EK Roundtable Series: Society and Substances

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Artists often choose to remain silent when it comes to social discussion, whether because they believe the art will speak for itself or for other reasons, they take a pass when called upon to raise their voices and address the important questions. Because of this the amount of dialogue within the arts community suffers and a group of strong, passionate, creative individuals is broken into so many little pieces to be ineffective rather than a strong, informed community.

We at Empty Kingdom want to build a place not simply for beautiful art, but beautiful people as well. As we are sure you all are. We want to see a strong arts community capable not only of speaking it’s mind in a single, unified voice, but one large and powerful enough to get what they are asking for. In this Roundtable we are seeking to provide one of the many building blocks to build such a community.

But how do we stitch together so many disparate elements? One step at a time. We share our love of art with you, so we know that we have common ground. Here we present to you dialogue. The Roundtable series addresses important and often ignored issues that are very real to artists and the arts community.  Addiction, sexuality, lust, love, beauty, give us your ears and the time and we’ll try and address them all. You’ve done us the great honor of coming to our site, now take whatever you read in the following roundtable, however much you manage to read, and go talk about it. This is how we create dialogue, this is how we create community. Good communities take hard work and we’re all in this together.

Prompt

How would you describe the current cultural attitude towards substances? Regardless of your personal experience with substances, how do your values align or contradict current regard? Do you think we are progressing or regressing culturally in regard to substances? What do you think of the social stigma surrounding substance abuse? Substance abuse is increasingly being considered more of a psychological problem and less of a personal choice. If substance abuse is regarded as a psychological problem it would lead one to assume that society may regard drug abuse with less negative stigma and possibly be more oriented towards addressing the psychological causes of substance abuse. Do you think such a statement is accurate? What critiques would you have? How may that be misleading or incorrect? In what ways do you agree with such a statement?

 

Joram Roukes

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Living in the Netherlands I grew up with great tolerance towards the use of cannabis. Coffeeshops are a common thing and a great phenomenon in the Netherlands. Basically they are bars where you can buy and smoke weed and have a smoothy with it as well. It’s legal here and it’s a sane thing as it prevents the business from getting criminalized and there is a certain quality control as well. It’s a unique thing in the world I think.

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Hard drugs are a different story though. I can only speak of the national attitude towards substances as I know to little about it globally. I do think it would be productive to treat all substances with a bit of tolerance. Right now I think drugs are being stigmatized and generalized as being ‘addictive and hazardous’, while in fact there are major differences between different types of drugs obviously. Education is one thing a more tolerant attitude can contribute to and is important in this respect.

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I do think drug abuse is a choice in the sense that one has a choice to either start experimenting or not. Education is important to teach people about the danger of it becoming habit-forming or addictive so that the choice can be made more rationally and sensible. Saying it’s more of a psychological problem basically labels all users as ‘patients’, which is insultingly inaccurate.

 

Buddy Nestor

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In the United States there are split attitudes on the subject.  The Liberal Left Wing here is very open to at least making marijuana legal, while the Conservative Right Wing is completely against it.

I am more Liberal.  I am not an extreme about it in any way.  I respect both sides of the argument, but as far as marijuana goes, it has proven to be a very safe recreational drug.  I am in favor of legalizing marijuana and psychedelics.

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Two states here just legalized marijuana.  It’s going to take a long time, but I believe it is a move in the right direction.  It’s really sad that we have so many people in jail for possessing marijuana.

It impedes people from seeking help for their problems with abuse before it becomes really destructive.  Also, it can really steer your life in the wrong direction.  When kids get caught with marijuana and it goes on their arrest record, they have trouble getting jobs that they are fully qualified for.  It’s completely silly.  Our last three presidents have admitted to using illegal drugs.

The idea that substance abuse is a psychological issue/disease has been around for a long time.  I also think it is partially a choice.  Cycles of depression, which I believe we all go through in varying degrees, play a large part.  More intense levels of depression triggers your personal reward system to go high.  That’s when the substance abuse gets it chance to really sink its teeth into someone.  As the level of depression gets higher, people start to lose more respect for their own lives.  That’s when the substance of choice can get dangerous.

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Playing into the reward systems are our obsessions, which everyone has.  It can be drugs, shopping, sex, art, work, religion, etc.  They are all the same thing as far as our reward system is concerned.  The important thing is to pick one that is going to screw your life up the least.  However, all of these can be as  destructive to your life’s course as substance abuse.

 

More Joram Roukes!

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More Buddy Nestor!

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http://joramroukes.blogspot.com/
http://buddynestorartwork.com/