They could settle wars with this, if only they will
Imagine the world’s leaders on pills
And imagine the morning after
The idea of drugs solving humanity’s greatest divisions is nothing new, as Mike Skinner once famously riffed. But what would really happen if we tried to bring peace to society through a shared drug fulled experience? A new Channel 4 documentary explores the concept in greater depth.
The mini-series Higher Ground, recently released on YouTube by Channel 4, explores if psychedelics could actually bring harmony to mankind by inviting warring factions with some of societies most polarising viewpoints to find unity through psilocybin, the main active ingredient found in magic mushrooms.
The show invites two guests to take part in guided ceremonies in Amsterdam, where truffles, a type of magic mushroom, can be purchased and consumed without breaking the law. The series is able to safely explore what actually happens when two people with strongly opposed opinions share a psychedelic experience.
The four episodes tackle some of social media’s most fervent and polarising battlegrounds. Climate change, veganism, male toxicity and the classical left vs right debate are all up. Guests are invited to sling it out face-to-face, often in heavily heated arguments, before delving into a guided ceremony together.
The program insists that contributors first undergo a “rigorous casting protocol which included health and psychological assessments by qualified medical professionals” before taking part. Unsurprisingly to anyone who has experienced a deep mushroom trip, the before and after is a markedly different experience.
For some of those who took part in the show, the impact appears to have been profound. Dominique Samuels, a media commentator who has appeared regularly on GB News and written for The Daily Mail has taken to Twitter to share her desire to shed attachment to the left-right paradigm, stating “Being wedded to one political side or set of beliefs, and confirming your bias through a selected network of news sources is a form of mental slavery and a way for us to avoid having compassion for ourselves and others.”
Not everyone who takes part experiences a radical change of heart after taking part in the ceremony, yet in the afterglow of each experience, there was a commonality that our differences do not define us as human beings. Meat eater Bart expresses with zen-like calm that it’s clear that both debaters are trying to find two solutions to the same problem, that by stepping down from egos and realising that we don’t need to be right all the time, we can co-exist in peace. Climate sceptic Sean Ward pours out a genuinely moving revelation that his firmly held beliefs are driven by fear. For some of the participants, a connection between past trauma and present aggression is made after the ceremony.
Ultimately, the show highlights that it is naive to think that psychedelics hold the solution to all of society’s problems, but despite being short in length, the overriding message of each episode is profound. Psychedelics aren’t going to change humanity alone, they can’t settle our wars, but they can provide meaningful and transformational insights into why we, as individuals, often feel so strongly. By increasing safe access to psychedelics and giving people the opportunity to see the opinions of others with more empathy we can’t fix the world, but we can perhaps begin to behave more kindly.
Higher Ground is available now via the Channel 4 Documentaries YouTube channel.