Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Round-Up

I haven't had much to say this week. I had two appointments for acupuncture this week, and my condition has improved dramatically. I also had a boost from my friend Parthy, who sent me a care package containing some natural anti-inflammatory supplements. Who knew that turmeric was good for treating inflammation? I also learned that fish oil is an effective anti-inflammatory agent. So, if you've had an injury accompanied by inflammation, the best thing to do is get down to Chapati for a fish curry. It's been six weeks since I woke up in intense pain from my herniated disk. At the emergency room on January 20, the doctor told me that 90% of cases clear up on their own in four to six weeks. Since then I've had two weeks of steroids (prednisone), two weeks of physical therapy (traction), and two weeks of acupuncture and herbal remedies. My question is: If I had simply done nothing, would I be exactly where I am now? Or: Have acupuncture and herbal remedies been the most effective treatments, or do they only seem effective because I resorted to them at a point when my condition had begun to improve on its own (or because of previous treatments)? According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and reported in the mainstream media earlier this month, the overall cost of treating back pain rose 65% from 1997 to 2005, but (according to "self-reported measures") patients weren't feeling any better than they did with less-expensive treatments a decade ago. So, was all of this medical intervention worth it? I don't know. Six weeks ago, I felt worse than I'd ever felt in my life. I did what people told me to do in order to feel better.

Meanwhile, it's Friday, which means The Federalist. I read 5 (Jay) and 6 (Hamilton) this week. Both continue to examine the foreign policy benefits of a strong union. In 6, Hamilton drags in examples from history, from Athens to Holland, to illustrate the belligerence of small republics. The most interesting aspect of Hamilton's essays so far is his pessimistic (or realistic) view of human nature. "Is it not time," he asks, "to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct, that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue?"

That was Hamilton writing in November 1787. A decade earlier, at Valley Forge, Hamilton drafted for General Washington a report to the Continental Congress arguing realistically that the original motivation for enlistments in the army, patriotic devotion to "the Cause," was no longer enough. The soldiers needed to be paid. Hamilton was a realist. He knew that beneath every high-sounding ideology was simple self-interest. In the decade after 1787, he would have nothing but contempt for idealists like Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe and their rose-colored view of the French Revolution. It was nothing but another "deceitful dream," and Hamilton knew that its true complexion was blood-colored, not rose-colored.

Thought experiment: Would Hamilton have warned President Bush and his neocon advisers that their vision of American troops being welcomed as liberators in Iraq was a "deceitful dream," more ideological wishful thinking than realistic expectation? I'm not so sure. During the Quasi-War with France (1797-1800), Hamilton was put in charge of the army. While waiting restlessly, and ultimately in vain, to be called into action, Hamilton entertained extravagant fantasies of using his little American army to liberate the rest of the Western Hemisphere from Spanish and French colonial rule. He was even in contact with his own Ahmed Chalabi figure, a Venezuelan exile named Francisco de Miranda who encouraged his imperialistic fantasies. Realism trumped dreamy ideology, but military force nearly trumped realism.

Hamilton realized that if you put a bunch of little boys in a room and gave them all sticks, they would start hitting each other. They might temporarily gang up on each other, but chances were that before long they would all be beaten bloody. Hamilton's solution in The Federalist was to form the boys into a team. Members of the same team wouldn't beat each other up. But if their sticks weren't taken away, the boys would find someone else to hit.


Bleeet said...

Hey! Two months of flossing!

I love the little boys with sticks metaphor. There's a play there.

Anonymous said...

The health 'industry' both in the US and England is a subject dear to my heart. What the world needs is not more medicine, but better medicine.

New Poem: "Phrasebook"

My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .