a theory of some people’s moral sentiments

(Or, imagine you had to make a Homo economicus. Other than money, what chemicals would you immediately look up in Angewandte Chemie?)

So Dave from PR’s constituency chairman was found dead in a portaloo at Glastonbury. Who now remembers William Hague in Notting Hill?

This made me think of something. There used to be a microgenre of writing in the late 90s that ascribed historical events to drugs. (Reader Richard J. occasionally threatens to write a history of the world titled Shitfaced: How Drunks, Junkies, Drink, and Drugs Created the Modern World or words to that effect, so it’s not entirely dead.) I remember a piece in The Face (yeah, it would be) ascribing peace in Northern Ireland to the right pills.

But what if the polarity was reversed? If Michael Howard was right, but in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons?

Throw your hands in the air! You’ll need the clearance from surrounding obstacles…

Because we’re about to do some serious handwaving.

What if there was a long-term pathology of MDMA abusers in which serotonin production, or perhaps more likely sensitivity, was permanently compromised? This was a big official-line fear back in the 90s and not totally implausible.

Steroid abusers run the risk of losing their balls as the levels of androgens in their system are artificially kept high and therefore the negative-feedback control never kicks in to demand more production. This is why they shoot HCG – it’s an alternate positive control – and hence why some of them can show up positive on pregnancy tests.

Similarly, keep a stimulus turned up long enough and the system will trim it out to deal with the new normal.

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Paul Staines

What might be the symptoms? Well…you’ll need even more space to wave your hands for this bit, but here goes. Permanently lacking in empathy, with lowered affect, and a tendency to blow up irascibly if challenged. Are you thinking what we’re thinking?

Actually, I’m indebted to Owen “Owain the marxist architecture critic, see” Hatherley for this insight: like so.

I like CIF’s preponderance of ravey right-wing libertarians. ‘MoveAnyMountain’, ‘TakeMeHigher’ etc

Yes. Yes. Perhaps we could do a poll on which Mancunian music hero is likely to make it to the Tory A-List first and therefore derive some assumptions towards a dose-response curve. Hooky? Squire? Barney? Shaun Ryder? Bez? Tony Wilson? I know he’s dead, but seriously, it’s the Tories and I’m kinda surprised he never had a serious crack at electoral politics. (John Squire, for his part, repeatedly threatened to but didn’t get enough tuit. But you’re a long time retired as they say.) Surely they’d find him a constituency down near Jake Rees-Mogg’s where the mere termination of his biological existence wouldn’t matter too much.

Aetiology, Diagnosis…and Treatment

I don’t know about treatment, but it should be fairly easy to devise a screening protocol based on demographic and biographical information and a few clinical markers. Not quite the Voight-Kampff test, but similar. Anyway it’s too well known, especially in the target generation.

The good news is that the demographic bulge ought to be near its peak and things should get better from here on in. A bit like public pensions.


  1. ajay

    I would definitely buy Shitfaced. The only problem I can conceive is that it could be an absolutely huge book because you could include so much stuff; the big four – caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and opium – alone would represent much of the history of modern Europe…

  2. Barry Freed

    I read a few of those kinds of books back then. Terence McKenna was one of those working that microgenre. More respectably I vaguely recall a book which ascribed the economic foundation of the modern world to trade in those substances (also including chocolate and, IIRC, sugar) but I can’t remember the book or author. More recently there’s this: The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization by a classicist.

  1. 1 an update « Alternate Seat of TYR

    […] 3, 2011 in music I may have to update the scoring in this post. I went to see this over the weekend – too late as it happened, but I floaked it – and […]




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