Developed countries are getting older just as we seem to be running out of money for wheelchairs and hip-replacements. (We aren’t, we’re just being reverse-Robin-Hooded, but go with it for now.)
As a social policy, the idea that the taxes you pay your entire adult life might be used to help you when you are unwell has left the US more polarised than it has been in a hundred years.
We’re getting fatter while eating less fat, we’re buying wine that carries government warnings telling us not to drink wine (but thanks for the taxes!), we’re advertising foodstuffs to our children that have two-year expiration dates and could probably power our cars.
The global health industry is a dystopic egregore safari park, where meaning and direction are based on the outcome of clashes between giant, invisible nightmares played out in conference rooms off the corridors of power.
Obviously this is quite a large topic to explore, so let’s re-draw our scope of investigation down to something smaller. Much smaller, in fact. My left knee.
In the days prior to our Fiji trip, I had clearly done something to my knee because it was extremely painful. (My suspicion is that I injured it during a panic attack while running to catch a flight to Bordeaux.) It got so that my partner suggested that maybe I want to visit a doctor before we go because we’re about to spend a lot of time in airplane seats.
But what would be the fucking point?
I’m still several inches above the ‘ideal waist range’ and I know the nine minutes I get with the medical professional will end with the astonishing pearl of wisdom that maybe I should lose some weight. Never mind the fact that I am losing weight and if that were a factor then surely these symptoms would have presented earlier in my otherwise completely fine knees?
I don’t need to waste my Saturday morning being told to lose weight. That’s what I have mirrors for.
Stop me if it sounds familiar but the thing that makes it easier for vested interests to set policy on a national level is the same thing that reduces the individual efficacy of the care when you are sitting in the doctor’s surgery.
Averages, by definition, are “typical” numbers and in matters of health, we are each of us anything but typical. (In fact, we pay huge premiums for precisely the opposite kind of service.)
The whole incident got me thinking… “health advice” is, like monolithic history, one of those bodies of knowledge where some of the gatekeepers are being disintermediated.
To be clear, if you have a road accident or contract HIV then there are some fairly robust orthodox procedures in place you should follow. In no way would any sane person behave otherwise.
But there is considerable value in looking askew at the operation of your meatsuit. Consider the following:
1. Alcohol sharpens your mind. Ask your doctor if they’re prescribe vodka for a night of doing your taxes and see what you’d get back. They’ll say “no” because you are a non-existent person in whose hands a bottle of vodka will lead to domestic violence and/or liver failure.
2. Chewing gum improves your exam results: “The hunch that spawned gum studies was that chewing gum might increase blood flow to the brain, and that may in turn spark other important effects. Studies like this one out of Cardiff University in the UK take a comprehensive view of gum’s potential across multiple areas: learning, mood, memory and intelligence. The findings in this case were that both alertness and intellectual performance were increased in gum-chewing subjects, while memory showed no significant improvements.”
3. You are more creative in cafés. And that’s not just the caffeine. It’s also the buzz, the background noise, the movement. (So technically you are more creative in good cafés. I wouldn’t recommend it here.) This is set and setting at its purest.
On the surface of it, these may appear to be simple hacks. But what is practical enchantment if not a collection of simple hacks? Need a job? Hack. Going to court? Hack. Want that boy to come home? Hack.
Some of them are not so simple. Some of them are quite alarming but still effective. For instance, if you’re looking for the next step up from chewing gum before an exam then here it is:
4. Use intravenous amino acids while sitting your exam. Footage of Chinese students hooked up to drips caused consternation in western media but think about it… why? If it’s not against the rules and it works and you want to get the best results then ask yourself why you’re shocked. Can you realistically picture your GP prescribing an IV bag of amino acids?
For thirty thousand years it has been the witches and sorcerers that have returned from the jungles and the seashores with health hacks for themselves and the tribe. I believe magic is the birthright of all mankind but I also believe pharmaka are the birthright of all magicians.
And, for good or ill, the defining jungle of the apocalypse is, of course, the internet. In many cases it’s safer than the real thing, especially if you are considering breaking laws:
Barratt agrees that on this front Silk Road is probably safer than an illegal face-to-face deal. “Assuming they’re buying from a reputable seller and it’s someone who doesn’t want to risk their rating by selling something that wasn’t what they said it was, then you’ve got a system there where the seller has a really strong imperative to do the right thing by the buyer.”
It is a function of regional availability that Indigenous Australians would use eucalyptus rather than medical disinfectant to clean wounds and abrasions. In this apocalypse you have access to both.
And here’s the thing that very few corners of modern society have caught up with:
The biggest change in how we personally reach evidence-based conclusions since mandatory schooling has come via the internet’s capacity for you to perform -shall we say- guerilla meta-analysis.
Looking at a new fitness regime or a series of health supplements? Where do you look first? How many data points to you consider before reaching a conclusion and then what is your principal medium for acting on that conclusion?
We live in strange times wherein our ‘elected’ elite is abandoning us in favour of a global corprotocracy that insists we need corn byproducts in every meal and considers pizza a vegetable. It may indeed be time for the sorcerers to return to the jungle.
So get your boots on and grab a torch.
“An idea starts to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion.”
- Nassim Taleb
[Disclaimer: This blog mentions ghosts, wizards, aliens, Atlantis, spells and fortune telling. If you consider any of that to constitute medical advice then you need to have a good, long look at how you are living your life.]