Aesthetics, addiction and poverty
Although the region of the Golden Triangle is exceptional because of its enormous opium production, it does raise a number of general issues about intoxicants.
The objects on display illustrate that the relationship between intoxicants and people is complex. Despite the negative consequences of dependency, exploitation and health problems, there are perceived benefits such as aiding social interaction, medicinal effects and pleasure. The objects associated with chewing betel, smoking tobacco and consuming opium are some of the most valued and aesthetically that are produced by local artisans and reveal the social status of the owners.
Try asking yourself the following questions:
- How do societies balance the negative and positive effects of intoxicants in relation to their cultural values?
- Are there any societies that do not use intoxicants in one form or another?
- Can we counteract the worst effects of intoxicants by understanding the cultural contexts in which they are used?
- Is it possible to compare health statistics with individual pleasure?
- Can we measure artistic worth against economic exploitation?