Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Comments by Nick Wallis

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  • It’s the hubris that grates me here.

    Not once in this piece did Tania mention any of the many organisations that have existed for decades fighting these battles. Not one mention of PRISM (Psychedelic Research In Science and Medicine), established in the early 2010s and far more integral to the St. Vincent’s work than this recent glitzy iteration of psychedelic organisation. Not one mention of the grassroots movement that has grown the conversation and seeded a strong culture in Australia that we are proud of.

    It does make me wonder what value Tania sees in the community to ignore it so thoroughly. Ignorance is not an excuse here, because Mind Medicine Australia have connections with all the organisations mentioned.

    I’m one of the founders of the Australian Psychedelic Society. Unlike Mind Medicine Aus, we are not seeking to create a medical platform for psychedelics though we would like to support those who do. Much like the mushroom and its mycelia, our aims and values are around community building, connecting people to people below the surface of fancy branding and course-building – a much more organic process that is difficult while prohibition exists. I still (perhaps naively?) believe that everyone should be working together toward a series of goals to ensure that psychedelics have a valid future in society and that people are no longer punished for seeking the psychedelic.

    But every time I hear about Tania and hear about a lot of Mind Medicine’s work, I get a sense of looming anxiety. From the ‘we need to put ankle braces’ and random inappropriate singing on national television, to the apparent inappropriate singing at EVERY event MMA puts on (we get it Tania, you like to sing. Me too. Perhaps, time and place though?). And then the constant big-noting of MMA and complete blanking of the vibrant psychedelic community we have in Australia.

    Early on I had to push back against MMA’s line that they ‘do not support law change’ for psychedelics – which you obviously do seek (the shifting of a scheduled substance still at least requires a Government Gazette, so yes, in the broadest sense, that is law change) it bothered me that here are these people with a LOT of resources available to them, signalling to the broad psychedelic community that they don’t matter, as long as MMA can get into the ‘right’ ears and make an argument for what will likely be a fairly exclusive system of psychedelic psychotherapy.

    It’s also a good place to note that often when law changes do take place to allow for therapy using a previously illicit drug, penalties rise for those in the ‘illicit markets’, because conservative rationale goes, “Well, now the people who actually need it can access it and these other people must be dangerous”. I’ve already seen mumblings from white-coats about ‘bad trips’ being dangerous and therefore providing the beginning of a narrative that casts the community as ‘dangerous’ for using powerful substances in the ‘wrong’ way.

    My goal has always been to end the prohibition – not just of psychedelics – but all drugs. The drug war has caused so much pain across the globe. The escalation recently in places like the Philippines, with the terrifying stories of Duterte’s death squads with their shadowy murders should be warning signs to anyone who believes in a safe, prosperous and free future for humanity.

    Here in Victoria (where Mind Medicine are based), the numbers of people whose lives are harmed not by taking a psychedelic, but by the archaic laws we maintain around them are small, but not insignficiant. I have been to several court cases and seen the farcical representation of psychedelics in those apparent halls of justice for those charged with posessing substances like DMT, or psilocybe mushrooms, or LSD.

    None of us are people with massive resources behind us, and there is a strong incentive for people not to put their heads up, for fear of professional or social repercussions. Many stories that go untold, though I try to find what I can and broadcast them on a community radio station in Melbourne (3cr.org.au/enpsychedelia)

    I say all this because I have seen a pattern over the years of the rich and powerful steamrolling communities and slipping away from accountability by pointing to all the work they are doing – work that others without the same resources (money) could not even begin to do. I don’t think this has to be the way things happen, but it does require that those who have resources reground themselves in a little humility and start engaging more with community, perhaps first and foremost by acknowledging them, instead of the constant opportunistic media engagement for little more than self-promotion.

    Perhaps I’ll be told, “This is how the game is played”. It’s what I’ve been told before. And if that’s the answer, I guess we’re not playing the same game. But if that’s the case, I don’t think that one can so glitzingly state that their battle is for others’ ‘mental health’. The harms of prohibition should not be ignored.

    I think we should have a conversation about this Tania, because you’re upsetting a lot of people. I don’t know if that matters to you, because the money and resources you guys have will allow you to reach audiences previously unreachable with your tailor-made message of hope for an issue many have battled for, for decades. I hope it does, because I truly believe that the psychedelic experience has more to offer than the few who will benefit from the medical and psychotherapeutic elements.