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5 THE CHANGING MEANINGS OF MARIJUANA USE I PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Auld   
Friday, 10 September 2010 00:00

5 THE CHANGING MEANINGS OF MARIJUANA USE I

Having reviewed some of the ways in which an analysis of the factors of "set" and "setting" may assist an understanding of the effects commonly attributed to marijuana, I shall now pick up some of the threads left hanging in chapter two: returning in short, to the task of evaluating the historical status of marijuana as a sociable (as opposed to a merely social) drug in the light of the meanings that became attributed to it in the early 1970s.

To talk about meanings in this generic sense is clearly itself problematic, and will be the subject of further discussion in a moment. However, lest the reader's recollections of the contextual background to this task should have become somewhat dimmed in the course of the lengthy and sometimes circuitous route which has been taken in order to arrive at this point, it might first be helpful to draw attention once again to three of the anomalies discussed earlier. Briefly stated, these are: firstly, the empirical observation that, despite an apparently continuing increase in the total number of people who have used marijuana at least once, there also occurred, at least during the period 1970-1973, a significant decrease in the number of people expressing interest in and motivation for sustained use of the drug; secondly, the observation that, even if it was not actually abandoned in favour of alcohol, marijuana increasingly came to be used in conjunction with the activity of drinking in a way which would have surprised and even shocked many of the earlier proselytizers of the drug; and thirdly, the observation that the behaviour of those who did acquire the status of regular or long-term marijuana users seems typically to have become more restrained or "cool" as their marijuana-using careers progressed, irrespective of whether they may have had any very close links with the bohemian subculture.

I hope that this and the following chapter, by focusing more explicitly upon the changing meanings of marijuana use to those who engaged in it and thereby piecing together a natural history of the activity during the period in question, will go some way towards explaining such seeming anomalies. Again, the more general aim will be to illustrate some of the limitations of prevailing conceptions of the relationship between marijuana use and social control. Here as before, however, the partiality of any such analysis must be emphasized at the outset — a qualification which carries within it an implied criticism of certain strands of recent sociological theorizing. Notwithstanding the apparent optimism of those who have advocated such an enterprise,' there are, as I have already tried to suggest, reasons for remaining somewhat sceptical about the feasibility of providing a faithful and exhaustive rendering of members' meanings. The methodological and epistemological problems entailed in such an enterprise are formidable in themselves, as indeed — to give them due credit — some of its proponents are prepared to acknowledge.' Perhaps more important in the present context, however, is the argument that the procedures apparently necessary to overcome them tend to be ones which oblige the researcher to use a sample whose members are not only few in number, but are also — I would argue quite unwarrantably — assumed to be creatures of habit: people, that is, whose values and behaviour patterns are sufficiently fixed and unchanging as to allow the meanings assigned them to be documented without undue difficulty. Nor is this the only problem. There are two further arguments against such a conception of the sociological task, both of which are probably tediously familiar to those who have for long been concerned with defending the contributions of phenomenology and symbolic interactionism against their critics. Firstly, if he is to avoid committing the absolutist fallacy and is to remain theoretically consistent, the researcher is obliged to confine his area of legitimate concern to the documentation and appreciation of members' meanings alone, voluntarily eschewing any attempt to account for them by reference to the macro-level realms of historical or political analysis, an incursion into which would necessarily involve a tacit reliance upon questionable second-order constructs. Secondly, in the circumstance — clearly a highly probable one — of there occurring apparent changes in the behaviour of sample members, he is also obliged to confine himself to an examination (and just possibly an attempt at explanation) of these alone. He is necessarily debarred from any attempt to explain similar changes exhibited by those who fall outside this sample — even though (as in the present case of the documented increase in alcohol consumption amongst users of marijuana) these may collectively display all the force of a significant social trend.

It is in the light of such considerations that the qualification of partiality noted above should best be viewed. Some may complain that my analysis is too general, and should be discounted for that reason alone. Nevertheless, I believe that the level of generality at which it is pitched affords the best available strategy for approaching and understanding forms of social behaviour which were themselves characterized by their apparent generality.

The Problematic Concept of Enjoyment

Bearing these considerations in mind, let us then return to the point at which this discussion began: the problem of analysing the meanings of marijuana to its users and the extent to which their documented behaviour may be seen as a reflection of changes in these. Clearly the problem is a large one, and any attempt at its "solution" correspondingly fraught with difficulties. However, the task becomes somewhat easier as soon as we remind ourselves of the extent to which discussion on the subject can, and indeed should, be organized around Becker's key concept of enjoyment. Becker's primary concern, it will be remembered, was to analyse the constituents of the process whereby an individual becomes a regular user of marijuana.3 Development of the ability to redefine as enjoyable and pleasurable an experience which at the start may have been unpleasant and even frightening was seen to be one of the most important of these constituents. But Becker's analysis unfortunately goes no further than this. By failing to specify the constituents of the subjective experience of enjoyment itself other than in terms of what it is not, it is unable to account for any of the anomalies outlined above and runs the constant risk of collapsing into a tautology.

Admittedly this is not a very serious criticism, since Becker was concerned with what at the time was theoretically a more important issue: the relationship between motives and deviant behaviour. However, for the purposes of clarifying the meaning of the notion of enjoyment in the present context, we must clearly look elsewhere. In the light of previous discussion, the most obvious writer to approach first is Matza, who, in elaborating upon Becker's analysis, has attempted precisely such a clarification.' For Matza, enjoyment is to be found in the sense of "fun" generated by the subjective experience of being "high". On this he is adamant: " . . . Marihuana should not be taken seriously. Whoever takes it seriously mistakes and thus abuses its nature: fun."'

