Everything sucks. Tension is at an all-time high. This is an extremely difficult time to be alive, even for us Americans who mostly have had it pretty cushy.
Two sides are seemingly at war. They’ve given up on each other. Folks are pointing fingers, stating how “woke” they are compared to their “foe.”
Everyone’s exhausted and really don’t want to hear any of it.
You get twitchy-eyed and light-headed reading Facebook. Family members, lifelong friends, community pillars—folks who you’d never guess in a million years would be this way—are all in the “opposition.” You’re dumbfounded at the hypocrisy.
People are doing only a pigeon-level engagement: fly in, knock everything over, poop on everything, and just as you’re getting ready to respond back, they fly out.
We’re SO disappointed with the choice before us. I mean, is this the best we have to offer? It makes you want to just sit the whole thing out. Some of us are reluctantly choosing, and that just stinks.
I think you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.
You guessed it: the supplement industry vs Big Pharma.
No? Were you thinking of something else? I don’t see how that’s possible!
Today, I rant about this painful social and political place we find ourselves at using my professional area of expertise as the parallel or allegory.
I’m throwing shade at everyone. Why? I believe that it is 100% our fault (including mine) and we’re acting like a bunch of whiny babies.
I see a path forward, but we first must identify the challenge of our times—the true enemy—then take a big, deep breath, and “grow up.”
Where We Are
It’s time for some introspection: What team do YOU belong to?
Are you all in for supplements? Or do you think they’re a sham and only REAL medicine is the answer?
Your team choice says a lot about you. What you believe in, where you shop, who you trust, and what you do every day. It’s the story you tell yourself about the world and where you fit into it. It speaks louder than your choice between Red Sox fan or Yankee fan, though I think baseball stinks. Oh no, am I a “both sides” guy?
Our division didn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen once every 4 years. It happens through decades of intentional, coordinated actions.
The mythology becomes so pervasive that a big chunk of us REALLY believe it:
- Vitamin C supplements boost your immune system
- I can take calcium instead of medications
- Natural supplements are safer
- Drugs have lots of side effects
- Pharmaceutical companies are corrupt and profit-driven
- Supplements don’t work at all
- My patients are “crazy” for believing in that nonsense
We have folks who believe things were better “back in the day,” desiring to make Ancient Chinese Herbs Great Again (though most of that was mythology).
We have some folks that believe that if they just keep taking their special combination of supplements, they’ll keep not getting sick like they have for the last umpteen years (though many other folks get sick with the same exact regimen, or some people don’t have access to any sort of regimen and are sick all the time).
We’re caught up in it all. We’re caught up in the stories we tell ourselves. If we were to keep it real, we’re not really telling our own stories, but parroting the ones fed to us by the broken system.
We’ve become so tied to the means that we forget the end. We forget what’s most important: that we all generally share a common goal of health and wellness.
Sure, there are a number of people on the outer edges who wouldn’t go near the other’s health modality, but, generally, we all are trying to be healthy, make the best decisions for us and our families, and live a good life.
Where are we, then, really? We’re at a place of a false dichotomy.
We’re wasting a ton of energy hating others. We’re missing out on a lot.
In our quest for validation of our team’s worldview, we may forgo real options. Our affiliations in supplements only or never supplements may blind us to real, solid solutions from the opposition. Or, worse: we may ignore our own hypocrisies.
The Both Sides Thing is BS, Though
I don’t want to give off the wrong messaging. I’ve talked about the Middle Path of Wellness. I’m stressing here, today, that we are aware of the flaws of both the Wellness-Industrial Complex and Big Pharma.
First, you must understand that I don’t believe the two approaches to health are really in opposition, in their purest forms. I believe sometimes we absolutely should lean towards accessible supplements, and sometimes we need medicine. It’s good medicine vs bad medicine, not alternative vs conventional.
That being said, the modern manifestations of this false dichotomy, however, are very much slanted to one side. There is clear cut evidence of greater levels of corruption, misinformation, manipulation, criminal acts, suppression, and more perpetuated by one group over the other.
The “both sides” folks I just made fun of back there are displaying a pseudo-wokeness that could warrant a whole rant on its own.
If we were to continue to keep it real, “both sides” complainers would not show apathy, but instead better engagement.
“Both sides are [insert negative sound byte], so therefore I’m just going to sit it out.” What does that solve?
The challenge here is to first understand our shared goals, then understand that the methodologies in their purest, most honest forms both have merit, then call out those organizations representing that methodology for their wrongdoings, and finally demand more and better.
The “both sides” people tend to not hold the group they relate to most accountable, further feeding the beast.
And this is just one of the ways we’ve gotten here to begin with.
How We Got Here
The big question of how we got here is simply answered: money.
