Approaches to Microbes

I ain’t no scientist or doctor, but I was thinking today that sometimes the approach one takes with scientific/medicinal information can determine the efficacy of that information. For instance, we developed, with the advent of antibiotics, a powerful ability to kill microbes. This is an ability which, in the short term, has saved many lives. But the unfortunate thing is, microbes evolve and mutate in response to our efforts to destroy them completely, and we are approaching an age where antibiotics will no longer be very effective. That’s scary. And this is because we’ve overused our antibiotics, and attempted to eradicate microbes that are impossible to eradicate. And my argument here is going to be that this is a rather idealistic approach for which we will suffer for greatly in the future unless we learn to shift our approach in treating disease.

Some microbes, like viruses such as HIV, evolve so rapidly that it is quite readily apparent that the standard approach is nearly completely ineffective–although the “cocktails” concocted have slowed its progress somewhat. Yet still, researchers are still plugging desperately away with the same approach, hoping to find some chink in its armor, some magic bullet that will wipe out all strains of the virus. This is most likely never going to happen.

Let me here make an analogy between the human body and a large plot of land. Think of vaccines and antibiotics like pesticides and insecticides. You are attempting to cultivate a large and healthy supply of various foodstuff from your soil. But there are numerous pests (microbes) which attempt to destroy the plants or steal the food at all stages of development. So you purchase the latest pesticide and hose down your garden with it, and voila!, the pests are murdered, like magic. But a couple of years later, they are back, and suddenly the pesticide ain’t workin’ so good no more. Because the pests have evolved to be resistant to that pesticide. So you buy the latest version, and kill them again. All this is well and dandy. But unfortunately, you later perform studies on your land and discover that these pesticides have also been polluting your water supply and poisoning your soil for years to come.

You then begin to study organic and permaculture farming principles. Organics relies on natural sustainable yields, with no unnatural, toxic pesticides or insecticides used.

Now let me bring this analogy back to the human body and medicine. It’s time that organics came into how we treat and approach the “pests” of the body: nasty microbes, which propogate like weeds and threaten to stifle our blossoms at every step of the way. You see, we’ve been approaching it in the idealistic, ethno-centric attempt to triumph over nature. We think that we can conquer our viral and bacterial enemies through science, that eventually we will be like gods, impervious to all microbes, chuckling condescendingly at the medieval memory of colds and flus. But just like in visible nature, the attempt to completely destroy some bad types of animals or plants ends up leading to similarly destroying good types. Nature relies on biodiversity. Our bodies rely on multiplicities of microbes to function. Even the bad ones.

It’s a matter, as in organics, of learning how to live with the “bad” things by tolerating a small amount of them, not wasting your time attempting to eradicate them completely. There are always methods of natural control and regulation which can be harnessed and applied in a balanced ecosystem, such as creating plant and animal “guilds,” in which natural collaborations between allied species acts to protect one another against invasive species. One of the crucial weapons in a permaculturist’s or organicist’s arsenal is that of cultivating biodiversity. The most devastating current agricultural practice is that of monoculture, cultivating solely one product. It devastates the soil, the ecosystem, the circulation of water through the soil and air, everything. And then of course you add the myriad toxic pesticides and all that crap and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

So the approach of traditional medicine, while laudable for its idealism in attempting to save humans from suffering and disease, is simply misguided. We are treating patients for the short-term cure, not long-term health. For example, most of our major health problems, which is costing the nation thousands of dollars every day, are things like heart disease. Heart disease will never be cured. But it can fairly easily be prevented through education and subsequently enforced lifestyle and cultural changes.

Let me get back to the microbes. Just like in the organic movement, a more holistic approach to medicine does not necessitate swearing off the advanced findings of research and technology. It implies simply that one changes one’s approach in their application.

Anyway, these were just some thoughts that popped up in my head when I was on the plane coming back home.

