Could Psilocybin Therapy Become Mainstream Within A Decade?

The path blazed by Western psychonauts over the past 60 years may soon lead to mainstream psilocybin therapy

The media appears to be taking tentative steps to recondition a herd that has been brainwashed to fear alternative states of consciousness and to despise those who explore them. Some months ago, an article about a psychiatrist’s efforts to optimise a playlist for a magic mushroom trip was doing the rounds, and other pieces since then have seemed to normalise them. Could psilocybin become a mainstream therapy within a decade?

For half a century, the conventional psychiatric wisdom was that psychedelic drugs do nothing but cause psychosis. They have no therapeutic benefit, and nor do they have any spiritual benefit. This is why psilocybin, like cannabis and LSD, was made a Schedule I drug in America, meaning that it was officially considered to have no medicinal value.

Despite this, a number of studies have hinted at the medicinal benefit that would explain why psilocybin has been used medicinally and sacramentally for thousands of years. An April 2016 paper in Pharmacological Reviews accounts for a modern understanding of psychedelics, abandoning the perspective that they are tools of the devil. This paper lists in detail the extant research on psychedelic drugs in therapy.

The effect that is foremost in attracting the interest of researchers at the moment is the ability of psilocybin to reconcile a dying person with the inevitability and inescapability of their own death. The end-of-life experience is often characterised by extreme anxiety, particularly in Western culture, with its near-total absence of any genuine spirituality and with the corresponding belief that the death of the physical body is the end of consciousness. This anxiety is associated with intense suffering, hence the call for research in this area.

Many of the psychonauts reading this will know that psilocybin is excellent for assuaging end-of-life anxiety, which, let’s not forget, can strike a person at any age. One does not have to be dying to suffer from death anxiety – one only needs a moment to contemplate the fact that one’s body is inevitably going to expire, as does everyone’s.

An intense psychedelic experience often has the effect of separating the consciousness of the user from the sensory input of the physical body entirely, and sometimes, when this occurs, the user realises that their consciousness could have dreamed up the illusion of being born into a physical body and that this is in fact a much more logical and likely explanation for everything than the idea that our brain somehow magically generates consciousness.

This line of thinking is characteristic of the psychedelic experience, and commonly leads to the conclusion that the true essence of a person is in fact consciousness, not the body, and that this consciousness is the prime material of reality and survives physical death. Once this conclusion has been reached, a person is liberated from death anxiety, and consequently from the suffering associated with it.

This doesn’t mean that bringing in psychedelic therapy will be straightforward.

The main difficulty is that the spiritual enlightenment associated with psilocybin drug use leads naturally to the realisation that the integrity of one’s physical body is not the most important thing in life, as it is temporary by its very nature, and this leads to one losing one’s fear of death.

This is great for the psychedelic user, as it liberates them from a terrible source of suffering, but it’s terrible for the politicians and the control system, who rely on that fear of death and physical pain to manipulate the cattle into doing their bidding.

After all, a fully psychedelicised population is not going to obey an order to invade an innocent country, destroy the local government and install a central bank, and nor will they willingly obey orders to put peaceful people in cages for actions that harm no-one else. They will be much more resistant to bullshit and to lies from authority figures, which, to those authority figures, represents a loss of control and this is to be avoided at all costs.

This is, indeed, why psychedelics have been opposed by both religious and secular authorities almost as soon as they were discovered.

It’s possible that some limited inroads into our collective ignorance around psychedelics might be made with a liberalisation of the laws around psilocybin, but for it to become a mainstream therapy a lot of ignorant, brainwashed idiots have to lose influence in the discussion. This will take a long time.

Jacinda Ardern Lied To Us About Changing The Medicinal Cannabis Laws

The Clark Government lied to us about cannabis, the Key Government lied to us about cannabis and the English Government lied to us about cannabis. Today the Ardern Government went back on their word to legalise medicinal cannabis in the first 100 days of taking power

They promised that they would make medicinal cannabis legal in the first 100 days of a new Government. They lied. That’s the long and the short of the medicinal cannabis “reforms” announced by David Clark and Jacinda Ardern today. No doubt it will be spun as a great victory for compassion and justice, but it isn’t.

