Archive for September, 2009

I’m not the only Contrarian

September 23, 2009

I thought you might like to read parts of an e-mail I received a week ago to show I’m not only just one of many contrarians, I’m one of the sober ones. I’m not trying to sell you anything.

Part of the opening says –
* IS YOUR CHOLESTEROL HIGH ENOUGH to avoid heart attacks and strokes?
* ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SUN to prevent the world’s most dreaded cancers?
* ARE YOU EXERCISING SO HARD that it’s hardening your arteries?
* ARE YOU EATING ENOUGH SALT to prevent high blood pressure?
* ARE YOU EATING ENOUGH EGGS & BACON to ward off macular degeneration?
* GOT ARTHRITIS? GUESS WHAT! This animal fat reverses the damage in 24 hours!

The e-mail came to me from the same outfit that sends me investment tips as well as a daily newsletter on their reading of the actual state of the economy vs the Government’s slant. They are card-carrying contrarians – and no, I don’t invest with them, I just like to read their viewpoints. The author of the medical contrarianism is listed as William Campbell Douglass II, MD. billed as medicine’s most acclaimed myth-buster.

Let’s take a moment to comment on the claims above.
1. My Naturopathic doctor (the one whose advice I take before I go to an MD) says that the cholesterol hoopla is grossly overstated. Cholesterol is supposed to be flowing through our veins and arteries because it’s the substance the body uses to repair injuries and leaks in the vessels. If you have a lot of blood vessels patched up with cholesterol the damage was there first and caused by something other than the cholesterol – good or bad. Secondly, your body normally produces cholesterol for protein creation and in order to have enough of this repair substance available.

2. I know this is anecdotal evidence, but I used to wear nothing but swimming trunks and sandals when I worked for over four years in North Africa, in the hottest sun you might find anywhere. I subsequently wondered if I had set myself up for skin cancer – I had also been an avid sunbather in my younger years in England (not the same degree of sun exposure, I admit). However, I’ve never had a trace of it – so perhaps our Dr Douglass is right when he suggests we need to use our natural defences to make the most of them.
By the way – ever notice that if you tell a medical doctor about some alternative medicine that worked for you your testimony is mere anecdotal evidence? If you told an equally subjective tale as evidence in a court of law it could be sufficient to hang someone.

Let’s skip to 4. My Naturopath tells me not to reduce my salt intake below the moderate usage I have always had. The body needs the sodium salts to maintain the inner environment in the same briny state as the oceans where our cells evolved. Internally, we never left the ocean.
I think that’s enough to suggest that these claims are not too extravagant or unsubstantiated. This contrarian advice is as solid a description of reality as the opposite views of the medical profession, whose members are terrified to consider anything outside the gospel preached by the pharmaceutical industry and the medical associations lest they lose their licenses.

Dr Douglass is not as timid: –

“ No, you’re being way too patient! But we’re going to get the last laugh on those jokers…

Because all the ‘facts’ they’re flinging at you are just MASS MEDIA MEDICINE!

Mass Media Medicine is to REAL medicine as McDonald’s is to REAL food…

It was never intended to make you healthy…

It’s intended to make billions of dollars for giant corporations…

And the only science behind it is marketing science!

It’s all about selling us ‘health’ goods & services WHETHER OR NOT WE NEED THEM…

Scaring us into buying drugs to prevent diseases (like ‘high cholesterol’) that don’t exist…

Bullying us into buying high-markup, high-carbohydrate, meatless mush…

Hounding us to buy instruments of torture in the name of exercise…

And when all this stuff finally does make you sick, they reply that you need even more “ …

Now there’s a real Contrarian who’s not afraid to pull the chain of his opposition. He goes on:–

“ And you’re going to love what 40 years of clinical studies really tell you to do! As you’ll see on the pages ahead, from now on you have DOCTOR’S ORDERS to…

* Chow down on juicy T-bones and 3-egg omelets prepared with real butter…
* Trade in that water bottle for a case of ice-cold beer…
* Drink all the coffee you want, laced with heavy cream if you like…
* Take naps instead of running laps…
* And tell the cholesterol cops they’ll have to terrify someone else…

Now you’re talking my language…

Never, ever do anything just because someone swears it’s healthy!
Make them prove it and guarantee it – like I’m going to do right now. “

Like the advice? You might want to take a look at his website   Personally I feel my present healthcare is doing what I need, but I’m always willing to look at opinion that may contradict, or perhaps go beyond the views I accept – as some of William’s does.

