Being Healthy

I just finished reading an interesting article in Ode Magazine titled Our Natural Instinct to Heal. It is about a French psychiatrist named David Servan-Schreiber who has proven that the body can heal things like anxiety and depression without medicine. I won´t go into the whole article but you can read it here. I bring it up is because it brings up an interesting point about our capitalist society and how the bottom line (profit for the shareholders) has affected our physical and emotional health.

Modern capitalism has been in its development since the sixteenth century. However, the way in which it functions today, with a few new exceptions, is a development of the last century. Most large corporations have one goal, profit. This means that the product or service, as well as the corporate values, environment and social responsibility, come after profit. And how does this translate to us, the masses? Let´s take a look at the pharmaceutical industry for example.

According to an article in Wikipedia economic growth in the pharmaceutical sector states that "in 2004 global dollar volume was $550 billion, a 7% increase over 2003, which in turn represented a 9% increase over 2002. US sales grew to $235.4 billion, a growth rate of 8.3% compared with 11.5% growth from 2002 to 2003." That is a lot of money! It must be acknowledged that these numbers include salaries for many people who work in the industry as well as funding for research and certainly some humanitarian work. However, much of this profit goes directly to shareholders - the rich all over the world. I am not shining a light on anything new here right?

The point I´m trying to make is that the pharmaceutical industry is just that, an industry. The top priority is not to make humanity physically and emotionally healthy, it is to make money. Much the same as the corporate food industry is not working to ensure that we get balanced and nutritious meals (i.e. Doritos), it´s goal is to make the biggest profit possible. If we are unhealthy in the west it is simply because we eat mostly processed foods and take a pill to make us feel better as soon as something goes wrong. Most of us never do a lick of exercise either. We hardly ever consider that our physical or emotional problems could be caused by our lifestyle or diet.

I have an old friend whom I admire very much for his cool confidence and physical prowess. He is vegetarian and observes a strict watch over what substances he puts into his body. He does not take medicines (with a slight exception here or there in our 10 year friendship), nor does he use any type of drugs or tobacco. He sometimes has a glass of wine. In addition, he is always physically active and maintains a healthy balance between work and play. He does not suffer from anxiety or depression nor does he have back problems, knee problems, etc. On the other hand, I have smoked tobacco on and off for the past fifteen years, had my fair share of beers, and consume a less than ideal diet. I have suffered from anxiety, depression, exhaustion, etc. The math here is easy.

So what is the good news, what the hell am I saying and how does all of this relate back to capitalism? The answer is easy, capitalism is not related to health, it is related to the bottom line. Just as the pharmaceutical industry is not trying to make us healthier, it is trying to make money.

All we have to do to be healthy is to listen to our bodies and be careful with our diets. And nutrition is not rocket science. Basic nutrition suggests that we ingest a modest amount of food and that we have a balance between the food groups. Most of us also know that substances like tobacco are not good and should not be used at all (make not to self). We are so used to being told by experts what is good and what is not good for us. But we all have the ability to tell if we ate too much, or drank too much, or if we have trouble breathing when we walk up one flight of stairs. To be healthy we must learn to rely on ourselves a little more and not on the multi-national corporations who want our money.

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