Friday, November 27, 2009

I'll Take the Alternative Health--Hold the Dogma

There's a lot going on in the health care cafeteria these days.  The usual lunch ladies are upping their game.  The school population is in an uproar over the same old dishes being served day in and day out, as the quality fails to improve with the soaring prices.  Sadly for us kids, the drug pushers are becoming increasingly obnoxious and intimidating.  It seems there are dealers peddling at least three new drugs at every table.  Not surprisingly, the antidepressants and anxiety meds are going fast over at the geek table.  "Anybody paranoid over here?  Step right up, kid!" 

Luckily for some of us, cool alternative health dudes and well-intentioned shaman are joining us after the lunch bell and setting up their own stands.  "Don't want the corn dogs and goulash today?  Wanna get those pushers off your back?  We've got better products at a price you might like!"  Lately I'm lining up at these guys' stands more often than not.  I'm sick of the typical lunch line, not thrilled with the snack bar or vending machine options, and I'm honestly a little scared of the shadier looking dealers.  Herbal teas and tinctures taste good and they seem to work.  Preventive medicine is indisputably yummy.  To top it all off, you can't beat a good massage on your lunch break.  No better way to show up in Spanish class with a smile on your face--"Estoy muuuuy bien, gracias!" 

Solamente... sometimes I get a little annoyed by some of the healthcare hipsters.  It's hard to say that they don't mean well.  Clearly they are out there working hard for the benefit of the public.  In a cartoon world, they are the superheroes fighting the real DR. EVIL.  In their shaman batcaves, they slave away preparing their herbal remedies and crystallizing pure energy, while M.D.s in white coats broker dirty deals with Big Pharma.  They're even brave enough for hand-to-hand combat with beasts such as logic, science and linear thinking!  I did say "beasts", and I meant it.  Generally, linear thinking is helpful.  Logic can certainly get you out of a pickle.  Science has moved homo sapiens pretty far up the evolutionary ladder, no doubt.  But--like anything else, these are human concepts that implode and disintegrate when taken to extremes.  People need to know when the horse is dead, already.  I'm pretty sure the dead horse philosophy applies to everything and everyone with the exception of The Big Man Upstairs. 

So now we're back to dogma.  The healthcare hipsters don't like medical dogma, yet they want to help sick people.  They offer us another way, which can often be a better way.  I'm pretty sure this group will always collect some money from me until I finally kick it.  I may even have a special hipster ceremony performed at my funeral, as a final homage and offering.  The one thing I dislike about these guys is their tendency to adhere to their new and improved dogma.  "Hey, kids!  Don't fall for that old malarkey.  Come over here and taste this crispy new ideology with flava crystals!"  Wait a minute!  Isn't it packaged ideology that I was trying to escape in the first place?  I said I didn't want a corn dog anymore.  A vegan corn dog with flava crystals isn't really going to appease me, guys. 

How about some examples?  Well, let's see.  Since I have suffered from an idiopathic illness in addition to the mysterious and illusive condition called Lyme Disease, the past three years have given me a plethora of concrete alternative dogma examples.  Couple these with the myriad comments I have heard as a mother of two boys born in the past three years, and I could fill 100 pages in 8 point font size.  A bullet point list is probably best for the sake of concision:

  • Hand sanitizer doesn't prevent illness
  • C-section babies suffer from lasting emotional trauma
  • Allergies don't really exist and no one should ever admit to having them (direct quote)
  • Every person is singularly responsible for his or her own illness
  • Illness enters the body through wind and can be burned out by smoldering sticks of incense
  • I'm a well-meaning person, but my aura is black (WTF?)
  • My mother is pure evil (this was seriously quoted to me)
  • Multiple Sclerosis is caused by hard-heartedness and iron will
  • The flu is caused by mass negativity and beliefs 
  • Sagging lines in the face come from sagging thoughts in the mind (don't get a face lift; blame yourself!)
  • Polio is caused by paralyzing jealousy or a desire to stop someone
  • Herpes is caused by a mass belief in sexual guilt
I truly do understand and agree that many diseases and conditions have spiritual, emotional and psychological causes.  I remember hearing my father say when I was growing up that unforgiveness and resentment can lead to cancer.  I don't doubt it.  However--and this is a big however--there are such things as microorganisms like bacteria and viruses.  We do have something called an immune response or an immune system.  Possibly some alternative health practitioners don't like the sound of the word "immune" or the idea of a bodily system that can only be properly observed with laboratory tools and implements such as a microscope.  Maybe petri dishes are considered to be bad luck according to several aboriginal belief systems.  OK.  Fine.  I'm still not going to concede that influenza, herpes and polio are caused by anything other than a pathogen.  No way, no how.  I'm not going to believe that elderly new age healers with shiny, taut skin got it through their positive thougths alone.  I don't think that every person who gets an MS diagnosis needs to get on their knees and soften their heart.  In fact, I think that the judgmental healers that look at MS victims in this way could use a few lessons in humility, as they collect cash from sad and desperate people who will do anything to heal and regain the life they once had.  I do think that using a hand sanitizer after handling a shopping cart can prevent passing the microscopic fecal matter from the cart handle to my mouth, thereby preventing me from catching an intestinal bug.  I do think that cleaning surfaces prevents the spread of illness more effectively in hospitals than speeches over the loudspeakers on the dangers of mass fears.  If I wipe my sick kid's nose, I'm gonna wash my hands.  If it's springtime and I'm sneezing, I may happen to mention that I have allergies.  When I do, I don't want a speech on the non-existence of allergies from a hypnotherapist I just met in the park (yes, this happened to me last spring). 

Do you see what I mean about the dogma?  Just in case a definition would be helpful, here you go (from Merriam-Webster):
Main Entry: dog·ma

1 a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet
b : a code of such tenets
c : a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds
2 : a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church

In short, I like what the health hipsters are dishing out.  I just don't need the extra side of dogma.  It weighs down the plate, and after all, isn't the goal to lighten our load a little?

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