I take a closer look at the systems upon which healthcare and politics function. When taking a more profound look at both them it quickly becomes clear how there is no reason for it’s players to resolve issues right its’ source. From my perspective there is too much to be gained from short term decisions in terms of money and power. However more importantly, it is that we humans are incredibly bad at dealing with pain and discomfort. This inability is being capitalized upon in a variety of ways. Read this extensive blog on the topic to learn more about my view.
Yesterday I went to the cinema to watch The Invisibles. A movie about Jewish people in Berlin during the second world-war. As Hitlers’ regime declared the city “jew-free”, there were still 7000 of them underground. They basically became invisible with the help of brave fellow Germans. Unfortunately, only 1700 would see the war end. I realized the importance of the movie, as the second world war has been visualized in films time after time – but now in times where right wing politics is gaining popularity more and more it seems that the relevance of this topic is higher than ever.
One of the arguments people often bring up is that we shouldn’t forget what happened then, so we won’t repeat it now. Since most of the world-war two survivors are slowly passing away because of old age, there won’t be a lot of time left before we can only rely on history books, movies, and second hand stories for us to know what happened at the time.
The Movie Bias
What made me think though, is that all the movies about the second world war, the Vietnam war, and more recent movies about the war in Iraq, all depict the horrors and the consequences. Even though it’s important to be aware of what they were, there happened a lot before (regular) people became mass murderers.
In comparison, 10 months ago I twisted my knee while climbing. After more or less successfully rehabilitating my knee, there was a moment during yoga class where my knee made a loud SNAP! It swelled right away and hurt like hell. A couple of days later I made an MRI, it turns out my medial meniscus was torn.
If I would make a movie about this it would be about me tearing my meniscus, all the pain I felt and how I did my rehabilitation and how I eventually resolved it, with or without surgery. Nevertheless, what happened before I injured myself? What were my thoughts, convictions, and decisions that led me to that situation in the first place?
In the case of Hitler – him writing a book explaining his philosophy is a boring movie and also speaks less to the imagination than millions of minorities killed in gas chambers. Complex belief mechanisms mixed with capitalist-communist politics and protection of interest is a lot less spectacular and hard to understand than soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder, missing limbs, helicopters shooting in the Vietnamese jungle and the napalm coming after.
Not only in movies we are biased to viewing consequences and symptoms, but also in healthcare and in politics we tend to go for short term gain instead of treating the root cause.
I believe there is a combination of two phenomena that is responsible for the fact that we end up circling through similar situations over and over.
Pain and Money
The first one is pain. In the case of our body this literal pain can be a sign of damage, but it is mostly a signal for you to pay attention. When it comes to politics there might be situations that provoke discomfort: violence, refugee crisis, lack of job opportunities and economic setbacks.
The second one, is the fact that one way provides more money and power than the other. I believe in general money leads to power and vice versa. When we look at healthcare that means that highly invasive treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and medication are usually preferred over investing money in providing knowledge, tools, and empowerment to people so that they don’t get to a place where such treatment might be indicated in the first place.
Pain and Money in Politics and Healthcare
In politics the reduction of available resources (money) or lack of control (power) provoke short term solutions as well. An example is the wall that was build between Turkey and Syria, with funding from the European Union, to block the crossing of immigrants. “We cannot control the refugees, so we literally block them from coming in at all”. This will reduce the amount of immigrants entering the European Union, that’s true, but on the other hand it increases the chances that the same people will be more susceptible to be recruited for radical purposes. Interestingly, according to the Swiss Historian Daniele Ganser, the US and the UK, together with a couple of other countries want to overthrow the Assad-regime to keep the oil flowing west.Therefore, the whole fact that these refugees want to flee Syria in the first place, is our own fault. So much for treating the root-cause.
Back to money in healthcare. I believe that as soon as there is more money to be earned with preventive than curative medicine, the medical system will change radically. However, I think it is important to remember that the most natural solutions to our health, are far from lucrative. If you grow your own crop, buy products from your local village, and exchange other products with fellow inhabitants all the while moving on a continuous basis, there will be little to earn for big corporations.
As you can see money plays a big role both in health care as in political decisions. What I think is interesting though, is how is feasted on our lack of knowledge and capacity to deal with pain and discomfort. The amounts of times I have treated clients that preferred a shot of cortisone from the doctor than sustainable holistic treatment just because they wanted the pain to be gone. Equally, I have been proposed nothing but surgery by knee specialists for my meniscus even though it bothers me little in everyday life. I am in luck that I have an education that allows me to make more informed decisions in this case.
