Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Western Medicine...the New Junta?

In preparation for my fast approaching trip to Asia, I decided to make an appointment at a chiropractic clinic in Old City. I figured if I'm going to be sitting on a pillow for ten hours a day, I should at least make sure my spine is in good shape. I also wanted to get a massage while I was there to work out some knots in my neck and shoulders from my over-exerted "shit-I'm-late-for-work" ride to the office this morning.

The place was super nice and relaxing. The cute receptionist was very pleasant, as was the doctor himself (a MD might object to that term). He explained things very well, though it soon became apparent that this was not a "crack my shit and send me on my way" kind of treatment. It was a "holistic" approach, which necessitated a commitment on my part to good diet, correct sleeping form, avoidance of toxins, regular stretching, thinking positive thoughts, etc., since all these things were connected. As they say on the cover of their brochure: Mind - Body - Health. I was happy with one out of three, but I think they are labeled 'Not For Individual Sale;' it was a package deal.

Reading an editorial in the Metro this morning got me thinking about how the the non-violent resistance to the military junta in Myanmar is similar to the holistic approach to medicine in the West. The junta operates like the big health insurance companies here in the States: with a rigid agenda and heavy hand for dissent. Like holistic medicine, peaceful resolution to conflict--while likely more beneficial in the long run--is more involved. Governments are empirical and often impatient for results. It is easier to bomb a country over the course of a fortnight, or lay bullets into chanting crowds, than it is to invest in talks for an indeterminate amount of time. Like taking an aspirin, it is "addressing a problem." But it is really addressing only a symptom of a much larger disorder.

Health insurance companies are good with paying for treatment for things that have already gone wrong. Getting them to pay for preventative treatment to keep such illnesses at bay is another story. (I was glad to see that my insurance would cover a good number of visits to the chiropractor, albeit with a $300 deductible. I was surprised they covered it at all.) Which makes me wonder: by continuing to follow traditional practices of Western medicine, are we in effect unwilling to let go of the very things that are making us sick in the first place?

It sounds like a ludicrous statement--"do I really want to be well?"--because we just assume it, but it would explain a lot. When you test empirically what people say they want against what they are actually doing, you'll see that most people aren't willing to give up what makes them sick: the angry man holds on to his anger because it's the only way he knows how to respond to things; the woman in the abusive relationship who can't see herself apart from it; the truck-driver with hypertension who knows he should eat better, but likes biscuits and gravy too much to change.

Even when I pray desperately to be able to shed my vices like a winter coat come Spring, there is a part of me that secretly wants this prayer to be denied. For without my sin, who would I be? What would I write about? The awful fear of actually being taken up on this request keeps me from putting my whole heart into it most of the time; when I say I want to be good, God and I both know that I'm lying. If I became good, life as I know it would plunge into abject poverty; my Self would be cast off into the shadows like an old coat on the floor. I would be like the woman who was given every good thing in life, and escaped it by swallowing a revolver.

Of course, this thinking itself is a lie, second only to the Devil's greatest, which is convincing the world that he doesn't exist. The terror of actually being good--being healthy--is what keeps us sick and chained to our vices. The attachment to sin is so strong and reinforced in us, that preventative discipline is worth it's weight in gold, both in body and spirit. This holistic stuff is new for me. And patience is not one of my virtues. But in light of everything above, I'm beginning to have more faith in it. I just hope my insurance company doesn't send some goons to my house to see just how "sick" I really am.

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