Friday, May 27, 2011

I Can Fix You...

Do you suffer from horrifying arthritis pain?  I've got a fix for that.  Are you overweight and out of shape?  I've got just the thing.  The stress of work and paying the bills got you down?  I can fix that!  Not enough time to cook a healthy dinner?  Well, now, there's a cure!  All you have to do is send me money!

There's always a product or service out there to help you with every ill.  Sometimes, when I fly, I take a nice load of amusement reading some of the absurd products in the SkyMall catalogs.  The best one I saw was actually labeled as a "Wireless Umbrella."  I had to wonder...  I can't recall the last time I ever had to plug my umbrella in.  I like dogs and cats as much as the next person, but seriously...  dog nail-polish?  A walker cart for your goldfish?  There exist minor products to solve the most inane problems, like a neck lanyard to hold a wine glass level while leaving both hands free.  Who the devil buys these things?!?!

Well, as it so happens, there's a plentiful array of buyers.  This is America -- where nobody does things to deal with their problems, but rather, they just figure there has to be a product or service to fix anything.  In fact...  let me rephrase that -- we NEED to buy a product or service to fix whatever we have.

I will go vomit now.

This is the sort of thinking that just drives fraud markets, gives infomercial pitch-men the room to sell useless crap, and makes sure there's always a market for the next big thing. The next time I hear somebody touting the miracle benefits of acai, I'll help them learn firsthand that there is no afterlife.  Oh, but acai berry is such a rich source of antioxidants!!  Really?!?  A berry full of antioxidants?  Next thing you know, they'll be discovering liquids that are wet and mammals that don't lay eggs!  It's not exactly rare for a berry to be chock-full of antioxidants.  But the word "antioxidant" is enough for the bells to go off and people assume, "It must be super-duper healthy!!!"

Then people will go off and sell it as some sort of miracle-cure for everything.  The worst part of it, though, is the idiot buyers in the market who fall for it every time.  People who somehow believe that whatever problem they have, whatever shortcoming they may believe they suffer from, whatever inadequacy they imagine, is somehow going to be solved by some product or service out there.

There's a certain mode to this where we somehow start to believe we have a shortcoming just because somebody mentions it.  You see some gingko-infused soft drink in the store and it talks about improving concentration and memory...  the moment you see that, the idea pops into your head that your concentration and memory could use some help.  In fact, it's not likely that we have some crazy epidemic of poor short-term memory.  It's more likely an epidemic of indifference, but that's a different point.  The very idea that all this ginseng, gingko, echinacea, bee pollen, etc. can do anything to help you is entirely an unproven assertion.  It's the result of extreme extrapolation from very weak indications from very small scale research in the lab-rat phase (much of which did not pan out in the end).  All you can really get out of them is darker urine.  But no one cares.  After all, they're all-natural herbal ingredients!  How could they possibly be bad?  If only people realized that "All-Natural" is just a keyword to make you feel safe with it.

I happen to know of another all natural herbal extract which is a very effective stimulant and appetite suppressant, as well as an anti-depressant.  It can also be used as a topical analgesic to temporarily relieve minor aches and pains.  It is relatively easy to extract, and due to its alkaloid nature, can separate through interaction with common acid solutions, then refined from this form through the addition of another alkaline solution to separate the ionic bond.  For the time being, the difficulty of distribution makes it terribly expensive here in the United States, except in low-dose packaging.  Just in case you were ready to ask where you can buy this miracle herbal extract, let me just tell you that the all-natural wonder drug has a common trade name with which you're probably familiar.*

Seriously, though...  did it sound interesting?  Or even more to the point, did you feel as if you might have a use for such a product?  It should come as no real surprise, because that's just the kind of culture we're in.  We're a culture of consumption, and we want stuff for everything, all the time.  When we feel there's a problem or shortcoming of some sort, we don't think "What can I do to rectify this?";  We think "What can I buy to rectify this?"

Got this annoying muscle pain in your shoulder?  Well, it could be a number of things, and at least one of the things you ought to try is to sleep in a different position than usual.  No, wait...  you have a better solution involving buying some rubber wristband with a hologram sticker on it that will emit frequencies which are perfectly in line with those your own body naturally produces thereby balancing your overall health!  Uuuuhhhh...  right.  To paraphrase Morbo -- HOLOGRAMS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY! and there are no such "frequencies."

It's no big surprise that the consumerism of the American populace produces this desire for instant gratification.  We don't just want to lose weight...  we want to lose weight friggin' yesterday -- only we don't want to have to work for it.  We don't try to devise a thorough and complete diet and exercise program.  We buy some apparatus that promises instant results!  Your results may vary, though.

Seriously, if there was such a product out there that could just make you fit instantly without time and effort, every man in the country would already be some sort of chiseled Adonis and every woman fully equipped to bring Aphrodite to her knees in the wake of overwhelming envy.  And we'd all have the luxury of being able to maintain those flawless physiques while subsisting on pizza and beer to no end.  Okay, I can see the attraction.  Paints all sorts of pictures of the Alphas from Brave New World.  Except a device that ubiquitous is likely to begin with an 'i' and have an Apple logo on it...  so there's a tinge of 1984 as well.  There's a small thing in the way, though;  It's called reality.  These are not goals that you achieve by just rubbing on some cream or taking a pill and watching TV.  It takes real work.  But then, people don't like effort.  It takes too much effort.  Then I suppose I have to laugh even more when people buy silly things for the most trivial of reasons.  I'm sorry if I have a toenail clipper that actually requires you to bend over in order to clip your nails.  I'm clearly behind the times and I don't understand the true horrors of lower back pain.  I guess I must have been too busy exercising my lower back muscles to have experienced it in the first place.  I'm sorry if I have to actually crack an egg into a bowl first before scrambling the whites and yolks.  It's unfortunate that using a fork or a whisk is a little faster than trying to line up an egg against this tiny little bent wire in the center and hoping you don't break the shell when you try to puncture it and then twist it so that it stands upright.  I'm sorry if I feel just fine with being under a blanket rather than needing a backwards bathrobe just to keep my hands free.  And why, goddamn it, don't all doctors have Bluetooth connectivity on their stethoscopes?

It makes me most angry of all when charlatans and quacks, particularly, alternative medicine practitioners capitalize on this.  It means the stupidity will burn.  I especially love the new-age types who talk about releasing accumulated stress.  Stress accumulates?  Where?  And how are they measuring this?  And exactly how does lying down under blinking LEDs or having my foot massaged or placing a bunch of tuning forks on my forehead supposed to do this?  The reason they're able to sell this bunkum is because they take outrageous claims of being able to do anything and everything (especially the claim that they can fix anything where science "gives up") and they wrap it in this sticky film of metaphysical poetry on the vitalistic beauty of health and well-being.  Or what in the world of the reality, we might call, a pantload or utter bullcrap.  But for all the objections we can have, this sort of lyrically waxed nonsense about the vital energy of the soul or the balance of our chakras or the influence of Mercury on your 5th house ultimately really leads to exactly what people are looking for -- immediate answers for friggin' everything.

If it sounds too good to be true...  well, I think we all know how that phrase ends.  Well, there's one thing I can offer you, though, and I can honestly say that it will provide you the answers to whatever you're looking to fix.  And out of the goodness of my heart, I'm going to give away, at no cost to you, the ultimate secret that will unlock the answers to every problem that can ever plague you.  It's called -- using your brain.

* The common name for that herbal extract is cocaine