KEEPING AN OPEN MINDHelke Ferrie May 1, 2011
Recognizing the Global Good News Amongst All the Bad
“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.”
Voltaire – French Enlightenment philosopher 1694–1778
Many people have asked me how I manage to cope with the monumental task of researching medical corruption, corporate and political sleaze, and the associated statistics on death and injury, while still retaining my sanity and optimism. The fact is that horrible things keep happening, so denial won’t work. What follows are my thoughts on the matter, along with my guiding principles. But first, a little rollercoaster ride through some current highs and lows is necessary to illustrate my approach.
We receive enormous amounts of bad and good news. If we only try to shut our eyes to the bad stuff while fervently hoping for more good stuff, we could become very frustrated and stressed out. So we often can’t help but look for a trend, a clear pattern in the tea leaves, a guiding message from the stars, a definitive and authoritative interpretation – something (anything!) that allows us to grab reality by the tail and shout: “Gotcha! Now I know what this is all about.” (I, too, read the astrology section in Vitality faithfully every month.)
The repetitive nature of destruction and evil is especially exhausting. German philosopher Hanna Arendt used to refer to this as “the banality of evil.” How very true. Consider this pile of bad news and notice how strangely the bad slides over into the good news:
– The U.S. spends $7,538 per person annually on health care, far more than other industrialized countries, yet has the worst life expectancy. Given the garbage that they offer their population to eat, the toxicity of their environment, and the state-sponsored support of toxic drugs and medical maiming procedures, this figure does not surprise. Unfortunately, the beneficiary of all those health care dollars is the medical industry, not the patient.
– Arising from the same policy that produces wealth from sickness comes the statistic that more than 2,000 American babies died within the last few years from vaccines alone. (When four died in Japan, the vaccines were removed at once.) Between 2006 and 2010, the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), operated by the FDA and the CDC, received 59,000 such reports from pneumococcal and influenza B vaccines alone, of which 30,094 required hospitalizations and 2,169 died (95% of the dead were babies). In Canada, we don’t even have such a reporting system!
– Simultaneously, we learn that the Danish researcher hired by the CDC to “prove” that vaccines don’t cause autism has just been indicted on 13 counts of fraud and money laundering; his study on MMR vaccines was also totally fraudulent, relying on databases that don’t exist, but his “research” continues to be cited as proof that these vaccines are safe.
– After some Herculean efforts to purge medical research of conflicts of interest, McGill University researchers revealed in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March that such conflicts are starting to sneak back in: the drugs being recommended are praised by those who are paid to do so.
– An analysis reported in the February 2011 issue of Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that those journals which allow disguised advertising to appear as research articles also rely on drug ads for profit; journals that do not allow ads at all, being non-profit, publish research that dismisses the identical drugs that were advocated in the journals relying on drug ads.
– The same findings were made for synthetic (carcinogenic!) HRT drugs: doctors who received money from HRT manufacturers continued to recommend them despite the mountain of evidence of harm that these drugs cause. On the other hand, Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) has been proven as much safer, and yet is virtually ignored by mainstream practitioners.
– Psychiatric drugs are possibly the worst of all, as they are usually prescribed in situations where “informed consent” is meaningless. Added to the long list of drugs causing likely harm, Seroquel and Zyprexa are now linked to a high incidence of blood clots leading to strokes. AstraZeneca paid out $198 million to settle successful claims by 17,500 injured patients this year. Recently, Eli Lilly paid out a whopping $1.42 billion to people harmed by Zyprexa, and GlaxoSmithKline paid more than $1 billion for injuries from Paxil. This led to a very interesting decision: Big Pharma announced that they will no longer invest in psychiatric drug development.
NOW THE GOOD NEWS!
– In February, President Obama announced that the government will change patent law in various ways – apparently drugs and war have simply become too expensive. The estimated savings over the next 10 years from such changes to drug patents would be $11 billion.
– It was also noted that FDA warnings on specific classes of antipsychotics, which injure the brain, promote cancer and diabetes, and cause sudden death, resulted in a decline in prescriptions and compliance. Publishing the facts makes a difference.
– Similarly, the anti-depressant drugs known as SSRIs (e.g. Prozac) are in trouble now that large studies have shown that 70% of users remain depressed, no matter how many SSRIs they take.
