Friday, August 18, 2006

The origin of MDMA

The Grauniad has dug up some info contradicting the usual XTC wivestale (1912, Germany, failed attempt at synthesising new diet pill/stimulant for soldiers etc). I think it's well worth reading. Ecstacy, I would argue is one of the two most culturally significant drugs of the twentieth century (the other being LSD).

It certainly transformed music and culture in Britain. Some will tell you it helped quell terrace violence, although, we need to take into account the fact that football firms now meet away from their home stadia.

It almost certainly played a small but significant role in turing the tide on Toryism in Britain.

A section of the British population, about 1/3rd to 2/5ths always opposed the Thatcher revolution. The shattering of the workers movement, added to the busted credit bubble and recession of the late eighties further soured the boomtown euphoria. Much of the hopeless dread you find in British small towns started to take shape around about this time. People began to experience the same restrictions on their life choices, jobs etc. Culture became greatly homogenised, locals cinemas, ice rinks, sports centres etc closed down, to be replaced by the Warner Village experience. Town centres, formerly civic meeting places became private areas with their own wardens to keep the non-consumerminded citizen moving on. The asbo only finished off the job, allowing police to exile the poor in their suburbs and estates.

Compare this to vibrancy and creativity of rave culture (it was not without its contradictions, as well as the communal, democratic side of the scene there was also an entrepreneurial element to it, which found its logical final expression in drug gangs), the last genuinely grassroots cultural phenomenon in Britain, and you'll get a handle on its importance, how deeply it affected people, even beyond the immediate scene, why a generation of thirtysomethings continue to rave (oho) about it today. The early nineties were a turning point.

Government's frequently introduce Criminal Justice Acts. They're virtually seasonal. They are generally a hodge-podge, and the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order act was no exception. Amongst its clauses were measures to lower the age of consent for gay men to 18. However,

Changes which had the greatest attention included: Sections 34-39 which substantially changed the right to silence of the accused, allowing for inferences from accused's silence. Sections 54-59, which gave the police greater rights to take and retain intimate body samples. Section 60 which increased police powers of unsupervised stop and search.

The whole of Part V which covered collective trespass and nuisance on land and included sections against raves (63-67, including the "repetitive beats" definition[1]) and further sections against disruptive trespass, squatters, and unauthorised campers — most significantly the criminalisation of previously civil offences. This affected many forms of protest including hunt sabotage and anti-road protests.

The law was primarily directed at the anti-poll tax and rave movements, and indication of the fear they put into the ruling class. The right to assembly was greatly restricted. Raves became pretty much illegal overnight. Civic relations were profoundly altered, something that still affects us today.