Charlie's Blog: Thoughts From the Straight Edge


Thoughts From the Straight Edge

Ok, fine, you take drugs, you drink, whatever. But obviously I have the edge on you because I’m sober. I’m in control of what I’m doing.

Mac Miller is dead. He died on September 7th. The cause of death is a suspected overdose. As of this writing, the official cause of death has not been determined or announced. What is known is that Mac Miller used drugs especially the drug codeine found in the concoction known as "Lean" and "Purple Drank." Miller was 26 years old.

I am not a fan of Mac Miller's music. I'm a middle aged man who listens to classical music now. I have heard some of Miller's tunes, and I believe he was gifted in music. He had many fans. Yet, all this is wasted and flushed down the toilet because Miller liked to get messed up on substances. This isn't a generational thing as we have lost Michael Jackson, Prince, and Tom Petty to substance abuse. Here's a newsflash, Gentle Reader. Drugs will kill you. If they don't kill you, they will certainly ruin your health and your life.

This anti-drug message was delivered to me constantly in the 80s. This was the era of Nancy Reagan and Just Say No. They mocked that woman for that message, but it is as relevant today as it was back then. The 80s was an anti-drug decade. This was because of two things. Ronald Reagan got elected, and John Belushi died. That message found a foothold in my young mind and remained there. I have never used drugs in my life. I haven't even taken a puff from a joint. Drugs have never been my thing.

The 80s were unusual with the anti-drug message. Even MTV heavily censored any mention of drugs in their videos. The 70s were saturated in drugs, and drugs made a big comeback in the 90s especially with heroin that would claim the lives of other musicians like Mac Miller. Others would struggle to overcome addictions to smack. But that anti-drug message never came back. A new Nancy Reagan has not emerged to carry the anti-drug banner. This has left the 80s sandwiched between two eras of drug excess.

No one likes to get preached at, but I think the Reagans had a very positive impact on this issue. As Edmund Burke put it, "Statecraft is soulcraft." Government and its leaders have a hand in promoting behavior through policy but also through the bully pulpit. This nation could use some scolding today as people drop dead from opioid abuse.

What is the straight edge? The term comes from a movement in punk rock that got going in the 80s. It derives its name from a Minor Threat song called "Straight Edge" which became an anthem for a movement that had been growing as a sort of backlash to the drug and drink saturated 1970s. This was not fueled by a Puritan impulse but by people who were survivors and fed up seeing their heroes go down from substance abuse in death or just plain mediocrity. Two rockers not associated with the straight edge--Gene Simmons and Ted Nugent-- have a similar mindset as the straight edge. Being around druggies and drunks will make you one of them or make you despise them. I despise them.

I hate drugs. I am also not fond of people who use drugs. This includes marijuana. As far as possible, I remove people from my life who are druggies. They don't stay in my life. To achieve this, it helps to learn and practice The Most Valuable Life Skill. You should never use drugs or have people in your life who are messed up on drugs. Sad to say, I had to learn a few hard lessons for this message to take hold.

I am not pleased that marijuana has become acceptable to so many people. Marijuana is a drug that you can abuse to great excess and still remain alive. The problem with marijuana is that it makes you stupid. I have known potheads who spent the entire day baked. One of them almost killed a woman at my work back in the 90s with a truck trailer. Whatever buzz he had that night, it vanished when he almost killed that woman. She is alive today because I happened to be in the right place at the right moment. My clarity of mind at that moment counteracted the cloud of his mind. Without that clarity, that woman would have died.

This is the part of the straight edge people overlook. It's obvious to focus on the casualties from drug abuse, but no one pays much attention to the mental toll it takes. This is your brain on drugs as it fries in the pan. You don't have to die from drugs to make them bad. You can be a casualty of them and still remain alive. This is what happened to Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd who literally fried his brain on LSD. He was still drawing breath, but his mind was gone never to be recovered.

