Sunday Brunch 16/4/23
Waco, the Dalai Lama, and some great new research papers
Welcome to another Sunday Brunch round-up of stories and papers on psychedelic and ecstatic ethics, risk and harm reduction. As usual, non-paying subscribers get a free croissant but only paid subscribers get access to the full buffet.
Next week is the 30th anniversary of the Waco siege, the 50-day stand-off between federal agents and the followers of self-proclaimed messiah David Koresh, which ended on April 19 with the federal agents invading the building and the entire structure going up in flames. The stand-off led to the death of 4 agents and 82 ‘Branch Davidians’.
The story is important because it has played a central role in the conspiracy mythology of gun rights and anti-government movements in the US. The federal government’s botched efforts and subsequent cover-up inspired thousands of conspiracy theorists - like Alex Jones of Infowars, who raised funding to rebuild the church of the Davidians, or Timothy McVeigh, one of thousands of arms rights activists who came to Waco to support the Davidians, and who later detonated a bomb in Oklahoma, on April 19 1995, killing 168 people.
The Branch Davidians were an ecstatic, apocalyptic cult that grew out of the Seventh Day Adventist church - a 19th-century American religious movement which constantly predicted the end of the world, yet has somehow surviveed beyond frequent ‘Great Disappointments’. David Koresh had told his followers for years that ‘Babylon’ (ie the demonic federal government) would attack them on Judgement Day, and they would all be killed, but then return in the Second Coming for a new Age of Love. Alas, that became a self-fulfilling prophecy when the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency raided their fortress because of its illegal arms horde. The ATF blew it by not understanding that direct confrontation is not the way to defuse an apocalyptic cult. Don’t give wannabe-martyrs the opportunity for martyrdom.
Since 1993, the siege of Waco has become part of American conspirituality, which is often also apocalyptic (see Qanon, for example). Last month, Donald Trump held the first rally of his 2024 president campaign in Waco, Texas, where he described the election as ‘the final battle’. How will Qanon supporters react when their David Koresh is arrested?
Next week, I’m exploring the idea in psychedelic culture - ‘the medicine doesn’t always give you what you want, but it gives you what you need’. What do you think of this statement? If you want to feed in your response to my article, here is a five-question multiple choice survey.
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