Post # 344     THE CURE MARKET (Redux)

As any cursory review of history will reveal, the first independent guild of pharmacists, was established in the 17th Century England by King James 1st.  Originally called “apothecaries,” early day pharmacists not only prepared and dispensed remedies,they also offered the latest in medical advice to their customers. It is to be noted that the tradition of apothecaries accompanied the English Colonialists, to the New World.

It also appears, that the first regulations, requiring a physician’s prescription, prior to dispensing a (non- “over the counter”) medicine, was passed as an Amendment to the U.S. Food and Drug Act, in 1951.

We have chosen to revisit this subject because of our negative reaction to the persistent, daily, continuance of the irresponsible practice of marketing medicine, to the general public on television, despite the consideration that the  lack of knowledge concerning any potential user, may result in adverse effects and dire outcomes. Miraculous “snake oil” results, in aid of sales, portrayed by the parading of beautiful models and actors, before suffering members of the viewing public, is a most reprehensible practice. Following the glitzy presentation of an assured personal Valhalla, a series of rapid, virtually unintelligible, disclaimer statements, are routinely broadcast, in Gatling gun, rapid-fire fashion. The latter practice represents a ludicrous, inadequate and amateurish attempt at legal cover, for any injuries proximately caused by the advertiser’s false representations. Neither does the tactical and sophomoric solicitation, to “consult your doctor,” detract, one bit, from the potentially devastating impact of such tortious and anti-social behavior.

Where medication is factually indicated, its selection is properly within the jurisdiction and  knowledgeable responsibility, of a qualified, experienced physician; most importantly, one who is well acquainted with the individual patient, and his personal health history. The routine suggestion, presented in all media sales pitches, that the viewer-sufferer to ask his doctor about the advertised medicine, is merely a deceptive tactic, designed to falsely assure the purchaser of the purported validity of the advertised product. At its least venal, such suggestion may be interpreted to mean that the physician may not be “up to date,” as to the latest available medicine. In reality (as known by the entire “pharma” industry), doctors are regularly besieged with sales representatives, energetically lauding the virtues of their pharmaceutical company’s new products. In such instance, and by obvious contrast, the physician has the education and practice experience, to enable him to evaluate such purported virtues.

If more were needed, we would, additionally observe, tha the prescription of medicine for known patients requires consideration and judicious decision as to the vitally important subjects of, proper dosage, method of administration, allergies, possible side effects, plus any and all other applicable and singular facts concerning the treated patient.

In the interest of public safety and health, television commercials promoting the sale of medicine should be legally banned, by the F.D.A.

-p.

Post # 343   NATURE, NURTURE AND FILICIDE (pliny editorial)

It is disconcertingly difficult, and painful, to comprehend and actually accept, that a revenant of “Dark Ages” fear and ignorance, still persists in the minds of many people, regarding the salubrious and responsible societal practice, of vaccination of the young against the onset of serious and potentially lethal disease.

History demonstrates that prior to the development and practice of vaccination, childhood deaths were legion. Tolls for diphtheria, measles, mumps and other early-onset illnesses, were no less than astronomical.  Earlier periods in literature, routinely speak of families, who had lost multiple young children to diseases, especially, but not limited to, diphtheria and measles.

With great kudos to scientists and clinical physicians, childhood vaccines were developed, improved and thereafter, routinely and responsibly administered, resulting in an immense decline in the onset of childhood maladies, cases of childhood disability and death. These vaccines proved to be effective in averting the scourge of diphtheria, polio, whooping cough, tetanus, chickenpox, influenza, and other tragic and dangerous diseases. Today, schools and institutions wisely require, as protective policy, prior to enrollment, the child’s official health record, attesting to the responsible program of vaccination.

For modern informed families, it would be unheard-of, to fail to have their young children routinely vaccinated. In fact, such omission would be frowned upon by society, as irresponsible and hazardous to the child. We would, describe such behavior, deservedly as, child abuse and its consequent mortality as “filicide.” Such irresponsibility, threatens not only the child, but others, the most critical being young cancer patients, prohibited from vaccination, and those suffering from diseases characterized by immune deficiency. Every creditable hospital, clinic and licensed health practitioner, including, for example, the notable Mayo Clinic, has consistently and mandatorily promoted, regular programs of vaccination for the young.

The persistence of the “Dark Ages,” superstitious belief, that vaccination causes autism, was debunked years ago, such false supposition, having been officially withdrawn, long ago, by its former proponents. The denial of any child’s right to good health and an opportunity for a normal life, upon the ignorant repetition of this hobgoblin-type fear, is nothing short of classic child abuse.  The advent of tragedy is easily preventable, and the inherent, moral and legal responsibility of the parent. We see its omission as akin to irresponsibly, permitting a young child to play on a heavily trafficked boulevard.

