Aimo Koivunen and his story
Try to put yourself in the shoes of a Finnish soldier navigating the harsh Lapland wilderness on a freezing winter’s day.
It’s about 10 a.m., your unit has been on the move almost continuously for more than two days, skiing in knee-deep snow. Everyone is already completely exhausted, the temperature is a brisk 15 degrees below zero, and of course it’s going to get even colder after sunset.
You and your mates set up camp in the woods to take a little break, thaw your hands on a small fire and maybe get some sleep, which would definitely come in handy. You melt some snow in a pot to make some tea, and in the meantime you decide to grease your skis. A ready-made idyll.
Your Soviet opponents, however, don’t like your little tea party — before the water even boils, bullets start falling over you and you have to quickly gather your things. You put your skis back on and seek shelter in the woods.
Together with your colleagues, you plant some mines to try to slow down the Russians. However, you have to remember that you are facing a whole platoon of well-rested, well-armed Russian soldiers in snow suits, and they outnumber your small group by a wide margin. Your only option is a very sudden retreat.
This is exactly what happened to 27-year-old Finnish soldier Aimo Koivunen on the morning of March 18, 1944.
To understand why Aimo found himself in this less-than-ideal situation, we need to remember that Finland had been at war with the Soviet Union since 1939 in what became known as the “Winter War”.
The mighty Soviet military machine was vastly outnumbered by the Finnish army, and in 1940 Finland was finally forced to sign a peace treaty that gave the Soviet Union more than 10% of Finnish territory.
A year later, however, after Operation Barbarossa, Finland unofficially allied itself with Nazi Germany and began working to regain its lost regions.
In 1944, the Nazis in Russia got their asses kicked pretty good, and the Soviets saw an opportunity to begin a second round of seizure of Finnish territory.
In order to escape the Russian offensive, Aimo tried to move along the rutted ski track with his comrades, but he simply couldn’t keep up the pace. He ate only a piece of bread early in the morning and had not slept properly for several days. He felt weak and his body was beginning to give out.
The men behind him were shouting that he had to go faster: “Aimo, don’t fall asleep!” one of his comrades shouted at him.
Although Aimo was exhausted to death, he had a trick up his sleeve — his lieutenant had entrusted him with a supply of military-grade methamphetamine.
(Pervitin, synthesized in 1919 by Akira Ogata and distributed in the West in the 1930s as a miracle pill for alertness, was widely used by German soldiers to stay energized and perform better under difficult conditions.)
Methamphetamine, in the form of small round white pills, was understandably beloved by German soldiers. Aimo was reportedly not a big fan of it, but he realized that if he wanted to avoid collapsing in the snow, he had to take it.
The pill bottle was in the front pocket of his jacket — he tried to take one pill out of the container, but he didn’t have the best motor skills in his thick winter gloves and accidentally spilled the whole thing into his palm. In a panic and in an attempt to keep the manoeuvre a secret from the other soldiers, he simply ate them all.
The safe dose of meth, by the way, according to the German army, was one tablet a day. Aimo Koivunen swallowed all 30 of them at once. And he didn’t even drink a drop of water.
When the meth kicks in
A few minutes later, Aim’s brain was flooded with a dopamine wave that was unlike anything a mere mortal could imagine. Aimo was no longer tired and weak. He felt great, was full of energy and quickly picked up the necessary speed.
After the pills began to take full effect, Aimo moved into the second phase of the meth trip. The surrounding landscape changed before his eyes, he became increasingly paranoid and began to alternate between intermittent unconsciousness while skiing.
At some point, his colleagues noticed that good old Aimo didn’t look very sane and took his ammunition away from him as a result.
When he came to, he had no food, no ammunition and no friends with him. He had no idea where he was, how he got there or how much time had passed. He also had no idea if he had drifted away from his fellow soldiers or if they had in fact decided to leave him behind.
From that moment on, he kept losing consciousness and coming back to reality, finding himself in places he didn’t know at all and doing strange things he didn’t remember wanting to do.
