Trust Me

Dang, it’s Friday already and here I am, facing the screen again with no plan because I totally forgot about writing a post until this morning. Well, let’s dig into the ol’ bag of “what happened this week?” and see if there’s something to write coherently about.

The most impactful thing on my mind this week actually occurred this morning. I get together with a group of people every Friday morning for an hour and we talk about life and the big lessons and themes we are learning or struggling with. It’s sort of existential philosophy for retired people, plus me. (Most of the people I associate with are retired, for some reason. That reason is probably my 8 pm bedtime.)

One of my good friends is very into the clean eating, chemicals-are-bad, Forks Over Knives thing. I get it, I used to believe that, too. Whatever. But she said something that wasn’t accurate and I corrected her, which led to several comments that were getting close to being argumentative. I personally have always hated conflict, but with my delicate nervous system I have physical reactions. My brain thinks I’m being attacked and I get hot all over, sweat like crazy, get dizzy and sick, and feel like I’m going to pass out. Not a great strategy if I’m about to be eaten by a lion, but okay. It’s extremely unpleasant and not worth the argument. Thankfully, our heated discussion was brief and civilized. There were no hard feelings on either side.

But I thought about it a lot on the way home. Especially because I was stuck behind a long line of farm equipment doing ten miles an hour, so I got an extra half hour to ponder. I think the issue with so many arguments isn’t a question of being right, it’s a question of trust. As human beings, we are limited in our perception and influenced by our biases. There is no way to tell what is absolute, objective truth. There are a lot of “facts” out there that people experience as untrue. The sky is blue, unless you’re colorblind. And actually, it’s not blue at all, we just see it that way. And there’s technically no sky at all, it’s just miles of atmosphere and then space. But it’s not wrong to say the sky is blue. The question is, if several people are each telling their truth, how do you know which is right? You have to decide whom to trust.

When I believed in New Age ideas, I did so because I thought those people knew things I didn’t, had access to information I didn’t. They seemed to truly care about my wellbeing. I trusted them, and closed my eyes to anything contradictory. Then one day I got sick. Really sick. Despite all the things I had done to stay healthy, all the money I spent, all the practitioners I saw who said I would be fine if I would just… I got sick, and I stayed sick. Despite all the prayers and begging, despite the positive attitude and the gratitude, despite the acupuncture and the clean eating, I didn’t get better. All those ideas came crashing down around my ears.

I finally had to change my belief system. I chose one of science and logic, because the scientific method helps to weed out bias. Science didn’t fearmonger or tell me I wasn’t good enough and needed to work on improving myself. Science didn’t promise anything, it just gave me probabilities.

Naturally, there are flaws with science, as with any other human system, and I am well aware there is a possibility that everything we know could be wrong. But science corrects itself when there is new data. Perhaps the data is slow in coming sometimes, but it does its best.

So ultimately, questions on things like climate change, Monsanto, diet, and so on leave a person having to determine who is trustworthy to have the right answers. I personally trust the experts.

That right there is a big problem, though. There is deep distrust in science and in expertise and in government, and it’s because of corporate money. We don’t trust big systems to work for the people anymore, because so many of them are all about profit. The government is currently run by the rich, for the rich. It’s no wonder people are suspicious.

Health care is the same. Doctors so often miss a diagnosis or just don’t believe you when you say you’re in pain, and many times if something is wrong they can’t help you anyway. They charge crazy amounts of money for a five minute visit, and half the time you leave with no more answers than when you arrived. And if you do have a problem, you may not qualify for treatment. This system is the way it is because of insurance companies, and they only care about the bottom line. Distrust in systems deepens.

When you get someone who comes along and plays upon that distrust, telling you they have secrets the rich don’t want you to know, it’s no surprise when many people get on board. Never mind that these people want to sell you something, usually at a ridiculous price, and the claims they make are easily disproven. People trust them because they either pretend to care, or they genuinely do care.

I first turned to alternative medicine because I got no answers from my doctor. A round of standard blood tests and I was told everything was normal. They had no interest in finding answers, and some even told me it was psychological. I was left to go home and suffer. Alternative practitioners not only spent an entire hour listening to me, they worked to find treatments that would help. Of course, none of those treatments actually helped anything, but at least they were trying. It hasn’t been easy going back to conventional medicine. I’ve had to practically get my PhD doing my own research because doctors just give up. And when I finally saw the right specialists and got some answers, they couldn’t really help me. I am left to figure out what works on my own, and I deal with a lot of problems they can never seem to help me with. And I have to pay money for that.

So I understand when people believe things that don’t have a basis in scientific or factual reality. Sometimes emotional reasons feel better and soothe our anxieties. I will fight if people try to legislate ignorance because of emotional reasons, but I get where they are coming from.

I used to trust that stuff, too.

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