In our hyper-consumerist culture, we have companies clamoring for our attention. To sell something, they have to make sure you’re not content. Content people don’t buy stuff.
They then identify or just make up pains you’re experiencing, then use them to scare you into action. Usually buying stuff.
One important thing to realize: every single touchpoint is poisoned. It’s easy to understand someone’s mindset if you study what “information” they consume and from where.
- “Don’t want to die of heart disease? Take our statin or our supplement or join my program.”
- “Uh oh! Dementia is on the rise… better take our magic jellyfish.
- “Oh, you don’t eat enough fruits and veggies, well this resveratrol will literally change your life.”
- “You have this super common and clinically irrelevant mutation on your MTHFR gene, but you should spend $400 on my tests and consults plus pay 3x what you normally would for a B Vitamin.
Folks are out there looking to make a buck or to make a name, amplify the messaging of the team they’re looking to make it big in, and try to label you and get you to label others as fast as possible.
They get so good at stretching the truth, they start straight-up lying. Sometimes they don’t do it directly, like with our Mushroom Gurus; peppering in lies via “truthiness” is a super awesome way to hide a weapon behind a smokescreen.”
I’ve said before how Words Matter. They know this and use it against you. They use their parseltongue to subtly build an us-vs-them paradigm. How many folks have you heard say, “Your choice is between natural supplements and pharmaceutical drugs.” Well, that makes me want to avoid “drugs!” It makes it sound less like what it is, medicine, and instead makes it sound like a sterile, chemical, addictive nightmare!
We haven’t even gotten into the gross manipulation by Big Pharma over the years: jacking up drug prices, hiding research, spreading their own misinformation, and just being generally evil for the sake of profit.
In a nutshell, the system stinks. The game is rigged against us, and it wants to split us up. Divided we fall.
But It’s Our Fault
But let me ask you not-so-rhetorical questions:
- Are the sales of supplements lower now, or at all-time highs?
- What message travels farthest and widest? Eat well and exercise, or use my pill/supplement/program to quickly lose weight?
- What message sounds more enticing?
We’re not rejecting this corrupt system that we’re all complaining about. Nopers! We’re gobbling up the BS faster than ever.
We engage with messaging that makes us feel better, even if it is lip service and the person spreading the message doesn’t care about us or if we achieve our goals.
We’ve accepted this idea that everyone’s opinions matter, or even the idea that the outer areas of science or medicine where educated conclusions are being made by lifelong experts and consensus bodies represents “opinion.”
Look, the practice of medicine can be much more opinionated, as isolating variables is radically more difficult in complex human systems. That’s not the problem.
Some of us have accepted that some rando’s interpretation of science, medicine, or consensus is a valid opinion.
We’re overwhelmed by the amount of information available, and instead of filtering it down to what is of high value, we filter it down to what is the most rewarding to our mindset.
The critical thinking and emotional maturity (we’re talking about that next!) required to handle these complicated topics is lacking because we, as a collective, haven’t made it a priority.
Instead of building those skill sets, finding local, trusted experts, and just generally engaging responsibly, we’ve slept on the job, allowing the system to be weaponized against us.
Maturity: Not the Dr. Neal Kind
At the onset, I said that we need to grow up. That is a double entendre for sure, but I largely am saying this in a constructive way.
The rapid polarization we’re so frustrated with is merely a reflection of our values. Our values have been pushed to what many believe to be extremism due to the dramatic technology shift, giving everyone a megaphone and allowing all groups to connect more efficiently.
We’re not ready for it.
That is, we’re not mature enough for it. We’ve discussed this at length before, but the platforms are exploiting outdated firmware that is our human brain operating system.
These things, along with the feelings of discomfort (real or imagined), and media machines inventing and dramatizing your pain points, have caused us to revert into our monkey and lizard brains.
We need to grow up. We need to be more mindful. We have to work to push these natural reactions outward, back towards our evolved, human brain.
You can get all the calories you want from Oreos or McDonalds. And goodness knows, that may feel good and be quite easy for many. Discipline your thoughts and your engagement. Be “woke” about how the system exploits you.
Michael Jackson Was Right
Restating the obvious: it feels like none of us are happy and don’t really see a clear way forward.
There’s a reason, as I’ve highlighted above. To put it all together, we have:
- A system with its own interests (usually money) at the center
- Complicated multifactorial issues that require nuance and deep understanding to broach
- The exploitation of ancient technology (humans) with modern technology (the internet and devices)
- An overwhelmed, overworked, disengaged, unfocused population of people hyped up into a partisan, almost extremist, state
All of that makes the stretching of the truth easier. It makes the delivery of outright lies and misinformation frictionless.
If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of folks happily swimming in the misinformation filth like pigs in mud.