– A finding published by the National Cancer Institute indicated that fewer and fewer doctors refer their cancer patients to clinical trials. Are they getting tired of reducing real people to guinea pigs for toxic drug experiments?
– Occasionally, facts get so big that they can no longer be avoided, as is the case with the American Heart Association finally telling everybody to reduce salt intake. Maybe they will eventually get around to sugar as well?
(Editor’s note: When hospitals stop serving margarine with daily meals for patients recovering from heart attack – that’s when I’ll really get excited.)
– Meantime, the European Union has declared war on smoking after evaluating the very positive results of such policies in other countries, such as Canada.
– A whopper of good news appeared in April when Ire-land, Japan, and Egypt banned the cultivation and import of all GMO crops. Monsanto is predictably furious, but when it sued Germany on the same issue, the company lost.
– After helping to nurse a very dear friend who died of asbestos-caused mesothelioma (a usually deadly lung cancer), I burst into tears and shouted with joy when I read that Quebec’s largest labour union cancelled its support for asbestos mining in March. Even the Harper government had to stop financing their phony Chrysotile Institute, which was originally established to churn out propaganda claiming that Canadian asbestos is different from all other forms of the deadly stuff, and that ours is safe to inhale. (However, during his recent election campaign, Harper reaffirmed his commitment to exporting Quebec asbestos to other countries, claiming that it’s “good for the mining industry.”)
– CBC reported on April 20 that the pesticide ban in Ontario, initiated only a few years ago, has already yielded evidence of improved water quality. Even better, Ontario will stick to its decision to ban 2,4-D, despite the claims of safety issued by Health Canada.
– And now for the most amazing piece of good news: after decades of filling millions of mouths with mercury amalgam, a neurotoxic poison, the U.S. government finally accepted scientific fact and is phasing out its use.
– Especially surprising was a development in the U.S. in January: the so-called State Boards, which control doctors’ licenses like the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons do in Canada, have for decades been accustomed to enjoying unchallenged authority on the enforcement of whatever standards of practice their friends in Big Pharma desire. The same is true for the Colleges in Canada, which routinely ignore published literature that they don’t like when prosecuting a doctor for innovative work, usually without patient complaint (Google “Glasnost Report 2001” for some details). Well, several medical associations sued the Texas Board when it went after the world-famous expert in environmental medicine, Dr. William J. Rea, and won! This decision serves notice to the medical establishment throughout the U.S. and Canada that business as usual is over. The shift has begun towards patient outcome as being of primary importance, and the arbitrary enforcement of standards of practice regardless of patient outcome will not be tolerated anymore. Texas has also now introduced an excellent health freedom bill to clinch the matter.
THE KEY IS CREATIVE INTERACTION WITH REALITY
This constant barrage of bad news and good news can make the nerves raw. What attitude may we hope to develop that allows one to remain anchored in a still point, rather than becoming exhausted by it all? Clearly, the silly advice that “all will work out in the end” is of no use; there simply is too much that does not work out. Turning one’s back on the world is morally unacceptable to me, and giving way to cynicism or despair is a waste of life and brains. A quick overview of human nature, as science is beginning to see it, might be helpful.
This year, the Allen Institute for Brain Science published “the world’s first anatomically and genomically comprehensive brain map” in an effort to understand how human brains actually work. The most striking finding is that about 94% of whatever goes on in human brains goes on in all human brains everywhere – we are far more alike than we are different in our interactions with the world and each other. To me, this is cause for celebration.
No wonder we have mounting evidence, then, that sad people are far more destructive than happy ones; that children will spontaneously share prizes after working together; that positive medical outcomes are determined far more by the empathy the doctor genuinely feels for the patient than any treatment offered; that positive emotions and attitudes reduce stress hormone production in ourselves and through interaction with others, as do inflammatory responses. Even in battlefields, soldiers with emotional resiliency survive the horrors of battle better than those who give up on themselves and others. When it comes to job performance, a new marker has been methodically evaluated: people who are more honest and humble (as opposed to the driven, ambitious types trying to get as much as possible for themselves) perform far better at their work, and predictably so.