Home growers will be the most disappointed, because the “reforms” offer absolutely nothing to them. If you grow cannabis at home because you have found it alleviates your suffering – as tens of millions of Americans are legally allowed to do – you will still have to live in permanent fear of the Police knocking on your door and dragging you away to go in a cage.

Basically, under the proposed legislation, home growers are invited to go and fuck themselves. There is no word of any reduction in penalties for home growers, only for those who have less than 12 months left to live, and even they aren’t allowed to grow cannabis. If you have a terminal illness (this being defined as an illness likely to kill you in the next 12 months), then you now have a defence against prosecution.

You can still be arrested, thrown in a jail cell with rapists and murderers and treated like a subhuman piece of shit by the justice system, but should you decide to protest, you will now be permitted to have a defence.

The Bill also “establishes a regulation-making power to set quality standards for domestically manufactured and imported cannabis products.” In other words, the Labour Party intends to give full control of the New Zealand medicinal cannabis supply (if we ever get one) to the same pharmaceutical industry that has lobbied for decades to keep medicinal cannabis illegal. This is further underlined when the Bill declares “Most cannabis products produced internationally do not meet the quality and efficacy requirements of therapeutic product regulators such as Medsafe.”

It sounds like the best result is that medicinal cannabis will become available through a pharmacy, at some indeterminate point in the future, once a Byzantine process of bureaucracy has first been established and secondly navigated. In other words, medicinal cannabis is still not legal, and there is no sign of home grow ever becoming legal.

Most worryingly of all, the Bill states that “no pure cannabidiol product made to reliable quality standards is currently available.” This means that, according the quality standards enforced by this Bill, none of the medicinal products produced by the $20 billion cannabis industry in America are good enough, a clear sign that the “quality standards” demanded are not necessary or reasonable.

Clearly, this is another Psychoactive Substances Act – a piece of legislation intended to keep something fully illegal while giving politicians a plausible reason to claim that they are trying to make it legal. Peter Dunne successfully blocked cannabis law reform, while evading media heat, for over a decade using this method.

In summary, Jacinda Ardern is nothing but another vacuous corporate whore, exactly like John Key. She is lipstick on a pig. Just a pretty face on the same disgusting corporate agenda that has engorged itself on the New Zealand people for the past 30 years. Labour lied about signing the TPPA, and now they’ve also lied about reforming the medicinal cannabis laws.

Hierarchies of Silver Versus Hierarchies of Gold

There is a lot of discussion about power dynamics, and whether the people who end up at the top of them have got there through competence or by machination. A person’s position on this question will correlate extremely strongly with their level of revolutionary zeal. This essay seeks to illuminate the subject from an esoteric perspective.

There are three ways for a person to dominate another one. They can do so physically, in a manner akin to the effect iron has on clay; they can do so with trickery, in a manner akin to the effect silver has on clay; they can do so by offering up an example of behaviour that ought to be emulated and allow the clay to imitate it, in a manner akin to the effect gold has on clay.

For the most part, people can generally agree that hierarchies of iron are illegitimate, except for the odd occasion when they are entered into legitimately, such as an army volunteer or a consensual BDSM participant. In nature, the effect of iron upon the clay is necessarily coercive and non-consensual, and the majority of people find this sort of thing unpleasant, so hierarchies of iron are generally discouraged.

Everyone generally agrees that hierarchies of gold are ideal. The ideal form of hierarchy is for an excellent person to behave excellently and for people who aspire to a similar excellence to support that first person on account of their great deeds. This is identical to the philosopher-king model proposed by Plato in The Republic and most people can immediately see the merits in it.

The difficulty arises when a hierarchy of silver is formed in imitation of the hierarchy of gold. To some extent this is unavoidable because almost all hierarchies of silver are – in the human world at least – imitations of the hierarchy of gold.

For example, a man might arise who is crafty enough to swindle the people around him into believing whatever he said. He might then, as many men have previously chosen to do, take advantage of this opportunity and tell them all that he’s a living god and that his every word is infallible and that his will cannot be questioned.

This is an ancient trick – it worked 10,000 years ago and the Pope is still running it now. It works because the hierarchy of silver built by the swindler is sufficiently close to the ideal hierarchy (assuming a sufficient level of stupidity among the peasantry) that the dull cannot tell the difference, and those who do can be silenced by swift application of sharp iron.