Political Visions

I have seen the light. Estadounidenses need more vacations. I am currently on vacation in sunny southern California, and I feel like a bear has climbed down from off my back. (Back in the days when I used to run track, we would say that someone had “the bear on their back” when you could see them struggling around the last corner of the homestretch and slowing down.) I needed a break from the daily grind, a break from the habits and normality of my sort-of settled cabin mountain life. No wonder most Americans are so close-minded and one-dimensional. We are so occupied with work and then subsequent TV and habitual existence that it is nearly impossible for us to envisage situations outside of our immediate and limited scopes. We need vacations to see the other side of things now and then, to break from the same-old and remember who we are outside of the people and circumstances that surround us everyday. It is so easy to get stuck in the mire of other people’s perceptions and gossip.

That said, I wanted to talk a little bit about some political stuff. What started the train of thought was reading an excellent article on the atrocities in Darfur, describing the rogue janjaweeds employed by the Sudanese government to perform “ethnic cleansing” (do we really have to use the word ‘cleansing’? Couldn’t we just call it what it is–mass murder?). The United States has actually been fairly active in providing aid and attempting to garner international action, which unfortunately has proved ineffective due to the loss of respect by the rest of the world for our dishonorable actions in Iraq and our hostile behavior to the UN, and Europe in general. Although of course our actions have still not been enough to save lives, but at the very least we have been more active than in the case of Rwanda, in which we did absolutely zilch.

Anyway, to get to the crux of my discussion: I used to consider myself an anarchist, more for lack of attachment to any political ideology or group than actual adherence to anarchic values. (By the way, if you think anarchy is about molotov cocktails and chaos, then you need to read some Emma Goldman or other real anarchic literature. It’s some of the most intelligent and humanist political writing in the world.) I distrusted the US government for the secret and public crimes it committed and continues to commit against its own constituents and against the world. I distrusted the idea of government en total, for large systems of beauracracy and money seem to lead only to corruption and atrocity.

The book that began leading me to a more balanced and integrated view of centralized governing systems actually was on public health (Betrayal of Trust by Laurie Garrett), in which the reporter meticulously disects the causes and effects of the current despicable state of public health in the US and the World Health Organization. I suddenly realized, through this book, that centralized governing systems are essential for the preservance of human life–we need a centralized public health system, we need clean water, clean air, safe homes. The problem is not the idea of government itself–the problem is that most governments, as they are, fail to perform their basic function and purpose–which is serving and protecting their people.

I never fail to be amazed that the Republican party can make “national security” one of its cornerstone issues, when their xenophobic cowboy war games have jeapordized our nation for years to come, and their slashing of social supportive programs and funding have devastated the heart of their own people.

But let me not go off on a rant lambasting Republicans or conservatives, because that isn’t my target right now. They are too easy to bag on, actually. I could go off just as easily on Democrats, for that matter. Politicans, in general, are easy to pigeonhole, because they almost universally only have one thing on their mind–election time. Which leads me to my main topic. Our political and cultural and economic system is seriously screwed up and needs some jerryriggin’.

I’m not against capitalism, per se. But our current form of capitalism (capitalism in the sense of profit as the goal of the economy) ain’t working. It CAN work. See, the problem is that currently our politics and economy is ruled by short term profit and very large corporations. And these corporations are cut-throat, greedy, and extremely short sighted. They can barely look past one season, let alone one year, in terms of their profit margin. But if they took their head out of their asses, and looked a little closer at the bigger picture, at the wide horizon of the future–then they would notice that in the long run, their current actions in pursuance of solely short term profits are unsustainable. Let me rephrase that in terms of money: they will not continue to make money if they continue to function the way most of them currently do. They’ve got to restructure and re-envision themselves and their functions in society and the economy. If they want long term, steady profit, than they will have to become sustainable operations–sustainable in the sense of taking responsibility for their effects on their society and environment, and making subsequent amendments and changes.

Another way to put that last paragraph is that based on our current economic, political, and cultural trajectory, we are destroying the future of our children and grandchildren. Our current way of life is unsustainable. Plain and simple. So if we want to make changes, REAL changes, then we must look ahead, even as far as 30-50 years down the road, to a time when we will no longer be able to be reliant on hydrocarbons as a source of energy.

