Category Archives: Big Pharma

Blinders and Distractions – September 22, 2014

nature02Ultimately, I want to save the world, but who doesn’t? The bewildering array of problems that need fixing would make Gandhi throwing up his arms in disgust. Where does one begin? In the early 2000s, my initial focus took on global warming as it was called in a lost age. Now monikered climate change, a more all-embracing expression, it looms over us like a snake on a hypnotized hamster.

What are we to do? Distract ourselves with some talent shows and YouTube videos? My studies indicate that this is the main source of our psychic problem. This instrument infests the mind with commercial drivel, surrounds us with archaic Madison Avenue graffiti, and wears down our sense of self-worth with unobtainable values. This blend brews a whole lot of discontent, making these people targets to even more invasive material.

How does this relate to climate change? Consumerism. The amount of energy that we waste, namely petroleum, to buy items with tyrannosaurus-sized carbon footprints that are designed to break down or go out of style in a month or two is choking us out. I’m talking about pollution. Not only in the waste which we toss into the landfill, but the resources required to gather and process the materials. Followed by the most-likely overseas transport before trucking it inland, the tally refuses to end. All of it is driven by the commercial detritus that leads us to forsake our character for our appearance.

There’s a purpose to all this. The economy must grow no matter what stands in its way, behaving much like a tumor. The rules are written so that every incorporated industry must grow larger every year. If not, they are fined because pissing off the investors is a no-no. How does it grow? By decreasing the consumer’s willpower, tickling their emotions, and instilling a sense of ‘MUST HAVE.’ This is where the corporate heads turn to Mr./Ms. Madison Ave to create the right lure to pull in the greatest amount of fish. While this once was the basic television commercial, they now have more covert methods to delivering their virus.

Commercial culture has ransacked our values, having us believe that we need to be driving near-illegal sport cars and wearing jewellery that could budget a small village’s needs for a year. The need for bling erodes not only our values, but our bank accounts. Now let’s be clear. Our money is our lifeblood, what we toil our time and lives over. In olden days, our earnings were meant to reflect our legacy. Something to pass on to the children. Now we have let our cars, accessories, and property define us. Are we seeing the problem here?

We’re ensnared in a trap, and it does all it can to keep us from reaching fulfillment. Have you ever felt buyer’s regret? You get home and within a couple of hours or days you’re feeling like maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Then something better comes up and we pounce on it like it was something precious.

In this age of self-gratification, where is there room for community? You know, taking part in activities that are outside of your circle of close associations? There are parts of the world out there that require your participation. The world isn’t going to run itself.

What if, when people thought of you, images of something you’ve done and stood up for come to mind rather than what model of car you have? Half of us can’t be bothered to vote. When’s the last time you volunteered? Offered help? Even something as simple as making someone smile can make a difference.? I’ll let you in on a secret: The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

As I dug deeper into the marketing operations, I found that they were targeting our kids and building up a ‘pester power’ for everything from toys up to vehicles. They corralled in psychologists to determine the best way to push the ‘consumer’ button, and the economy blossomed like a nuclear mushroom cloud. The effects were quite similar.

To make all the consumables, resources must be dug up from somewhere. To put those things together and sell so cheaply, the labor must be even cheaper. Their ‘cost-effective’ manufacturing is often environmentally frowned upon in ‘developed’ countries, but ‘developing’ countries are more than willing to take part in the corporate plunder. Oddly, this is also happening in Canada, and we’re ‘developed’.

While these practices take their toll on the environment, the effects ripple to consequences on our health. We have particulates in our air and water, and chemicals subtly destroying the life below our feet. When these end up on our bodies, either through direct exposure or in our food, the results are dismal. And that’s only from the produce.

Our meat and poultry live lives of misery to appease our palettes. Antibiotics have become a precautionary measure, becoming a part of the animal’s nutritious breakfast (lunch, and dinner.) They still get sick, and that spreads fast when you spend day-to-day shoulder-to-shoulder with your neighbour. The feed is literally garbage, and this practice extends to what we feed our pets. None is properly regulated. Our institutes have failed us.

