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Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents

The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

I -- marihuana and the problem of marihuana

The Limits of Rationality

The social response to the individual's search for meaning has fostered an ambivalence, an unwillingness to act, a paralysis. In large measure, according to one Seminar member, this default of authority reveals the intensity of the search:

In the same way we are getting universities that can't teach, families that can't socialize and police forces that can't catch criminals. In every case, the same issue is involved: the subject of authority questions the legitimacy of authority and the exerciser of it is unable to find-very often doesn't even try to find-a defense, because he feels in himself a sympathy, as do so many parents, with the challenge.

To a significant extent, society is waiting, hoping that the impulse for change will settle around certain fundamental attributes of the American ethic. At the present time, however, no consensus about the nature of these fundamentals exists. We are all looking for values that have deep roots, as we attempt to sort out the durable from the ephemeral.

All of the participants at our Central Influences Seminar agreed that the unique feature of this search was its a rational quality. As one observer put it:

We have been discussing the question of how we change a society. I don't think it's changed by rational intention. As I understand societies, historically and our own, what really is required to change it is something on a deeper level that involves myth, ritual, sacrament-a number of these functions that have always been related to societies. On these you can't just suddenly make up your mind and then prescribe.

Regarding our problem of authority, you cannot really ask the question: why can't these people hang onto their authority? They can't hang onto it because what gave them authority is something not of themselves, but part of the society, part of a ritual, a sacrament: a way of behaving in the group which gave them authority, [whether] professorial, parental or policy authority. In each one of these cases, what we see is not the diminishing of these men so much but rather the developing emptiness, the lack of the particular ethic that gave them authority to start with. This is why we are in a terrible dilemma.

What is essentially lacking is a system of ethics, morality or religion that gives birth -to the myths, the rituals, the sacraments that are its expression. These touch human beings on the unconscious level. These are the ways we see the world. They are not our conscious thought, but the ways we form ourselves, form each other, love each other or hate each other-in terms not so much of rational intention as a deeper unconscious-conscious and unconscious-which is my definition of a myth; much more of a feeling level, a living level. That is what is not present now.

What we need, below and above all of our deliberations, is the growth and development of an ethical system. We just do not have this now.

As we move into the 1970's, our society is collectively engaged in the task -of determining what America means, and how each individual should find fulfillment in `a changing age. From this wider perspective of flux emerges an uncertainty about what the increased prevalence of marihuana use means for the individual and the total society.


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