As to how all of this got started by an article on Darfur: we live in a time in which the globe is quite obviously deeply interconnected, sometimes forcibly so, by commerce, politics, and lifestyle choices. One earth, all that kind of thing. And it is becoming more and more apparent that we need a world governing body that is effective and able to stabilize volatile situations. The UN was a good attempt, but it’s quite obviously not very effective, especially when it’s so easily dominated by the politics and weaponry of a rogue superpower like the US. We need an effective world public health system, again, something able to distance itself from politics and commerce, which the WHO has unfortunately been unable to do. The time of the United States pretending to play policeman and peacemaker to the rest of the world is long gone. There has to be an international force and body, composed of people unattached to partisan interests, which has the capability both of being an effective peacekeeping force, as well as a strong policing force. Because in situations like Darfur, that is what is needed.

More on this topic will probably be forthcoming: any input would be useful.

Cleansing

After a period of accumulation of toxins, pollutants, stress, and other various poisons, there must be cleansing, a purging, a denial of comfort and habit. I fasted and burnt sage in my cabin and washed my bedding, and as I did these things I thought of how cleansing was important not just in my own life, but in every one’s life, and for Gaia en total. Scientists of different concentrations and environmentally minded politicians are all pointing, increasingly agitated, at the quickly approaching tipping point for atmospheric pollutants and other man-made disturbances of the delicate balances which sustains life as we currently know it. One way or the other, nature and the earth–la pachamama, Gaia, the biosphere, Amazon, what have you–will cleanse itself through its own inevitable purgative processes. In my own lifetime, I am resigned to seeing increasingly dangerous endemics and epidemics, on the level not seen since the so-called Dark Ages (read A Betrayal of Trust for more information on the destitution of our public health institutions), I will not be surprised to see increasing warfare for diminishing resources such as water and oil, and I will further expect to see more hurricanes, more earthquakes, more of the signs of an embattled earth struggling to regain its footing. These are not signs of the apocalypse, these are the inevitable results of our unsustainable lifestyles.
I think that there are certain people–of fundamentalist religious orientation–out there who are quite excited to view signs of impending doom and destruction, thinking them signs of the coming Rapture or something, when all bad people will go to Hell and all the close minded people will go to Golden Paved Suburbs. I am not excited at all about the current trajectory of our planet and people, but I feel that if I care at all about my loved ones and family, I need to begin looking ahead, even 50 years down the line, thinking about what kinds of challenges we will face. There is paranoia, and then there is clear sighted preparation. There were probably many people in New Orleans who dismissed scenarios of impending disaster and refused to consider the loss of their homes and livelihoods, the loss of their very city. It is not paranoia to consider such things. In fact, it is a civic duty, and our federal government has already demonstrated its incompetency in this regard, as in most other areas. So it really comes down to local governing systems, inevitably down to the very neighborhoods and households of the communities, to be ready to help one another in times of disaster. In such times, you can’t rely on the President or the Police to bail you out. In fact, you can rely on them to present themselves as enemies and obstacles to unity and sharing, as they were in New Orleans. (They always have been, it simply becomes more apparent in such times.)
So looking ahead at such admittedly discomforting scenarios, I wish to find clarity. Clarity of purpose, clarity of mind, heart, and spirit. And this will only be found by cleansing myself of all that is negative and severing all that binds me to anger, bitterness, and hatred. All human beings wish to live, and all deserve their chance to struggle.