All of these chemicals and drugs filter to our food, and there is no way to extract it before it sizzles on our grills. Add a side of chemically-drenched vegetables, smothered in chemical concoctions from a bottle. In between, we nibble on artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners that tax the body even further. What does this do to our minds? It’s not pretty.

There has been a movement towards limiting these chemical supplies in our food. I tried some of the improved formulas and they ruined my childhood. When I studied into where these amazing tastes came from, I gagged. Our minds may be saying strawberry, but the internal organs are saying WTF? Why would we have a problem with eating these items? It involves evolution. Our bodies were built up and nourished by natural foods, whereas these chemical additives began the invasion in the early 1900s, starting with refined sugar.

Coinciding with our chemical intake were rising disease statistics. Much of what sickens us comes from our body’s inability to properly synthesize what we eat. Some get stored, and some get excreted, but the whole time our body is confused by this alien entity.

When it gets stored in our bodies, it goes to the liver or fat cells, which itself should be harmless. All these chemicals have been proven safe in a human environment. The problems arise when these chemicals cross each other in the storage units. Chemicals have ways of reacting with each other, let alone that some metabolize into carcinogens when they first take a seat. From this, obesity and disease result.

We’ve been getting sicker from our food and medical miracles, aside from many other lifesaving technologies that have undoubtedly helped. Fortunately, another arm to this chemical culture has come to the rescue. For a price. For every illness, Big Pharma has a fix. They can control everything from our cholesterol to our thoughts. Have you ever wondered what got us to this place? Perhaps we’re taking better pre-emptive care of our vehicles than of our bodies. Why do we so devalue ourselves? Who feeds these standards into our minds?

A large part of the problem begins when those food chemicals scoot past the blood-brain barrier. That barrier’s in place to keep poison from entering our brain, yet our confused body has let some pass. As a worrying aside, other chemicals are out there wreaking havoc on our hormones, and they control almost all of the body’s processes. As for those renegade brain invaders, there are a whole slew of different chemical concoctions to soothe those mental ills. The overall understanding of how the brain operates is incomplete, but Big Pharma feels what they offer is…good enough? I questioned if they really wanted us to get well.

The financial reality told me no. To truly cure the patient is to put a bullet to the head of the consumer. If sales ended because the cure was no longer needed, the whole system would crash. So, what about the institutions that are supposed to be protecting us? These government-funded agencies are like beaver dams trying to stop a glacier.

They were put in place to stop the snake-oil salesmen. They successfully kept their reign on the drug industry. Then the profit motive stepped in. Soon there weren’t enough funds to oversee the thousands of chemicals produced each year. The tables soon turned, and funds were needed from the developers; a fee that soon became the agency’s budget. When you become reliant on your funders, you tend to let certain rules bend. All of this done to the appeasement of the almighty stock holders. Now we have puppet regulations, put together in cooperation with the industries. These rules are supposed to protect the public’s health and well-being, yet the profit motive conflicts with this ideology.

These same industries make billions of dollars by making us sick and then treating us for it. The only time the public becomes aware of a problem is when the media issues a recall. Food tampering, explosive motors, and food-borne bacteria make for painful headlines. Deadly drug side effects, even worse. Sometimes.

Before the public is acknowledged, the accused is obscured behind some public relations fluff, softening the blow to the industry. This fluff is then provided for free to the media, and they swallow it up and spit it back at the public in an either light-hearted or panic-inducing way. The number of deaths matter. Panic is really a big part of the media backbone.

Fear creates doubt, it perpetuates a false sense of urgency, it makes us tuck our heads in our shells, it focuses our hopes on the storm blowing over. There is no plan on what to do after the storm passes. Fear prevents us from taking part in the real world, as our personal hopes for our world are constantly placed in jeopardy and require our constant surveillance. Fear prevents us from stepping beyond our self-contained world, from reaching out and giving what we have as gifts. Rather, we take and hoard our possessions, ‘the meaning of me’, and cage it up in case someone comes and takes it. Call it another symptom of consumerism, I call it paranoid narcissism.

