19 December 2005

Health Authority

As part of my application for residency in New Zealand, I am required to have a physician examine my pee (among other things), have a chest X-ray to ensure that I contract cancer within my lifetime due to unnecessary exposure to X-rays, and have a battery of blood tests, all of which cost many hundreds of dollars. (Hooray! The economy is growing! The economy is growing!)

I hate doing these tests for many reasons, the most important of which is this: health authorities tell us nothing about our health except for the things they look for.

Sounds stupid, I know. When I think about that statement, though, so many things strike me about

• How we place our trust in authorities of all kinds rather than in our own, presumably good, judgment
• How arbitrary the criteria is for determining our health
• How the sway of popular paradigms in our culture affects that criteria
• The anti-critical thinking that makes up our medical establishment
• And of course the corporate influences of medicine.

As for the first of these things, so many times my points have been rebutted with “Well, how do you know? You’re not a ______ (fill in blank with authority of your choosing).” In our present culture, logic, research, and experience are meaningless unless a particular title or certificate or degree or secret tattoo is affixed to us by an external agency. We have handed over all knowledge to authority, and therefore we have handed over all knowledge to those who grant authority, for authorities can be controlled. The powers that be, and these are corporate powers, make no mistake, control how plaudits of whatever variety are distributed because they control what hoops are jumped through in order to gain a particular credential, such as M.D.

Our judgment may be fine, by the way. We’re just so used to being fed answers by “experts” that we no longer exercise our own judgment unless it has to do with comparison shopping, which is a process that requires us to choose between a narrow variety of predetermined choices.

The criteria for determining my well-being in this exam ignored the most important aspects of my health. They asked me if I have ever smoked or if I drank alcohol, since these are huge issues in mainstream culture, but they didn’t ask one thing about my diet or even about my exercise regimen. I am a vegetarian. I don’t own a car, so I walk everywhere, many miles more per week than the average person. But what was used to determine my physical condition? Blood pressure, which was high for me since I have been stressed. A chest X-ray, which—what the hell is that supposed to show, anyway? That I have organs? “Well, Mr. Pleb, you seem to have a skeletal structure. You don’t know how relieved we are to have discovered this fact.”

Yes, blood and urine tests can reveal important things. And I want to know if I have cancer, since one in two men, and one in three women will contract it in their lifetimes. But I don’t want to be forced to start chemo therapy or radiation or some other harmful remedy that just happens to make drug companies billions of dollars every year. Some options, like surgery, might be appropriate in some cases, but I still don’t like the idea of turning over my health and my reason to health authorities, who are taught by the powers that be to deal with ailments in a very narrow way, usually with pharmaceuticals developed in a hurry by greedy drug companies like Pfizer. I would rather exercise my own judgment and determine for myself how to help my body heal itself.

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