors and illusionists, who employed their talents, for the most part sincerely, in the projection of future worlds, where people "somehow" no longer needed the medication, but lived peacefully and healthily. These talented minds, with their charismatic presentations, were sufficient to give legitimacy to the movement, overall, and to attract and enroll those who were disaffected with the medication scheme.

One of the interesting aspects of the liberation movement was that none of the participants gave up taking the medication. There were some who tried, and, who, suffering horrible withdrawal symptoms, were finally advised, on the credentials of doctors that their friends had brought in, to resume medication. Those who spurned medical advice and survived the withdrawal were somehow lost to the movement. It is not clear whether they were silenced or just gave up the fight. Many of them went off to live, in relative isolation, in remote locations on the planet, never to be heard from again.

The increasing distrust of the liberation movement, despite the popular and credentialed experts and illusionists, became an increasing problem with the advent of a communications device, known as the "internet," by which the planet's population could "publish" individual viewpoints free of censure (for the most part). This did not ensure that alternative views were widely heard, only that they were available. Most of the truly innovative ideas were simply not referenced by those liberation movement "publishers" who were in the vanguard of the movement.

But, slowly, some of these isolated, individual "publishers" began to find one another in the medium of the "internet" and to build communications links and small networks. It was limited and fragmented, still without sanction of the larger public media, and mostly without recognition by the mainstream liberation movement. But they were building some places to go ... to be heard, to listen, to understand.

Some of these points of light (for true liberation) were rough and some were smooth. Some were raw (from self-reduced rations of the drug) and some were cheery (still on the drug, but confident in their mission).

Some were focused on complaints of the lies they had been told: by their parents, by their medicators, by the hypocrisies of their neighbors, and by the engineered ineffectiveness of the liberation movement. Most of the complainants were raw in their various stages of disillusionment. Some of these, although initially drawn into the movement by the liberation illusionists and storytellers, were also disillusioned by the emphasis that the liberation movement put on fantasies to fuel (or derail?) the movement. Hard realities were rarely published, except the grievances (again, mostly presented as "stories" of horrible events befalling liberationists).

Some of the points of true light were focused on survival (within the medicated world), others on relocating beyond it (most of these flustered over the issue of medication -- how much to take with them, if any, or how to make it themselves). Some were focused on the efforts of the suppliers to medicate and misinform, others were focused on the research and scientific studies of medication, health and addiction. And many were focused on grievance lists or stories.

A few were focused on practical ways to withdraw, but these "publishers" were not taken very seriously, even by those seeking true liberation, because most of the seekers were still wary of going off the drug (some of them still believed they would die without it, even if their minds and ideals proclaimed otherwise). Most of the seekers also felt that they needed more information, more discussion, more of a sense of mutual security or consensus, and some kind of expert or academic sanction (for they had all been trained by their societies to believe in socially accredited sources of information, specifically in regard to medication, rather than to trust their own judgment).

While this splintered effort groped toward a real and true liberation, the suppliers of the drug, aware of this vocal and, with the "internet," insuppressible effort, were taking steps to increase their defense over the distribution network and to intensify their agents in the field (and in the erstwhile liberation movement, which had lost its grip on the situation).

The suppliers were also increasing the dosage of the "medication," subtlely, secretly and over time, so that the world's population was becoming less productive, and so that people's health was deteriorating more visibly in consequence of the drug. But the suppliers needed to increase the strength of the drug in order to avert a crisis by increasing the greater population's dependence on the suppliers. They hoped, also, to weaken both the blundering and unpredictable liberation movement, and, mostly, to abort the efforts of the true liberationists.

Some of this they intended to achieve mechanically, by silencing particular "internet publishers." But their main hope was to render any potential audience for such "publishers" too febrile to seek or comprehend the messages that the "publishers" might offer. Indeed, the more that "internet publishers" retained the illusionist, fantastical trend of the formal liberation movement, the less they were targeted by the suppliers. Entertaining "publishers" were mostly ignored.

With the increased dosage of the drug, most people would only be able to appreciate being entertained, would not be able to make the effort to inform themselves, and, even in regard to the entertainments, would not be able to grapple with any of the embedded ideas anyway.

I guess you could say that there were many stray points of true light, but no consensus of illumination -- anywhere in the liberation movement, real or co-opted. Meanwhile, the ability of the population (including those in the liberation movement) to distinguish light from dark, was diminishing as the dosage of the drug was stepped up.

A kind of battle was looming, either with some brilliant flash of illumination. Or with the submission of the whole population to a level of medication that had not been seen for several centuries, and a quality of life that would, necessarily, degenerate to those previous levels, as well.

It was a close call, but the odds were on the medication suppliers at every level.

[To be discontinued.]

Comment on this article
View all comments on this article

Rate this article:
Bad Poor Average Good Excellent
If there's anything specific you'd like to say
about this article, please do so here.
Comments may be used in an upcoming
Letters to the Editor.

Copyright © 2004 by Doing Freedom! magazine. All rights reserved.