Sorry, that’s getting bitter. What I’m getting at is that this isn’t us. This isn’t the behaviour of a superior civilization. I started off talking about saving the world and climate change. Somehow I’ve gone into the psychological effects of commercialism. How to reconcile this? To start, climate change is the resulting accumulation of each and every one of our actions, and there are seven-plus billion of us inhabiting this planet.

We are wasteful. A light left on by one is hardly considered a waste, but when one percent of seven billion do this, that’s still 70 million lights left burning. And how likely is it that only one percent has this habit? Granted, not all seven billion have electricity and that’s not a good thing either. How grateful should we be for this electric culture we’re in? Sadly, it is nothing more than background noise; a part of modern life. These engrained habits, this loss of wonder, has left us in a state of hyperstimulated burnout. It’s no wonder so many of us flock to the flatscreen. We need the distraction.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not your fault. The food’s been playing tricks on your brain, the drugs to treat that are adding icing to the glazed problem. And the media that we’ve been depending on is in cahoots with the industries that are poisoning us. It’s a tough prison to break free from. You may notice I didn’t speak about politics. I hoped to keep this brief.

So how do I save a world in such dire straits? For one, I stay open to chance meetings out in the real world. I went out and started a group called Community Minds. It didn’t accomplish much, but I haven’t counted it out. Everything’s a process for me.

That’s the second part: Always be open to whatever’s presented to you. Within limits, of course. I’m not talking about anything extreme, but of those moments that peak your curiousity. If your first thought is, I haven’t don’t that before, then try it. On the other end of the spectrum, when you’re worried about something that might be, ask yourself: Is there anything I can do about it right now? If yes, do something. If no, drop it for the time. Don’t waste your energy.

I suppose if I wanted to save the world, I’d would get everyone to eat better. Take back your health. Treat your body with the same reverence you do your car engine. You don’t wait for it to break down before taking it in to the garage. We get tune-ups and oil changes. Our bodies are no different. Clear out the toxins, go on a fast food fast. Drop processed foods from your menu and see if it makes a difference. I’m not saying go cold turkey, because I sure didn’t. But I don’t eat junk food like I used to and I feel great.

So turn off the computer, go outside and find someone to have a conversation with. Help mow someone’s lawn, move furniture. Be a Boy (or Girl) Scout. Eat right. Read good books. Gaze at nature’s beauty. Regain a sense of wonder and the bling will lose its appeal. Life is too short to worry about the future or fret about the past when there’s so much change going on around you. Expose your spirit through the vehicle you’re given, connect with others and build that network of change. Perhaps someday it will intersect with mine.

Connections – August 28, 2013

community04 I have a dream, and hope that I’m not the only one. I see a world reactive to civilization’s events, but lack the conviction, drive and motivation to create the circumstances that would allow us to thrive. On a daily basis, we negotiate three separate realms: The internal and mental machinations; the economy, the lifeblood of our society; and, the culture that we interact with. All affect each other.

Our thoughts, feelings, and instincts come from within. Our brain tells us what we sense, reminds us of what we know, and alerts us to what the body wants. Unfortunately, we don’t always understand what it’s telling us. Worsening the situation, we are knocked senseless by our food and drugs, both becoming more synthetic by the day.

Fuelling our mind and body, food and drugs determine which lens we view the world through and how clear those concepts are. Sadly, our view has become distorted with false and biased information, and we are failing to thoroughly question what’s being presented on our plates and in our prescriptions. Complexity further blurs the path to proper development, to the point where the basics, like eating, can no longer be straightforward and it seems that every bite we take will have dire consequences.

At the external end of the equation, the complexities multiply as the line between needs and wants becomes less obvious. The fantastic is replaced by the mundane, as imagination takes the backseat to bureaucracy, and innovation becomes a childhood dream. Our values are set on an economic treadmill, where our worth is in our bling and our values reflected in our media consumption. Everything we require has a price, making our health, education and social needs anything but universal.