When we go return to politics, discomfort is capitalized on immensely as well. U.S. president Trump capitalized on the dissatisfaction of the public by shouting so loud, but most of all differently from what everybody else was doing, that people flocked his way. He managed to be very obviously different than the rest of the candidates. In a similar way president elect Jair Bolsonario in Brazil is about to succeed with an exact copy of Trumps strategy. He is in the final and deciding round of the election process with 18% more votes than his opponent Fernando Haddad.
As you might realize now the equation money/power x pain/discomfort is feasted upon continuously. Lack of knowledge and perspective leads people to be influenced easily. This holds true for politics as much as going to see a knee specialist. I personally always appreciated the informed client a lot. As things go they are the ones that have to live with their body, not me. When you are more informed I can help you better. However, it might not earn me the most money. Politicians would agree if they were looking to solve root-causes. So generally, it is best you are uninformed.
Alternatives and a Questioning Attitude
I think therefore, that it’s essential to increase your knowledge and be aware that there are always alternatives. Humans have a hard time comparing two (on the surface) unrelated things. Shall I buy the better TV for $700,- or the cheaper one for $500,- that’s less good? As you stand there scratching your head, mouth dry, and about to go for the more expensive one, you could also walk home, and buy two plane tickets for a weekend get-away.
In recent times there are still big powers at play, twisting information and trying to make money of the ignorance of people. Lucky for us however, we don’t have to rely on a couple of brave people sending underground news through the post like in the second world war. Today, within a minute you can share whatever with the world. This creates a lot of noise, but if you take control and look, in stead of consume, there is a lot of value available.
I believe that if you take control of your life, a questioning attitude is key. When it comes to health and healthcare as the decisions you are required to make in politics. On the surface things might look unrelated, but wars in the middle-east about oil, and walls to prevent refugees from crossing, and your personal health have a lot more in common than you think. For once, they might or might not be subject to your own ignorance. So I wonder therefore, what’s your next question going to be?
The quality of healthcare nowadays, has progressed to a level that specialists are able to fix every fracture, they can reconnect nerves, and they are able to connect a new heart, liver, or kidney in to your body. Concentrating for years on a single body part has allowed for impressive feats in their specific area. The problem is however, that the body itself does not reason with body parts or medical specialization.
Was it not for thousands of years of research, cutting into corpses (both dead and alive), and drawing the results on to paper, or we would not have known what we know now. As things go, our body did not come into being with names on all of it’s parts as we have defined them today.
Researchers have found papyrus from ancient Egypt, dating back to 1600BC. They showed that the Egyptians had identified certain organs and hormonal glands. Later on the Greek did their part naming for example the Achilles Tendon after a greek hero who was the fastest runner. As a baby his mother made him invulnerable by dipping him by his achilles into the Styx river. Later in war, he was killed by a poisonous arrow. It struck him in the only vulnerable place in his body, his achilles.
Over the course of history a variety of people from ancient Greece, to Leonardi da Vinci, to a belgian man named Andreas Vesalius have made significant contributions to human anatomy.
The history of anatomy and the naming of our body is very intriguing, however it still is a model based on observation. Over time every muscle, bone, ligament, nerve, organ, and layer of skin has been described with a function and name. Just like we have divided the world by countries, and we have given random groups of stars names. These models are great facilitators when it comes to communicating about these subjects with regard to where and when.
Nevertheless, the world itself does not think of itself as a collection of countries. There is not a part of nature that decides to create an earthquake in Haiti, rather the earthquake happens in a place we call Haiti. The same goes for the body. The body itself does not purposefully create pain in
it’s knee, rather it expresses symptoms in a location that we call the knee.
In the case of countries we have given governments authority to make decisions in “their” parts of the earth, where in the case of the body there is a specialist who helps you govern a specific a body area. These divisions are such an inherent part of our society, that we have based our entire thought structure around it.
Divisions and models are great tools to understand. At the same time though, it is easy to mistake them for reality. As a consequence, for example, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is often received with skepticism in the west. TCM is a holistic approach that sees health and disease on a continuum. Our organism is seen as a system of balance. It has a vital energy called “qi”, that needs to circulate freely along lines called “meridians”.
The idea the Chinese have developed of the body over the previous 5000 years might seem weird, when compared to what was developed in Europe. Nevertheless, upon itself it makes total sense. Still, just like in western medicine it is a way of modeling the body. Neither body parts nor meridians were formed by the body itself.
