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The Rise of Pharmatopia

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“Despite a nearly 500% increase in mental health drugs being prescribed to children in the previous six years, the NFC [New Freedom Commission on Mental Health] recommended a plan of mandatory mental health screening for all public school students and follow-up treatment with drugs when needed.

“The fact is, this is nothing more than another elaborate profiteering scheme hatched by Bush and the pharmaceutical industry to convert the millions of people in public systems into customers for new psychiatric drugs in order to funnel more tax dollars to Pharma.”

-- Evelyn J. Pringle, Dissident Voice, March 28, 2005

To a self-inflicted, by way of alcohol and cocaine, head-wound case such as George W. Bush, the ascendancy of pharmaceutical fascism must seem an inspired idea.

Bush, who spent a large percent of his life sloshing though rivers of booze and hiding out in mountains of South American powder (and who is, at present, in all likelihood being secretly propped up with powerful psychoactive meds) is the perfect corporate icon for our nation of highly medicated sleepwalkers.

But Christ on a crack pipe, how long do we Americans believe we can go on like this, benumbed to the point of stupefaction, waddling about, cooing at all the shiny consumer goods, here, in our infantilized, corporate dystopia -- The United States of Teletubbies (a demented, collective fantasy that resembles what baby Adolph Hitler's dreams must have looked like when he was given opium-based medication for colic) -- before the high gets totally harshed?

The narrative of our hyper-commercialized/corporate/militarist culture is the voice of a junkie's selfish, self-serving, and self-destructive rationalizations grown to Orwellian proportions -- the voice of Newspeak as it might have been written by William Burroughs, in a detox-delirium, dreaming he is George F. Babbitt. The paranoid ravings of the Fox News/Limbaugh/Hannity/Coulter crowd are the Republican Naked Lunch ... sans, of course, the brilliant, insectual precision of Burrough's stinging prose, mordant wit, and his unflinching honesty regarding the depravity of himself, in particular, and the human race in general.

Since the end of the Second World War, we have seen the unprecedented rise and exponential growth of a number of powerful corporate/governmental empires, within the greater empire, that have, at an accelerating rate, changed the (external and internal) landscape of our lives. Three of these empires, within the empire, are: 1) The national security state, that being a state of unceasing surveillance and permanent war; 2) the rise of and pervasiveness of the electronic mass media, a.k.a. The People’s Republic of Infotainment; 3) and its client state, in the mission of keeping the general public oblivious and docile, the drug industry, that Hyperborean land existing just beyond the harsh winds of governmental regulation and icy medical scrutiny, known as the Realm of Pharmatopia (not to be confused with The United States of Teletubbies, which is the child's version of the kingdom, which technically exists within The People’s Republic of Infotainment, but is easily accessible by traveling the Ritalin Turnpike).

Now pharmacological imperialism dominates the once teeming, clamorous republics of our psyches. The prevailing corporatist power structure can ill afford to permit its underlings to experience the honest emotions -- unease, rage, and despair, the whole litany of miseries -- engendered by feelings of powerlessness when human beings languish within the confines of a dehumanizing system.

In addition, Big Pharma rakes in huge profits by promulgating the fiction that discontent is a biochemical illness. It would seem that, in the present age, a sense of unease and foreboding, or perhaps even a full-blown panic reaction, would be an appropriate response. If ones hears the rumbling approach of a runaway train, why should one's panic be lessened by the knowledge that the engineer, conductor, crew, and passengers abroad the train are well medicated, and, as a result, are all models of self-esteem and self-confidence, are imbrued with glowing good cheer, and are at peace with themselves and the world?

If you’re sitting high above the roadway inside an SUV, with a mind brimming with antidepressants, a belly stuffed with high fat, high carbohydrate “comfort food,” the climate in the vehicle controlled by air conditioning, the surrounding landscape and architecture comprised of a repetitious, soul-numbing sameness (that somehow manages to be simultaneously garish and bland) -- how is one to envisage the perils of Global Warming or to empathize with the plight of the world's downtrodden and dispossessed? You might as well be canvassing for the principles of altruism in a crackhouse.

Or if you cannot afford a ticket on the Big Pharma Express and the double mochachino/Prozac/Ambien/Provigil cocktails dispensed to those in first class -- then you may self-medicate with their rural, laboring class equivalents -- Crystal Meth, Oxycontin, and beer; these will be your ticket to ride on the tragic bus of the times.

All human beings have a talent for denial of the more unpalatable aspects of ourselves, but we Americans have turned it into a form of collective genius. One stands in awe of our virtuosity for amnesia. For example, on how many occasions can we suffer the loss and then the subsequent resurrection, of our (self-anointed) innocence? When our skies of Wellbutrin blue have been darkened by tragedy -- from the black smoke of Pearl Harbor, to the pink mist of John Kennedy's blasted-away brain matter in Dallas, to the gauzy, jungle mists of Vietnam, to the gray cloud of political corruption (dark as the five o'clock shadow upon Nixon's jowls) that poured over Washington DC in the early 1970s, then onward to the nimbus of sudden death that descended upon Oklahoma City, Lower Manhattan, and, most recently, London, to the blinding sand squalls of Afghanistan and Iraq -- we Americans invariably proclaim ourselves mystified by the loss of our innocence.

We believe we stand blameless upon sacred soil; soil, we habitually manage to suppress from memory, that was composted with the corpses of slaughtered Indians and watered with the sweat and blood of African slaves. Over this soil we offered a collective prayer -- that being, of course, a ritualistic, salesmen's tap dance -- and behold (so our fantasy goes) arose fertile farmland, thriving towns, bustling cities, productive factories, thronging shopping malls (as well as the concomitant arrival of the prevailing cultural fantasy of our entitlement to prosperity, in perpetuity). We see ourselves as Lambs of God, shepherded by the golden hand of Horatio Alger; when, in actuality, given the blood-sodden ground we stand upon and our talents for self-invention and relentless salesmanship, the quintessential American is closer to Mary Kay, accessorized with a Gatlin gun.

The rise of Pharmatopia is the latest chapter in this ongoing epic case history of delusional innocence.

If the aggrieved dead from Wounded Knee to Fallujah were to rise before us -- joining with the risen ranks of coal miners, share croppers, migrant farm workers, et al. (all of whom were as good as murdered by having their bodies broken by inhuman labor), as well as the countless multitudes whose lives were cut short by de facto slave labor practices from “Gilded Age” Robber Baron capitalism, right up to the ascendancy and dominance of global "free market" post-liberal economics -- their sheer numbers would stagger us.

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Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at Facebook:

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