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When you have a situation in which a drug like LSD is being manufactured on a massive, if uncoordinated, scale, and being made very cheaply available, both in the US and the UK, then you have a situation without historical precedent. One thing LSD seems to do, for many people, is render the fabric of society transparent. What does that mean? It's highly debatable. It was certainly a sensation that you can see through a lot of the things you have been taught to believe in. A lot of the grand narratives in which we invest our sense of the future and to some extent our sense of limitation were rendered transparent, and therefore no longer awesome. Regardless of whether or not these insights actually changed anything much, a lot of people became convinced that because of this overview, or x-ray vision, it should be possible to dispense with the institutions, practices and taboos that they had previously regarded as immovable. This created a great optimism. The trouble with it, I now suspect, is that while you are seeing through things you are not analysing them — you fail to appreciate the capacity of institutions to heal, replicate and perpetuate themselves. You overlook the brutality that can be brought to bear when entrenched structures are threatened.

For a while the "transparentists" held sway but gradually the establishment's control was re-asserted. Some students were shot dead by the National Guard at Kent State University. A little later there was the first drug related killing in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco. Amphetamines and then heroin filtered into the street scene and it quickly turned sour. Some people thought there was a conspiracy to allow this to happen in some way. Or you could say it was simply an inevitable expression of the logic of capitalism: lots of dedicated consumers gravitating to an ultimate market.

What's also forgotten is that all of this was syn