The words I like best are where he agrees that his reader should be skeptical. Trouble is, if his advice or the conventional MD’s does harm you may not have the ability to reverse it. In my opinion it’s the reason for learning how to live with a contrarian stance early and do as the Buddha advised, “Test everything”.


Contrarianism for the Masses.

September 14, 2009

Contrarianism is widely considered to be only a stock market strategy. Since most investors are completely incapable of predicting the future moves of the market it stands to reason that opposing the flow and doing the opposite – selling while others buy, and buying when others sell – is more likely to lead the individual to a beneficial result. What I suggest is that most people, in all categories of human activity, are completely out of their depth and likely to cling to the popular and conventional beliefs and attitudes out of desperation. The chances are – they’re wrong.

One has only to consider the huge number of people – mostly men – who spend no time preparing and informing themselves to confront the serious matters of their times, but who can spout off the whole teams of players at their favorite sport and list the scoring records of these individuals right back to the time they came off the Ark. How likely are these individuals’ opinions about social concerns and voting choices in elections to be guided by wisdom and good sense?

That is why we celebrate the times when the great mass of the public excel themselves in producing consensus in problems that really do matter and take part in actions that lead to improvements in the human condition. Those events are truly worth celebrating, but it’s a great pity that they do not come more regularly. What I suggest with my promotion of contrarianism is that enough people consider alternative opinions and mind-sets all the time that society has a wellspring of wise discrimination, and beneficial decisions become more common.

What about some examples?

Firstly matters of health. Far too many people live thoughtless lifestyles of greed and self-indulgence in the expectation that some pill exists, or will exist, to treat their ruined health when nature follows its natural course. Even medical doctors mouth the platitudes of preventive health care – while merely prescribing the latest panacea pill that big pharma has produced, in the hope it might alleviate the symptoms.

The whole western world enjoyed the spectacle of a simple faith that property could only increase in value, and that it was wise to take on huge burdens of debt in order to cash in. Real property is a finite resource, and over the longer scheme of things it must inevitably be sought after by an ever growing population, but none of these plungers into huge mortgages ever considered the shorter term considerations defined by their employment histories and likely lifespan. The contrarian noticed that the real estate bubble had become unstable and stayed the heck away.

The tricky subject of religion shows the immense power of the herd instinct. If the neighbours go to worship in this mosque, this church, this synagogue, this temple, then most people follow the crowd – even when in their hearts they find the platitudes and or diatribes totally irrelevant and unsatisfying. There is absolutely no shortage of religious expression in the world, but very few people have ever had the gumption to examine the ones they were born into critically and consider leaving them. The contrarian can be expected to do so, for after all, you are stuck with this life and should make the most of it.

What about the music the herd listens to? Ever notice how little the popular taste resembles music? What about the movies – very few of which are worth the price of their admission. What about the lawn in front of the house when water shortages and total waste of your leisure hours could be reduced from converting the grass to xeriscaping? What about the political party you vote for? The same one that your dear old Dad supported – and every ancestor of his since Magna Carta.

I get a big kick out of the Gnostic Gospels – the Nag Hammadi library discovered at Jabal-al-Tarif in 1945. In one, the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is reputed to have said, “Men think perhaps it is peace I have come to cast upon the world. They do not know it is dissension I have come to cast upon the earth: fire, sword, and war. …” If the Christian religion did only one good thing, it was the releasing of western society from the bonds of tribal conformity and allowing us the gift of thinking for ourselves. And changing old ideas for better. Let’s hear it for the contrarians. Let’s hear it for the rebels.

When the Self is the Problem.