Germans in sight
At one point, Aimo found himself at the top of a hill, and in the distance he saw a burning bonfire with some men standing around it — he was convinced it must be a German camp, and decided it would be a great idea to visit it so that kind-hearted soldiers could rescue him from his disheartening ordeal. He skiied merrily down the hill at full speed, but when he was close enough he realised that they were not in fact German soldiers — they were Russians.
Fortunately for Aim, the Russians were so confused when they saw the drugged Finnish soldier rushing at full speed straight through the camp that they just stared at him in silence, analyzing his sanity. Aimo was gone before the Russians could recover.
Some Soviet soldiers did try to pursue him, but he was in the midst of a methamphetamine frenzy and nothing alive could keep up with his pace.
In the days that followed, Aimo survived only on water, pine needles, and meth. He had more hallucinations, talked to more absent friends, and fought an imaginary wolverine (which hatched into a tree branch), breaking his wrist compass and losing his backpack in the process.
At some point, he somehow found himself in an abandoned cabin and decided to start a fire — on the wooden floor, in the middle of the room. Soon the entire hut was on fire, with a famished Aimo curled up on the ground, trying to fall asleep and moving further and further away from the flames every time they got too close to him.
Luckily for him, the methamphetamine-induced restlessness afforded him no sleep, and when the hut finally collapsed due to the massive fire damage, he managed to escape, chew on his skis, and hit the road again. Still in a daze, he then spent most of the night trying very hard to reach the distant light, realising during the dawn that he had been chasing Polaris all the time.
In the morning Aimo came upon an abandoned German camp. The Germans, considerate as ever, however, had mined the place after they left. Aimo, of course, accidentally stepped on a mine and completely blown up his right leg as a result. He then hopped around the German camp on one foot and tried to open the bunker door, immediately detonating another mine.
He woke up about 30 meters from the bunker covered in snow, still holding the door handle in his hand. In addition, the blast tore his clothes and shoes.
In addition to having no weapons, food or compass, he was now seriously injured, half naked and still hallucinating on an alien-high dose of methamphetamine. So he decided to crawl into the bunker and get some sleep.
A few days later, a group of Finnish soldiers ran into him.
They were quite surprised to find a torn, half-naked comrade in an abandoned German camp that had turned into a minefield, and they promised to send a rescue party to him. Aimo soon became convinced that he had not interacted with any Finnish soldiers and was in fact only hallucinating.
While he waited — for the Russians to find and kill him or for the Finns to rescue him – he managed to catch a jay, which he ate raw.
Much to his surprise, the Finns came to rescue him a few days later. When they finally brought him to the field hospital, they measured his heart rate at 200 beats per minute and his weight at 43 kilograms).
Aimo had been on the road for two weeks, and the distance he had covered during his meth-fuelled solo journey was calculated at around 400 kilometres.
Amazingly, Aimo Koivunen not only survived the ordeal, but lived until 1989, when he died at the age of 71. What’s more — he never used meth again after that experience, as he never got into a situation where he was chased by Russians.
And that’s the whole story of Aimo Koivunen. A very interesting historical picaresque about a soldier who became intoxicated by a synthetic stimulant drug. But what can we take from this and what can this story make us think about?
I’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s first break down the definitions of some basic terms we’ll be working with to avoid misunderstandings.
In this section, we’re going to kind of panpsychically think about the definition of drugs and their effects. It is for this reason that it is useful for us to think about what is actually “intelligence” and what is actually “perception”. No matter how abstract these terms may sound to some.
Intelligence has many definitions. However, for the purposes of this article, I will work with intelligence as something that allows one to recognize the complexity of the environment; that is, the awareness of relationships. Intelligence can also be interpreted as the ability to ‘learn’, except here it is particularly appropriate to mention how intelligence actually works.