There is yet, another despicable, pseudo-sanctimonious group of people, who defend their atavistic position against vaccination, upon purported religious grounds. Before reviewing this ludicrous defense, we would restate, the well- established, constitutional principal that no freedom (such as the freedom of religion) is without limit; and that the (constitutionally) legal limit of any and all of our freedoms is at the point, where it causes harm. The denial of a simple procedure, to ensure a child’s freedom from disease, is not a denial of religious liberty; there is no religious liberty to cripple your child, nor to perpetrate child abuse. There is no ascribed, benevolent Deity who would favor ill health and childhood disease; and no “religious” right to harm, only religious travesty.

Empirical experience has shown that the practice of simply waiting for natural cure, is extremely hazardous; mumps easily leads to deafness, polio to paralysis or death, measles to pneumonia.

We find it to be unspeakably unjust, that the health and life of children should be threatened by their own parent’s obstinate ignorance; accordingly; in a proper case, we feel, in the best interest of the young child, that society execute its moral authority, as well as its protective responsibilities, and enforce the health and safety of the child by legal process.

***************

ADDENDUM: We are vehemently opposed to recent suggestions that unvaccinated children be officially denied admission to parks and other places of public assembly; the implementation of the suggestion is impractical, logistically, but most significantly, such policies would improperly smack of Nazi mentality and apartheid type exclusion.

-p.

Post #342  WE’RE SO SORRY, ALBERT EINSTEIN!

Albert Einstein, indisputably, the greatest theoretical physicist and genius of our era, portrayed (to those capable of its comprehension), a novel definition of energy in a miraculously simple algebraic formula, and, in addition, announced a theory (“Relativity”), to the effect that space and time (the latter, our present subject) are integrated to a degree, previously unknown.

We, like many other somewhat, well educated, and somewhat sophisticated, mortals, based upon the acceptance and positive valuation of Einsteinian theory, by the World’s premier academics and physicists, are not scant in our obeisance to the great man; we accept the majesty of his reported contributions to human knowledge, but candidly speaking, we do so, as a matter of appropriate, secular faith in, and encouragement of human endeavor and advancement. We, unfortunately, cannot pretend to understand it, but do recognize and join in, the universal homage paid to him, by those who do.

We sincerely hope that we are not committing philosophical or scientific blasphemy, when we state that we would have enormously appreciated it, if the great and celebrated genius, would have defined for us, just exactly what “time,” itself (as a conceit) is; or whether our nonscientific, mundane use of the word is merely an attempt to fill a needed, and meaningless, void in our language. If he had chosen to tell us what the concept, “time” (which he integrated with space) signifies, such limited, but much needed, enlightenment would be shared by all, and much appreciated.

In all of our readings, we have never come across an explanation of the word, “time”, nor any description of its properties; which appears to us, strange, because of its frequent use in literature and in conversation. We know, or can discover, the properties or essence of most planetary phenomena, such as, wind, sunshine, soil, river, daffodil, moonlight, carbon (unfortunately), flora and fauna; but what can the essential characteristic, or the physical properties of “time” be? Is it possible, that it only has existence as a needed word (a filler) for an elusive concept that we can utter but not describe?

Many people use “time” only with reference to a “timepiece”, viz., the numbered revolutions of he hands on a wristwatch or clock. But what if there were no timepieces, no clocks or watches, would there still be a shared understanding, or any understanding, of what we choose to call “time.” A butterfly lives out its short span of life, homo sapiens lives longer, the germination of the tulip bulb will occur, at its own nuanced pace, provided there is sufficient water and sunlight, the four seasons arrive and depart when they do. What is it that orchestrates the natural order of nature? Will you answer, “time” simply because you are stuck for another available word, or some explanatory conceit?

We are very humbly obliged, absent any available and useful enlightenment on the subject, to admit, in unscientific fashion, our conjecture, that (1) either the word, ”time” exists, simply out of necessity, for the lack of a more useful descriptive noun, (2) that the word “ time” is, in essence, merely an awkward description for the natural, or expected order of things, or (3) that it has no intrinsic substance and is used simply out of practical necessity.

Albert, you could have helped us!

-p.

Post # 341          PAIN

At the very time of this writing, we are uncomfortably ensconced in the Executive Offices of plinyblog.com, nursing a painfully injured right knee and occupied in an alternate, shifting and re-shifting, of our position in a frequent, and so far fruitless, endeavor, to discover some comfort.

