A Singapore-based language and linguistics professor from China is facing an investigation by the National University of Singapore for making comments supportive of psychedelic use.
In a personal blog post, Associate Professor Shi Yuzhi commented on Steve Jobs' use of LSD, mentioning: "Can this society be more open ... to not immediately dismiss the use of psychedelic drugs? ... To produce a master in inventions, we need an open-minded environment... Without harming personal health, allowing young people to consume hallucinogenic drugs is not necessarily a bad thing".
The blog post in question was titled "Why China cannot produce a Steve Jobs" and, obviously, was written in reference to Chinese (and not Singaporean) society. Dr Shi's comments were written in response to Jobs' public openness about the positive, creative influence that LSD had on his life. The blog post caused much controversy online and in the local news media, resulting in Dr Shi's employer, the National University of Singapore, publicly distancing themselves from his comments and leading an investigation of the matter. Dr Shi has since removed all his blog posts relating to psychedelics in response to this pressure, despite his insistence that he brought up the topic in order to foster academic discussion.
While the idea of someone being investigated for what is essentially a thoughtcrime may be alien to the average citizen of the United States, this incident is entirely in keeping with the culture of fear surrounding non-mainstream opinions (especially in relation to drugs) that characterizes modern Singapore. Singapore is notorious for draconian laws and as of 2004 was reported to be the world's 'top executioner', putting more people to death per capita than Saudi Arabia, China and Sierra Leone.
Most of the executions are a result of drug trafficking, as Singapore has some of the world's harshest drug laws. According to Human Rights Watch, the "Misuse of Drugs Act permits confinement of suspected drug users in "rehabilitation" centers for up to three years without trial." Additionally, Singapore punishes some 20 drug-related offenses with mandatory death sentences. For example, possessing more than 500 grams of marijuana results in death.
Singapore has a long way to go when it comes to even being able to discuss the positive aspects of psychedelics in an academic context. However, as a Singapore citizen, I harbor the hope that incidents like these will spur the discussions that lead to necessary change.
Image by bradleygee on Flickr, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.