Saturday, February 4, 2012

Oh, isn't it great to be an American? being poor, body invasion, and illness on the Daily Show

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Money Talks - The Haves & the Soon-to-Haves
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There has been such good analysis on the Daily Show lately. Firstly, this segment above displays the disgusting flip side to The American Dream. The positive side to the American Dream goes something like "well, if you just work hard enough you can be rich in America too! Anyone can make it big (i.e. become wealthy) in America, it is the land of opportunity."

The flip side of that dream, however, is that if you don't make it (which 99% of us, factually, don't), then it is because you haven't worked hard enough. You failed not because of the structural inequalities that work against you, but because you are fundamentally bad and lazy.

Well, people have been figuring out very slowly since the financial crash that maybe this dream is really a nightmare. It is a way of keeping us thinking that it is our fault if we are poor or in the debt of large corporations or the government. When in reality, many many people are losing their homes, savings, retirement, ability to eat. 14% of Americans are on food stamps. People are beginning to see that it is not just their own individual problem, they are gaining the courage to say: "this is what is happening to me, and it is not my fault."

Here's where this clip comes in. The people who have been perpetuating the American Dream are getting scared. These protectors of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else are trying to spin the American Dream 2.0. They claim we are a country not of haves and have-nots, but a country of haves and soon-to-haves. Oh, if only you work a little harder, you too can have wealth. It is a disgusting lie that has gone back to the beginning of this country's history, as explained thoroughly by Morris Berman in his most recent book "Why American Failed." 

Ok, onto the next clip:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Poor Pee-Ple
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Here there is something interesting happening, and it is not talked about explicitly in the clip, and that's the invasion of the bodies of U.S. citizens by the government. If the citizens of this country are not invaded enough through laws that allow corporations to rape us with debt and take any amount of wealth we save and redistribute it to the wealthy 1%, now there is the actual invasion of our bodies. 

There were signs of this bodily invasion before with the full-body scanners at the airport administered by the Transportation Security Administration. I went to the airport recently and asked if I could simply go through the metal detector instead of this full-body scanner, which I feel is an invasion of privacy. What can they find out by seeing the details of my body that they can't detect with a metal detector? So I refused to go through the body scanning machine and they said that I would then be subjected to a full-body pat-down. 

I was placed in a special holding cell and subjected to a pat down of every inch of my skin by the federal government. Although I prefer this to the radiation of the full-body scanner, both are an incredible invasion of my body and my privacy in the name of security. Just like torture, these tactics are advanced in the name of security, but are doing less to address the problems they seek to solve and instead manipulating powerless individuals according to the sadistic tendencies of an empire that is losing its grasp on world power.

The logic is that if you are taking taxpayer money, then you should be subjected to this screening so that the taxpayer isn't funding something like drug use. Yet, as with the clip above, this logic is only extended to recipients of welfare, or poor people. What about all the bank employees or auto company executives who took taxpayer money? What about government officials? Why does this logic not extend to them? Furthermore, why are drugs (especially marijuana) even criminalized in this country anyway? We have the largest incarcerated population of any nation on the planet, including China and India, but that's a discussion for another day.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
David Agus
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There are some important things being covered in this interview. One of the most important things discussed here, something I have been thinking about for a while, is the way Americans think of illness. The way we think of illness is influenced by the Enlightenment and the medical discoveries of that era. During that time, we discovered "bugs" (microbes) like bacteria and viruses that were external organisms which made their way into our bodies. We had to fight them as if they were a foreign invader. 

This way of thinking (fighting an illness that is external to us but temporarily in us), has pervaded our thinking about all illnesses from cancer to diabetes to depression. However, we now know that most illnesses, especially ones that are afflicting Americans in high numbers, are ones that are deeply a part of us. That is, cancer is a result of all of the genetics and environmental interactions your body has experienced throughout your life. It is not some external bug which happened to finally get into your body randomly, it is a part of your very body, a result of your body and your life.

That isn't to say that it is your fault, which is why most people prefer to think in terms of disease as a foreign invader. They want to absolve themselves of the responsibility of their bodily upkeep, and that is one way of looking at it. However, I think the most important lesson here is to recognize that a lot of what causes these illnesses is environmental. For cancer, there are clear environmental causes like interacting man-made chemicals in your body which you might not have even known existed in the products you buy (back to food quality/'s all connected). For depression, you live in a society where the external world tells you through advertising that you suck every day. If you only bought this product, maybe you wouldn't suck so badly.

So what happens is people get depressed or cancer or diabetes and they think of it as a disease which can be cured with a pill (like a microbe). But in reality this illness is a part of them, something caused by a lifetime of interacting with a toxic environment with chemicals (cancer), advertising (depression), or engineered high-fat processed foods (diabetes). 

My only problem with this doctor is that he is so hunky-dory about the solution, and even he is subjected to the individualistic way of looking at cures for these illnesses. That is, he claims if we only walk around then we will have less of these illnesses. Yet, there are structural constraints (cars, for example, or desk jobs), which stop people from enacting this seemingly simple solution. So, then people think "oh man, I just need to walk more," but then they go out of their house to try to go for a walk and find there are not sidewalks and cars are splashing dirty winter slush in their faces. 

It is important to remember BOTH that most illnesses are a part of you and all of the interactions between your body and the environment you've had AND that many of the causes of these illnesses are structural in nature and to start being skeptical of the way people do things since it is obviously not making them healthy. Pay attention to what you put in your mouth, in your eyes, ears, what you let touch your skin, what you breathe, how much you move your body. It all adds up, and if you maintain the status quo, especially in this country, you're more likely than not to end up on an array of pills for depression and blood pressure and pain killers (the pill-pushing is also part of the pharmaceutical industry's influence, but that's a discussion for another time...but it's all connected, again).

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