Hierarchies of silver have a multitude of forms, as numerous as there are opportunities to cheat others. They all have in common, however, the property of illegitimately acquiring and concentrating power.

Either they put the power into the wrong hands or they put it in the right hands but in the wrong amounts. The hierarchies of silver share this quality with the hierarchies of iron, but unlike the iron they do not do so by acquiring powerful weapons, but rather by controlling the minds of the men who control the weapons.

In other words, a hierarchy of silver will misdirect the men of iron. This means that the men of silver will make laws that are unjust, such as levying unfair taxes, or banning certain luxuries that should remain freely available. The men of silver will not be able to adjust their system to reflect accurate criticism because, not being of gold, their hierarchy is not intended to represent correct rule.

Hierarchies of gold are when the right people have the power in the right amounts, and usually result in Golden Ages for the people within them. However, they are more fragile than the others, in the same way that gold is the softest of all metals. The proximate challenge for the philosopher-king is usually keeping the men of silver from hatching some plot to steal the loyalty of the men of iron.

What Would The West Do Without Third-World Immigrants?

Next stop: your daughter’s bedroom

Recently, an unthinkable thing has started to happen. The people of the Western World are starting to question whether letting tens of millions of illiterate savages from cultures that glorify violence, rape and conquest into our communities is really all it’s cracked up to be. This essay argues that we ought to continue the policy of the last 20 years, which is to socially destroy anyone who questions the mass immigration narrative.

Who will work the unskilled jobs? We know from 5th form economics that without a regular supply of cheap labour, employers would be forced to pay higher wages, and we can’t have that. We can’t have the employer class being forced at gunpoint to share the production they have legitimately stolen off the workers.

Without a regular supply of semi-literate foreigners who have no conception of labour rights, our employer class would be forced to pay living wages in order to attract and retain staff. Mass immigration is therefore necessary so that the employer class can continue to keep the peasants under the heel.

Who will buy the property? Lowering the supply of immigration necessary means lowering the demand for housing, which necessarily means lowering the price of housing. This will mean that the wealthy Baby Boomers who are creaming it from mass immigration will be forced to cream it slightly less.

Currently we have a situation where a large proportion of young Westerners have given up on the idea of ever owning a house, resigning themselves to paying rent to Baby Boomers until they die. If we cut immigration, then this would free up housing that young Western families could afford to live in. And that would be a disaster.

Who would commit the crimes? No immigrants means a high-trust, high-solidarity community where everyone speaks the same language, understands and looks after each other. This sort of society leaves very little opportunity for the criminal class to exploit and prey on the people, which causes it to diminish. Who wants that?

The peasant class needs to have wolves among them that prey on them and cause them to fear, because without this they will start questioning the government. Also, without an active criminal class, it’s extremely difficult for the good old boys in the law enforcement community to find employment.

Letting in third world immigrants also has the benefit of helping to keep women down by forcing them to be ever vigilant against the threat of rape and sexual assault. The Sweden of 20 years ago had the lowest rates of sexual violence against women ever recorded in a Western country, so mass third world immigration had the benefit of putting those uppity bitches back in their place.

Finally, who would pollute the countryside? There is a direct link between the levels of population in any given area and the density of garbage and pollution in that area, for the obvious reason that every person has to consume a certain amount of the environment no matter how efficient they are.

No matter how efficient someone is, they have to eat food, they have to drive to work, they have to consume the products of the industry and agriculture that consumes our countryside and free space. So the more third world immigrants we let in, the more crowded and polluted our country becomes. Win win.

In summary, there are at least four good reasons to continue to destroy the reputation of anyone who questions the globalist open borders narrative.

Fixing Toxic Masculinity Is A Two-Way Street

It’s not accurate to dump all the responsibility for toxic masculinity on males

The mainstream media has been full of stories about toxic masculinity recently, especially the hand-wringing, moralising, finger-pointing style, such as this effort by Lee Suckling in the New Zealand Herald. Leaving aside that the whole issue of toxic masculinity is mostly overblown, there are some things that men really ought to do better for the sake of universally reducing suffering in the world.

Also leaving aside the fact that the media never mentions toxic femininity, which is an equally large problem, the solution presented to fixing this problem of toxic masculinity is to dump responsibility for it entirely on men. Suckling laments that “We are forced to like blue not pink; trucks not Barbies; rugby not netball; muscles, strength, and brute force not intellectualism, thoughts, and feelings,” but blames men exclusively for all of this.