Times like this, afford ample opportunity for rumination, and we seem to have a tendency to conjure up previously unremarked subjects, for written reflection. Our relevant preoccupation, under the circumstances, seems to be, admittedly, with the general and competing concepts of pain and comfort. Yet, since “physical” pain and discomfort, are unfortunately, all too frequently experienced and universally understood, our elective subject is the quest for relief and comfort, at times of uncomfortable, “emotional” challenges.

There would appear to be a differential and varied level of equilibrium for each individual, ranging widely from the placid persona, to the highly charged one. The status of each individual’s nuanced equilibrium, and the extent of his personal tolerance for stress, may already be somewhat known to each individual, based upon his recollection of his experience concerning past stressful situations.

Since we are not professionally qualified to make useful observations regarding personalities whose upset is eternal, being the result of disorder or pathology, such categories of sufferers are not included within the scope of this writing; those unhappily challenged individuals should, of course, pursue their goal of comfort with the aid of a qualified physician. The theme of this post is limited to, and merely concerned with, more mundane, commonly encountered, situational life challenges.

Even in times of unremarkably routine, everyday life, we may suddenly find ourselves confronted with difficult, critical choices and personal challenges; some of which are, in various degrees, anxiety producing and personally disconcerting, depending upon the affected individual’s resilience and nuanced past experiences. Most capable individuals, possessed of a reasonable amount of personal empirical experience, or who have witnessed analogous problems and solutions, on the part of other societal members, will have an advantage in accepting and resolving presenting problems, with the assistance of past perspective.

At times of personal challenge, in our observant and empathic experience, the dual possession of a stable self-image and an acceptable level of self-esteem, are the most critical. The latter qualities, built, in part, upon previous problem solving experience, result in an enduring and useful reality- based confidence.

A highly tempting, but certainly far less useful, response, to the presentment of a stressful problem, is the initial, defensive impulse of avoidance; thus putting off, at least for the moment, the uncomfortable expenditure of anxiety, and a possibly laborious search for solution. Not unlike our present attempts to discover a comfortable position for our injured knee, the same amounts to an attempt, merely, at ephemeral comfort, as opposed to a realistic aspiration for a solution. In reality, it is an unhealthy and ultimately costly, postponement of the need to accept, and to come to grips with the problem. More profoundly, perhaps, we suggest, it may be remembered as a tacitly personal, confession of weakness and incompetence, undoubtedly, having an evaluative impact on the solution of the current problem, and one’s self-esteem and self- image, with negative dividends, predictably, for future challenges.

The painful challenge of our injured right knee will, in its time, resolve itself. Would that more complicated and significant challenges, similarly, have the marvelous and convenient capability of self –resolution!

-p.

 

Post # 340   A QUERY FROM THE JOLLY GREEN GIANT

The contemporary JOLLY GREEN GIANT, (recognized trustee, celebrated advocate and acclaimed guardian of the planet’s flora) recently, seems to us, much less concerned with his celebrated role as television purveyor of frozen and canned vegetables, than with the current status of the ongoing societal debate, concerning the decriminalization of marijuana.

We would like, at this early stage of this writing, to clarify our position regarding the subject issue.  Having never smoked, and not presently being a smoker of any kind, we assuage our need for oral gratification and pleasure, such as it exists, solely from the activities of eating and drinking. We do not, therefore, “have a dog in this fight.” Nevertheless, we are keenly interested in the subject of legislation, of any kind, which curtails or prevents the full exercise of promised citizen liberty.

Our Official National motto, is a recitation of an express guaranty to our citizenry, of their inalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” A recognized, appropriate and necessary corollary, of course, is that no particular exercise of liberty be such, that it causes injury or damage to another citizen. Illustrative of this basic principle is the popularly known limitation on the right of freedom of speech, consisting of the admonition, that one may not falsely cry out: “fire” in a crowded theater. A similar, protective corollary, for reasons of practical necessity, is properly applicable to the exercise of all citizen rights.

Restrictions on freedom and liberty, by reason of the violation of the nation’s protective penal laws, have always been categorized into two distinct strata:

  1. Malem in se. These are wrongful acts which are manifestly evil in themselves, ex., homicide, robbery, assault and arson.
  2. Malem prohibitum. These are crimes which were created by legislation, ex., fire and health regulations, traffic infractions, and operating a business without a required license.

The criminal laws relating to the sale and use of marijuana, are inarguably, malem prohibitum, i.e., criminal, solely and only, by reason of their designation, as such, by existing statute.