Our treatment to others rebounds in a likewise way. Have you ever had that day when you’re unable to shake off the misery and seem to find it in everyone you pass? The worst form comes as prejudice, a sort of extreme disdain. This negativity feeds upon itself, whereas positivity builds itself in a constructive way. The good day reflects itself as much as the bad.

Our democracy has been pirated by industry lobby groups, demanding payback for the political donations, usually for things that the public opposes. What power can a citizen attain in such a lopsided world? Cynicism breeds in such perfect conditions. What is one to do? Asking good questions is a start.

As we improve our physical and mental wellbeing, we must also attend to how we interact with our culture and environment. As our social strife and the environmental misbehaviour reveal, effects run both ways. What we do to our environment reflects the behaviour back at us. Have you ever failed to notice just how messy your room doesn’t seem until you need to find something? Our attitude towards the environment is very similar, where we are cogs in a much larger machine and our actions are but a ripple in the overall butterfly effect of environmental devastation.

The complexity that binds our mind, body, culture and economy is the natural ecology, where geography informs us when enough is enough and the environment reveals the power of its amplifier feedback. This is a question of international proportions. Whether it’s nuclear power gone wild, or raking away entire biospheres to feed the world’s richest; it’s those who neighbour the devastation, and rarely the culprits, who face the feedback. How could this be destroyed if we didn’t support it? Why do we support them? We don’t need a global economy to survive. There are other options.

This apathy empowers the industries that have the most to lose. As the economic landscape shifts, the older generation who gained the most has started losing ground. Cycling in more ‘political donations’ for them to maintain their grasp and kick away the competition, their fight to maintain the status quo has stifled society’s progression. If the system allows this bullying to continue, the system must be changed.

The mass of society empowers the institutions. Our wages and debt form the economy, and keep the industrial powers at the top. While the banks and corporations reap the rewards, we inject our lifeblood of time, indentured to the end, and sometimes beyond. Being good economic citizens has not improved our situation. It doesn’t need to be this way. We can break free of the dream to ‘make it big’. How about, instead, we aim to make it broad. Rather than becoming iconic, we aim to be effective?

Our culture grows on the structure of its institutions. Education, science, democracy and our values are all based on our interaction with them. Unfortunately we see them as too big for us to have any influence. We have stepped away from the controls and refuse to step back into the command position. The plague of capitalisum has crept in and injected its imperative into our cultural values.

Now we educate to conform rather than unleash creativity. Our education must shift from drone manufacturing into creating imagination machines. The recall of facts has no importance to anyone without effectively synthesizing it into the bigger picture. Rather than climb to heights of innovation, our education forces us into silos to help dig out the reductionist roots.

The economy has helped slant science away from the whole and fractured it into reductionism. The holistic picture becomes ever more complex, like putting together a puzzle where the pieces keep breaking apart. Now they’re unable to figure out why Nature’s results are greater than the sum of her parts. Pride magnifies animosity between specialties, nailed down to a chain of debt, stifling open-minded intercommunication. Life has too many unknowns for reductionists to acknowledge that it exists since it can’t be synthesized.

The first order of duty is to restore your health. Question the food you eat and drugs you take. The only one to look after your health is yourself, and if what you eat is frequently advertised then you may be causing yourself a whole lot of damage. Open a book and research the information. Question your doctor on what you’re prescribed, and investigate dietary changes that have proven very effective with many ailments. Never, however, go cold turkey on your prescriptions as this could do more harm than good. Alternative therapy exists, but tread carefully. And exercise should be a given.

Once the body’s physical inputs are purified, it’s time to put the mental house in order. The best approach is to reach out to others rather than to tough it out, though going alone has certain advantages as well. Though given a recent backlash, spirituality, and not necessarily an organized religion, is recovery’s best backer. Having a belief system in place will help combat the onslaught of cynicism. A belief is not your own, but a trait shared with a group that holds similar hopes. Hope drives us to the finish line, at times opposing all odds of success. With the power of this group, hope is possible. This is your community.

