Religion & State

Since the beginning of human history, there has always been somebody or some organisation that takes a leading role in any tribal group, society or nation. In early pre-history, from what we know, this role was fulfilled by tribal leaders and shamans (or the equivalent; people who could in some way divine or connect with forces of nature or other unseen energies).

As agriculture led to the birth of villages, towns and cities, this role became the domain of parliaments and councils, whose beliefs were still based on or informed by the ancient spiritual/religious beliefs.

As can be seen in the attached pages, alcohol started its life being embraced by the human species as something that was a divine gift. Religion and spiritual belief systems sanctioned the use of alcohol and gave it a fundamental tick of approval that lasted for millenia. This basic fact is central to how alcohol has been regulated throughout history.

The views and controls over cocaine stem from the same basic attitudes that forced external values onto this natural substance. Unlike alcohol, this natural plant was something totally unknown to the “first world” conquerors. This substance made the Incas feel good, stronger, more powerful. This was anathema to the ruling, religious classes as it took away the mind’s ability to focus on God and could lead to indulgences that were seen to be of the devil.

Alcohol Good. Cocaine Bad. Thus starts the pendulum.

The acceptance of alcohol religion and state created the legacy that we have today of widespread alcohol use and over-indulgence. Historically, regulation and control over alcohol dealt with the issue of how alcohol was used (over-indulgence). The question of whether alcohol as a substance was itself being a problem was not asked until the 19th century, by then probably too late to try and wean the world away from alcohol.

On the other hand, the regulations around cocaine have been based on the substance itself being bad. And without the long history of state-sanctioned acceptance of it, the regulations have had an easy task in demonising this drug.

The following pages describe the history of control and regulation of these two drugs.

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