I’ve said this time and time again, but I believe the true challenge of our times is misinformation.
Things seemingly get worse and worse and worse.
It’s our fault. It’s because we didn’t vote.
Or, more accurately put: we’ve been throwing our votes away.
We’ve only paid attention when it’s time to vote. But not all the times we could vote, no. We’ve only paid attention and voted when it seemed like a bigger deal, ignoring ALL the other opportunities to vote.
The system isn’t accidentally at this horribly broken point and there was nothing we could have done to do it. This system was intentionally built this way, and instead of rejecting it, we allowed it to steamroll our lives.
Today, the system, our two-sided choice (or lack thereof), and the dark cloud that hangs over us is a reflection of what we’ve valued. We’re looking at the man in the mirror.
We’ve valued easy, cheap, and feel good. So we’ve got Trump and Biden..er, I mean crappy supplements and bad medicines.
All the times we could have voted and we voted for the wrong thing. We kept buying the crappy supplements. We kept paying attention to charlatans. We allowed misinformation to spread unchecked. We, ourselves, engaged with fringe science, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. We never REALLY held anyone accountable, especially the Pharma companies or those throwing pills down our throat without taking time to explain how to eat better.
“Nothing Will Ever Change”
I finally came around to a fact about my place in the supplement vs conventional debate a few years back. I can rant and hoot and holler all day, but there’s a good chance I won’t change the world. Not on my own.
I need to build an army of Wellness Warriors: consumers who are sick of this dichotomy and want the best medicine, natural or conventional, AND healthcare professionals looking to provide true holistic care with integrity.
Even with all of this, we may not really bring dramatic change. It doesn’t mean the work is worthless.
We get caught up with the idea that things need to turn 90 or 180 degrees for it to be successful. As I teach in my consults, a 2-degree change of direction doesn’t seem like alot today, but staying on that trajectory will put us in a far different place.
Small moves. Don’t let the system lie to you, claiming they have the answer that will change your life tomorrow.
An Era of Responsibility
Back to politics: I am, of course, concerned about the outcome of this election.
I am far more worried about the influence of misinformation on my fellow Americans. How we’re passionately rejecting reason, soaking ourselves in propaganda, parroting misinformation, and working ourselves up into a frenzy, so moderate frustrations turn venomous—and dangerous.
This is the challenge of our generation.
We must snuff out misinformation in every aspect of our lives. as an advocate for an industry fraught with misinformation—the wellness industry—I’m starting here.
We can whine about industries being corrupt and working against our best interests or how the choice between candidates isn’t our dream situation, but we cannot forget the circumstances that lead us to this point.
We chose where and when we “voted.” What we bought. What we paid attention to. What we believed.
The supplement industry is a reflection of what we’ve valued: cheap, empty, confusing.
And so is our political reality.
I believe the path forward comes down to being more responsible, reasonable adults.
If you’re not happy with the selection you’re faced with today, keep it real and understand that it’s all your fault. This ain’t changin’ today, folks. What do they say about the best times to plant a tree?
Today, the only action we have is to start being more responsible. Make a strong choice of what we’ve got based on the best available REAL data. In other words, vote.
Then, drop the attachment to a past that didn’t really exist or some mythology of who we are or some unobtainable 4-year vision for our future. Be mindful of what’s real, in this moment.
Actively call out misinformation and do not let it stand. This is the fight of our generation.
Engage with ALL information more responsibly, including vetting your most trusted sources.
Put some context-mayo on that information sandwich. Look at history. Look globally. We’re not on an island by ourselves, physically or mentally.
Drop the apathy. Things won’t get better if you just pout on the sidelines.
Drop the fake wokeness. Yes, I get it… You listen predominantly to one, highly biased source of information and occasionally poke your head into the opposition’s highly biased source. You still eat up all the misinformation thrown your way. As I said before, if you want to seem like the cool kid in the room, do like I do and understand specifically how manipulated most people are but then constantly question whether or not you are another pawn in someone else’s plan.
When this election is over, we will have a fight. OK, maybe we all take a deep breath, a nap, embrace our new reality, and then fight.
Our fight is to reject the system’s attempt to manipulate us again. Our fight is to engage at every level of politics, social issues, and more. To pay attention to the right things, and hold these bastards accountable for once.
Your world is largely a reflection of the choices you’ve made. Our wellness depends upon responsible choices.
So vote. Vote in person. After this election, vote as often as you can. Vote with your wallets. Vote with your attention. Vote with your voice!
Do I believe there are more of us that want to return to valuing important things like each other? Do I believe there are more of us that want to reject the extremes and find common ground?
Absolutely I do. I have hope for us. I’m doing all I can, being as responsible as I can, and voting whenever I can.
The rest is on you.
Just trying to keep it real…
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth