whose side are the side effects on?

In this spot, place, lieu, here, before I lift my pen – for I write these posts before I type them, and then, in typing them, watch them shift their shapes and burdens – I feel a rush, a lunge of citations and themes, as though, in the first sentence, at the entrance of the thing, the establishing period, everything must come tumbling out (as in some dopey comedy skit in which some target character X, laugh a minute X, opens some target door Y, boobytrapped Y, and the things behind it avalanche upon him or her). For surely I’ve reached the point in this long long course of things at which (in which?) suddenly the happiness culture, more a blueprint or a Platonic form, suddenly extrudes itself into the psychoactive, chemical phantasmagoria we are all familiar with, dosed with, prescribed, stoned and high on, chained to, attuned to deep in the immune system, our biochemistry altered in its ticking and secretions by the water we drink and the incredible array of chemicals, such as were never before on earth and never before metabolized by any terrestrial organism, that we have so casually strewed about every sphere of the planet.

And this even before I lay my hand on De Quincey’s text, which, though entitled the Confessions of an Opium Eater, could be entitled, Confessions of a side effect. For by De Quincey’s account, his opium addiction came about through the use of a palliative for pain. In fact, this is how Wilberforce, the abolitionist, became a lifelong opium addict. And of course we now live in the age of side effects and are advancing rapidly into a world in which the climate has been the victim of one of the hugest side effects ever. Meanwhile, who doesn’t know from personal experience or from a friend’s tale of the side effects of mood altering drugs – for every mental ill – ranging from biliousness and water retention to a total, catastrophic loss of sexual desire – all side effects. Or, as they are known in the industry, ADRs – adverse drug reactions.

And in this way, the building of the artificial paradise puts the question of the human limit in a different form: whose sides are these side effects on?