Intelligence is merely the processing of information on the basis of experience with previous information processing. This means that intelligence can stagnate, i.e. it may not come to new contexts and use them to its advantage. Something like this can happen, for example, if intelligence is in a homogeneous environment and new information is not coming to it for processing (which happens very rarely and especially in organisms as complex as humans), or simply by some more complex process that weakens the ability to learn. That is, it also weakens intelligence itself.
In order to be intelligent effectively enough, the algorithms that make up us (our intelligence) must constantly check each other and monitor their effectiveness in achieving their goals. Most importantly, we really need to know them as much and as well as possible (in awkward Freudian hierarchical linguistics, I might say “as deeply as possible”). We should have dug out just that proverbial perception, because if we are not transparent enough to ourselves, we cannot transform ourselves and thus we cannot increase our intelligence efficiency.
Perception is thus something like a set of single algorithms of intelligence by which we can evaluate the effectiveness of its other algorithms. Perception is something that decides what is effective and what is not.
And now back to drugs, our perception of drugs and our work with drug data.
A major societal problem is the very definition of the word ‘drug’. If you look at the content of the article for this entry on the Slovak Wikipedia, you will find a horrible and embarrassing gibberish, which reminds you of the verbal concoction of an eight-year-old child after he has learnt little about drugs at all from Hollywood films and from the finger-nosed Johnnies and Bobbies who talked about injecting marijuana into their veins. You’ll find something about how the drug alters willpower and judgment, and because of that, it causes drug addiction, which leads to serious social problems (while the same article also talks about non-addictive drugs, which include psychedelics, for example). And the biggest waste of the Slovak Wikipedia is of course the entry list with the telling title “other drugs”, in which we can find randomly selected substances with random verbal names ranging from the molecular name to slang, and in this tangle of linguistic wash-up from different social classes we can find so-called “shrooms” and “magic mushrooms” as two different “drugs”. What the Wikipedia master carpenter meant to say and what drug he was on while writing this drivel, we can only guess.
The fact that some substances are socially perceived and arbitrarily defined as drugs and others are not, let’s leave out of this analysis altogether. It is not relevant. So let us stick with the definition of a drug as a consciousness-altering substance. Something that alters will and judgment. Something that fundamentally changes our thinking and therefore our sense of “I am”.
But how is it possible to know what alters consciousness and what does not alter consciousness?
Every substance more or less changes our intelligence because it affects us. Whether it is air, water, caffeine, meth, or vitamin C. The second thing, however, is how much and in what way we are able to feel and not feel a given substance. And something like that depends on our perception — on our intelligence’s only algorithms by which we can evaluate the effectiveness of its other algorithms.
It wasn’t that long ago that I wasn’t able to feel the effects of caffeine. I’d have a coffee or a decent serving of black tea and I could go to sleep (at least I thought I could sleep at the time). I slept and the next morning I felt nothing unusual, but my adenosine receptors were blocked and my body was poorly regenerated.
I also remember a time when it was very pleasant to eat gigantic quantities of sugary food — as it is for almost every child coddled by the food memetics of twenty-first-century Western culture. I was perfectly calmly able to eat an entire poppy seed cake in one sitting. And ideally straight up for breakfast. With chronic candy eating, my tissues didn’t respond sufficiently to the insulin flushed out, to which the beta cells of my pancreas responded with even higher insulin production to keep my glucose levels in the normal range. I had definitely developed a nice insulin resistance. I didn’t feel fatigue after a sugary meal. I was simply comfortable and enjoyed the taste, which I identified as good.
I have a high sensitivity to caffeine at the moment. I don’t drink a caffeinated beverage after 5pm unless I want to fall asleep comfortably and without a noticeable cortisol trance before midnight. Sweet food makes my heart race due to the high glycemic response, I feel severe fatigue and an inability to concentrate. Additionally, gluten gives me indigestion, a precursor allergy to pollens and grasses, and a pretty severe mental fog. The combination of sugar and gluten, which can be the aforementioned poppy seed for example, makes me crazy. I’m existentially useless and have a pretty strong dislike of life.