So radical an implied reformulation of conventional (and almost invariably unsuccessful) attempts to distinguish between drug use and drug abuse is something which, if valid, ought surely to be taken very seriously. But whence does such fun derive? Here also Matza is quite dogmatic, returning us immediately to the conceptual battleground traversed earlier:

The fun of marihuana use is the sensibility to banality made possible by the perception of relativity, suspension of belief, and the consequent display of meaning — all directed to whatever happens to be around the mind of the subject. Belief suspended, an aesthetic of the ordinary may appear. The unappreciable may be appreciated . . . Meaning restored, and glimpsed, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. (Thus) music may be heard as wholly musical, possessing tempo, melody and other elements of its composition; water may be experienced as wholly thirst-quenching; fire as wholly burning, shimmering and glowing . food as appetizing and tasty... 6

Significantly, however, the examples which Matza employs here are almost all objects or experiences of an essentially non-social kind. That is, they are objective features of the marijuana user's environment, forming part of the physical setting in which he finds himself. When on the other hand Matza is citing the effects of the rediscovery of the ordinary — or "sensibility to banality" — upon the social relationships between fellow users, the pleasurability of the experience appears to be considerably more precarious. The relevant passage here is an important one in the present context, so I shall quote it in full. He writes:

• . . there is another side to a sensibility to banality that, simultaneously, testifies to the precarious and delicate psychosomatic foundations of "being high" and points to part of the reason that many persons dislike the experience and find it anything but fun. Being high can be quite easily interfered with or disturbed. Many objects of reflection, including the self, are freshly or meaningfully experienced under the perception of relativity, since belief in them is suspended. Perceiving most objects in that novel manner almost certainly implies pleasure or fun. But there is one object that poses a special problem and thus, potentially, a main exception: other people. Viewed wholly — viewed in the terms of "Golly Gee!" — some people can sometimes be an enormous "drag". Though it need not, a sensibility to that reality — the most ordinary of the world's banalities — may "turn off" the user.'

These remarks clearly constitute a major qualification of Matza's earlier statement attributing the enjoyment, or "fun", of marijuana use to the "sensibility to banality made possible by the perception of relativity", and make it difficult for us not to conclude that the enhancement of interpersonal perception need by no means be associated with, or generate, any enhancement of interpersonal harmony. Once again, it seems, we are prompted to reflect upon the appropriateness of marijuana's designation by some of its advocates as the "new social drug". Just how plausible is such a designation if, by virtue of the very sociality of its use, " . . .many persons dislike the experience and find it anything but fun"? One clear implication, however the matter is viewed, is that the enterprise of successfully negotiating the third of Becker's key stages in the process of becoming a marijuana user — that of learning to enjoy the drug's effects — is considerably more problematic than a reliance upon Becker's own rendition of it alone would suggest. For to the extent that these effects do involve a sudden "Golly Gee"-like reappraisal of others, it becomes of great importance that these others should act in ways that can be "enjoyed". In the early 1970s, at any rate, there were unfortunately several good reasons why they should not have done — reasons which (as I shall try to make clear) had less to do with any "draggy" qualities they may have possessed as people than with the peculiar and often highly problematic complex of meanings assigned to the activity which they found themselves conjointly undertaking.

Matza himself, to give him credit, goes on immediately to outline a number of strategies which the committed user may resort to in order to avert the possibility of being "turned off" and thereby maintain the all-important sense of fun. The critical variable determining the choice he makes between these strategies, apparently, is the level of his sophistication in the drug's use. Whilst the novice user, lacking the benefit of any pleasurable social experiences with the drug, is prone to attributing any unwelcome relevations of the essential "dragginess" of others to the essentially unpleasant effects of the drug itself, the more experienced or "accomplished" marijuana user will apparently have learned to tell himself that if other people do appear to be a drag, this is how they really are: the drug itself has merely acted as a sensitizing agent to qualities that existed all along. Consequently, the best solution is simply to avoid such people, to make " . . . a mental note about persons whose presence intrudes and disturbs the delicate mood of being high."' Because of the widespread institution of "screening processes" of this kind, says Matza, the company of marijuana users tends strongly to become cultish.

The issue of whether people who successfully gravitate to the status of regular marijuana users ought thus to be regarded as having been fortunate enough to conduct their initial experiments with marijuana in the company of unambiguously non-draggy people cannot be pursued in this context — even though it is an issue which clearly has an important bearing upon the possible consequences of changes in the policies by means of which the prevalence and character of such experiments are presently constrained. In terminating this discussion of Matza's attempt to clarify the meanings and sources of enjoyment in this context, however, there are two final points I would like to make. The first of them is a negative one directed at the character of his theoretical assumptions. Manifesting themselves time and again throughout this whole section of his analysis one can detect at least two, both of them highly questionable. The first concerns what one may term the "potential inexhaustibility of fun". Expressed somewhat crudely, the assumption seems to be that so long as the individual concerned manages to rid himself of "drags" and is able to go on doing so, the sense of fun experienced with the aid of marijuana is capable of being sustained for as long as he cares to take the drug. Linked with this in ways which will be explicated later is the second assumption. This is the seemingly psychologistic one that the perceived dragginess of certain people is an independent and "objective" feature of their characters or personalities, rather than being a predictable outgrowth of the properties of the social situations in which they might find themselves. Matza does not think to ask why some people should " . . . sometimes be an enormous `drag'." Nor (even more reprehensible, perhaps) does he tell us precisely what kinds of personal qualities and behaviour are, or were, most likely to elicit this curious label.

In the present context, the major significance of these two assumptions is that in combination they render Matza's analysis almost entirely static. In the form presented, it remains incapable of accounting for the kinds of anomalies discussed earlier and summarily outlined at the outset of this chapter. In order to do this, I submit, one requires not only an alternative, and broader, conception of the nature of fun, but also, in particular, a rather more specific definition of those qualities or forms of behaviour which were likely to earn somebody the label of a "drag" during the period in question. Summarily stated, the central task involved is to explain why the experience of being high appears for a significant proportion of people to have become over time less enjoyable, less "fun" — rather than more, as Matza's analysis with its "accomplished" subjects would seem to be suggesting.

The second, and final, point is rather more favourable to Matza and is, I think, the more important of the two, if only because it connects with and brings into focus a constituent of activity warranting the description of "fun" which, though of great significance, has so far received little mention. This is the quality of inconsequentiality.9 Although Matza himself does not say so in so many words, one can detect in his discussion of the effects of the perception of relativity the clear implication that social behaviour under the influence of marijuana is very far from being inconsequential. On the contrary, to the extent that the display of such behaviour is prone to elicit essentialist judgements from users who believe that the drug has enabled them to see the "real person" in one another, it is very likely indeed to influence objectively the later lives' ° of the subjects involved — if only in terms of the character and duration of their relationships with one another. Ample testimony to this is given by Matza's own suggestion that the desire to avoid those who are perceived, when high, as "wholly a drag" accounts for the apparent cultishness of the phenomenon of marijuana use: the fact that marijuana users are characteristically "selective in the company they keep or invite". We might also recall Bloomquist's statement that the revelation of the "real person" may sometimes create a barrier between former friends which never completely disappears.'

