The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Columns

May 29, 2011

Cannabis and the awakening giant of Egypt

JOHNSTOWN — The recent events in Egypt underline the ethos of an ancient people who have endured and assimilated many generations of conquerors from many dissimilar or alien cultures. But today, and always, they have demonstrated their love of Egypt and each other.

The recent peaceful demonstrations, despite some marring, emphasize the unity of the Egyptian people.

Their politics and economics are not really understood by Western nations because they are not bound in greed and selfishness.

Nor can we understand the modern people of Egypt, who in the 19th century spontaneously lined the banks of the Nile, singing dirges of bygone millenia as the newly found mummies of many ancient pharaohs were transported up the river to Cairo, where they rest today.

Unfortunately, there is always a dark side. Swedish psychiatrist Nils Bejerot said that the widespread use of cannabis in North Africa (including Egypt) can be traced to its introduction by Arab and Turk conquerors in the 12th and 13th centuries A.D.

Nowhere in the world has cannabis been used more extensively than in Egypt to control a population of disenfranchised individuals who have held at very poor social and political development.

“The Consumption of Hashish in Egypt” was a report from the National Center for Social Research (Ziwar et al, 1960-64).

Hashish intoxication has resulted in decreased average quality of production as evaluated by the workers themselves, the report showed.

Widespread use of cannabis does not improve the quality of life. It erodes it.

The findings of the Victorian Era Indian Hemp Commission should be disregarded and put to final rest.

Cannabis (hemp) is not harmless and should not be used by a conqueror to pacify a subjugated people.

Chronic users exhibit a significant decrease in productivity, efficiency and dependability.

But where cannabis has been an effective control agent, opium (or heroin and morphine in narcotic form) has been even more dramatically used as an imperial agent and in war.

During the World War I, two British attempts to take Jerusalem met with disaster. Gen. Edmund Allenby was given command of the British forces and parachuted hashish and opium to Ottoman Turk defenders who got “high” and left. The British were greeted by the local dignitaries and peacefully entered the city.

In recent times, a much more disastrous but subtle form of drug use and effective chemical warfare occurred in Vietnam.

For many years prior, there had been a growing acceptance of the use of cannabis as a pleasurable substance resulting in an epidemic toxicomania.

In Vietnam, cannabis was the most abused drug. In the fall of 1969,

50 percent of the 550,000 soldiers had used or abused the drug. As the war progressed, cannabis was dipped in opium, and finally heroin and methedrine were administered by hypodermic.

The psychiatric casualty rate from the drug rose from 13 per 1,000 in 1968 to 24 per 100 in 1969, according to a 1971 report. Cannabis toxicomania was associated with ineffectiveness, panic states and psychoses.

The self-administration of cannabis and other psychotropic drugs is the most effective method of waging chemical warfare.

In the name of individual freedom, many claim that governments should not restrict or curtail the availability of use of mind-altering substances.

At this point, a study of the use of cannabis among the Egyptian youth might be revealing. The sleeping giant has awakened and stripped away its bindings and discovered that it has a living and vital place in the world – much to the surprise and chagrin of those who felt that mummification was forever.

The ethos of the Egyptian people is known only to the Egyptian people.

Certainly it transcends politics and economics as we know them in the Western world.

We must not attempt to impose what we believe is right. For at least two centuries this has been done. But the needs of the Egyptians have never been understood, let alone addressed.

We question the ability of the Egyptian people to form or sustain a nation. We ask, “Who is in charge?”

The Egyptian people are – and they know it.

They have learned great patience after millenia of practice. They have been duped by foreign invaders, local aristocrats and various protectors into believing that they could not take care of themselves.

Today, they are proving to themselves that they can. They no longer need to fear their fellow man. They know they can work with each other, and, hopefully, with the rest of the world to attain their freedom and aspirations without interference from politicians or foreign powers who would preserve the status quo for fear that the Nile Giant will guide its own destiny and earns its rightful place among the nations of the world.

Sam Contakos is a retired Johnstown businessman and former practicing physician. He also formerly served as a lecturer on the topic of drug abuse.

 

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