Sometimes I think we want to solve our complex health problems like we want to solve our complex political problems.
Just vote for Turmeric!
Vote your meds out of office!
We have gotten accustomed to these absurd binary messages because they come to us each day, on TV, in newspapers and magazines, on radio talk shows and through internet memes and water-cooler conversations.
Choose a side.
I’l fix EVERYthing!
And it’s based on the idea that what is happening right now is soooo bad. The whole system is broken. We need big changes. And there is a bit of truth in there, our system of health is letting a lot of people through the cracks. Our political system has some major flaws. I’d love to see shifts towards making both better.
I wonder, though, if we are living within cultural narratives, subcultural narratives, common myths, if we’ve been in them for so long that we don’t even see them. I wonder if we actually think bouncing back and forth between these binaries of Paleo/vegan, binge and purge, right and left will fix things. Perhaps in a paradigm built squarely on good and evil, on heaven and hell, devils and angels this doesn’t seem suspicious….
But the claims are often based on this idea that there was a time, somewhere in the past, when everything was great. Everyone was happy and religious–the RIGHT one, of course– and healthy and had all of their needs met. Everything was pure and easy. People knew their place. And we need to return to that time again. Before we had all these problems.
MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
And electing this politician, enacting this law, taking this supplement, or bringing this green drink into your life will restore that great time and destroy these modern problems.
Well guess what– there was no perfect time of human health. Never. And there was no perfect time of America, no perfect time of humanity. Some of our problems are just part of the human condition.
And both healthy humans and healthy communities require our participation. They require connection to each other and to the Earth, they require innovative problem-solving. It’s work to manage our bodies and our systems.
I’d love to see both healthcare and politics move away from a catchphrase model and towards an acknowledgment of that work. It’s good work, worthwhile work. And move towards a big-picture long-term view, and a realistic understanding of the cycles of history.
Perhaps grasping these similarities could help to bring about that big picture view.
So how is the current election cycle like the current health cycle?
-“You can’t trust the media!” Politicians and conspiracy-theory-based herbalists both seem to claim that the media is biased towards their opponent and against them. Every news outlet is in the pocket of the other side! You can’t trust anyone. But you can trust me!
Bias does exist, but it exists FOR us and our cause as well as for the other sides.
-We get attached to our pet issues, be it godlessness or gluten. They are the ONE big problem. They are DESTROYING America. This paradigm gives a lot of power to these issues. And to our pet solution. Build a wall! Alkalinize your water! I have saved you! You’re welcome.
-We demand reams of evidence form the other side while embracing faith in our own. Pro tip: An advertorial is not an article. We can hold ourselves to the same standards as we hold our “opponents”.
-Fear-based methods of manipulation. “I am running for president to destroy radical Islam, to win the war on terror and to protect you and your family.” -Linsey Graham
“Immediately start eating clean, eliminate all animal products and stop drinking tap water.”-person on Facebook.
(A little rant: Tap water is probably one of the most useful changes to human health ever. It is such a huge privilege. So many health issues have been fixed by having a mostly-safe water and waste management system that we might not grasp what life was like without it. Shit everywhere. Hauling water all day. YES, there are problems with the water system. But buying bottled water isn’t better–actually it’s ridiculous. So try living in a place without access to mostly-safe tap water and let me know after a year or so how that’s working out for you.)
So yeah, the other side is unclean and you are clean, you represent what is safe, and you can make us all clean and safe if only we vote for you or buy your stuff.
-I’m an outsider! From Chris Christie, “I’m an outsider in New Jersey” to herbalists who claim their idea is so radical that it’s waaaayyy ahead of Science. From dissing the “career politicians” to embrace carpenters to dissing doctors as we embrace renegade parasite zappers we love a good American-bootstraps story. And I do love outsiders, freaky little witches who live in cabins full of roots and ideas. But. Whenever a REAL outsider comes along, someone who actually challenges us, who doesn’t present their ideas “nicely” and doesn’t play by the rules we actually freak out. So fake outsiders are super appealing, true outsiders are dangerous and scary.
And ultimately, we judge our opponents, whether they are political opponents or health-care opponents, by their worst moments. Pharmaceuticals kill millions of people! Well, yeah, but they help a lot of people too. Herbs are bullshit and don’t work! Well yeah, but some (most) are actually really wonderful. And we look at those on our “team” with rose-colored glasses. “That politician or Dr. or herbalist has harmed a bunch of people, talks shit about everyone else and doesn’t seem to know where a human spleen or the state of Rhode Island is but gosh-darn-it I can’t actually say that publicly because he is on my team!”
And it’s always the intruders. Your problems are coming from the immigrants and the parasites which exist mainly to invade the pure and the good. There are no symbiotic relationships, and we aren’t just a bunch of hairless apes living under a system of made-up borders. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we need walls and purges and raw food diets and more prisons.
And Donald Trump is the Coffee Enema we’ve all been waiting for.
Ultimately, I think that there is great value in debate. Real debate, not that bullshit talking-points pageant we call “the debates”. Discussion with people we disagree with can generate a lot of interesting new ways forward if our minds and hearts are open, if we examine and maybe even discard our talking points. I believe firmly in third parties, integrative care, in bridging our many divides, and in teamwork. None of the political parties are right, none of the religions or identities or systems of healthcare have all of the answers. Do we want to move forward as a people, or do we want to get the votes?
A healthy person and a healthy community cannot be the result of an occasional vote, anyway. Wellness is the result of the majority of good or best-possible-at-the-moment choices over the majority of an entire lifetime, with an occasional mistake and a forgiving anti-fragile attitude, grounded in love, mutual aid, human and non-human webs of connection and healthy soil.