Now there are of course very many activities in social life that are consequential. There seems, however, to be a certain amount of agreement that activities characterized by their consequentiality tend, with the possible exception of highly structured games such as football or cricket, to be associated with formal, public values and the world of work.' 2 The very fact that they possess this quality itself imposes constraints — in literal terms, a demand for "self-control" — upon those who engage in them. Such constraints are functionally necessary if the sanctions awarded for any failure to perform these activities with due competence are to be adequately justified, a key assumption being that the defaulter "knew what he was doing"). 3 Recreational activities, by contrast, are often distinguished and defined by their relative inconsequentiality. A primary motive for engaging in them derives precisely from the feature that the meaning and ramifications of their performance are confined largely to the period of time in which they take place. Defined as essentially unserious activities — activities which betoken a period of "time out" or "time off" from that area of life encompassed by formal values — people can undertake them with a reasonable degree of confidence that they will not subsequently be required to account for the behaviour they exhibit whilst doing so. To the extent that present performance is thus emancipated from the constraints of the anticipated future, its permissible scope is widened: people may enter a relatively freer world in which a spirit of unseriousness or "play" prevails. Sherri Cavan, in her perceptive study of unserious behaviour as it occurs in public drinking places, has described the implications of an absence of consequentiality for the structure of interaction as follows:

If what occurs in unserious settings is assumed to be exempt from counting, there is no immediate necessity to acknowledge or maintain any pre-existing relationship or acknowledge or maintain any particular preexisting self. Thus relationships may be attended to or they may be disregarded altogether, with the understanding that the indifference displayed here and now will not be considered at a later time or in another place. Similarly, with the understanding that the events that take place are not to be treated seriously, not automatically to become an item of one's biography, the gamut of conduct that can be engaged in by those present in unserious settings need be limited by no more than personal preference or momentary fancy .14

How then does marijuana use rate as unserious and inconsequential activity when considered in the light of defining criteria such as these? On the face of it, not very well. As already suggested, an activity whose participants attribute it with the power to give them insights into and to reveal their essential selves to one another is consequential almost by definition. Considered on these terms alone, then, marijuana use may be regarded as having somewhat limited potential as a provider of fun. And although such a conclusion is entirely in keeping with Matza's own thoughts on the matter, it points up one final paradox in his work which warrants mention before I leave it altogether — and which indeed brings this discussion round full circle to the point at which it began. For despite Matza's italicized insistence that "marijuana should not be taken seriously" if its true nature, fun, is to be recognized and maintained, it would seem that his own description of the processes whereby its effects make themselves apparent implies the virtual impossibility of this. The effects of marijuana upon interpersonal perception, that is to say, are likely to be taken seriously by those who experience them, even though they may not wish them to be.

However, to assert that the state of being high is consequential, and thus fails to qualify for description as unserious activity in the specific sense suggested, is by no means to deny that it may nevertheless be experienced by many as enjoyable or fun. To suppose otherwise would involve the use of an unwarrantably restricted definition of these terms, and would merely parallel the kinds of shortcomings alluded to in Matza's analysis. But as already pointed out, a guiding contention — indeed rationale — of the present analysis is that in the early 1970s the subjective correlates of these terms, the feelings of enjoyment or fun as they were actually experienced by users of marijuana on the occasions of their use, underwent a fairly significant change over time as the marijuana-using careers of the people concerned progressed. To repeat: contrary to the claims of some of marijuana's most conspicuous defenders, the experience of being high frequently became less enjoyable over time, rather than more.

Insofar as one can agree with Matza that the state of being high is characterized by the perception of relativity and a (consequent) sensibility to banality, the potentially fun-inhibiting element of consequentiality was presumably present all along. In seeking to explain this change, then, it is necessary to look for and take account of other — for ease of reference I will term them "fun-enhancing" — elements which either singly or in combination might have been capable of moderating or actually negating the impact of such consequentiality. If it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that the presence of these elements tended at least at this time to be most closely associated with the early or initial stages of the marijuana user's career, then the kinds of experiential change which I would claim underpin the behavioural and attitudinal changes outlined ought to become more readily intelligible.

The most immediate difficulty is one of locating appropriate analytical parameters. Judged even by the most loosely defined criteria of theoretical adequacy, any analysis of such fun-enhancing elements must clearly do more than examine the degree to which they may have been linked to formal properties of social interaction of the kind which provided parameters for the discussion presented in the last chapter. Whilst many of the meanings of marijuana use are indeed constructed in the intimate, face-to-face situation of the small group, they are also significantly shaped by the character of the broader social and political context within which the small group is embedded. It is important, then, to begin by saying something about the nature of this context and its likely impact, and it is to this task that the remainder of the present chapter will be addressed.

The Changing Social Context of Marijuana Use

In approaching this task there are first a number of tricky methodological problems to be contended with. In some areas, for example, the interpenetration of macro-social and micro-social worlds may be so complete that the task of disentangling and isolating the different orders of meaning attached to any one facet of the activity is rendered extremely difficult. Thus it might be, and indeed has been, argued that much of the pleasure of marijuana use resides simply in the fact that the joint is typically shared among all those present: the process of sharing creates a sense of intimacy. However, what some might routinely regard as either a straightforwardly situational fixture or a technological necessity, which generates an enjoyable sense of intimacy as a felicitous by-product, may be attributed by others with a quite special — and no less "enjoyable" — political or ideological significance which constitutes, indeed, a prime motive for taking the drug. Such a possibility is clearly illustrated by the following statement which appeared in one of the early editions of the Underground newspaper International Times:

Maybe the establishment dislikes pot smoking because the joint is communal, i.e. passed around, shared (Baby, you don't share things, you might start getting to know other people, even get to loving them, and you don't want to do that do you. Do you?? Do you!!!! Do you??) Sharing can lead to loving if you give without expecting a return. The return will come when you really need it. Give! Give your food, clothes, your records, your books, give your affection, give your love . . . Give to everyone, not just your friends but strangers. Strangers who will become your friends.' 5

More than a decade later, it is not easy to recapture the context in which such sentiments could have appeared plausible and worthy of publication rather than merely amusingly naive. But even their retrospective characterization as naive runs the danger of creating an absolutist gloss. The point at issue is that for many of that generation of marijuana users whose drugtaking careers took shape within the context of the growth and subsequent decay of the "counter-culture", a version of such sentiments may well have constituted an important ingredient of their sensed enjoyment of the drug. Once the conditions that made them plausible no longer existed, the extent of these people's enjoyment of marijuana use and — at all events — their desire to proselytize the activity is likely to have diminished accordingly.1 6

