None of this drug-infused population-management is especially novel. London during the 17th century had some 15,000 shops selling gin, and while the drink often precipitated mayhem, it also drugged the urban poor into quiescence. It’s hard to imagine a successful revolutionary political movement organized by drunks. In the Soviet Union and contemporary Russia vodka is artificially cheap, a policy possibly designed to take the sting off a police state.
Then there’s khat, a flowering plant that is daily chewed in parts of Africa. Though often officially illegal it is tolerated and contains an amphetamine-like alkaloid sufficient to provide a sense of euphoria and a degree of excitement. And let’s not forget heroin and crack cocaine that have proved so useful for turning revolution-tinged urban riots into gang shootouts.
The virtues of gin, vodka, khat, opium, and crack aside, the future will belong to government-promoted soma-like medication. Rest assured, Big Pharma will eliminate unpleasant side effects and make it sufficiently safe for universal consumption all while being non-fattening, non-addictive, fair-traded, libido-friendly, and totally organic. (Caffeine-laced “upper” energy drinks are a precursor.) And thanks to government-funded insurance, everything will be cheap and perfectly legal.
Indeed, the practical case for an updated soma will be overwhelming. Rest assured, government propaganda will be ubiquitous. The cost of illness-related entitlements could be cut in half. Less stress begets a healthier population and therefore cheaper medical costs. Soma will reduce hypertension and eliminate digestive problems. Cocooned from the stress of modern life, people will eat less, drink less, and smoke less. Lowered stress means better sex, more attentive students, and test scores will soar. Suicide rates will fall. Older people can be given stiff doses to mitigate their end-of-life ailments. Tranquility will also reduce interpersonal violence”finally, a cure for spousal abuse, rape, and similar male-on-female crimes. In an instant, inner-city hothead violent crime will virtually vanish and the ACLU will not utter a word. All in all, it’s hard to think of any practical argument against soma; it’s as close as any solution can be to perfection.
Soma might well become the next fluoride and automatically added to the water supply, a process not unlike thousands of people flushing unused Lexapro or Paxil down the toilet. Once mixed with the water supply, it will soon be everywhere, from soft drinks to beer. Actually, getting soma into everything could easily be done surreptitiously, and even if it’s eventually discovered, who would care at that point? “º
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