The remaining members of the Floyd would go on with survivor's guilt that would inspire some of the best albums rock has ever produced. Syd was considered a genius, and his extreme use of acid is credited with much of that genius. But that just isn't the truth. Post-Syd Barrett Floyd is much better, and that music is not the product of drug abuse but an incredible focus from four musicians at the top of their games. The real truth about Pink Floyd is that Syd's fry out became a warning to them to not become acid casualties themselves. For the most part, Pink Floyd have eschewed drugs even if their fans have not.

This clarity of mind is what Ian Mackaye was getting at in his Minor Threat song. The clear mind is superior to the messed up mind. You don't need drugs for creativity. You just need incredible focus. You can't achieve this if your brain is fried on substances.

This brings us to alcohol. I have been totally against drugs my entire life. Alcohol is a different story. I have enjoyed many beers and whiskeys in my time. I have been at every stage of inebriation that exists. I cannot and do not recommend it. The question remains. Do I condemn it?

My hang up with alcohol centers on the issue of Puritanism. Even Puritans drank. The only abstainers are Baptists, Mormons, Muslims, and teetotallers. Jesus Christ drank wine and turned water into wine. One of the elements of the Eucharist is wine. Monks make beer and wine. Alcohol in moderation is a pleasant thing. Yet, the immoderate use of alcohol has wrecked a lot of lives.

Nothing is evil in itself. It is how we use it that matters. With drugs, they can have medical benefits. Studies have already determined salutary benefits from cannabis. But virtually everyone who smokes ganja does so for its recreational benefits. As for opioids, they do wonders for pain before they kill you.

Wine and beer have some health benefits, but I eschewed beer after discovering its role in my gout flare ups. I had backed off being a teetotaller, but gout put me there again. I have never been an alcoholic, but I believe that I could very easily become one. This is because alcohol is relaxing. It feels good to take the edge off the day with a cold beer or three. But three becomes four, and you know the rest of the story. You wake up with your car wrapped around a telephone pole.

St. John the Baptist was a teetotaller. The people of his day thought he was nuts, but he received no condemnation from Jesus. He did not drink alcohol. Ever. This was part of being a Nazirite. But this was a special thing. Not everyone must take this vow for holiness. Jesus didn't. This dichotomy cuts to the heart of Puritanism.

It is OK to do things like not eat meat or smoke or drink alcohol. It is not OK to insist that others must do the same. This is because what is prudent is not necessarily moral. For instance, I think people should become vegan for the sake of their health. But I don't think eating bacon is a sin. Likewise, I think listening to classical music is better, but I'm not going to go burning rap albums.

Some things are wrong. Other things are just stupid. Getting plastered on strong drink is just stupid. Not drinking is smart. Prudence or wisdom is one of the virtues. If we are prudent, we will learn to make the distinction between what is moral and what is prudent.

Drinking and drug abuse make you stupid. That is the essence of the straight edge philosophy. They can also make you dead. But it is enough to choose not to be stupid. And that is ultimately why people want to get messed up. They want to assault their brains. They want to be voluntary imbeciles for a time or for life. They want to be stupid.

I am into being smart. There are only two drugs that make you smarter. These would be caffeine and nicotine. But since tobacco is harmful and isn't smart, this leaves caffeine. Consequently, I drink a lot of coffee. Coffee does not cloud the mind. It clears the mind.

This clarity of mind is why I am into quitting social media, doing deep work, reading, and writing. Your mind is like a blade which you can sharpen with focus or dull with substances. This is why "straight edge" is a great term. Your mind should be as sharp as a straight razor.

I don't know what Mac Miller's official cause of death will be. There is just one thing I know about the guy. He was incredibly stupid. It didn't have to be this way, but he chose to get stupid on drugs. We can lament the waste of talent, but Miller is the one who wasted it. Don't be a Mac Miller. Choose to be alcohol and drug free. Choose to be smart instead of stupid.