In view of our nation’s publicly proclaimed guarantee of liberty for all, it is a foundational prerequisite to any statutory criminalization of an exercise of citizen liberty, that there be a rational showing that such  legislation, is vitally necessary to the continued health, safety or moral underpinnings of society. In the absence of a convincing demonstration to such effect, any such limitation on citizen freedom would (ultimately) be deemed arbitrary and invalid. To our main point, we have never been made aware of any rational reason, or reasonable justification, for the Government’s declared criminalization of marijuana. In view of its expansive guaranty of liberty to every citizen, it would seem that the heavy burden of such a showing, would, ethically and responsibly, fall on the government.

It may be of some interest, to refer to an illustrative experience of decades ago, regarding legislation outlawing alcohol beverages (the Volstead Act). This period, later referred to as, “the prohibition era” was a textbook demonstration of the very theme of this post; i.e., that liberty when constrained by Statute, is required to have a rational and necessary purpose, on pain of being perceived as arbitrary and unjustified. The sole discernable cause for this circa, 1920’s instance of interference with American liberty, was limited to a relatively small, but highly influential, religious group, favoring temperance. The legislation was ultimately withdrawn; but not before a major upset was caused to American society, an enormous increase in crime, including the birth of dangerous criminal gangs and celebrated criminal personalities, the wholesale failure of numerous legitimate businesses, and at long and exasperated last, the repeal of the unwarranted limitation by Constitutional Amendment.

A strange phenomenon does exist, regarding the sale and use of tobacco. Despite consistent medical evidence showing that smoking is predictably harmful to the health, and demonstrably lethal (which would clearly seem to justify legislative prohibition) no such prohibitory laws have, in fact been enacted, or even, presented. This exotic phenomenon exists in strategic concurrence with an eternally rich and powerful tobacco industry, in existence since the colonial era. A not dissimilar dissonance, is the plentitude of scientific proof that our planet is being adversely affected by the increase in hydrocarbons produced by major industry, and the immoral and irresponsible absence of effective prohibitive, or regulatory statutes. As shown regarding the tobacco industry, political influence and profits, seem to supplant legitimate concern for the health of our nation, and its inhabitants.

Despite the two cited outliers, our hero, the celebrated Jolly Green Giant, joins us in an earnest inquiry concerning the possible existence of a legitimate basis for the criminalization of marijuana, one of JGG’s myriad verdant products; failing which, an official determination that the continued criminalization of this product is an an illegal and arbitrary breach of the traditional American assurance of citizen liberty and pursuit of happiness.

The resolution of this moral and legal dispute would, also, importantly, enable the JGG to get back to the commercial television business of selling veggies.

-p.

 

 

Post # 339    EMPATHY IS EMPATHY IS EMPATHY

In the early 20th Century, the iconic poet, Gertrude Stein, penned the now famous, phrase, “A rose is a rose.” Our own nuanced understanding, of what otherwise might appear to be an enigmatic statement, is that she was declaring the ultimate aesthetic beauty of the flower, such that no metaphor, or descriptive choice of words would be adequate or sufficiently accurate.

We, too, share the metaphysical belief that there are some phenomena, in man’s wide range of experience, whether, aesthetic or contemptable, desirous or reprehensible, which are the ultimate in their respective category, or in conception, so unique, that their essence or meaning cannot be verbally replicated.

The principle, that certain phenomena or concepts cannot be verbally replicated, is especially applicable to many words in our American-English lexicon, either because they are stated in the superlative, and cannot be further enhanced (like “very” excellent), or, that their intrinsic nature does not lend itself to an adequate alternative. Our such “word du jour,” is the exceptionally admirable concept, “empathy.”

Empathy, may perhaps be acceptably defined as, the capacity to understand and feel what another person is experiencing, from within one’s frame of reference; it is the human capacity, not merely to understand and sympathize, but to be able to place oneself in another’s shoes. We have previously written on the subject of this noble quality, see: for example, “Love Without Words.”

The phenomenon of empathy, like that of love, loyalty and creative aesthetics, are among the most admirable, non-skeletal advances in mankind’s natural evolution.  The development and continuance of such capabilities, have historically, contributed potential for man’s higher plane of societal and individual life; one, beyond the basic survivalist drives for food, water, shelter and safety.

On a beautiful day, recently, we were driving upstate to visit a friend. The early promise of Spring was in evidence in the air and sunlight, moderate temperatures were prevalent, and the ground’s melting,  residual snow, was candidly revealing the early stages of the annual flora resurrection. We noticed high altitude, reconnoiting hawks, as well as a number of rodentia and other small ground dwelling critters, pursuing cover, in this perennial game of survival.

