Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 3 - a website with more than one page!

On day 1 and on day 2 I stumbled on one page websites (well, day 1's site had other pages but not connected to my landing page). But today I hit a site with some meat to it but not too much which is good because I need to go exercise and I'm using my need to blog about today's Stumble as a procrastination device.*

*Ok well I didn't get around to exercising because writing this post took wayyyy longer than I expected. And also my friend came over with wine and pizza. Oh and this still counts as Day 3 because it's not midnight here yet!

Today's site is called Naturopathyworks - it's the website of Dr. Colleen Huber who is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor. In general, her site is good. There are fairly brief articles regarding various aspects of naturopathic medicine - Nutrition, Botanicals, Environmental Medicine, Homeopathy and Chinese Medicine. The articles aren't jargony and are easy to understand. Much of what Dr. Huber says is common sense. In the Nutrition section she wonders how we can expect our bodies to be healthy when we - as a society in general - eat such unhealthy food. Under Environmental Medicine she notes that in the last 100 years, humans have been exposing themselves to a staggering number of toxic chemicals and that we don't know what the cumulative effect of that exposure is or will be over the longer term. Not surprisingly, the article are written to persuade the reader that naturopathic medicine is superior to allopathic (traditional Western) medicine. To be fair, in her discussion regarding Homeopathic medicine, she discusses the assertions of critics and counters them as best as she can in a short, reader-friendly article. So it isn't as one-sided as other sites I've seen.

One thing in particular that bothered me was the following statement under Nutrition: "Until just a few generations ago our ancestors were wonderfully fit compared with present-day generations. The majority lived good, active, healthy lives and ultimately died peacefully in their sleep." I can't agree with that assertion. I guess it depends on who you count as your ancestors but if your ancestors were serfs in the middle-ages, I'm pretty sure they didn't live good, active, healthy lives.

Maybe a more fair comparison is Native American tribes before Europeans came and "civilized" them. I'm no expert. In truth, I'm kind of making this up based on the little I know about the history of North America. I suppose those people were fit and lived long, healthy lives. Except when they got caught by a saber tooth. Or a warrior from another tribe. Or ate the wrong berry. However, once the Europeans came to visit and brought small pox and gun powder and alcohol and gambling with them it was game over for the health of Native Americans.

I've always been skeptical of claims about the "good old days" of human history. I never really believed that things were so blissful way back when. Human beings are human beings - the details may be different but the same general principles of human nature apply. I really learned the fallacy of those claims in law school when I took a Law and Literature class. The class required us to read a book (in two volumes) by Charles Reznikoff called Testimony (1885-1915) Recitative. Basically, Reznikoff spent 40 years looking through law journals detailing the facts of legal cases across the country decided between 1885 and 1915. He then turned those facts into poetry - sometimes telling stories from more than one perspective (victim, witness, defendant). The poems don't judge innocence or guilt, they recite the facts which are sometimes brutal, sometimes funny but generally interesting from a historical point of view. To a certain extent they detail the trials and tribulations of the average person during that time period.

At the end of this (longer than expected) post, I've written out two of the shorter poems. These are fairly illustrative of the types of poetry in the books. Some of the poems are disturbing - tales of factory and railroad accidents involving children, stories about the treatment of blacks in the south. Most of them involve the same kinds of things that we hear about today - people killing each other, disputes over inheritance and property, divorces, affairs and just plain stupid behavior on the part of criminals.

Although this post started out as kind of a review of the day's Stumble site, I guess it's ending as an assertion that the good old days weren't really all that good. We're dealing with a lot of crap these days - bad economy, chronic health issues including an alarming incidence of obesity, rising crime rates -but the fact is that it's always been this way. It's the nature of humans to struggle with a variety of issues. Today we're much better off than our ancestors were even if we're worse off in some particular areas. On balance, though, I would take being alive in 2009 over living through the industrial revolution as a poor immigrant or living in the time of kings as a serf (maybe it would be ok to be queen, at least on days when no one was trying to kill me and take the throne).

I'm not suggesting that Dr. Huber is wrong about good nutrition being important to our health. But by invoking a false image of the good old days, she loses a little bit of credibility in my book.

Excerpts from Testimony Vol 1 and 2

Under Domestic Scenes:

The young man had been at work during the day
clearing land about their home:
it was a small, one-story log house
reached by a bypath from the road,
among some small jack pine and scrub oak brush.
The house was lighted by two small windows:
one on the north and one to the east.

His wife - a young woman of sixteen
who had been engaged to be married to a neighbor,
a man of sixty,
lighted the lamp
and spread a light meal on the table -
bread and milk. The meal over,
Peter took his accordion from the shelf
and sitting right opposite the window to the east
played "Home Sweet Home."
He had just finished playing it
when a shot was fired from the outside.
Several buckshot pierced his head
and death was so sudden
he still sat upright in his chair
with the accordion in his hands.

From Thefts and Thieves:

About nine o'clock at night, on his way to work,
carrying under his arm a pair of old shoes-
wrapped in paper-
he had passed the railroad tracks
when he heard someone running behind him on the sidewalk.
He turned to see who it was
and was struck in the mouth.
The man who struck him
grabbed him by the arm that held the shoes
and threw him down. He got up-
the shoes he had carried were gone-
and he went to a saloon nearby
to wash the blood off his face.
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