Rant

ok, so i apologize, but i think it’s about time i went off on a rant. i feel the need to be righteous, to be holy, to declare the boundaries of good and evil. i figure that if W. Bush can declare to the world, via public television, without any apparent shame or hesitation, that certain countries constitute an “axis of evil,” then i too can declare what is right and what is wrong.
i try to think of our future, and it doesn’t seem so bright. it seems full of cancer and dementia and nuclear holocaust. what kind of future does a people have when they are feeding their own children filth?
it seems so obvious that it’s almost disgusting. in our public schools, think about what kind of food they are serving our children. Taco Bell. Pizza Hut. Hostess. Coke. Doritos. This food is absolute shit. It’s sugar and synthetic syrupy crap. Do you even want to see a chart of the obesity levels of our children, of how it’s increasing? Few is the child whose parents have the time and resources to prepare a healthy lunch. And those few most likely have rich parents. All the kids who eat cafeteria food are poor. And cafeteria food is disgusting, and i don’t just mean in how it tastes.
So you’ve got all these kids eating this junk in the very institutions that are supposed to be “educating” and edifying. Hell, we even offer junk food as rewards. Do this, we tell Jimmy, and we will give you a donut, or a pizza.
And so some public official or school administrator with some piece of sanity left in their head decides to try offering some healthier food.
”Let’s give them apples,” they say, or “let’s have a salad bar.” And of course, all the apples end up in the trash. And the salad bar remains full.
Oh, the taxpayer’s dollars are being wasted. But these kids are certainly buying up the Hostess cupcakes. “Let them eat cake.”
So where’s the bottom line? The kids buy the junk. So the kids eat junk.
And now let’s think of why the kids eat this junk. Ever drink soda for any length of time? Ever try to stop drinking it? Yeah, it’s addictive. So is junk food. McDonald’s, Hostess, Doritos, who do you think they market all their junk to? Children. Anyone who will buy that crap and eat it on a regular basis. Hell, it “tastes good.” Right? Well, if that’s all you eat all the time, try eating a well cooked meal. Probably doesn’t seem so great. Where’s my Big Mac? Because if all you’re eating is addictive shit, then of course you’re not going to eat that fucking shriveled little apple they put on your tray along with the oily nasty goop of the day.
So the corporations of junk food have a nice little destructive cycle going on. That’s great. They’re making money off of the processed hooves of cows. I don’t mind their ingenuity. But I do mind the fact that millions of people are eating this shit every day, and that a good percentage of these people are children. Children are growing. Children need nutrients, just like a plant poking out of the soil. They need Real Food. They need fruits, they need vegetables. And we’re feeding them McDonald’s. Am I the only one who thinks this is not only insane and disgusting, but just downright evil?
And all we’re thinking about is what they’re buying. We want these kids to do well in school? We want them to score well on achievement tests, to go to college? Fuck, why don’t we just feed them some fucking good food first before we even think about any of that shit!
Ok, but it doesn’t stop there. We’re feeding them all this shit, and they’re addicted to eating this shit and wouldn’t even eat good food if you put it in front of them because it isn’t synthetically processed and chemically charged, and they’re getting fatter and fatter and fatter. And what are these kids doing for several hours of the day, every day of the year? They are watching television. And what do they see on television, besides the advertisements for If You Don’t Get It All Over The Place, It Doesn’t Belong In Your Face, and Brittany Spears whoring for Pepsi? They see beautiful people, they see thin, airbrushed made up beautiful people. Desirable people. People who they would like to be. But these kids look nothing like that. For one, they are fat. And fat people are always the butts of all jokes on tv. For another, they are not immaculate and beautiful, not in the strictly superficial sense of money making. And they are not desirable. Who desires these kids? We feed them shit. You think that makes them feel desirable?
And so what kind of mentality does this create? It creates a mentality that makes you want to go out and eat some more of those Hostess cupcakes, dammit, that’s what it creates. It’s a sick, destructive cycle. And it’s evil!
what is the bottom line? the bottom line is money. the bottom line is that our schools, our businesses, and our governments are concerned not with the welfare and betterment of our species, but with money.
this is wrong. something is wrong here. shouldn’t schools be concerned with the health of our children, both emotionally, physically, and mentally? shouldn’t our businesses be concerned with the social, physical, economic ramifications of their actions? shouldn’t our governments be concerned with the well-being of its constituents?
we’re ruining our future, we’re sealing it off like a Zip-Lock baggy. maybe it’s time we started calling out evil for what it is, and fighting for what is good. for what is healthy.