At one point, we reached a modest curve in the roadway and when easily negotiated, we observed through the windshield, several modestly attractive residences, one of which featured a large, commercially made sign, strategically affixed to a post on its front lawn; the advertised language of which was, to us, no less than positively bizarre. The sign advertised: “School for Empathy” The large,  intentionally conspicuous sign, was located front and center, probably as a “savvy” marketing strategy.

We are still non-plussed by the absurdity and evident ignorance of the sign. However, we were at first entertained by its absurdity, then annoyed, at the ignorance unashamedly broadcast to the public, by the nature and description of the advertised business. We, among other things, attempted to envision the specific homeowners and their family, nonchalantly, passing to and fro, in front of such sign, the mystery of neighborhood consent on that busy street, the nature of the patrons, the didactic background of the instructors and administration, the nature of the textbooks, term papers, final exams, grade criteria, the length of semester, whether there was fieldwork, the established criteria for graduation, the professional use to which the successful graduates are expected to apply such rarefied learning, and whether graduate degrees and/or employment opportunities are made available to specially deserving alumni.

How can it be at all, rationally possible, albeit the general ignorance and low level of education, manifested by so many of our disappointing citizens, that such an Alice in Wonderland project, can, sanely, exist on planet Earth (inclusive of upstate New York) wherein an “educational” organization (presumably, employing a faculty of “Mad Hatters”) is dedicated to the belief that the precious, entirely innate virtues of homo sapiens, such as kindness, love and empathy, can be transmitted by instruction.

Still, it was not April Fool’s Day and, to our great astonishment, we did, in fact, see the permanently installed sign, and continue to wonder, whether the advertised, ambitious and enterprising school administration, also offers, far more relevantly appropriate, academic courses, on “shame.”

-p.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post # 338     APPLES AND ORANGES

“You are talking apples and oranges,” is the usual local vernacular and censorious response, to an attempted comparison, between two subjects or principles, which the hearer feels are completely unrelated. It is often used as an annoyed response, to an obviously reductive and uninstructive comparison.

We have previously written on the subject of the unhealthy societal phenomenon, recently developed in American society, described as “tribal” relationships. Such descriptive adjective has been used to signify the development of singular groups of people, in loose but insular groups, each enjoying the brotherhood of identical political opinion; in mutually antagonistic relations with other such groups of similar description, holding disparate political views. In one of our past writings, we identified an additional, unrelated, group of people, neurotically desiring “acceptance,” who will join and vote with one such unified group, or another, solely to satisfy such personally felt specific need.

In another past writing, entitled, “The Death of Civic Amity,” we observed that, contrary to the expectations of our (optimistic) Founding Fathers, to the effect that citizens of disparate opinion, would amicably debate the controversial issues, would be of use in the administration of a government, “for and by the people,” the actual experience was, instead, citizen feelings of disaffection from, and even hatred of, those with opposing views; which hatred developed and then morphed into “tribalism.”

In contemplating the many facets of the human persona, one perceives a great many which are rational and productive, as well as, unfortunately, some that are otherwise. Among the useless traits, is a psychological and reductive inclination to, irrationally and reductively, associate a point of view, inapposite to the belief system of the observer, with an unrelated and universally despised feature, of human personality, such as “un-American,”” larcenous,” “ungrateful,” “arrogant,” “selfish,” “disloyal,” or whichever imagined, despised trait is most deplored. Such unhealthy, irrational and reductive inclination, provides appropriate raw material to examine, and make constructively relevant, the subject expression and concept of, “apples and oranges.”

Such instinctively irrational and reductive inclination, to project imagined and privately attributed, negative character traits, on to persons of disparate view, together with other individuals with a neurotic aspiration to be accepted by “the tribal group,”( even at the cost of surrendering their own beliefs) accounts for the un-American, antisocial animus felt by many, toward their fellow Americans, who merely vote differently; and disastrously, leading to the consequential death of mature, healthy and useful civic amity.

The solution to this profound, nationally divisive problem, may actually be as simple, in principle, as separating apples from oranges. It resides in the rational and traditional feature of the democratic tolerance of diversity of opinion. Should one find it, indeed, possible to accept the proposition that every normal American citizen, residing in this Country with family and friends, desires that it should prosper and be free (and we do not understand how it can be believed to be otherwise), but may not always share his nuanced view as to the best way to accomplish that common end, the problem would be solved. Attributing fictional manifestations to another American citizen, who votes (his opinion) for the other party, and who may simply differ, from you, in that one choice, is among the fruits of our free society, and, rationally, not a symptom of some reprehensible character trait. He may, in truth, be almost identical to his critic, except that the latter would seem to have difficulty with the identification of the local fruit, most especially, apples and oranges.

-p.