The Clare Spark Blog

September 9, 2009

Preventive Medicine and Preventive Politics

Filed under: 1 — clarelspark @ 7:56 pm
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Tonight the President will say something about health care reform, hoping to rescue the Great Overhaul  from what he and his supporters take to be the lies and growls of selfish individualists– the militaristic menagerie of what is called “the Right” by right-on lefties and left-liberals. I don’t know how this fight will be ended, if ever, but today’s blog will comment on the dangers to health of 1. Excessive alienation ; and 2. Polarization and hatred of the other side.  Consider this brief statement to be a contribution to preventive medicine, specifically the reduction of cortisol excretions from the adrenal glands that, if secreted too often, lead to lowered immunity from infectious diseases and a multitude of dangerous inflammations.

As I showed in a prior blog, “Preventive Politics and Socially Responsible Capitalists, 1930s-1940s,” (READ IT: the social psychologists, sociologists, and cultural anthropologists centered at Harvard University, faced with the challenge of attractive and dynamic ideologies of either fascism or communism, were not concerned with optimum mental health, understood today to be the capacity for rational political participation, love, work, and empathy. No, they were chiropractors of the psyche, bent on achieving “social cohesion” or “equilibrium” by subtly disciplining bright students who might become radicalized, and then go on to become an internal Fifth Column as these best and brightest would undoubtedly rise to the top of every American institution. That such a discipline devoted to “adjustment” (not innovation) might curb the creative contributions of their students and of other Americans treated similarly was not their problem.

One of their colleagues, Harold Lasswell (of the U. of Chicago), political advisor to the newly formed Committee For Economic Development (founded in 1942 and adopting Keynesian economics; thank you spirit of Hyman Minsky for telling me about them), actually favored the formation of a national board that would assess would-be leaders, using Henry A. Murray’s Thematic  Apperception Test, a test that was presented deceptively to its client users. Lasswell’s biographer credited him with the invention of “preventive politics,” a concept meant to be attached to the beneficent strategy of “preventive medicine.”

Preventive medicine is extolled in HR 3200, but not defined, and the only Obama reference to it that I heard was a mention that diabetics should lose weight to avoid amputations of their feet (and he linked this point to a larger argument that doctors were avoiding such advice in order to enhance their income through profitable amputations). [In tonight’s speech, he gave the example of mammograms and colonoscopies, i.e., screening. C.S. 7:30pm PT.]  Neither he nor any other politican has dwelled upon a broader approach to preventive medicine as a cost-saving approach to health care, and I count on my friends and other readers to tell me whether or not the media punditry has explained what they take preventive medicine to mean. [Think of smoking, obesity, and alcohol as the three chief causes of preventible death: all linked to depression.]

The Over-alienated and under-educated.    It should be obvious that the intense polarization of the “culture wars” and the deterioration of civility as many opponents confront their “enemies” cannot be good for stress-reduction. As I have argued here before, there is a broad consensus regarding the need for both a private and a public sector: reasonable people can argue about the efficacy of tasks better undertaken by market competition or state regulation and investment. Those on the “progressive” or “communitarian” side who see “the Right” as a monolith of buccaneering laissez-faire capitalists, protofascist or fascist and irrational, are necessarily mobilized for combat 24/7. While those on the Right who see all programs of public health as proto-fascistic, statist infringement of personal liberty and local control, produced by the secret machinations of mad scientists in cahoots with Wall Street, are similarly over-agitated, to their own detriment. For this reason, I have emphasized here the study of history,* mathematics, political theory, economics, and all the sciences in the schools, for such subjects, properly taught (that is, without indoctrination), can enable citizens not only to read legislation and analyze specific policies with greater competence:  An informed electorate, truth-seekers all, should be able to empathize with those who in reality share many, if not every single social and personal goal. And empathy reduces hatred and keeps the fight-and-flight mechanism working to preserve a good life. Question for the Left: do you really want everybody to be poor, backward, and under the thumb of bureaucrats?

*History is not a science, but a set of competing theories about the past. Anyone who teaches it as uncontroversial and settled is miseducating the students and setting them up for a lifetime of distorted perceptions. One way to sublimate rage (for instance in response to Obama’s speech) is to identify his misrepresentations, convenient ambiguities, and downright errors, then publicize them. I suppose that is why I blog.

Added after Obama speech to joint session of Congress, 9-10-09. Upon reflection, it was an appalling performance, filled with switches. But the well-meaning liberal may not see what I did. Briefly, Obama, taking the tone of the impassioned black preacher in pure revivalist mode, placed himself on the side of the angels and the beloved community. That is, he would not be partisan but would embody the civility (i.e. Christian charity) I mentioned above, with utopia just around the corner. Not long after that he condemned his Republican opponents as liars irresponsibly disseminating erroneous claims about the legislation. First he took credit for rescuing Americans from economic disaster, then came on as a compassionate centrist, who would have to give up a single-payer plan (or anything else that the far left-wing of his party was demanding?).  With no tentativeness, he promised that his plan would be paid for through eliminating fraud and waste in Medicare, though the cost would be 900 billion dollars. On tort reform, he began by hinting that it would now be included in the next draft of legislation (gaining applause: would he be dissing the trial lawyers?), but then handed it off to a cabinet secretary for experimental study in selected states, as if the data were not already clear enough. Finally, after annexing the sentimental feelings about the death of Edward Kennedy, he ended with an apocalyptic view of failure should his legislation not pass. Throughout he took the tone of the good father who had been tested beyond all endurance by the evil cable and radio commentators, the town-hall meetings, and any other opposition. He was generally vehement and accusatory to my ears.  I find it personally very dispiriting that the authoritarian posture and rhetoric are not seen by my friends who are left-liberals and who will agree with Harry Reid that the speech was “a game-changer.”

Let me now merge yesterday’s blog on “taking responsibility” for one’s education and the implications of his speech and its silence on the prerequisites for good health (what I have been calling preventive medicine). The limited view he has displayed so far on this question is worrisome and even bizarre. How can we “take responsibility” for our health if we don’t have clean air, clean water, and clean food? How can we “take responsibility” for our health if children are not taught from early childhood on such basic questions as enhancing their body’s resistance to disease, eating correctly,  and avoiding unnecessary stress to bones and muscles (add your own preventive measures here), while strengthening  bodies and brains with appropriate activities, such as dance, low-impact athletics, and the arts in general? In other words, the study of human physiology and the preservation of the body (along with the enlargement of the imagination and of inter-personal skills) must begin as soon as the child can process the instruction. Whether the federal government or schools and parents (armed with good science) alone should be overseeing such enhanced education is a matter for public debate: my own preference lies with market competition, although I am also in favor of state investment in science, medical research, and education, for state sponsorship does not necessarily entail state control of laboratories or schoolrooms.  But then I may be among the last of the puritans, or maybe the Greeks: a sound mind in a sound body. Or, faced with the ambiguous  statism of this administration, are we hovering on the brink of a new majority? If that majority is anti-science, then our country will face stagnation and terminal decline.

1 Comment »

  1. […] and other crimes against humanity that had parallels in states we abhor. As I have said earlier (, state investment or state sponsorship does not necessarily imply state control, and the arguments […]

    Pingback by Making mobs with bad words and concepts « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — January 21, 2013 @ 6:29 am | Reply

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