September 7, 2009

Another late post because we were away where I had no Internet access. (At least, not enough peace and harmony to compose something and take it to a local library to post it through their online access.)

I’m making a transition to a new topic, an exploration of the contrarian viewpoint. I don’t have a posting to mind as I start writing this, but I do have some thoughts from the past five days that may serve as a transition piece.

This summer my brother-in-law spent almost six weeks in hospital with heart failure. Actually a partial failure in the by-pass arteries he’d had installed about eight years previous. He wasn’t expected to come out of the hospital on his own feet, but eventually the low point of being strapped into a bed with six IVs and tubes everywhere transformed to the first faltering steps of being able to get out of bed – and later to an expedition out of the ward to buy fresh fruit from a stand in the foyer and to eat them on a bench outside the hospital entrance. This without approval or assistance. (His nurse eventually decided he’d played truant long enough and sent security to fetch him home in a wheelchair.)

After many troubled days, during which he was dumped on us, he was at last admitted to the lodge that wouldn’t originally accept him until some residual conditions were dealt with. In the past five weeks he has recovered some strength as well as a great deal of desire to regain his old stubbornly independent and hermit ways. It seems to me that he has entered a time of life where the underlying changes have rendered his previous modes untenable, but he is desperately attempting to claw them back. (Rather like the US administration attempting to claw back the old bubble debt economy instead of accepting that the world’s biggest debtor needs to put its house in order and pay its bills.)

Watching him desperately attempting to reverse the effects of age and sickness – even if only in his own mind – has been a salutary lesson to me. In some ways a quite heroic picture, but in others equally pathetic. One cannot dismiss heart failure by an effort of will. The past five days he has been in his own home again – a visit because the medical authorities have pronounced him unable to care for himself – where we tried to help him gather up some more essential belongings to take back to the limited space he has in the lodge. He, however, was fixated on collecting and boxing his extensive collection of movie DVDs and music CDs. I carried a total of more than 150 pounds of boxes out to stack in the back seat of his car to take back with us. He has yet to persuade the lodge to provide the extra storage space for these boxes, but that’s not the biggest problem. He didn’t take the DVD player and has no space in his small room for his huge flat screen TV. It doesn’t look as if he is ever going to be able to get them back out of storage to use in the future. He might offer his fellow lodge members a couple of years of movie nights on a lodge DVD/TV setup, but that is a suggestion he scoffs at.

He has always owned cameras, usually expensive professional ones, but I won’t even dwell on the new top of the line digital camera and the stand-alone print copier he has never used because he’s never been able to figure them out. They too, of course, must be taken to the lodge. As the neighbour commented – he never takes pictures anyway. (He very briefly attempted to get into the computer age about 20 years back but gave up in disgust because the devices wouldn’t obey his orders.)

Most of his life he wholeheartedly accepted the role of consumer, whose only input into society has been to buy stuff. He used to be a prisoner of Malls and Sales, and now is a prisoner of the ‘stuff’ he accumulated. It struck me that all those possessions are a necessary part of the self-image he has of himself. In some ways he’s not safe – not complete without them. I have no idea how to get him to attempt to free himself. I cannot guess how many more days or years of active life medical science has granted him, but I neither can I see him taking advantage of them. He has the opportunity to throw himself open to new possibilities outside of the self-imposed hermitage he’s lived in for the past ten or more years – despite his new limitations. If only he would leave his private room at the lodge once in awhile and learn to love his fellows in humanity …

So I’m looking at his predicament as a way to avoid making my own mistakes – because although I may sound smug and superior I know I’m not really that much different. But I’ve always been a contrarian, so I see switching paradigms as inherently possible. If you see how stupid it is to smoke cigarettes you quit, as I did over 40 years ago. If the lifestyle you developed over the past umpteen years is no longer practicable you look for a new one. While that is the logical procedure I doubt it’s as easy for me to accomplish as I imagine. It may not be easy for you, either. That’s what I want to explore with my new direction and I hope you readers will follow me into the insights possible through contrarianism and offer your own comments.