ON COGNITIVE LIBERTY


From the article "On Cognitive Liberty (part 2)":
"As you read this sentence you are receiving information. Words are carriers of thoughts, whether spoken from mouth to ear, digitized and passed electronically, or downloaded into ink and passed on paper across time and space. Because words are vehicles for thoughts, words can change your opinion, give you new ideas, reform your worldview, or foment a revolution. 

Attempts to control the written word date from at least AD 325 when the Council of Nicaea ruled that Christ was 100 percent divine and forbade the dissemination of contrary beliefs. Since the invention of the printing press in 1452, governments have struggled to control the printed word. Presses were initially licensed and registered. Only certain people were permitted to own or control a printing press and only certain things could be printed or copied. (This was the origin of today’s copyright rules.) Works printed without prior authorization were gathered up and destroyed, the authors and printers imprisoned. 

Scholars disagree as to the exact date, but some time around 1560, Pope Paul IV published the Index Librorum Prohibitorum a list of forbidden books (i.e., controlled substances) enforced by the Roman government. When the Index was (finally) abandoned in 1966, it listed over 4,000 forbidden books, including works by such people as Galileo, Kant, Pascal, Spinoza and John Locke.2 The history of censorship has been extensively recorded by others. My point is simply the obvious one that efforts to prohibit heterodox texts and to make criminals out of those who "manufactured" such texts, were not so much interested in controlling ink patterns on paper, as in controlling the ideas encoded in printed words. 

I submit that in the same way, the so-called "war on drugs" is not a war on pills, powder, plants, and potions, it is war on mental states — a war on consciousness itself — how much, what sort we are permitted to experience, and who gets to control it. More than an unintentional misnomer, the government-termed "war on drugs" is a strategic decoy label; a slight-of-hand move by the government to redirect attention away from what lies at ground zero of the war — each individual’s fundamental right to control his or her own consciousness."

 Richard Glen Boire
 

The right to control one’s own consciousness is the quintessence of freedom. If freedom is to mean anything, it must mean that each person has an inviolable right to think for him or herself. It must mean, at a minimum, that each person is free to direct one’s own consciousness; one’s own underlying mental processes, and one’s beliefs, opinions, and worldview. This is self-evident and axiomatic.
— Richard Glen Boire