My Blindness and Questioning the Myths of Today

A note on my MS progression:

I am experiencing a symptom known as fleeting blindness approximately once a day.  I lose sight and with it my sense of balance.  If I remain calm, my vision comes back from the dark snowy patten of a tv without reception set to reduce light coming from it.  I just have to stay calm for a second or two and hold on to something.

In many ways going through this symptom and having it checked out by my primary care doc, a cardiologist, and my neurologist reminds me with a little research one can rule out the scariest possibilities.  That’s not to say I can’t be hit by a truck on my run at lunch.  It says only what I dreaded about it being a sign of imminent stroke or total lasting blindness was false.  The belief which was based on irrational fears got me thinking about common beliefs we as a society hold but rarely seek to validate with reality.  The hardest part is recognizing holes in our knowledge to test against reality.

It’s worse when the holes are exploited for politics or financial gain.  With medicine, we see it all the time.  How many thought the first line drugs for MS would keep them healthy?  How many have tried the drugs or fad diet of the moment to indulge in some denial of the impact of MS for a little longer?  For what it’s worth I will gratefully accept any treatment which lets me believe I will be better.  There is some value to myths, true or false.  The hard part is identifying their makers intentions.

Once upon a time (fitting beginning for a paragraph on myths), myths were used to teach children.  Hansel and Gretel for don’t take treats from strangers, three little pigs for the value of doing thing right: the boy who cried wolf for value of honesty, etc.  I suspect many today believe the culture of myths is over.  They are children’s tales.  However, I believe the power of myths is with us still.  We no longer believe in the fantasy myths of giant wolves huffing and puffing, but we still buy into stories which mesh well with our preconceptions.  
In fact, we all have closely held beliefs grounded in the mythology of our culture.  Tracking back the mythology looking for why we believe what we do is difficult when the beliefs are current.  We become unable to look at the surrounding facts because the story already exists for us.  We see it confirmed by others who believe as we do.  We even move away from those who don’t believe as we do.  I think of two commonly believed myths in our culture, but I only see them as such because I am in these cases outside the culture which believes them.  I suspect I have many such beliefs which would fail with careful inspection. I am as blind to them as I am with my newest MS symptom, fleeting blindness.

I wonder why we have such blinders and why we react so poorly to anyone claiming to see what we do not when it comes to our myths.  Maybe like my occasional blindness, patience while we look at what sets off our emotional triggers may allow for the passing of the symptoms in their entirety.  With today’s media and politics constantly pushing those triggers, I have little expectation of being allowed the time needed to look at most of my held myths.  Still I hope to keep looking.

Here are a couple contemporary myths I question which I believe show some of the dissonance caused whenever our myths confront the reality as most in the situations experience it:

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#1 Obamacare is socializing U.S. healthcare.
The definition of Socialism as it was taught to me in my History of Economic Thought class in college: 

Socialism is when the people (via their government) control the means of production or distribution of a good or service.

For all of the fear mongering about how Obamacare will socialize (or has socialized) our medical industry, I note my own experience with MS.  I went to a a few state licensed doctors who diagnosed me and now prescribe me medications approved by the FDA which I either pick up at a state licensed pharmacy or have administered to me by a state licensed nurse in a state licensed facility.  This has been true since before Obama became president.  The state has had control of every step of my care.  I have received very good socialized healthcare.  Heck, even my insurance has to meet federal and state requirements.
So, which part of this is pure capitalism?  We have had regulation for years whether it is the FDA or the SEC.  Much of our economy is socialist already by definition.  For all who are vehemently against socialism, would you give up clean water, child labor laws, anti-trust protection, drug research, FDA, etc.?  None of those belong in a free market capitalist system.  We have socialism here now.  Does it surprise you so much if some aren’t afraid of the label?  The myth here is “we have a capitalist healthcare system now, and it’s under attack.”  This says nothing about the relative value of Obamacare versus what was here before it.  I only debate the myth of a capitalist healthcare system existing in the U.S. prior to Obamacare.
#2 Third Trimester abortions are killing viable humans for the sake of birth control.
“Third trimester abortions are the most ethically reprehensible abortions” seems a common perception.  According to a story in the Washington Post, they account for less than 2% of abortions.  As one lady describes who has gone through it pointed out, these are women/families who have probably already planned to have the kid until some thing went terribly wrong.  Often the kids will never make it through birth or will only live a life of constant pain with no possible quality of life.  These are parents who often have to answer questions about what happened to them or the baby, all the while living in a culture where abortions carry a heavy stigma.  The irony is most of these were done out of kindness not pure selfishness.  These are not the abortions of convenience or birth control.  Why put one’s body through 6 months of being pregnant?
As for the claim currently being put forth about a baby feeling pain, it’s a dubious claim.  First it assumes having the nerves to feel pain is all that is necessary to “feel” pain.  I may feel pain when I cut my finger, but I experience it in my head.  Besides the use of anestesia (the same thing we do to avoid feeling pain in surgery), there is less evidence when a baby will be able to experience pain.
Like many things we feel strongly about, we should probably step back to look at reality and see if it matches the stories we tell ourselves to define our opinions.  In a world of constant information bombardment, it is easy to get caught up in the macabre pictures and stories.  Sometimes we may see those whose options were simply terrible versus extremely sad.  Perhaps then we may have more empathy even for those who made choices we would not.
Further readings for those who would know that which they hate:
Because I can’t end on such grim thoughts, here is my funny thought for the week:
Does anyone else wonder why an ice cream bar would be sold with the name “Magnum?” I ask because there are 2 things with successful branding of the name, and I don’t have any desire to put either in my mouth. When somebody asks what product I associate with the term “magnum”, I think either condoms or guns, and I doubt I’m alone in having these thoughts. I know “magnum” comes from the Latin for either big or great, but if I were trying to brand my food, I would probably try to steer clear of terms associated with big condoms and guns.
It reminds me of the marketing of Ford Pinto’s in Spain when the term “Pinto” was used for less than well endowed men.  The other marketing it reminds me of is the Nova in Mexico where no va means “no go.”

20 thoughts on “My Blindness and Questioning the Myths of Today”

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