Why You Should Question More

The question was, in between the mountains in the south of Brazil, what the hell happened on 9/11 in New York? Right after the tragedy went down there were various stories making rounds and over the years a fierce battle of truth was (and still is) being waged between so called conspiracy theorists and mainstream scientists. Regardless of why things happened there are certain things that every person can see for himself, however the mainstream story deviates from this. However, not only when it comes to 9/11, also when it comes to diet, your perception of yourself and what you experienced last weekend can be different in many ways. For me this is all the more reason to question. This is why you should as well.

Questionable Truths

How many buildings went down on 9/11? Two? Or three? There were three buildings that went down, nevertheless, little people are aware of this. Why isn’t this known to the general public, because it seems quite relevant right?

In a recent blog I wrote about Your Ultimate Personal Diet Guide because there is so much conflicting information around diet. I tried to lay out the commonalities between all this information. The main message is though, there is no one perfect diet. Even though, there are different sides that question each other – paleo, vegan, no gluten, no lactose and sugar free all have there supporters that claim to thrive on their choice.

On a similar note, when I come back after a holiday and my girlfriend is asked the same question as me, she will answer severely different. Where I will say it was awesome and I had a good time, she however, manages to create a detailed extravaganza of every small thing that happened. A couple of minutes into the story you have a strong visual image that stimulates your taste buds, visual capacity, and sound perception. However extrapolated from my perspective, we were both there. My question is then, who is right?

In Physical Therapy school in my first year I had to study for my living anatomy exams. I needed to know all the origin, endings, and functions of muscles, every bone, every ligament and a bunch of other things. More over, I had to be able to approach and show them physically to my examiner. One day we learned about the muscles of the forearm. A particular muscle there, the palmaris longus, that runs from the elbow to your hand palm is not present in all humans. I was one of the two people in my class that didn’t have it. Which body is right?

In his books People Like Us and A Good Man Sometimes Beats His Wife, Joris Luyendijk writes about his experiences as a news reporter in the Middle East. One thing in particular that I remember well of his books, is the news he reported on. It turned out that he was almost never allowed to have a look first hand. Because of security regulations and bureaucracy he always had to go through news agencies like Reuters. After, there is a whole process of finding out what actually happened and a struggle to put this into a two-minute item at the 8′ o clock news. I can’t help questioning then, what is left of what really happened once it reaches the sleepy post-diner public in the Netherlands?

Different Truths

In philosophical terms truth is explained as how the world actually is. The truth is though, that everything that we think and do we always perceive through our senses. This empirical way of perceiving the world is of the highest importance in our scientific understanding of the world. That is, something is only true once we have empirical evidence for it.

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However, the result of this philosophy is that we build our ideas of what is true on what we belief is true rather than what actually is. Everything we say and write about truth is nothing more than a representation in either spoken language or writing of a supposed truth. 9/11, the stories on the 8 o’clock news, the holiday stories of me and my girlfriend, and the differences in anatomy are all subject to our beliefs. It get’s even more tricky once you talk about these things from memory.

Memory

According to Daniela Schiller, a professor at Mount Sinai School, our memory is all but to be trusted. It seems that memory isn’t static, but something that changes every time it is recalled. This means that every time I ask you how your weekend was, the memory of this experience changes. During my teenage years in high school I experienced this first hand week after week. As one of my friends would come on the bus he would tell me in colorful details how his weekend was. Upon arrival at school he would at least tell that “same” story at least three more times. Since we were in the same class I had the honor of hearing it over and over again. Interestingly every time the story got more colorful and exciting.

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I believe there is always a tension between what actually happened and what is experienced by someone. It depends on the state the person was in at the time of experiencing the event things might be memorized totally different.

No Independent Truth

As a consequence I realize that is hard to be sure if there is an independent truth out there. It always depends on the observer or the person experiencing it. This is something you become very aware of once you cross cultural boundaries, start working with new people, or move in with somebody you else.

If this knowledge becomes a common part of your belief system there is all the more reason to question, and subscribe less to one form of truth. This will not only allow you to adapt better in all day every day situations, it also leaves you free to redefine your beliefs any moment.

Why in Healthcare and Politics Treating The Root Cause is Not The Solution (Yet)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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