Regardless if we model the body or not, I believe it does respond in predictable ways. A punch in your stomach will provoke pain, and a fall on your elbow will result in a bruise. At the same time sitting for long times, while feeling stressed, and drinking little water might provoke back pain and digestion issues.
When I think of the body as a collection of parts these logical responses can be confusing. However, when I perceive the body as a unity responding in a predictable way, a lot of everyday worries can be put to rest.
When I perceive the body as a unity responding in a predictable way, a lot of everyday worries can be put to rest.
We tend to experience the biggest discomfort when we do not understand what we are feeling. However, when you understand that your nose and toe are just as much your body, as your stomach and liver. As well as that the body responds in a logical manner, you can stop pretending that stressing and bad food is not affecting you. Where on the contrary, your newly initiated habit of working out two times a week, will positively affect a lot more than the size of your muscles.
I have recently been reflecting a lot on how I view body, mind and soul. And most of all, what is considered normal and what is not in this regard. Consecutively, I started reflecting on how I come to my decision in any health-related situation. The main thing I do, I realized, is that I always look for the why? behind my current state of mind and body. This thought process always evaluates how I felt the days before, what I ate, how I exercised, how I slept and what kind of stress is influencing me at this moment. Answering all these questions often lead me to seeing why I feel a certain way and make it easier to (not) respond accordingly after.
Most importantly though, by answering all these questions for myself I come to a logical conclusion. Therefore, the way I am feeling is reasonable and normal given the circumstances. When I drink too little during the day, the headache at night is a reasonable consequence. When I drink enough during the day, but I slept too little the night before, a headache at night is also reasonable. The origin and consequence here are quite easy to find.
However, when I increase the time span and the factors in play it gets harder to see the origin and consequence of how I am feeling. For example, I am 50 years old, I sat the majority of my life working a desk-job with medium to high stress levels, and I eat a lot of low quality processed food. After, I get diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease, is this reasonable? Or, when I play 3 soccer matches in one week and I tear one of my calf muscles, is this normal?
Yes, I believe this is all normal. Put any given person in the same situation with the same life and history and their bodies will most likely respond the same. So when I fracture my upper leg, when I have a headache, when I sub luxate my shoulder or when I get diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes, Heat Disease or COPD is there anything wrong with my body?
No, nothing is wrong with my body. My body is responding in a logical and reasonable way to how I treat it. The moment I should be worried though, is when I can hold my hand in a fire without hurting it or when I can run for 40 hours at sprint speed. In any case, the awareness of this interaction is probably also why, I realized, I have such little problems with experiencing pain (I wrote about this here). Seeing these connections makes me aware of which behavior led to which feeling, and it allows me to accept and deal with the situation without feeling lost. Above all, viewing things this way, means that when I change the way I treat my body for the better, it will respond appropriately.
There are times though, when it gets really hard to see how things are connected. There might be too many things going on in my life and too many thoughts in my head. Recently, I experienced a severe headache unrelated to dehydration or sleep. Also, I had recently been sick but I had been feeling better a lot already. More over, there were other physical and mental factors at play that made me confused and unable to find the reason for my headache.
In these cases, it is great there is a healthcare system at most people’s disposal to aid in circumstances like these. The problem is though, that the most sought after health care professional generally treats symptoms, not origins. Next to that, to look for the why? behind any given problem is not a common thing. In this process we tend to be afraid when something is wrong and we want it fixed as soon as possible. Luckily, in this situation there is always a doctor willing to prescribe medication. Nevertheless, is this the solution for our problem?
Instead of prescribing medication, asking a couple of times why? will go a long way. Usually the origin of any given problem is quite obvious once there is somebody helping you putting your behavior in to perspective. Still, from my point of view, it is more the way our healthcare system is set up, what leads to the inefficient way of treating problems, than it is how the individual healthcare provider works. However, I believe that regardless of whatever healthcare system I am subject to, my independence is key. I know what is best for my body, as soon as I become aware of it.
Therefore, to be the director in everything regarding my body is important. We should not blindly belief anybody that makes decisions about our health. Rather, we should put everything to the test, educate ourselves, practice awareness and always ask for multiple opinions. In the meantime, always keeping the two core beliefs in mind. Being that the way I take care of my body has logical consequences, and these consequences are therefore normal. After all, nobody but me has to live with my body all my life.