But if this is in fact the case, how can the contribution made by the broader social and political context to the enjoyment of marijuana use best be understood? Bearing in mind the difficulties involved in tracing the precise mediations between public knowledge — at least insofar as it is made visible as suchl 7 - and the character of individual subjectivities at any given point in time, I would suggest that it is first of all necessary to make two assumptions: firstly, that the sources of the particular modes of enjoyment in question can legitimately be identified with, or characterized in terms of, the available social and symbolic support for the activity;' 8 and secondly, that the fluctuations in — and ultimately erosion of — the potency of this support during the period in question can legitimately be identified with the changing fortunes and ultimate demise of the particular subculture with which, at least in this country, marijuana use was still predominantly associated: the hippie subculture or so-called "Underground". Such assumptions are of course large ones, and I would not claim — as indeed I hope the earlier discussion of the role of subterranean values suggests — that the hippie subculture was the only source of symbolic support for marijuana use: merely that it was the dominant one. Consequently, whilst I shall not hesitate to draw upon other sources of data where relevant, my principal source of information will be the statements of opinion published in the two most widely-read organs of communication within this subculture: the Underground papers OZ and International Times. (IT)) 9

However, the adoption of such a strategy generates in turn a further set of methodological problems, perhaps the most important of which is simply that of deciding upon appropriate criteria for singling out certain of these statements for attention and regarding them as representative. It is, after all, quite mistaken to attribute the Underground press with any homogeneity or continuity of perspective on these matters. Just as it consistently (and some would say self-destructively) maintained the kind of eclectic stance which frequently allowed pro- and anti-drug sentiments to be expressed in the same issue, so equally would it be difficult to detect any clear direction in the change of such sentiments over time when considered collectively. Such change as did occur was fitful, erratic and discontinuous, contingent as much upon highly variable factors such as the supply of relevant contributions, the constraints imposed by the activities of police and (generally ill-disposed) printers, and the preferences of ad hoc editorial collectives as upon any commitment to systematic and "objective" characterization of the features of Underground culture as such. In addition to this difficulty of establishing valid criteria for regarding given statements as representative rather then merely idiosyncratic, there is the further problem of decoding and assessing the likely impact of the symbolic language in terms of which such statements were usually presented. As is well known, the Underground publications in general, and Oz in particular, were renowned for their use of innovations in the fields of printing, design and graphics.' ° On many occasions, indeed (and as their critics were keen to point out), the legibility of their content was sacrificed to the aesthetics of its presentation. Doubtless this characteristic, by imbuing them with a certain glamour and esoteric quality whilst also encouraging the hostility of more conservative media, contributed significantly to the continued Underground status of these publications. At the same time, however, it seems quite clear that it also connected them firmly with the activity and experience of drugtaking. Not only did many of the illustrations and graphics allude quite explicitly to the drug experience, frequently presuming a familiarity with this experience on the part of the reader; in many cases, also, they were so constructed as to appeal to and be most fully appreciated only by the reader who was himself high. Some of these linkages are illustrated by the following letter to Oz No. 30:

Dear Oz,

We just wanted you to know that we really dig your Acid Oz Cover. In one night it was used for snorting Mescaline and THC off, rolling numerous joints with good Red Leb and later dealing hash (Kabul) on. Also really got into the cover and whole issue. An evening not to be forgotten .2 1

The ways in which the Underground press chose to present the views and experiences of its contributors may thus be considered to have contributed considerable symbolic support to the activity of drug-taking and even played a significant part in assisting its growth.2 2 Unfortunately it is probably impossible to establish the precise nature and extent of this contribution, if only because there are no sure ways of ascertaining the rapidity with which the meanings (or, as in this case, the revolutionary qualities) accorded to new art forms become eroded as their audience — due partly no doubt to the impact of commercial pressures — come to regard them as routine and predictable. Nevertheless, the former problem of devising criteria for selecting the verbal statements themselves remains with us. Analysis of such statements may yield clues to the character of subcultural change even if the precise impact of the forms in which they appear eludes us. Given difficulties such as those I have tried to outline, I would suggest that perhaps the most useful way of proceeding is to narrow the analytical focus to those changes which can be discerned in the views and beliefs of particular individuals: individuals who, by virtue of their pre-eminent status within Underground culture, their easy access to its channels of communication, and the charisma conferred upon them by those whose ideas they appeared to make explicit, were capable of seeing themselves — and equally being seen — as both agents and mirrors of similar changes in others. For the present purposes I have selected two such subcultural "spokesmen": John Peel, erstwhile host of BBC radio's first rock music programme, Top Gear, and author of the regular personal column entitled The Perfumed Garden in IT, and Richard Neville, whom most will remember as the founder of the British edition of Oz and its principal editor during the greatest part of that magazine's turbulent career. The rationale for focusing upon the pronouncements and reflections of these people in particular is that not only does it carry the advantage of illuminating the views of one of the leading contributors to — and indeed (especially in Neville's case) architects of — each of the publications in question; it also provides a convenient way of documenting the kinds of structural changes which occurred within the subculture whose members they were addressing. For both of them, in their different capacities, were closely involved in the process of developing and explicating a distinctive Underground ideology right through from its early beginnings; both of them also made public their sense of frustration and disillusionment on realizing, finally, that this ideology ought more realistically to be assigned the status of wishful thinking.

The key questions, then, are: firstly, why did this subculture fail to fulfil the aspirations of its progenitors? And secondly, why should this failure have involved depriving the activity of marijuana use of the kind of symbolic support which (as argued earlier) may have been an important constituent of the sense of enjoyment experienced by those who engaged in it?

John Peel: Weeds in the Perfumed Garden

The reign of Flower Power in this country was short-lived. Though they were to provide the basis for a proliferation of new cultural styles and modes of behaviour, the distinctive values which underpinned it did not long survive the celebrated "Summer of Love" of 1967. For one thing, as Nuttall has noted, many of those who had originally been responsible for propagating the ideals of Love and Peace quickly became dismayed and somewhat disgusted at witnessing the avidity with which they were expressed and flaunted by those outside their own exclusive "in-group".23 Nevertheless, such elitist disenchantment was not made explicit by all subcultural ideologues. On the contrary, those of a more populist disposition were delighted to witness signs of the apparent mushrooming of Underground culture, and either disbelieved or took no notice of the criticisms of the more cynical. One such was John Peel. In July 1968, after the demonstrations in Paris just two months previously and amid growing scepticism about the notion that "love is all you need" in order to combat a repressive society, Peel was still able to offer the following account of a concert given in Hyde Park by Tyrannosaurus Rex:

Written on the wings of the weekend past which carried with it more love and more hope than I believed was possible. To hear them I lay, with friends, on the grass and searched through the sky with a kitten on my chest. You should try that sometime because the combination of Marc and Steve, the love that was everywhere and not just spoken of, the sun and the wind was more than my head can tell you. Looking up at the people drifting past, smiling, was a really wondrous thing. You looked as gods and goddesses must look . . . When it was officially ended (it's still going on inside me) people talked and laughed and played. Kings and Queens sang and rowed and loved one another.2 4

For some people at least, then, the love ethic was at this stage still essentially unimpaired. Smiles, one of the most important means of its transmission in face-to-face relationships.25 were not to be confined only to known (or presumed) subcultural adherents; they were to be extended to all. The more implausible the reasons for smiling by conventional standards, the more justification for doing so by subcultural ones. Thus three issues of IT further on, we find John Peel writing that

It is nice on rainy days to walk along, lightly dressed, and smile at those whose faces are twisted with loathing for the rain, which they would soon miss if it did go away to Spain forever. They'll think you're mad because you're not supposed to enjoy rain . . . Smile at several people today. You may save a life. Love and peace.2 6

For Peel, things had still not changed very much by the following Spring, even though — as the following remarks imply — his perception and/or recording of events was becoming increasingly selective:

The mail is so beautiful — concerned and loving. The country is full of friends and they smile at me each morning, early, from behind the grey clouds that the bewildered few shunt wildly about before the two eyes. Hands reaching out of delayed envelopes to touch, caress and comfort. From behind imperial mad portraits, something of love. It is so much better and "Hello" is a whole foundation... 27

Such sentiments appeared increasingly incongruous, however, The very same issue of IT that contained John Peel's recommendation to smile at "straight" people also featured a full-page article by "Miles" criticising the "extreme lack of communication" between members of the Underground and concluding that "the fundamental basis for the Underground in Britain has never been established".2 8 Moreover, the previous issue of the paper had contained a similarly weighty piece of criticism by Raymond Durgnat entitled "Why I kicked my Underground habits", and citing as one reason out of many the fact that despite its "search for a direct togetherness", the " . . . Underground is so mesmerized by drugs and spectacular gimmicks . . . that it hardly bothers about simple ways of doing things".2 9 It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that only four issues of IT later we should find ourselves reading The Perfumed Garden for the last time. Peel's concluding remarks might suggest to some that he already knew this was to be his swan song:

This column is a hand reaching out to touch you. It may not seem so but it is and always has been. Don't pull away. I love you.30

In the event, though, it was Peel himself who pulled — or was pulled — away. Assurances made in the following edition of the paper that he would be writing again as soon as his other commitments allowed did not come to fruition. No subsequent mention was made of his absence, nor were any letters printed requesting an explanation for it. To all outward appearances, Peel had become totally immersed in the business of promoting new rock music, something which — perhaps understandably — had increasingly dominated his articles in IT prior to his unaccounted disappearance from its pages. With his departure, the paper's last tenuous but clearly-defined links with its Flower Power heritage were finally ruptured. But it had little to put in its place, and frequently seemed capable only of holding up a mirror to the ideological bankruptcy and cynicism increasingly prevalent amongst its readership. The following article in IT 60 is worth quoting, if only for the marked contrast that it makes with the scene and sentiments depicted by John Peel the year before:

What happened to the beautiful concerts in the park? I went to two last year and they made me feel good to be alive and in London. Everyone sat around quietly digging the music in the open air, everyone smiled at everyone else and everyone had a good time.

If occasionally it was difficult to hear the music it really didn't matter — just the atmosphere was good enough. This year, judging from the Stones concert, all that has changed. The beautiful idea of free concerts in the park has been taken over by the mass media freaks with Evening Standard special editions featuring coloured pics etc. etc. The result? The park is crowded with people poncing about on show like the sea front at Brighton. Nobody looks particularly happy and contented. One man is taken away in an ambulance, blood pouring down his face. A group of spades who gather in an enclosure behind where I'm sitting who appear to be the only ones enjoying themselves and laughing, get murderous looks from people passing who stop and stare at people ENJOYING themselves. Nobody is smiling at anyone. Chicks holding balloons painted with golliwogs hand you one and ask for 2/6d — at a Free Concert . . . Obviously some form of organisation is needed when 150,000 people gather together (together — what a joke, it was the most separated bunch of people I've ever seen) but need we be addressed as mindless idiots?31

The following letter to the paper a year later is also perhaps worth citing for the ironical comment it clearly makes upon the emphasis placed by John Peel upon the necessity of smiling at "straights" as well as fellow hippies that was also noted above:

Dear IT

Communications have stopped/ Do something/ People are becoming isolated in their own groups/ Been away for 18 months and everything has changed/ Only straight people seem to make it now and smile and say hello/ We all notice it but each one of us is isolated too/ We've remained the same but outside people seem to have changed/ What is the matter when only the hips don't smile back? Seems as if looking hip is fashionable but being hip isn't.'32

Not until February 1972 did Peel himself write again for either of the leading Underground newspapers, and this time, in an article written for the "Special 5th Anniversary Issue" of Oz, the prevailing tone of wistful reminiscence coupled with bitterness about the current state of the "Underground" stood in marked contrast with the sentiments expressed earlier:

In those (1967) days "Underground" really was and a guy with long hair was a friend and you knew he was on your side. Trips to UFO in jokey kaftans made out of bedspreads with beads and bells swirling on the chest and love swirling in the heart until you thought you'd choke with joy . . .We sure were naive but it felt a whole lot better than the weight of the wisdom we've acquired since.

Since then, the music has changed and lost a lot of its innocence. For a while we held the hustlers and gangsters at bay but now they're back again — groovy gangsters who roll joints and wear shoulder-length hair streaked and styled just so — but still gangsters . . .

Mind you we are a self-conscious and image-conscious market and they aim a vast torrent of stuff at us until it threatens to swamp up .. . Images, the right revolutionary or mystical posture, the right clothes, hair, equipment, friends, producers — it's all important. We're terrible suckers for packaging and hype and the gangsters must piss themselves laughing at us for all of our absurd pretensions. How long has it been that you felt really liberated, opened out, joyfilled by a band playing for you? After several hours sitting on a grubby floor you may have jumped up and down with peace signs shouting "More" a lot because, well, everybody does, don't they? I often suspect that a lot of that is relief that it's all over. . . 33

For John Peel, clearly, it was indeed "all over".

