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.


Rachel said...

Have you read Robert E. Webber's Ancient-Future Faith? It speaks to the last few paragraphs you wrote there.

Rick, not Rachel

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you took the time to put all the cute pics on!!!!! I had one interesting thought while you were reading (I had many thoughts but personally only found this one of much interest)Can they really be new conventions when the best things we have to offer society are found in the bible and have been around for the last 2000 years? (give or take) I am one of those people who find much truth in the statement--There's nothing new under the sun. I still catch your excitement though to "re-establish" the supports and systems that I hope our next generations will come to rely on! What do you think?

Rebekah said...

Wasn't the movie actually called "Accepted"? Funny movie, with a cool concept being played out in a ridiculous fashion.
I also highly recommend Ancient-Future Faith and also The Divine Embrace by Dr. Robert Webber.
Very interesting stuff...I was thinking about how the whole "homeschool and home-everything else" idea is kind of what started becoming appealing to some in the earliest stages of modernist deconstruction...especially with what you said about the de-expertisation. Some people who were dissatisfied with the school system, and also with other modern conventional wisdom, in the '80s & '90s, not only schooled their children at home, but carried it a step further--thinking, "I can do (fill in the blank) well enough myself." I know because I grew up in that subculture.

Youssef Sleiman said...

Webber's book has already come so highly recommended that it's a testament to my laziness that I'm not quoting it everywhere.

To Anonymous, I am so sorry this statement's going to come out sound somehow argumentative. It's not. I think there may merely be a semantic difference between what I called "the conventions (the new supports and systems)" and the "new conventions."
You're right. It's not really new. You found the hole in my usually careful vocabulary.
However, let's look at the meaning behind "new."
Anyone remember ABC/NBC's ad campaign for the reruns of its shows? "It's new to you."
I don't want to belittle Solomon's sage statement, but my wife pointed out that the Hebrews may have understood the battery, but they didn't know a thing about computers. Shakespeare rehashed a million story-lines, but why are his the versions most remembered? I'm not going to find hieroglyphics of Spider-man in Egypt, but comic books have dealt with topics as old as the pyramids: addiction, jealousy, heroism (despite the slanting of those ideas by time.)
2000 years isn't a glib amount of time to throw around.
The ekklesia of Acts shared possessions and everything, but when was the last successful American commune that thousands flocked to?

My point lies here: The church may know such a thing to be old as the hills... but it's going to be new to all the generations yet living (and the memories of those recently dead).
For instance...

Has the church considered tackling health care? I mean, on even a city-wide scale, much less a grand scale? Our government has felt the burden to provide health care for all of my life (coming up on 30 years in not too short a time). In half that time, the church was wringing its hands, wondering what to do. Can the church provide for the people like it once had?
(The church provided health at some point in its long history.)

Well, no.. there's some major problems around that, right?
The role of insurance is to lessen the cost to citizens. Doctors in the church may offer their services for a reduced price/free amount.
Supply of medicines?
How much do doctors tithe to churches? If that tithe were translated immediately into medicine, that could solve supply issues in a cinch.
Liability issues? Doctors worried about liability try to spend an extra 15 minutes with patients to reduce the chances of being sued (true statement). Would you sue a doctor you go to church with, who provided care to you for a ridiculously reduced price--maybe free?

Now.. Solomon didn't know about the Xbox or Halo 3, but he may have seen priests dole out medicines. That kind of a convention puts the church in a position no one else has ever had in American influence, if the convention gets established soon before Hilary makes health insurance a mandate for everyone (which is different than health care for everyone).

Notice how some of you are thinking to yourselves: Yeah, my church could do that, or at least start on it. That could work if we did X and Y and balanced with B and A.
This is why I say the deconstructivism period of postmodernism is over.

Forrest said...

"The ekklesia of Acts shared possessions and everything, but when was the last successful American commune that thousands flocked to?"

One of the problems with the idea of a commune (and of community for that matter) in our culture is that we have changed the meaning of these words, its focus has shifted from people living together in the world pulled together by Christ, too a group drawn away from the world and together by the commonality of their beliefs that most often separate them from those they are bound to in Our Lord Jesus.
I hope this run on sentence wasn't too unclear!
Keep up the Ranting! It helps me draw out the thoughts that dance on the edges.

Youssef Sleiman said...

About what Forrest said...
(Now, I'm warning all who read this, you're about to watch a rhetoric movement.)
You said that the meaning of the words have shifted. Are we dictated by the meaning of our words or do we dictate their meaning? Not to say that the church has been sloppy with her language... rather, we're not flexing our muscles that we could. What do we WANT commune and community to mean?

I would much rather have a "living together in the world pulled together by Christ" situation. Why can't we do that? Will the churches support its coming leaders by housing them together in a downtown area with the intention of spreading the gospel? Maybe... (I'm already thinking of some ministries that are just slightly off of that idea.)

So, where does Christ sit when we're looking for life together?
What's God doing?
We've established that He isn't passive.
(This line of questioning is more of a kernel in a pearl's mouth, designed to irritate until the agitation produces a pearl.)
Is an attempt by the church to establish a commune devoid of God's power?