Category Archives: De Quincey, Thomas

Everything you know about heroin addiction is wrong

Heroin, Dalrymple points out,

  • is not highly addictive.
  • Withdrawal from it is not medically serious.
  • Addicts do not become criminals to feed their habit.
  • Addicts do not need any medical assistance to stop taking heroin.

He notes that heroin addiction is

a moral or spiritual problem.

A literary tradition dating back to De Quincey and Coleridge,

and continuing up to the deeply sociopathic William Burroughs and beyond, has misled all Western societies for generations about the nature of heroin addiction. These writers’ self-dramatising and dishonest accounts of their addiction have been accepted uncritically, and have been more influential by far in forming public attitudes than the whole of pharmacological science.

As a result,

a self-serving, self-perpetuating and useless medical bureaucracy has been set up to deal with the problem.

Ugliness, be thou my beauty

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 09.05.43The squalor and degradation that is Western popular culture

Two windows on the sordor:

  • obituaries of pop stars in the newspaper
  • a walk in the street

Pop stars, writes Dalrymple, fall into two groups:

  1. those who retire into the life of the squirearchy, the pleasures of whose kind of life they have done so much to destroy for others
  2. those who die young

There is nothing like the sordid for getting ahead

Romantics view self-destructive behaviour

as the sign of a great soul.

De Quincey wrote:

Pain driven to agony, or grief driven to frenzy, is essential to the ventilation of profound natures.

But, Dalrymple points out,

it is an elementary error of logic to suppose that, because profound natures ventilate agonised frenzy, those who ventilate agonised frenzy have profound natures.

Take punk. Its ‘ethic’ consists, explains Dalrymple, of

an utterly conformist non-conformity and an insensate individualism without individuality, allied to brutal and deliberate bad taste.

Self-harm

For instance,

to inflict a serious injury on yourself (which you then require others to repair for you, at their expense) in order to prove that you are genuinely committed to bad taste, ugliness, a rejection of everything that could possibly make life worth living, and to a celebration of ‘alienation, boredom and despair’ does not seem to me to be meritorious in any way. The alienation, boredom and despair are the consequence of a combination of laziness and impatient ambition, rather than the consequence of an ‘objective’ situation, and represent an impossible demand for achievement without concomitant effort.

Rage

Dalrymple says:

I feel a certain rage at the culture that we have created, and a certain guilt that I have not fought against it with all my heart and soul, to the best of my ability. It is a culture that can produce lines — and mean them, that is what is terrible — such as the following from one of Richey Edwards‘ songs (as Mozart took dictation from God, so he took dictation from the Zeitgeist):

I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.

Eloquent bilge

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1785-1859

That is Dalrymple’s verdict on De Quincey’s Confessions, with its

intoxicating style.

He recites a passage:

Oh, just, subtle, and mighty opium! that to the hearts of poor and rich alike, for the wounds that will never heal, and for ‘the pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel’, bringest an assuaging balm; eloquent opium! that with thy potent rhetoric stealest away the purposes of wrath; and to the guilty man for one night givest back the hopes of his youth, and hands washed pure from blood; and to the proud man a brief oblivion for wrongs undress’d and insults unavenged; that summonest to the chancery of dreams, for the triumphs of suffering innocence, false witnesses; and confoundest perjury, and dost reverse the sentences of unrighteous judges; — thou buildest upon the bosom of darkness, out of the fantastic imagery of the brain, cities and temples beyond the art of Phidias and Praxiteles — beyond the splendour of Babylon and Hekatompylos, and ‘from the anarchy of dreaming sleep’ callest into sunny light the faces of long-buried beauties and the blessed household countenances cleansed from the ‘dishonours of the grave’. Thou only givest these gifts to man; and thou hast the keys of Paradise, oh, just, subtle, and mighty opium!