Richard Neville: Dropping out of dropping out

The theme of "long-haired gangsters" can be detected in Richard Neville's periodic bulletins on the health and progress of Underground culture at a very much earlier stage. Even by February 1968, whilst many (including, and perhaps especially, John Peel) were still bathing in the warm afterglow of the Summer of Love just passed, Neville was already sounding the alarm:

These days, in the Underground, the sound of lovemaking is drowned by the ricochetting of bouncing cheques. Hippie entrepreneurs open cool galleries, launch oracular magazines and acquire posters, vanishing as mysteriously as they came, laughing at their unhappy creditors (people who sell goods or services on trust). Sickening contempt for any financial obligation is now considered hip. The scene is crowded by a band of exhibitionistic hucksters whose disregard of responsibilities makes Dr. Savundra seem like St. Francis of Assisi. Watch Oz. We may soon, like "People", name the guilty men.3 4

Nevertheless, it seems that at this stage Neville considered himself to be doing little more than sensitizing his readers to a disturbing new trend which, given sufficient warning and community vigilance, could without too much difficulty be eliminated. The threat to "name the guilty men" is significant in this respect; hopefully, the "true" Underground would close ranks against this "band of exhibitionistic hucksters". At any rate, despite acknowledgement of the existence of certain contradictions within Underground culture, Neville still felt himself able to include the following unambiguous pronouncement in his book Play Power — arguably one of the most articulate and complete statements of the Underground philosophy of social revolution through individual change — nearly two years later:

It should be re-affirmed that the creation of a counter-culture, in itself a haphazard, chancy and unpredictable affair, has profound political implications. For while the Establishment, with its flair for survival, can ultimately absorb policies, no matter how radical or anarchistic (abolition of censorship, withdrawal from Vietnam, Legalised Pot, etc), how long can it withstand the impact of an alien culture? — a culture that is destined to create a new kind of man?

Outwardly by their appearance, inwardly by blasting their minds with drugs, rock and roll and communal sex; by abolishing families, nationalities, money and status, those of the new generation are disqualifying themselves from becoming somnambulating flunkeys of the power structure. The most intelligent of the young are dropping out .. . 3 5

It is possible, of course, that this particular passage of his book was written at an earlier and more optimistic stage of his career within the Underground, or that he believed himself to be addressing a considerably wider and more varied audience than his customary Oz readership, and decided to imbue it with a certain amount of wishful thinking. Whatever the case, however, by the end of the very year in which Play Power was published it had become quite clear that Neville's views concerning the "profound political implications" of the counterculture had undergone an equally profound transformation. The cover of the edition of Oz in which these views were expressed itself suggests something of their character. Carrying the bold caption "Brave New Morning", it depicts a long-haired white male, a black girl and a small (white) boy dressed up as obvious (i.e. stereotypical) revolutionaries and brandishing guns. Yet barely noticeable in small print in the bottom right-hand corner is the sardonic message that "He drives a Maserati. She's a professional model. The boy is the son of the art editor of Time Magazine. Some Revolution!"3 6

Neville's own obituary for the Underground extends over three pages of the magazine. It is difficult to convey the sustained sense of bitterness and anger which pervades it from start to finish, but the following brief extracts are, I hope, illustrative:

In the formative stages of the counter culture it was possible to draw inspiration from the open behaviour of Albion's children. It was tempting, if naive, to hope that with the intake of id liberating rock, lateralising dope, the emerging group tenderness, communal living style and an intuitive political radicalism . . . that from all this a qualitative change in the conduct of human relationships might develop. But now, as the Movement's utterings reach fever pitch, as the rhetoric becomes more frenziedly fascist, affectation suffocates reason and arguments lose their conviction, one's bursts of depression become elongated into a melancholy permanence. The advertising campaign is an abounding triumph, but there is nothing inside the wrapping paper .. .

One of the promises of the new lifestyle was the abolition of false criteria for judging human beings. Today, hip symbols and fashionable rituals count for more than ever. Dishonestly doubling travellers cheques earns the required A-levels, familiarity with a super group's pedigree outmatches Allen Brian's literary snobbery and a replay of last week's bad trip is flaunted like a duelling scar.

Neville cites Timothy Leary's declaration that "World War III is now being waged by short-haired robots whose deliberate aim is to destroy the complex web of free wild life . . .", and merely adds:

But those who bum you with bad dope, jump your bail if you happen to stand surety and — when you've made your house available as a BIT crash-pad — steal what little you own, do not have short hair.

He also notes Leary's assertion that "to kill a policeman is a sacred act." Lamenting that " . . . everyone hip is making war and loving it", he writes:

But I cannot pull the trigger. Indeed, sometimes I suspect that a more appropriate target would be my fellow marksmen.

Neville clearly did not regard himself as being alone in feeling this way. To judge by their actions, others had arrived at a similarly pessimistic conclusion concerning the fate of the counter-culture, and now wished to distance themselves from it as much as possible:

Some of by best friends are going straight — cutting hair, wearing suits, seeking respectable jobs. These are the same people who were freaking out at the first UFOs while I still lurched home from gambling clubs, who were plugged into the Pink Floyd while I breathlessly awaited the verdicts of Juke Box Jury, who were mastering chilums while I still thought Panama Red was a Hollywood bit player. Appalled at the profusion of meaningless, mediocre and repetitive pop these friends seek refuge in the music of the twenties and thirties ... and have drastically reduced their drug intake.

Such reactions, he says,

. . . are more than the result of a cultural overdose. It is surely the tough realization that today's heads treat each other no less savagely than the grey flannel skinheads of Whitehall; only without the latter's courtesy.

The "natural" limits of dissent

So much, then, for the claims made in Play Power for the " . . . culture that is destined to create a new kind of man". Neville here conveys the clear impression that, in retrospect, he would in some ways prefer the "old" one. Now I do not propose to offer a systematic explanation for the reversal of thinking evident in both his and John Peel's remarks. Even if many of the elements of such an explanation cannot be gleaned from those of their statements that I have already cited, there is — as one might perhaps expect in so highly self-critical a community — no shortage of attempts made to account for the demise of this culture by those who in one way or another were involved in the propagation of its ideals.3 7 Although individual interpretations naturally vary, there seems to be a certain measure of agreement that the most important factor in precipitating this demise was the rapid and highly effective commercial exploitation of materialistic aspirations which were never, except for a very small minority, fully extinguished. There are, I believe, few commentators who would dissent from the summary statement of the events which took place offered by John Clarke and his colleagues:

The counter-cultures performed an important task on behalf of the system by pioneering and experimenting with new social forms which ultimately gave it greater flexibility. In many aspects, the revolutions in "life-style" were a pure, simple, raging, commercial success. In clothes, and styles, the counter-culture explored, in its small scale "artisan" and vanguard capitalist forms of production and distribution, shifts in taste which the mass consumption chain-stores were too cumbersome, inflexible and overcapitalised to exploit. When the trends settled down, the big commercial battalions moved in and mopped up. Much the same could be said of the music and leisure business, despite the efforts here to create real, alternative, networks of distribution. "Planned permissiveness", and organised outrage, on which sections of the alternative press survived for years, though outrageous to the moral guardians, did not bring the system to its knees. Instead, over-ground publications and movies become more permissive — Playgirl moved in where OZ had feared to tread.3 8

A principal merit of the analysis provided by Clarke et al is that it sees the counter-culture as having been doomed to failure in terms of its own major tenets right from the very beginning. The innovations which it generated in the areas of music, sexual behaviour, fashion and aesthetics — all of them areas closely tied to the realms of consumption or leisure — were tailor-made to provide for the needs of a capitalist system which increasingly required " . . . not thrift but consumption, not sobriety but style; not postponed gratification but immediate satisfaction of needs, not goods that last but things that are expendable: the "swinging" rather than the sober life style".3 9 It was perhaps not surprising, therefore, if the big commercial battalions should have "moved in and mopped up".
However, this clearly could not have occurred in the absence of an adequate and growing level of demand for their wares from within the counter-culture itself. Commercial interests, on their own, did not manufacture the needs which they then proceeded to satisfy. On the contrary, though some of its adherents struggled to deny the fact, materialism was an inevitable outgrowth of some of the core concerns of the culture. As Jock Young, commenting upon the widespread scorn for the consumer society within hippie culture, has pithily observed: "It becomes difficult to argue that television sets and washing machines represent the means by which people are bribed to serve the system if you belong to a culture whose central artefacts are the electric guitar, the sterogram, and the videotape!' ° One might add that it also becomes difficult to eliminate acquisitiveness and the kind of image-consciousness so much lamented by John Peel within the terms set by an ideology which lays stress upon ideas of being "beautiful" and the desirability of being surrounded by beautiful things. The use of psychedelic or "consciousness-raising" drugs has clearly played an important part in sustaining this ideology, moreover: even though the Eastern philosophies with which their use was for many associated may emphasize the possibility of witnessing beauty in each passing moment, it is still the case that some moments — or rather the objects and experiences which fill them — are likely to be culturally endowed with more beauty than others.

Finally, one ought to note the influence of the mass media. It seems clear that the media played an important part in changing the form of the counter-culture, both by promoting the "cultural sell-out" just mentioned and by bringing to bear upon it a degree of hostility and resentment which many of its members were ill-prepared for and did not really know how to combat. Both of these have been dealt with in Young's analysis and need not detain us here. However, the mass media also succeeded in diluting the integrity of the counter-culture in another way. As Paul Rock has pointed out:

When new deviant fashions arise, the press usually gives its readers a detailed description of the rule-breaker. This description could serve as a detailed set of role-prescriptions for any neophyte deviant. The more marginal adherent of the fashion may even learn more about his role-requirements from the press than from contacts with core devotees.4 1

Moreover, as Rock himself notes, such press descriptions are very seldom accurate, or, if they are, they typically embrace only a small and highly unrepresentative sample of the deviants concerned. The situation which is therefore likely to arise, and which historically, I suggest, did arise, has been succinctly outlined by Roszak in his sardonic comment that "Dissent, the press has clearly decided, is hot copy. But if anything, the media tend to isolate the weirdest aberrations and consequently to attract to the movement many extroverted poseurs".4 2

Such "poseurs" may in turn act in such a way as to discredit the "movement" still further. Something similar to this happened in the case of the now celebrated demonstration against the war in Vietnam in October 1968: it seems that a large proportion of those arrested during the course of the demonstration knew little about its real political objectives and had come along primarily for the (anticipated) punch-up.43 However, whether the kinds of people who may be attracted to deviant phenomena as a consequence of the publicity given them by the media can be classified as poseurs or not, it is clear that any such a realignment of the boundaries separating the deviant from the previously non-deviant will have important social consequences. It may, in short, be as destructive to the "in-group" cohesiveness and solidarity of the former as it is to the hegemony and collective peace of mind of the latter.

One of the significant developments of the late '60s and early '70s was that youthful dissent became fashionable. Whatever the differences between the ideologies that it embraced, the counterculture became an increasingly important reference group for many sections of young people. However, once dissent became fashionable, the power of the various symbols with which it was expressed (in this case, clothes, length of hair, the correct argot or political vocabulary) rapidly became deflated." To the extent that they continued to rely upon such symbols, "true believers" were likely to find difficulty in distinguishing one another from the growing numbers of "pseuds" and "trendies" — and "groovy gangsters" — who had also jumped on the bandwagon of dissent. Many of them, like those whom Richard Neville refers to, resorted to other means of mutual recognition. More generally, as the symbolic value of appearances diminished, so the scale of the community spirit which it nourished became increasingly attenuated. Where it had once been extended to the larger community of (supposedly) like-minded others, loyalty and fellow-feeling more and more became confined to the small group of known and trusted intimates. A social world which for a while had become deprivatized once again became hedged in with the kinds of rules which conventionally constrain relationships between the unacquainted and in terms of which the precarious balance between privacy and accessibility is typically sustained." As the material presented above suggests, smiling at strangers — at least of one's own sex — once again became a deviant act, even if (and, ultimately, precisely because) their appearance happened to be very similar to one's own.

Now it is possible that such a fate lies in store for all forms of deviant behaviour that are underpinned by a set of subterranean values. The very fact of such values being termed subterranean presupposes that individuals in the "straight" world share them to some degree. And although such individuals may have commitments which inhibit them from joining or becoming active members of those groups whose members have equal commitments to openly expressing them, they may nevertheless, with the help and encouragement provided by the media, adopt some of their more visible manifestations. It has become quite possible to "turn on" and "tune in", to use Leary' phraseology, without "dropping out". This becomes all the easier, moreover, if those who do drop out impose no particular demands upon neophytes other than that they wear the "right" clothes and say the "right" things. Thus in the same way that, as we saw earlier, the police were able to take advantage of this emphasis upon appearances in order to infiltrate the drug scene with the use of undercover agents, so equally it was not too difficult for many otherwise "straight" people to insinuate themselves into the counter-culture in the hope of obtaining the cheap dope and easy sex which media publicity had led them to believe it would provide. Similarly, many students were able to participate in protests and sit-ins and derive from such experiences certain extrinsic benefits such as a pleasurable sense of camaraderie and a welcome break from routine, without ever making or being called upon to make a more enduring political commitment. From the information at hand it seems clear that the integrity of the counter-culture, and specifically the hippie phenomenon, was considerably weakened by such tendencies. Although less information seems to be available, there are grounds for believing that they have played a not insignificant part in undermining the phenomenon of student militancy too. In both cases, the strength and purposefulness of the movement is sapped away through the growth of cynicism and interpersonal mistrust. A quite deliberate policy of "divide and rule" would in both cases have probably been no more effective in maintaining effective social control by the wider community.