I can feel all of the aforementioned. I experience it. All of the aforementioned feelings are my “I am”. What’s more — I am able to feel vitamin C as well. If I take a fine dose of C in the morning, it will trigger a specific feeling in me that only vitamin C can trigger, just as caffeine, gluten or sugar can trigger their specific feelings.
Why is this so? It is simple. My perception was at a very bad level. I was a stupid and non-transparent person who was unaware of some very obvious relationships within myself. And now it is different. Or, in all modesty and self-reflection — it is different, at least when it comes to caffeine, sugar, gluten, and a few other things.
People who are stupid, unaware of the relationships within themselves, and non-transparent with themselves (i.e., people whose perceptions are at a very bad level, and who are just like I used to be) generally cling to strong identifications.
What identifications am I talking about, for heaven’s sake?
Well, such people’s comfort in their own sense of “I am” depends on some externality that the person identifies with — usually a god, a country, a nation, a person (or more accurately — not a person, but the fetishized memories that attach to that person), a religion, a drug, an idea, an identity, or even one’s own experience that someone very easily clings to. I don’t feel too competent to try to guess why people form such strong identifications, but I would venture to say that they most likely do so because they are afraid to be with themselves. Because they don’t have good perception, their minds are full of psychological conflicts and they are too stupid to want to face them. They are addicted to the apparent comfort of identifications because they seek out externalities that allow them to distract themselves from perceiving themselves. Identifications undoubtedly give them an apparent sense of security; comfort. In a chronic state of addiction, they don’t even have something to grasp their conflicts with in order to deal with them. They are algorithmically non-transparent with themselves, and this non-transparency is nothing more than bad perception.
Moreover, such people are fond of drugs that help them maintain their identifications, or create new identifications for them in case they do not feel a sufficient sense of apparent security with their old identifications. Conversely, such people despise drugs that enhance perceptions, help reveal conflicts, and ultimately dissolve identifications. Such a condition frightens these people. They are usually so absorbed in their model of life, full of clinging to certain “I am’s,” that even thinking about the falsity of any of their comforts will shake them up extremely. In such a case, people are usually afraid of death. They regard the death of their identifications as psychosis or something similar. That’s why they find it comfortable to constantly do meth (even if they’re not being chased by Russians), eat sweets, stimulate themselves with huge doses of caffeine, or get high on alcohol. They like their established circles and like to enhance themselves in them with specific substances. And the longer they are stuck in them, the more their perceptions are dulled. The more their intelligence is impaired, as the number of relationships they understand decreases, and the intensity of their understanding decreases as well.
And it is undoubtedly drug addiction that leads to serious social problems!
What a substance will do to the human body and whether it will increase or decrease its way of intelligence (with what intensity and for how long) depends on a number of parameters. On space, on time and on conditions. We can, though, as over-motivated creatures with an interest in some artificially categorized morality, say that some substances are “worse” than others and distinguish between so-called hard and soft drugs, lumping things like alcohol, crystal meth, heroin, and other shenanigans into the hard drugs and cramming all the other compounds into the soft drugs — from vitamins, to psychedelics, to cannabinoids, to minerals, to all sorts of biogenic elements — into the hard drugs within the scope of our consistency. Great! We have built consistent legislation based on the potential of a given drug to harm either its users or others who must tolerate its users.
But let us return to our Finnish soldier. Pervitin, despite what a piece of shit it is, undoubtedly saved his life at that time and place. Perhaps. Helped him achieve what really mattered to him. Undoubtedly; increased the effectiveness of his intelligence.
So if we know that our distinction between soft and hard drugs is inadequate because of the fact that harmfulness cannot be measured by substance but by the manner, time, and conditions of use (and that it is not the drugs that are harmful in the first place, but poorly self-perceived people), how do we want to decide what drugs, at what times, and under what conditions people can use (if, that is, we want to be as morally consistent as possible)? Or better put — who has such an extremely brilliant grasp of space-time to be able to make clean and logical decisions about it?
