Yes, you can get high legally. Read a book, listen to some music, go for a walk in the countryside, listen to the celestial birdsong outside your window. This documentary wasn’t so much an instruction manual for people to achieve cerebral transcendence in the laziest way possible but more an envious sneer at those who can extinguish the vivid delights of life from every last atom of their bodies without risking a criminal record, and a vindictive aspiration to spoil their fun to make them suffer the same implicit guilt of many illegal substance users.
Presenter George Lamb, although ‘clean’ now (another abhorrent drug terminology term), did, once-upon-a-time, take said illegal substances. But it wasn’t really his decision, he was “a young man growing up in London” working the entertainment industry, which was an irresistible compulsion to ingest drugs.
Lamb’s self-absolution over his earlier narcotic dalliances was the paradigm for the kind of philosophy that many people in his documentary adhered to in order to liberate their conscience. They did so by convincing themselves that because the substance they were taking was legal, it was also somehow valid, and separated them from the typical vision of a drug addict huddled in shop doorways, hallucinating the constellation of Andromeda forming in the windswept folds of a prostitute’s skirt.
And the condemnation and opprobrium that Lamb cheerfully and conceitedly directed at the legal drugs and the users seemed, in part, because the BBC cannot be observed to endorse these substances that, although legal, can do some harm. This tempered any balance or enlightenment, while also ignoring the ideological anomaly of a society that vilifies drug use is also one that promotes alcohol as the primary source of pleasure.
But another, more subtle, influence on the perspective was the intimation that drugs need to be illegal in order for them to be part of the stentorian counter-culture that evolved in the 50s, but was attenuated by the complacency of the 60s to the flaccid bible of delusions propagated by pseudo-rebels today (of course, counter-culture does still exists in a contemporary form but isn’t epitomised by Pete Doherty), who flood through the noxious digital delta of Lamb’s 6Music radio show and out into the wider world.
And if drugs were legalised it would denude the world of cutting edge culture, causing the polarised worlds of bristling teenagers and their cynical parents to snap shut like an alligator’s jaws catapulting everyone back to the homogenised uniformity of the 1950s, which may have already happened given the myopic rapture that greeted AOR trudger Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury or the unchecked delirium of the Take That reunion.
However, if the nation’s cultural pulse is set by a hybrid hydra of Edith Bowman, Tony Parsons and George Lamb slapping their tentacles in applause to Fall Out Boy and Razorlight, then perhaps it might be better turning, without fear of arrest, to mind-warping substances that turn clouds into clones of Marie-Antoinette’s liver supplicating the ex-staff of Grange Hill for a fix of brackish poetry.