Rather than injecting your lifeblood solely into paying off debts and gadget-hunting, invest it in your community and reinvigorate that sense of hope. Social action and volunteerism are the quickest way to re-incorporation. But being involved must go beyond the cause and have a holistic sense of each action’s impact on the social ecology. This requires co-operation between all of the aid societies and it can evolve the social structure.

The bad news for the capitalist banking system is that sustainability works best with a local economy, not a global one. Local means supporting credit unions, using local dollars, or participating in a time bank system, to name a few. Numerous communities have succeeded and prospered on such alternate systems. A sustainable economy focuses on business conduct, product choice, food security, and responsible development. We must support social entrepreneurism, people and organizations working to better the social landscape through business and political means.

The sense of community requires a close analysis of how we relate to it. How do social conditions affect you? Where do you place yourself against the elite? What sense of interdependence do you feel with the environment around you? What sense of guardianship do you witness? It’s never too late to get involved, whether you stand for justice, a cause or institutional change. There are people out there working on it, and they need your help, be it donations or your time.

The best part is, we can make the changes we want because they are all human creations and we have a whole civilization of brilliance and passion that can make it happen. We can rationalize the complexities, gauge the probabilities, and create the kind of community that we can proudly hand over to our children. Overall, I probably could have shortened this to: Treat your body well, and then the world.

Prescribed Addiction‏ – March 10, 2008

Do you feel down and sluggish? Are your feet itchy? Do you have second thoughts while standing in a crowd of twenty to fifty? Does sneezing make your eyes twitch, and stiffening the muscles on the tip of our right little finger? There’s probably a pill that can fix you.

Amazing medication advertisements urge us “to ask your doctors today” about the benefits of tomorrow. Thinking we are healthy, we discover that some vague symptom we have is being advertised on an infomercial. With the marketing department’s imagination, these symptoms instantly conjure up a wide market of ‘sufferers’. To the industry’s benefit, more drugs are then prescribed to counter the original drug’s side effects. The prescription numbers grow and the dosages increase.

Canadians spend over $20 billion on prescription drugs each year.[1] This is the pharmaceutical industry, or Big Pharma’s, cut of our health care spending. Not denying the necessity to some lifesaving drugs, but in 2002 the top ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 earned a profit of $35.9 billion. The remaining 490 businesses earned a grand total of $33.7 billion, including banks and petrochemical industries.[2] We may have a drug problem. These numbers indicate that we are overmedicated and must wean off of Big Pharma’s monetary overdose.

The industry pawns its cures upon the masses. As Dr. Marcia Angell writes in The Truth About the Drug Companies, Big Pharma is the chief informant keeping both the public and doctors up-to-date on the latest-and-greatest illnesses. The psychotherapist’s bible is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, presenting a psychological lock for every pharmaceutical key. The first version, published in 1917, was a sixty-five page booklet; the 1994 DSM-IV, was 886 pages[3]. That’s a whole lot of sickness and a whole lot of fixes.

Of course, a cure would be great for the federal health budget, but it prescribes doom for the pharmaceutical industry. Our psychological and physical health are of secondary importance to increased stock returns for their investors. A cure equates lost business for Big Pharma; it doesn’t promote a growing economy. It is equivalent to killing off the customer, which is more profitable when done slowly.

The legal drug dealer runs on an exponential cycle of consumer dependency, not unlike narcotics. We are test beakers to the pharmaceutical marketing department, ingesting chemical concoctions and living out the mixture’s effects. So, where would we be without Big Pharma? Aside from some life-saving products, probably healthier and saner.


[1] Reynolds, John Lawrence, Prognosis: The Current State and Shaky Future of Canada’s Health System (Toronto, Penguin, 2008) 54

[2] Angell, Marcia, M. D., The Truth About the Drug Companies: How they deceive us and what to do about it (New York, Random House, 2005) 11