Military thinking has invaded medical thinking. It’s time to replace shock and awe with health and peace.
Dana Ullman | May 2009 issue
Our military thinking and our medical thinking have a surprising amount in common. It isn’t just happenstance that doctors proudly assert that they seek to attack illness, combat disease, kill infectious agents and create a war on cancer or on any disease. Physicians seem so stuck in this medical mindset of militaristic thinking that it isn’t surprising—they have a long history of attacking other viable strategies that seem to be less medical or less militaristic.
To treat a patient, the doctor must provide a diagnosis that determines the existence of a “Western medical disease,” or WMD, even if this diagnosis is sometimes based on faulty medical intelligence or just selective intelligence.
Doctors usually choose to “shock and awe” the body. An elaborate attack ensues, utilizing our most sophisticated technological armamentarium, including the newest painkilling drugs, antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents. This militaristic medical solution takes precedence over other strategies that strive to re-establish health through forces that augment the body’s defenses. While some doctors offer dissident opinions and propose less invasive treatment strategies, these voices are muted by the medical-industrial complex.
The military-industrial complex is but a dwarf next to its medical counterpart. In 2002, for instance, the combined profits of the 10 largest drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) exceeded the combined profits of the remaining 490 companies ($33.7 billion). The medical-industrial complex is ready, willing and able to declare a scientifically validated victory, even if this triumph is temporary or provides only symptomatic relief. As soon as the shock and awe treatment “works,” doctors proudly declare “mission accomplished.”
However, much to our surprise—but obvious and predictable to many others—thousands of new “terrorist cells” are created. The shock-and-awe use of medication creates its own side effects. The painkilling drugs kill the pain but don’t heal the underlying disease and generate their own tolerance, addiction and pathology. Antibiotics kill the bad germs but destroy the good bacteria in the gut that are so important for digesting and assimilating food. And the chemotherapeutic drugs poison and ravage the immune system, creating a perfect environment for new organisms to infect an increasingly weakened and susceptible body.
However, side effects aren’t really “side” effects at all. From a pharmacological point of view, drugs’ “effects” and “side effects” are arbitrarily determined. Does a bomb that destroys buildings and kills people have one or the other as a “side effect”? Both are the direct effect of the bomb. Likewise, a drug may effectively suppress a symptom, but the cough was the body’s way to clear its bronchial passageway so you could breathe, and the fever was a vital innate strategy the body deployed to burn out infectious organisms. Although the drugs provide temporary relief (and bless them for that), they also tend to suppress the body’s self-healing ability and disrupt its inner ecology. Side effects and collateral damage are accepted as the price of our war on disease, even if varied strategies for creating the peace are inadequately explored.
Doctors may even be able to go to the next step and surgically remove a symptom or an obstructive agent, but the assumption that removing a single symptom or pathological agent will create health is simplistic and incorrect. Getting rid of a symptom, the equivalent of capturing a political leader, doesn’t create a cure or a revolution. As it turns out, conventional medicine often has no tools with which to deal with the more complex problems in play, or no plan to establish health once a symptom is vanquished. The nursery rhyme about the fall of Humpty Dumpty may provide important insights. This old verse acknowledges, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” Despite this unsuccessful effort, no one recommended the requisition of more horses and more men to solve the problem.
Our medical generals, however, haven’t been as insightful, and a “surge” in military efforts has been prescribed. Typically, solutions to health problems have been a call for more doctors (and more specialists), more drugs (newer and more expensive ones) and more surgery (after all, medical insurance and the increasing national debt will cover it). And if and when critics assert otherwise, they’re branded unpatriotic—or worse, unscientific. It’s as though we’re living under a “doctatorship.”
But now that the body is seriously ravaged, we’re told we can’t leave it on its own. Physicians assert that we must be there to defend it against new attacks, even if our presence creates ever more dramatic terrorist actions, the way our presence in the hospital results in the increased risk of exposure to virulent strains of infection.
Strategies that nourish or nurture the body’s wisdom, treatments that stimulate or augment our inner doctor and therapeutic modalities that help to establish a dynamic balance between the unity of body-mind-nature are called quackery. This name-calling is a wonderfully clever way to trivialize something potentially useful and important. And ironically, physicians often attack alternative healing systems even though these professionals have an inadequate understanding of what the systems are, what history of use and efficacy they’ve been shown to have or the high satisfaction rate in the wake of their use by the public. The fact that physicians maintain such an unscientific attitude toward these alternative, complementary and integrative treatment modalities is part and parcel of the “my country right or wrong” and “our medical care right or wrong” thinking.
It’s time to acknowledge and understand how much the military mindset has invaded and occupied medical thinking. More important, it’s time to explore new solutions to medical and military problems and create greater health and peace.
Dana Ullman is the author of several books on homeopathy, including The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy.
Down with the doctatorship!