Re: Americans increasingly turn to medical quackery
>Although herbal medicine and prayer are highly
>questionable, to say the least, the rise in such
>things in society as a whole is a significant fact for
>us to look at. If so many people in the US are
>turning to these things, and we must think about what
>For one thing, standard medical care is extremely
>expensive in the US and not everybody has insurance
>(or a job to which insurance is sometimes attached).
>Obviously if you can't afford a doctor, you'll try to
>use alternative "cures."
>Second, when medical care is extremely expensive, and
>now that we have doctors advertising on TV and
>elsewhere, they become very obviously a business
>sector and as such, I think, much more suspicious to
>people than they were when their image was that of
>Probably the family doctor of 1920 was no more
>selfless than the family doctor of 2004. But the
>business side of medicine is much more prominent now,
>I think, and that means that working people will tend
>to view the medical world as more alien and even with
>exploitative or hostile aims. This would be on a
>subconscious level perhaps, but still, I think, a real
>element in the rise of herbal medicine and so forth.
>People come to think of doctors as just "out for
>money," inclined to prescribe unnecessary medicine and
>surgery and so forth, in order to collect insurance
>money through the patients who have to undergo the
>Another dimension of that alien character of the
>medical profession is the way that all prescriptions
>appear on your medical record which is kept on you.
>For some of us the fact that insurance companies have
>such data banks is itself alarming and another element
>in making the "official" medical establishment seem
>alien and hostile.
>Finally, when we look at this, it isn't necessarily
>the case that diet and exercise (even yoga) are
>opposed to scientific medical treatment. For people
>with weight problems, for example, I would suggest
>diet and exercise instead of plastic surgery, for
>example, even though the plastic surgery - done by
>licensed physicians - is completely "scientific."
>Although it's true that there isn't really a
>"capitalist science" as opposed to "proletarian
>science", scientists in the capitalist system are
>still subject to the social contradictions of that
>And today, not only of the capitalist system, but of
>I have a friend with a Ph.D. in biology who worked
>with the National Institue of Health. He was laid off
>a year ago, and only now was able to find a job with
>comparable conditions or pay. The new job is at a
>university that has some deal with the US Airforce,
>and so his office will be on an Airforce base.
>While most of academia is stagnant, the one sector
>that seems to have no problems getting funding to hire
>people and employ them in comfortable circumstances is
>the military sector. Of course a scientific discovery
>on an airbase is just as much a scientific discovery
>as if it took place in a pharmaceutical lab or a state
>research institute in a socialist country. Still, the
>military will have their own set of concerns as they
>employ scientific workers.
>And that too, in a way, will contribute to a sense of
>alienation or opposition between such scientific
>workers and those who view the imperialist military
>with a hostile eye.
Thank you for your commentary and insights. I am a bit
skeptical of the finding that only four percent try diets.
Probably the spirit of the question is diets not
prescribed by a physician and to treat a condition other
than obesity. Competent physicians will often prescribe
diets, for example a low-carbohydrate diet to treat
diabetis mellitus, a low-sodium diet to treat hypertension.
If you simply asked typical Americans, "Are you on a
diet?", probably about one-third would answer in the
affirmative, more women than men I suspect.
Indeed there is the question of affordability of medical
care and also a general loss of confidence by the public
in science and the increasing view that science is
hostile towards their interests. That much scientific
progress is made in means to kill people and repress
people rather than improve people's lives doubtless
contributes to this. Tremendous scientific progress
has been made in the past 25 years or so, but American
living standards have remained stagnant, and, in some
parts of the world, have actually declined. In the
19th and early and middle 20th Centuries there was a
real coupling between advances in science and technology
and better living for the masses in North America and
Europe that has ceased to exist.
This divorce between science and living standards also
contributes to the post-modernist outlook of which
Dr. Alloush often writes, in which materialism is
dismissed and a vulgar egalitarianism of ideas takes
its place, in which superstition is considered the
equal of scientific analysis, treason the equal of
patriotism, and truth and justice completely relative.
This doubtless leads some people to believe that
herbalism and other new age foolishness are no worse
than modern medicine.
"I have an acquaintance from Fallujah. He tells me, 'The good thing we have
that you don't in Baghdad is that you do not see any American soldiers on our
streets. We do not allow that in Fallujah.'"
--Hussein al-Musawi, quoted on p. A20, 4/3/04 edition The Arizona Republic