So, I'm reading The Serpent and the Rainbow, and it's about zombies. It's a book I have to read for the Drugs and Jesus class. It's really about the drug that the voodoo doctors use to turn people into zombies. The voodoo, or vodoun as it is called in the book, is actually one of the primary religions of Haitian people during the time period of the book. I'm only about a third of the way through, but so far, it's pretty good. It's non-fiction, but reads like a fiction; you just can't believe some of the events and characters are real! There's this high school girl who goes into a trance and dances around with a red hot piece of coal in her mouth for three minutes and she doesn't get burned! The main character in the book is this guy who is trying to figure out the secrets of the zombie poison so that he can bring it back to the United States to use as an anesthetic for surgery. If he is successful, he will make a lot of money. While I'm all for the advancement of medicine, it is rather disturbing how we are so willing to exploit another people's culture for our own gain, basically taking something that is sacred for them and applying it to everyday use.
I guess the question is, and hopefully I'll have the answer by the time I get to the end of the book, is whether or not the drug will even work outside of the voodoo culture. This is one of the things we have been looking at in the Sacred and the Substance class: How much of a drug's effect is based on the context within which it is used? Many of the so-called drugs that seem to be problems for people today, such as heroin, cocaine, marijuana and nicotine, started out as sacred plants that were removed from their sacred context. While they were being used for their sacred purposes, they were never "problems." People did not become "addicted" to them. Outside of that context, used in secular society, these drugs became something very different. They became dangerous. They started to destroy lives.
The other part of drug use that we're learning about in the class is how much culture influences the idea of addiction, but we haven't gotten that far into it yet. In the meantime, especially because tomorrow is Halloween, watch out for the zombies!