Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Targeting the symptoms

If technology is causing the problem, then the solution is not more technology. But the global corporate machine establishes the rules of engagement, so all problems are essentially ones of implementation—literally a result of not having the right implements.

If global warming is being caused by too much industrial CO2, then the industrial process needs to be retooled in a way that leads to a slower increase in CO2 production. (And where retooling would cut too deeply into the corporate bottom line, propagandists stand at the ready with bullshit ideas like "clean coal.")

If bees die because of exposure to plants that have been genetically modified to produce their own pesticide, then we need to modify the plants further so they don’t need bees.

If factory agriculture leads to nutritionally deficient food, then we need to consume artificial supplements. If consuming factory farmed and genetically modified food causes cancer, then obviously we need to develop better cancer treatments.

And when the human psyche begins to buckle under the pressure of its industrialized burden, we have supportive "emotional technologies" such as psychotherapy, 12-step programs, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

When we catch a cold virus, it is the symptoms that we are most concerned with. The coughing, sneezing, fever, and physical discomfort are how we know we are infected. But the symptoms are not produced by the virus, they are produced by the body in response to the virus. The symptoms are the body’s natural defenses—and a sign of a healthy immune system. Increased mucus production is the body’s way of removing virus-infected tissues from throat and nasal passages to the stomach where they can be destroyed by digestive acids. Fever is the body’s attempt to overheat the temperature-sensitive virus. Commercial cold treatments target the symptoms and not the virus itself. Ironically, over the counter cold medication, by reducing the symptoms, actually works in favor of the virus by interfering with the body’s natural defenses.

Two things that we should take from this: first, that the true target might not be what we think it is, and in order to see this it is necessary to look below the surface; second, that if we don’t look below the surface we run the risk that the most obvious "treatment" might actually make things worse in the long run. 

Power carries an additional risk. The power to alleviate a few of the surface symptoms can mislead us into thinking that we understand the problem. Because we can devise a technological solution to a problem does not mean that the problem was caused by the lack of appropriate technology any more than headaches are caused by a lack of aspirin.

1 comment:

  1. I could not have put it as clearly and concisely as you just did.