Most interesting is the finding that people who are satisfied with their lives and engaged in their communities are more likely to vote – it’s the depressed ones who give up on themselves and their role in the world and don’t care about government and policies. Furthermore, longevity studies show that active, even at times stressful, involvement in the world and life leads to longer and healthier lives.
Consider now the amazing results obtained by the research of Tel Aviv University’s Eva Jablonka. She examined the assumption that arose a decade ago when the Human Genome Project was completed. “They had closed the lid on all that’s to be known about our genes. But what they really did was open a Pandora’s Box.” Professor Jablonka has now shown that, for example, the stress of cancer and chronic diseases “may be passed on to our offspring through deep and complicated underlying cellular mechanisms that we are just now beginning to understand.” We can “influence our heredity” by our choices and the things to which we are exposed. She uncovered a process called “DNA methylation [which] alters gene function” such that various activities within our cells are influenced by our lifestyles.
In other words: what we do to our environment, we do to ourselves; what we do to others, we also do to ourselves. And whatever we do really, really matters, right down to our cells and hereditary mechanisms.
Somehow, people who experience themselves as a part of all life just do what must be done and assume that there will be response from likeminded people. The little Ecuadorian indigenous villager, Maria Aguinda, comes to mind. In February, she took on oil giant Chevron and won, making them pay $8.6 billion in fines to restore the environment in her village area, which was virtually destroyed by corporate greed.
There are, in my view, three problems that need to be understood in order to develop a peaceful and workable approach to the world. First, recognize and escape the trap of “confirmation bias” which compels us to look only for evidence that supports an unexamined positive or negative view. It prevents the experience of novelty, and therefore cuts off all creative interaction with reality. Dan Gardner’s brilliantly entertaining and beautifully researched book, Future Babble, explains this trap. The fact is that we do not know how anything will turn out – all we can do is roll with the punches and remain open to surprise.
Second, recognize that the illusion about the past as having been better is just that – an illusion. The past was terrible. Try a book on Canada before Medicare, view the National Film Board documentary on Tommy Douglas, and browse through the books listed below. You will be ever so glad to return to the present, a time in which action is possible and communication is a powerful tool for making life better.
Third, that scary voice prophesying certain doom must be silenced. The world will indeed come to an end some day – our entire civilization will go down in some form for sure. But not yet. Meanwhile, countless opportunities for “random acts of kindness” offer themselves. Pain is unavoidable, but goodness, kindness, and creativity are equally inevitable and certain.
The worst of all traps is, in my mind, the desire for certainty, for a solution that lasts. That desire is worse than hard drugs. It drains all creativity. Only doubt and an open mind willing to recognize change can keep us safe from despair.
Henry Waxman, The Waxman Report, Twelve Hachette Book Group 2010
Dan Gardner, Future Babble – Why Expert Predictions Fail – And Why Believe them Anyway, McLelland & Stewart, 2010
A. S. Wohl, Endangered Lives – Public Health in Victorian Britain, Harvard 1983
H. Heeney, editor. Life Before Medicare – the Canadian Experience, The Stories project 1995
For the scandal about Dr. Poul Thorsen and his indictment in April 2011 on 13 counts of fraud and money laundering, go to my book review of Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s book in Vitality, March 2011, in which his fraudulent methodology is discussed in detail, showing how he invented the data to “prove” that MMR vaccines cannot and did not cause autism.
The numbers of vaccine-related deaths and injuries is found on www.naturalnews.com in their March 24, 2011, issue in an article by Neil Z. Miller, who provides the primary sources for the stats. Go to the website Thinktwice Global Vaccine Institute for more information and www.medalerts.org
M. Roseman et al. Reporting conflicts of interest in meta-analyses of trials and pharmaceutical treatments. JAMA 305 (10), p. 1008 ff, March 11, 2011
The influence of advertising on drug recommendations. CMAJ, February 28 2011; the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association is available for free on-line.
A. Fugh-Berman et al. Promotional tone in reviews on menopausal hormone therapy after the Women’s Health Initiative: An analysis of published articles. PLoS 8 (3), March 15, 2011. Public Library of Science is available for free on-line.
