Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Rise of the Provincial

I (Youssef) haven't graced the blog for a while because I somehow garner fewer comments when I say more words. I'm going to try to include random pictures of Lily and maybe a few videos. That, I hope, will get people through this observation of mine.

I have a statement. I believe we, the observers of society, are noticing a significant change in American society.

The old ways of doing things are starting to fade--and I'm wondering who else notices. Watch. I'll take you through all of my observations before I fully state my point in the conclusion.

First of all, I just had "alternative medicine" advice from a state practitioner of medicine. Get this staight: I went to a normal doctor. White-coat, stethescope, expensive glasses from which to look down at me -- the whole thing. And she told me "Throw away that Visine stuff. Here, just put a hot washcloth on your eye. Wait 5 to 10 minutes. Then, rub your eyeball with your eyelids closed (from the outside to the in) for a couple of minutes. Do that every two hours, okay?"
There was a time when, if you had PINK-EYE (yes, Conjunctivitis!), the doctors issued you and your five closest human relations anti-biotic eyedrops. Is that shocking?

"So what?" I can hear most of you say.
Alternative medicine has long been in the fringe areas, something whispered about at knitting circles or dismissed as "wives' tales." Pharmaceutical companies have long dominated the medicine industry with regular Western medicine, as mentioned in some of my previous entries. The overdosage of headache medicine, Zoloft, and rampant diagnoses... Has anyone else noticed that period only a while ago? (This is some time when I was in high school in Texas... so late 1990s, particularly after 1997.) The pharmaceutical dominance of medicine has always seemed suspicious to me: are these people making money off of TRYING to make me better. Isn't it in their best interest for me to continue to be sick?
So -- NOW,
has anyone found it odd now that a state practitioner (a doctor hired by the stodgiest of stodgy institutions) gave me "alternative" medical advice?
I hope so... because now I'm going to point to something even odder.

Has anyone else gone to a Farmer's Market? (just by the by)

The proportion of doctors who are promulgating "alternative medicine" is related to the proportion of average citizens who are peddling nostrums--that's a word from the medieval period that hasn't changed in meaning here, as in a mock medicine that has no normal likelihood of working. Herbal medicines are from the different manufacturers who are certainly no longer the same pharmaceutical giants we're familiar with, like Gerber and other brands. Ever notice how every pack of Airborne or box of Emergen-C has this statement printed on the side: "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."
What does that make it? Candy?
NOTE: I love Emergen-C, by the way. I'm just using it to catch more attentions than if I referenced a real nostrum that I saw advertised the other day. That, I believe, would be libel -- this is simply shock literature. ;)

These "nostrums" (whether questionable or legitimate) are meeting a level of success! Why? Friends of the traditional western medicine would say that, "Because our doctors have opened the door by lending legitimacy to these questionable prescriptions, people are following their lead."

What I'd say instead was the cause was that the public, who don't appreciate doctors even when they can afford them, have learned to trust people who seem like experts. Hasn't the pharmaceutical industry had to convince people to purchase their product in the same way that salesmen do? Now a portion of the society know the same arguments and sales-tactics that the pharmaceutical companies (and the FDA for that matter) have used -- and they are using these tactics on the public who have been trained to accept these arguments?
(Anti-oxidants, anyone?) The next person who knows how many cells, genomes, or the proper spelling deoxyribonucleic acid can make as many sales as the doctor who has spent years studying Gray's Anatomy (the book, not the show.)

Now, the FDA's stamp doesn't mean everything--we all say--because for centuries, people have gotten well on their own, right? (Hence the popularity of "organic foods." We're ASSUMING that these are the fruits and vegetables and meats in their original form--and we're assuming that original is healthier. If the populace was making that argument in a university, rhetoricians would be pulling their hair out.
{Who would be surprised to know that bird poo was the primary ingredient in the fertilizer used in medieval home gardens? For the Zionistic effect, this fertilizer recipe originated in Israel! That ought to lend it the same legitimacy as the FDA, right?}

[ Now, I should point out here, that there is a chance that the conspiracy theorists can be right: Emergen-C and Airborne are brought to us by the same folk who prescribed every 5th-grade boy Ridalin. The pharmaceutical companies, since the Mendel made his discovery of the cell, have been in the position to gather fortunes off of the diagnosis and subsequent release of prescriptions. Now that the FDA no longer performs the duty of legitimizing drugs to the public, these companies are trying to avoid FDA certification. However, I don't think so elaborate a ruse could be accomplished. ]

Now that I've confused you all as far as what to believe about medicine, let's briefly touch on the slip-shod square dance that is education.
I would have you all read Douglas Wilsons "Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning" or at least his text, Dorothy Sayers's "The Lost Tools of Learning."