In fact, the task of survival in the face of such unintended opposition seems to involve a measure of firm organisation and discipline. It seems fitting to conclude this discussion of the impact of the media upon the counter-culture by quoting Bobby Seale's remarks upon the relevance of this problem to the Black Panthers:

Some people joined the party for status reasons. The party was well-known in the community, and was written up in the papers a lot. These cats would put on a complete panther uniform — black berets, black slacks, black shoes, black pimp socks or regular socks, shined shoes, blue shirt and a black turtleneck. They were clean-shaven, or if they had a goatee or beard it was neatly trimmed. They'd stand up in front of the office with a mean face on, their chests stuck out, and their arms folded, watching people walk by. They were psychologically surviving off the incorrect sensationalism that had been put forth in the newspapers. We began to call them the "do-nothing terrorists" . . . They never did any work at all or faked work, so we had to suspend and expel many of these brothers and sisters.4 6

But the so-called "counter-culture", hamstrung by a libertarian ideology which insisted that all should be not only allowed but encouraged to "do their own thing", could never suspend or expel anyone. Confronted by the widespread erosion of their ideals, the only alternative open to many core members was to close ranks and adopt a strategy of avoidance. But avoidance, in turn, provided a poor vehicle with which to promote the ethic of love and peace from which the counter-culture also drew ideological inspiration, and merely fuelled allegations of elitism and divisiveness of the kind referred to in Nuttall's remarks above. The more this culture became assimilated and the more fertile a terrain it provided for the growth of the new consumerism, the less the values which originally underpinned it became anything more than just a fast-receding and slightly absurd folk memory.

Some Implications

However one wishes to account for it, the fragmentation and virtual collapse of the counter-culture inevitably deprived marijuana use of a considerable amount of symbolic support and — for those heavily reliant upon such support — a considerable amount of its enjoyment. As Richard Neville's observation that some of his best friends had "drastically reduced their drug intake" might suggest, the social and political meanings of the activity underwent a certain transformation. A number of factors were involved. Firstly, much of the rationale underpinning the erstwhile proselytization of the drug quite simply evaporated. As time went on, and the numbers of incidents that were clearly at variance with Underground ideology multiplied, it became increasingly obvious that neither marijuana nor the stronger psychedelics such as LSD contained within them the power to bring about widespread social change, as had once been believed. If anything, such drugs appeared merely to sensitize people to new sources of sensory gratification within the material world by which they were already surrounded. Stripped of a more profound ideological significance, the act of "turning on" a friend increasingly became reduced to little more than an initiation into the art of good living. Indeed, the meaning of the term "turning on" itself became increasingly diluted as it passed into everyday parlance and became used as a way of referring to the excitement or pleasure generated by any new (but particularly, it seems, sexual) experience.

At the same time, and for broadly similar reasons, the symbolism attached to one of the distinctive features of the technology of marijuana use, the activity of passing the joint, largely disappeared also. To be sure, the ritual of joint-passing persisted. But increasingly it became an empty ritual, lacking any wider symbolic meaning. As the communal ideals of the counter-culture withered under the impact of its members' tendency to "rip off" and be parasitical upon one another, so the credibility of the erstwhile attempts made to link joint-sharing to a more fundamental ethic of property-sharing became increasingly difficult to sustain.

Much of the ideological resistance to the use of alcohol also crumbled. Although, as I shall suggest presently, other factors also played a significant part in promoting its use, there can be little doubt that the breweries and distillers companies stood to benefit a great deal from the collapse of a culture whose members had at one time viewed alcohol as one of the mainstays of repressive thinking and boorish behaviour, and as such to be largely avoided.

Finally, as the ideological underpinnings of marijuana use increasingly receded in significance, so also did any contribution made to its pleasurability by its novelty and taboo status. To some extent, the erosion of such novelty and the pleasure derived from a sense of doing something different was an inevitable corollary of increased familiarity with the drug, its effects and associated rituals. James Carey, for one, has documented some important differences in the behaviour and attitudes of infrequent and regular marijuana users in these areas, particularly with reference to the differential concern with secrecy and ritual,' and not all such differences can be attributed to the process of routinizing the drug's effects that will be discussed presently. They also owe something to the growth of an increasingly taken-for-granted attitude towards the activity of drug taking on the part of those who gravitate to the status of regular users. However, it should equally be recognized that the spatial growth of the activity which occurred would have deprived it of much of its novelty anyway: not simply for the obvious reason that those concerned sooner or later realized that it was no longer an exclusive "in group" activity which conferred a unique personal and social identity upon its adherents," but also because such growth was accomplished, empirically, through the disproportionate recruiting of those who realized that they faced little significant risk of detection. And it can reasonably be argued that such risk is a more enduring ingredient of what Lofland terms pleasant fearfulness'' than mere knowledge of the taboo status of the activity concerned alone — particularly at a time when the existence of this taboo had itself become increasingly open to doubt. It would be difficult to disagree with Lofland's statement that "to create a prohibition is to create the possibility of deriving pleasant fear from violating that prohibition".5 ° But it would also be difficult to ignore the possibility that growing numbers of people may have concluded that violating the prohibition against marijuana use was no longer such a "big deal". Clearly, a certain paradox was involved: the activity lost a measure of its fun and pleasurability as a direct result of its appeal to people whom these qualities had to some extent attracted. In these circumstances, the only users who would have been able to satisfactorily sustain a sense of pleasant fearfulness were either those who for one reason or another could not escape the attentions of the police, or those who — whether for reasons of ideological commitment or because of a refusal to relinquish a source of excitement, of adventure, of feeling oneself to be daring and game"51 — actively courted such attention. As the activity continued to spread amid the more conventional layers of society, such people would inevitably have constituted an increasingly small proportion of the totality of users.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2011 14:44
 

Our valuable member John Auld has been with us since Monday, 20 December 2010.

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