N. Carrie et al. A Population-based assessment of specialty physicians involvement in cancer clinical trials. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, February 11, 2011
H.C. Kales et al. Trends in antipsychotic use of dementia 1999-2007. Archives of General Psychiatry 68 (2), February 2011
S. M. McClintock et al. Residual symptoms in depressed outpatients who respond by 50% but do not remit to antidepressant medication. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 31 (2)April 2011
The stats and sources for the information that antipsychotic drugs often lead to blood clots and death was published on www.naturalnews.com April 4, 2011 by Jonathan Benson.
The report that Big Pharma is stepping back from even developing psychiatric drugs because of cost, liability etc. was originally published in Science on July 10, 2010. An analysis of this article and subsequent events was published by Garry Cooper in Psychotherapy Networker, an on-line publication – Google.
The move by US President Obama to reduce patent years for drugs was widely reported. For a summary and sources see Jonathan Benson at www.naturalnews.com for February 21, 2011.
The details on US spending on healthcare were published widely; my source is the article by Mark Whitehouse and was sent to me by firstname.lastname@example.org on April 12, 2011.
The story about Ireland, Japan and Egypt banning GMO crops was sent out by a GMO activist news service email@example.com on April 21, 2011 and contained many websites as sources.
The salt reduction story was published on January 13, 2011 in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association; my information comes from the summary provided in www.sciencedaily.com of January 14, 2011. This is a daily free internet service that provided the latest news published in scientific journals throughout the world.
The story about Quebec’s largest union announcing it no longer supports the mining of asbestos was reported in the Montreal Gazette on March 10, 2011 (article by Michelle Lalonde).
The US government’s decision to phase out the use of dental amalgam due to the toxicity of mercury comes from www.bolenreport.com dated April 5, 2011
The fact that Ontario’s ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides is showing improvement in Ontario’s water, and the decision to ban 2,4-D in Ontario despite Health Canada’s decision to judge it to be harmless was reported on CBC news on April 20, 2011.
J. S. Ross et al. Smoking behaviour, involuntary smoking, attitudes towards smoke-free legislations, and tobacco control activities in the European Union. PLoS ONE, on January 5, 2011, vol 5 (11). Free on-line.
For a brief summary on how environmental medicine expert Dr. William J. Rea defeated the Texas Medical Board as well as succeeded in suing them is found in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients Feb/March 2011 page 95.
For the Texas Health Freedom bill go to the website of National Health Freedom Federation, April 11, 2011.
On children spontaneously sharing prizes fairly: Association for Psychological Science, February 11, 2011
R.N. Davis et al. Fathers’ depression related to positive and negative parenting behaviors with 1-year old children. Pediatrics, April 2011.
A report on a 2009 paper in Quarterly Review of Biology by Eva Jablonka on how we can “traumatize” our DNA and that heredity is not only under genetic control but also influence by behaviour, was discussed in an interview published on www.sciencedaily.com on March 23, 2011.
The success scored by an indigenous villager, Maria Aguinda, against the giant oil company Chevron in Ecuador was widely reported. I relied on a summary report from firstname.lastname@example.org
M.K. Johnson et al. A new trait on the market: honesty-humility as a unique predictor of job performance. Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 50 (6), April 2011.
The information on how human brains are 98% similar can be accessed for free on www.brain-map.org. The summary of the story about the Allen Human Brain Atlas comes from www.sciencedaily.com April 12, 2011.
The story about satisfied, engaged people being more likely to vote than unhappy people was published by P. Flavin & M.J. Keane under the title Life Satisfaction and Political Participation: Evidence from the United States in the Journal of Happiness Studies, April 20, 2011.
That physician’s empathy is directly related to clinical results was published in the March 2011 issue of Academic Medicine; the summary comes from www.sciencedaily.com March 8, 2011.
The story on positive emotions reducing stress hormones and inflammation was published by A.D. Ong. Pathways linking positive emotion and health in later life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 19 (6), 2010.
The January 2011 issue of the Journal of Occupational Psychology published an article on “Resilience on the battlefield: Soldiers with a positive outlook less likely to suffer anxiety, depression.” Summarized on www.sciencedaily.com Jan 5, 2011.
The results of the 20-year study called “The Longevity Project” were summarized on www.sciencedaily.com, March 12, 2011