The human species is not a machine, but in many psychological ways it behaves exactly like a machine, especially in regards to conditioning. Behaviour is more or less likely to happen in the future if it was rewarded or punished, respectively, in the present. This has been known for a century and has been codified into what’s known as the Law of Effect.

In other words, changing the behaviour of men requires that they are rewarded sufficiently for the desired new behaviour. This means that they have to be treated correctly for it – and not just by other men.

One crucial detail that Suckling completely overlooks in blaming Kiwi men for everything is that women are equally as complicit as men, if not more so, when it comes to enforcing the standards of toxic masculinity. Proving this is a simple matter of observing which male behaviour gets rewarded with access to sexual resources.

It isn’t the men who are into “intellectualism, thoughts, and feelings” that get the chicks. Although it might be true that high-class women are attracted to those things, and although it might be true that men who are into these things get the cream of the women, there are so few of these women that the behaviour of males is not significantly altered.

For every woman turned on by intellectualism, thoughts, and feelings, there are fifty who are turned on by crass, vulgar displays of wealth and physical power. Driving a big, loud car, verbally abusing or bullying someone or punching another man in the face are the sort of behaviours that make the majority of women see a man as alpha, dominant and worth breeding with.

The Law of Effect explains another oft-observed phenomenon: that men tend to repeat the behaviours that first got them laid for the rest of their lives. So if they lose their virginity at age 17 by getting drunk and acting boorishly around some girl who has nothing but crude primate instincts to guide her mating decisions, then they will often act the boor while trying to get laid for the rest of their lives.

If this is to change, more women have to realise that intellectualism, thoughts and feelings are better predictors of long-term happiness and start rewarding men on that basis. This is necessary because men will respond to this a million times more strongly than they will to getting lectured by homosexuals in the mainstream media.

Cynics might say that it’s not destined to happen. It may be that powers beyond our influence have decided that New Zealand is to be a military outpost of a certain world order, and so our population must be encouraged to be aggressive and abusive in case such qualities are needed to win some future war.

That might not even be a bad thing. Suckling uses the European male as an example of how to be correctly masculine, but neglects to point out that the femininity of the European male has led directly to that continent’s streets and inner cities being conquered by males of foreign cultures.

As ever, the correct approach lies in finding the correct balance between masculine and feminine, but if young Kiwi men are to stop killing themselves at the highest rate in the world, Kiwi women are going to have to help make the change.

Generation X’s Most Bitter Realisation

Instead of seeing the next generations as inheritors of a world that they were duty-bound to steward, The Baby Boomers see the young as resources to be exploited

Some things have been part of life for so long that we’ve taken them for granted. We take for granted that parents pass wealth onto their children in the form of knowledge and silver; we take for granted that technological and social improvements mean that the quality of life increases for every generation that passes; we take for granted that each generation has an obligation to the leave the world in order for the one that comes after it. Generation X has come to bitterly realise that some of these assumptions are no longer true.

The most bitter realisation of Generation X is that we will be the first generation in history to inherit a lower standard of living than the previous generation enjoyed. The Baby Boomers ticked up so much debt on the intergenerational credit card that they can never pay it back themselves, even if they intended to. We will pay it back through the sweat of our own labour so that our parents can enjoy a lengthy retirement, the vast majority of them still fit to work.

What is currently taking place is the greatest theft in history: the Baby Boomer’s theft of the production of the Generation Xs and Millennials, who will lose a large proportion of their wages to pay back the debts their parents accumulated, and for rents on houses that they can never own, merely so that those parents could experience an unprecedented level of comfort.

They did this by giving themselves tax cuts without cutting spending, so that our nations had to borrow to pay for basic social services, many of which the Baby Boomers themselves used more frequently on account of being elderly. All over the world this was done, not just New Zealand; everywhere an excuse was found for the increase in borrowing.

At the same time, the wages of the next generation were squeezed between having to pay back massive student loans that the Baby Boomers were not themselves subjected to, competing with foreign labour to a degree that the Baby Boomers were not themselves subjected to, and forking out for ever-scarcer affordable housing to a degree that the Baby Boomers were not themselves subjected to.