The fiasco surrounding the prohibitive cost of schools is going to have a lasting effect on our economy right? That's why some state organizations have instituted 401(k)s that are designed for college savings.
What about the average education of our citizens?
Then, what about the lowering of educational standards?

Those are the questions raised once by people worried about elementary and middle and high school educations. Money for them wasn't a catalysing factor... but those same arguments apply to college education -- and money is a factor in that issue. How long will it be before private schooling institutions extend their programs into secondary education? Not long. (I myself already have half a mind to start a university for secondary eduation, albiet someplace a la the movie "Rejected.")

Between these two topics, are you seeing an over-throw of "experts"? The people whom society has trusted for so long, professors and doctors, have begun to let us down. (There are a smattering of articles that reference this phenomenon - and I will assume you've read some of them or at least have wondered this question yourself, "Why can't I do a better job at that?")

Now, what about some other areas? This de-expertizing phenomenon has spread to other places, but I'm going to point to an area dear to us: our work.

Many small business and investing books start with a forward that discusses the insecurity in trusting a company to take care of an employee's life long needs. Then follows a prologue about the rising popularity of self-employment and starting small businesses. I'm raising my standard of readership and asking you to at least steal a few minutes at a bookstore/library and read one or two of those -- and I'll spare your eyes covering those topics.

De-expertizing our work obviously creates these phenomenons, but it also carries these movements to fruition. Watch.
If enough people start their own business, some fraction are going to realize it's not the only business they can start. (Another portion don't realize this and over-commit and find themselves trusting a business that they themselves created, like a carpenter praying to his own carvings.)
If enough people start several businesses, what will this teach to growing employees or on-lookers? That their own work is insecure; their future lies in their hands (two sides of the same coin) -- a good fraction will follow suit and start providing businesses of their own (or services) to compliment their work long into retirement.
(The concept of retirement will fade away at the same speed as the speed at which people develop successful businesses doing what they love. In this projected in-between time, people will view retirement as when they are able to just do the jobs they like.)
When the populace is able to get more services from local venders, the concept of "Brand Names" will disappear as the respectibility of those local venders rises.

And here lies the conclusion... (partly because I'm tired of formatting pictures into this long blog entry) ...
The world is changing because society is losing grips on its traditional supports. I pronounce the deconstructivism period of postmodernism over. People are building now. People have finished testing the old ways against the new circumstances -- and they're fashioning the new tools.

Here is where the Christian's work becomes most potent in affecting society. We all are in this turmoil -- believer and non-believer. As the church adjusts, it has the opportunity -- Lord willing -- to establish the conventions (the new supports and systems) that future generations will be relying on.

Shocking, isn't it? God's people may be used in these dark times to create lasting change--God willing. Always His will.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Best Penny-Dreadful

My own comments on the Harry Potter debate have always sounded so strong because I am always arguing from the fact that so many people who oppose Harry Potter are so vehement. Of course, I'm not imagining Harry Potter as Christ at all, but it may seem that way because I'm trying so hard to show people what is so good in these books.
I found an article that, if I've shown everyone what it says, allows me to rest my peace. It's by Alan Jacobs from Wheaton College (where Youssef almost went) and the thing that Youssef really liked about it was that the author actually argued from the text. Here are some enlightening quotes, followed by the link...

"There is no class of vulgar publications about which there is, to my mind, more utterly ridiculous exaggeration and misconception than the current boys' literature of the lowest stratum."[attributed to Chesterton] Chesterton is perfectly happy to acknowledge that these books are not in the commendatory sense "literature," because "the simple need for some kind of ideal world in which fictitious persons play an unhampered part is infinitely deeper and older than the rules of good art, and much more important."

"And above all, what Chesterton loves about the penny dreadful is this: 'It is always on the side of life.'"