Ask Iris: WWID?

Loyal Subject™ SJ sent a righteous rant to me and Palace blogger Don Ardell along with following graphic:

homeopathyexplainedThe missive’s subject was “Shame on everyone associated with this.” He wrote:

It is beneath the dignity of human beings living in the 21st Century (or the 20th, or maybe even the 19th, for that matter) to believe in such utter and total nonsense. Yet millions do.

And it is shameful to be associated with the manufacture, marketing, selling and purchasing homeopathic products. (Homeopathy is far from the only quackery, but it is possibly the most ridiculous.)

We are not children anymore, although prodigious numbers of us think and act like low-information ten-year-olds.

In a rational world, CVS would never consider selling totally worthless products. And anyone doing so would be prosecuted, convicted and punished for fraud. By now we should be waaay above this [kind] of shit.

Don and I were in full agreement with SJ’s assessment here, but Don was troubled by something else, too:

Full disclosure: I recently bought CVS. I could say I did it because the company, like Ringling Brothers with elephants, quit the cigarette trade because it was the decent thing to do, as well as good business. But, as Tricky D would say, that would be wrong. I did it to make money on a rising stock. And rise it has.

Now this. I face a crisis of conscience. WWID? (Yes, I mean you, Iris.)

Don’s question inspired me to finally coalesce into words some thoughts I had been kicking around for a while spew forth hundreds of words in reply to my poor correspondents. What’s that old saying? “Never ask a question you don’t want answered.” Oh, and “opinions are like assholes: everyone has one.” Here is mine. My opinion, not my asshole. In case that wasn’t clear.

A. WWID? Well, that really is entirely between you and your conscience, Don. My thoughts are these.

For better and for worse, we presently exist in an uber-capitalist hegemon. Participation in this system is mandatory, at least if we wish to have a decent quality of life* (and of course we do). An intelligent, informed and empathic person such as yourself (and SJ) cannot possibly avoid crises of conscience, grounded as our system is in the unjust exploitation of people and natural resources, short-term thinking, rigid class hierarchies and unearned privilege. From all of this necessarily emerges a brutal manifestation of Social Darwinism. Therefore we must make our compromises with conscience, and that starts with acknowledging that we are all hypocrites in ways large and small.

That said, we can certainly make choices that mitigate our hypocrisy. For instance, a major portion of your life’s work is promoting reason and evidence-based thinking in the context of wellness; if we ever rid civilization of the pestilence that is homeopathic “medicine,” undoubtedly that will be the cure (hahaha. so-to-speak). Another example: as you know I am a fierce advocate for a US single-payer health care system, and an unrelenting critic of Obamacare. This terrible health care law was written in large part by Big Pharma to suit itself at grave cost to my fellow citizens. Yet the fact is that I am alive and healthy today because of cutting-edge pharmaceutical research (biologic insulin analogs, to be specific), which—in this system— would probably not be available to me without the incentive of obscene profits for development and manufacturing. Am I a hypocrite? Absolutely. But I still rail on about single-payer, because it is a far superior system by nearly any metric. I also want generous government funding of medical research, the results of which would belong to the public or to nonprofit public partnerships with the private sector. With a “defense” budget greater than that of the next 8 countries combined, we certainly have the resources to spare, and the savings from the efficiency of single-payer alone would finance even more of it.

Similarly, My Amazing Lover™ and I can (and do) drive a hybrid vehicle; we have also made a conscious choice to have none of our retirement savings invested in dirty energy. That doesn’t mean we can avoid filling up the car with gasoline, though, and thus contributing to climate change (to say nothing of the intractable violence and unrest in the Middle East and the profits of defense contractors who benefit immensely from the human misery that ensues).

WE. ARE. HYPOCRITES.

I guess the way I see it is that we have three choices:

  1. Ignorance. We can ignore the facts and their implications, or if we do become aware of them we can ignore our hypocrisy. This seems to come easier for some than for others…
  2. Rationalization. And yes, to some extent that is precisely what I am doing here. But I have more in mind things like “but jobs!” as a rationalization for fracking, say. Or “terrorism!” to rationalize all manner of evils like NSA surveillance and our bloated Military-Industrial Complex. Of course these break down under even the most minimal scrutiny; unfortunately they are not likely to receive even that by mainstream “journalists.”
  3. Subversion. Participate in the system to the extent we can and must, even as we actively seek to undermine it. Audre Lorde said that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, and in many respects I think she is right. But I also believe that capitalism itself contains the seeds of its own destruction (and of democracy, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). What form that destruction will take is anyone’s guess at this point. But in the meantime, we can loudly advocate for leftist policies, especially with respect to health care, prison, and other arenas where government clearly should be the only institution responsible. Whatever happens, keeping these ideas in the public consciousness is absolutely crucial, if they are to stand a chance of ever being implemented.

Shorter Iris: CVS is hardly the worst purveyor of crimes against humanity; I think you might feel very differently about investing directly in the company that makes the homeopathic product. But again, you are the one who has to draw that line for yourself, and live with it. There can be no lasting shame in playing this game, when it’s the only game in town.

__________
* “Decent quality of life” has both objective and subjective meaning; it is objective with respect to needs like shelter, food, potable water, basic necessities such as electricity and tools, access to quality health care and education, positive bonds with other humans, safety and security—and, in this day and age, a reliable internet connection. The subjective part is more or less determined by each individual, but it’s important to note that by no means does it exclude altruistic endeavors, i.e. investing one’s time and money in the pursuit of helping others, and leaving this world at least a little better than one found it.

medicare4allOne more thing:nonprofitdefense

 

4 thoughts on “Ask Iris: WWID?

  1. Brava, brava. Wonderissimo. Just mightily so.

    In a statement on his creed, RGI included as qualities “to cultivate the mind, to be familiar with the mighty words that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world.”

    So, I say, you have assembled a collection of mighty words artfully assembled.

    Why edit such a work? How about if I simply note the topic (asking WWID) and linking to the reply?

    Those who ask, WWJD? would be wise to put their query to a real entity, though few could expect a reply so worthy as that bestowed on this humble horseperson.

    Many mercis’ and gracias’.

    Don

    On Sat, Mar 7, 2015 at 12:02 PM, perry street palace wrote:

    > Iris Vander Pluym posted: “Loyal Subject™ SJ sent a righteous rant to > me and Palace blogger Don Ardell along with following graphic: The > missive’s subject was “Shame

  2. Brava, brava. Wonderissimo. Just mightily so.

    In a statement on his creed, RGI included as qualities “to cultivate the mind, to be familiar with the mighty words that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world.”

    So, I say, you have assembled a collection of mighty words artfully assembled.

    Why edit such a work? How about if I simply note the topic (asking WWID) and linking to the reply?

    Those who ask, WWJD? would be wise to put their query to a real entity, though few could expect a reply so worthy as that bestowed on this humble horseperson.

    Many mercis’ and gracias’.

    Don

  3. Hi Iris

    Thanks for your take on WWID.

    I too have had some discussions with Don on this very topic and am currently grappling with the solution. My first step is to commence discussions with a group of ethical investment advisers.

    Your summary is excellent.

    Regards

    Rod

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