So not only did the Baby Boomers ensure that they enjoyed the highest standard of living ever recorded by one generation in human history, they did so explicitly at the expense of the generations who would follow, saddling them with a debt so heavy that even war reparations would be less burdensome.

They ticked up this unique standard of living for themselves on the national credit card, and simply left us to pay the debt off, which will take half a century. For most Western nations, cleaning up this mess will involve trying to integrate millions of individuals from very strange and often barbaric cultures, people that the Baby Boomers let into our countries because they didn’t want to pay us proper wages like they themselves had been paid.

The question that will define the soul of Generation X is whether we do the same thing to the generations after us out of bitterness and resentment for what our parents put us through, or if we treat the generation after us fairly out of a belief that we learned something from the greed of our parents.

FaceBook Contains The Seeds For Its Own Destruction In Its “Community Standards”

As the yang contains the seeds of the yin that will eventually grow to overwhelm it, so does FaceBook contain the seeds for its own destruction in its totalitarian “Community Standards”

Social media is becoming an ever more difficult place to express oneself, with the list of things that you’re not allowed to say growing by the week. FaceBook (otherwise known as FaecesBook) is arguably the worst offender, and is getting worse all the time. Unfortunately for them, the seeds of their own destruction are sown by their aggression against free expression.

More and more people are finding themselves “zucked”. This means they are banned from FaceBook for a set length of time because of transgressions against the mysterious “Community Standards”: an ephemeral set of ever-shifting laws against saying certain things, on the grounds (presumably) that some might find the speech offensive.

In doing so, FaceBook has forgotten who made it popular in the first place. It wasn’t people who were worried about community standards – to the contrary, it was the sort of person who flocked to the Internet as a place to speak freely. It was the cool people who made FaceBook a fun place to talk about things that were hard to talk about in real life, for whatever reason.

These people are not going to tolerate being banned for 30 days for using words like ‘faggot’ or ‘nigger’: two things which ought to be punished by no more than mild social disapproval, without need for recourse to a higher authority. Cool people don’t put up with that sort of crap; cool people will simply find another platform (such as www.minds.com), upon which they can still express themselves freely, and without being encumbered by arbitrary restrictions imposed by some moralising, prudish control freaks.

The author was recently banned from FaecesBook for three days for writing the word ‘fags’. It wasn’t written as a slur, but as the opposite. It was part of the phrase “God Hates Fags”, in the context of mocking religious fundamentalists who hate homosexuals and who are boneheaded enough to protest homosexuality by holding up signs that presume to speak for God.

So it doesn’t even matter if you make a comment in support of homosexuals by mocking those who only are homophobic because they think God told them to be. Use of the word ‘fag’ or ‘fags’ is verboten, so utterly verboten that it is a crime for which there is no defence.

On another occasion I was zucked when a troll in a group I was in accused the group of being full of people who believed that Hitler did nothing wrong. I responded with “But Hitler didn’t do anything wrong” – a comment so clearly a joke that no-one except for the most socially retarded idiot sperglord could have thought otherwise. That’s no defence in the eyes of FaceBook, though, for who all thoughtcrime must be ruthlessly punished.

Perhaps I should have been banned for making such an obvious joke? It would have been much fairer.

It makes one wonder – has Zuckerberg ever been to a pub? Has he ever been out in public, and heard how people speak in real life when they’re trying to relax and make some light humour? ‘Fags’ is hardly a problem. What is a problem is the ever-increasing creep of intrusive advertisements on FaceBook, a platform where the vast majority of the content is created by users who could go anywhere else.

Or is the plan to make FaceBook a gigantic safe space, much in the same way that television currently is? Because the obvious problem with this approach is that FaceBook got its initial momentum from being the precise opposite to a safe space, and if it tries to be the United Nations of Internet forums it will end up just as despised and derided as the UN is.

FaceBook is already dying, but it might take several years for the obvious signs of its irreversible decline to become undeniable. It is, in effect, going through the inevitable life cycle of Internet forums, in which the fourth stage – Destruction – is marked by the controllers of the forum bringing in more and more and more rules in an attempt to recapture the glory days, without them being aware that it is the very application of all these rules which has driven the glory away.

The application of ridiculous Community Standards that not even the average grandmother can abide by without getting banned will be the death of FaceBook.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand V

This reading carries on from here.