The answer is — no one! Apart from the fact that society and legislation makes no difference to the time, manner or context of drug use (it is only interested in the substances), it is extremely hypocritical to enforce and punish the use of anything in circumstances where users do not bring conflict into the minds of others; they do not limit their intelligence. Bringing conflict and limiting intelligence is an violation of another person’s freedom. Violation of freedom is aggression, and it makes no difference whether some aggressor steals someone’s purse, kills his wife, or knocks a child down in a crosswalk while intoxicated on some drug. Manipulation of one’s own body and one’s own algorithms is never an aggressive violation of freedom; no matter what the nature of it is and what tools/substances/activities I do and do not use along with it.
And what is the point of legalizing drugs anyway, when the most dangerous and harmful drugs that have claimed millions of lives and millions of ruined health have long been legal?
Alcohol kills 3 million people a year at the time of writing, accounting for up to 5.3% of all annual deaths ever. Moreover, up to 13.9% of deaths among young people aged 20-39 are caused by alcohol overdose. Overall, 5.1% of the global burden of disease and injury is attributable to alcohol, as measured by ‘Disability-adjusted life years’ (DALYs). Studies have also come up with more than 200 different diseases and physical disabilities that are unquestionably correlated with alcohol use, so-called “binge drinking”.
Such tobacco, in turn, kills 8 million people a year. Of these, seven million deaths are caused by direct tobacco consumption and one million deaths are caused by exposure to smoke; that is, by passive smoking. Something like this is undoubtedly a violation of other people’s freedom; an active interference with their intelligence. It is undoubtedly aggression!
And what about such sugar? That is also toxic and extremely addictive. What is worse, we have no problem giving it even to young children. If you eat too much sugar, you can undoubtedly develop insulin resistance and ultimately, many times, permanent metabolic damage, which we call very aptly ‘type 2 diabetes’. Not even the proverbial heroin can do something like that. Can you imagine, by the way, how we would refer to children with heroin withdrawal seizures as saying something like ‘they are fine, they just have type 2 opioides’?
(Note — people aren’t killed by alcohol, sugar, or anything like that. What kills them is their management of those substances.)
I’m not advocating alcohol, nor tobacco, nor meth! I have never in my life experienced a situation where these substances have provided me with a therapeutic use, and for that reason, I have never ingested them either. If consuming such substances were to bring me any therapeutic value (and therefore; increase my intelligence), I would have to be in such an extreme crisis situation that I cannot currently imagine.
Different substances work differently on different bodies. They introduce new algorithms into our functioning based on which we are created and affect our perception and our judgement. There are some drugs that have no therapeutic potential, or have it in extremely specific circumstances (and certainly not in the form and manner in which they are consumed globally), while being culturally glorified and normalized. They are toxic in the process! (We’re talking about alcohol and tobacco, of course.)
And on the other hand — there are those drugs that have enormous therapeutic potential in a huge variety of conditions and routes of use. Moreover, they are non-toxic, and not only has no one ever died as a result of poisoning after taking them, but their use correlates with absolutely no physical damage to the body, or harm to people who come into contact with their users. Moreover, these “drugs” are (still/recently) extremely demonized in human culture, despite their long-term use. (We’re talking about psychedelics, of course.)
Psychedelics in particular have enormous potential to increase intelligence. Of course, so do vitamins, minerals, and all sorts of other biogenic elements, but these are not as immediate and psychologically transformative (and probably permanent) a tool for increasing intelligence at the perceptual level (though certainly more so than some other substances that humans use to alter consciousness), and most importantly, they are not socially demonized and legislatively criminalized.
So who is legislating (and memeticising) our social judgements about such and such drugs? Is it the professionals, the intelligent and well-connected people who understand the vast array of complex relationships? Or are they fools with psychological conflicts in their heads, clinging to strong identifications and trying to impress others like them? Is there any point in taking such people seriously if you are more intelligent than they are? What is their place in your life and what do you really want it to be?