The fifth essay in The Interregnum is ‘Welfare and Precarious Work’ by Chloe King.

Unlike the other offerings so far, this essay actually resonates with people who are working class. Instead of waffling on about climate change and other shibboleths of the global elite classes, King focuses on real issues that affect real Kiwis: poor wages, poor security of work and a pitiful excuse for a social safety net.

This essay uses anecdotal examples of young Kiwis trying to make it in a workplace that is forcing them into ever worse conditions. The nature of work in New Zealand is becoming ever more stressful as things like the 90-day firing law undermine employment security, and the essay does a good job of showing how this leads to increased rates of mental illness.

It also correctly draws attention to the cruelty of the Fifth National Government. Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms now force people seeking a benefit to fill out a 48-page form of questions – obviously a considerable challenge to the kind of person whose literacy levels place them in precarious economic positions.

King also speaks to a very real sense of outrage when she writes about how mentally ill people are often bullied back into the workforce well before they are ready – a short-sighted approach whose shortcomings become obvious when the inevitable next mental breakdown occurs.

Describing something she calls “constricted choice”, King details a very real problem in the modern workforce: our choice of jobs has increased, but the average quality of those jobs has plummeted, meaning that Kiwis are essentially forced into taking poorly paid work out of duress. The fact that we have a wide choice of crap jobs doesn’t actually make it any better.

Ultimately, King hits the bulls-eye when she states simply that “Workers deserve to be paid fairly and treated with dignity and respect.” She is right when she points out that the nature of workplace relations in New Zealand have deteriorated to the point where the emphasis is on coercing workers into obedience rather than encouraging them.

The “politics of selfishness” is a very real thing, especially in New Zealand, and King rightly points out that she’s not asking for much when she posits that “no-one should work and be poor at the same time.” It’s not much to ask for, but we’re still not getting it, and the essay concludes with a call to collective action.

In summary, Chloe King’s piece strikes much harder and more accurately at the heart of the issue than the previous efforts in this book: poor living and working conditions right here, right now, not vague threats of what might happen in 50 years’ time. It is easy to get the impression that the left is going to do much better by proposing a universal basic income than it is by going on about climate change, and so for their sake they’d do better promoting voices like King’s.

If You Want the Young to Avoid Smoking, Properly Fund a Mental Health System

The way to lower rates of tobacco use is not by raising taxes on the substance but by curing the mental illnesses that lead to people finding solace in smoking

Decades of government propaganda has convinced most people that tobacco smoking is a harmful addiction with absolutely no benefits whatsoever. Unfortunately, this brutalist approach to what is really a complicated issue neglects the very real psychiatric benefits of smoking tobacco. This essay proposes that the only realistic way to get young people to avoid smoking is to properly fund a mental health system.

Because our culture is going backwards in many ways, we are losing a lot of wisdom that used to be common. A lot of old folk remedies have been forgotten because a large pharmaceutical company was able to make profits selling an alternative. Cannabis is the most obvious of these, but tobacco risks becoming another.

Tobacco has been used in the West for its anti-anxiolytic and antidepressant qualities for hundreds of years, beginning with its discovery by Europeans in South America. The substance has a long history of shamanic use in South America, where some traditions seemed to believe that the exhaled smoke carried one’s wishes up to God.

Unfortunately, knowledge about how to use this substance wisely has been lost, and most people have drifted to either the extreme of smoking a pack a day or the extreme of thinking that tobacco has no benefits at all. Subtlety has been forgotten.

The first public government campaign against tobacco smoking was carried out by Nazi Germany. The authoritarian nature of the National Socialists made them well suited for ignoring the mental health benefits of the substance. Despite that, the Nazis were unwilling to go quite as far as the New Zealand Government and try to have the substance banned.

The truth is that people smoke tobacco because it feels good, and that tobacco feels good not because it gives an instant rush of pleasure that makes you addicted but because it alleviates suffering that already existed in the smoker’s mind.

If it was true that it gave people a rush of instant pleasure then everyone should become addicted, but this is not at all the case. People who are suffering psychologically are far more likely to become addicted, for the simple reason that smoking tobacco temporarily takes the suffering away. This appears to be especially true of people suffering from schizophrenia, depression or anxiety.

Some will say that these people have “addictive personalities”, but that is rubbish. The simple fact is that people who are suffering are more likely to take a substance that alleviates that suffering than people who are not suffering – this is obvious if one considers the balance of incentives.

And so they smoke tobacco because it helps them deal with stress, anxiety, rage, depression, and a range of neurotic and psychotic disorders.

The correct approach here is not to brutally force the citizenry into abstinence by taxing the mentally ill into poverty like a 20th century authoritarian hellhole would, but to cure the mental illnesses that cause people to smoke tobacco before they start smoking it.

Fundamentally, this means two interrelated things have to change. The first is for the Government to acknowledge that mental illness are legitimate health problems in the same way that physical illnesses are, and to properly fund a mental health system. With a properly funded mental health system psychiatrists will be able to keep up to date in their field instead of parroting 30-year old drug war propaganda because they have no time to research.

For this to be possible depends on the second thing, which is that New Zealand makes a cultural change in which it acknowledges that mental illnesses are legitimate problems in the same way that physical illnesses are, and that “hardening up” when you are suffering from depression makes as much sense as hardening up when you have a broken leg, and is equally as likely to kill you if you try to go on with your life without getting help.

The Future of Empathy

Empathy has probably evolved to facilitate social interaction in the human species, which is why an absence of it tends to have antisocial consequences

By most measures, the world seems to have become a more empathetic place since the Stone Age. The average person’s chances of meeting a violent end are far lower today than back then, and one’s exposure to grossly traumatic events are also far lower. This has had some interesting effects for a species that may have adapted to a certain level of environmental violence.

In many ways, this increasing empathy is becoming standardised and expected. We are more empathetic than ever before by a number of measures: we share more of our wealth than ever, we commit fewer crimes against each other than ever, we have a much better understanding of mental illness than ever. We debate social issues – like bringing refugees into the country to be supported out of general taxation – that would have been unthinkable even a century ago.

The question arises: where does this process end? In my upcoming cyberpunk novel, The Man With A Thousand Fathers, I explore this point in some detail. It is set in the 2080s, when the science of psychology is much more advanced than what it is today and when the confluence of virtual reality and psychoactive research chemicals has meant that the world on the flipside is often realer than this one.

In the Thailand of the story world, children who are discovered to have defective levels of empathy are put into a virtual reality environment instead of being allowed to go into real life, and then raised with exposure to a set of stimuli specifically calculated to condition them to be more civil. One of the story’s characters, an orphan named Suwat, spends over a decade in such a virtual environment before being released.

It’s entirely possible that such a thing may eventuate, for utilitarian reasons. It’s not difficult to predict the kinds of children who are going to grow up to be criminals. They’re simply the kids that lack empathy for other kids. Any schoolteacher could tell you with high accuracy which children in their class are likely to grow up to cause problems and which children are not.

It’s also not difficult to predict why these kids lack empathy. The vast majority of the time it’s because they themselves aren’t shown empathy at home. Children are not born knowing what’s what; they learn to base their behaviour and moral values on what is demonstrated to them as normal. If a child’s parents don’t show empathy to each other or to that child, that child might well grow up to learn that not showing empathy is normal.

A child who has been exposed to really bad things might even come to learn that empathy is weakness that makes a person vulnerable. They might learn that showing empathy is a signal that one is soft, and that one dare not show it in case it invites aggression and exploitation.

With advancing virtual reality technology, we’re almost at the point where using a virtual environment for therapeutic purposes becomes mainstream. Virtual reality therapy has already shown promise in treating soldiers suffering from PTSD.

Extrapolating from this, it might become possible, if a virtual environment was engineered accurately enough, to use VR therapy to cure a wide range of psychiatric illnesses and disorders.

On the darker side, advancing technology might also make it possible for psychotechnicians to use machines to measure aspects of brain activity that the owner of the brain might not themselves be aware of. It has been possible to detect homosexuality in a subject for decades by exposing them to graphic homosexual images and measuring whether certain parts of the brain spark into life or not, and who knows where this sort of technology might lead.

It might happen that young children are exposed, en masse, to virtual reality examinations in which their brains are tricked into thinking that they’re in situations where empathy is required, and then their levels of empathy are measured. Anyone with too low a level is shipped off to VR therapy in the hope that they can learn to become more co-operative.

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Vince McLeod is the author of ANZAC cyberpunk novel The Verity Key.