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When Did We Stop Asking ‘Why?’

I was just trying to get back into a routine of morning yoga to loosen up my ridiculously tense joints and muscles, when CBC highlighted their “Underwear Affair“, a run to raise funds and awareness around cancers ‘below the belt.’  Listening to the radio broadcast started a domino effect in my thinking that got me worked up to the point that I had to stop my yoga and turn on my computer.  

They are trying to raise money for the Odette Cancer Centre.  The website goes on to explain that this cancer center treats 10,000 new patients every year and has nearly a quarter million annual patient visits.  That is a very, very scary number.

Research at this cancer center is dedicated to “early detection and more precise diagnosis of cancer, new surgical techniques, and more effective medical treatment that will improve the quality of life for patients” by implementing “a team approach to the fight against cancer.”  They hope that the “breakthroughs made at the Odette Cancer Centre will one day help to find a cure.”

I believe that this is very laudable work, so please don’t take what I have to say here as a critique of these efforts.  I support them wholeheartedly and I think efforts like this ‘Underwear Affair’ are amazing displays of human courage, empathy and determination to make the world a better place.  

My concern with all of the above is, where is the research into the CAUSE of cancer?  Why is the focus exclusively on cure, on treatment, and on palliation?  There is not one single mention of cause that I could find in that document or during that broadcast.  I find this extremely disturbing.  It seems that we have accepted cancer as a given, as something that is ‘out there’ to get us.  Yet another insidious, invisible danger that we must fear, and no amount of wealth or social status can protect us.  

I am not saying this isn’t true.  Cancer is extremely common these days, and it can indeed strike anyone. But it is not ‘out there’.  It is within us.  It is our bodies loosing control and self-destructing.  And what causes this?  We don’t know and we seem to have stopped asking.  

There are, however, many good guesses.  Environmental toxins and processed food are the two that jump to the fore for me.  I see animals as the canaries in the mine for our own health, so let’s take a quick look at our pets.  Dogs today suffer a greater than 53% cancer rate.  Again, we can’t say definitely why (because we aren’t doing research on this question), but I am quite convinced it is the result of a lifetime of eating nothing but processed foods (check out the dog food project for a good start on what’s in commercial dog food), being coated in chemicals (flea, tick and heartworm insecticides) on a monthly basis, and being pumped full of modified live viruses (many cancers are linked to viruses) and toxic chemicals through annual vaccines (vaccines contain mercury, formaldehyde and many other very scary toxins).  These daily, monthly and annual assaults on their bodies are inflicting a tremendous toll on their health, with each generation becoming weaker than the last.  Today a dog of 11 or 12 is considered to have lived a good long life.  Many (most?) by that age are obese and suffer from arthritis, skin problems, digestive disorders and dementia.  

A vet recently told me that 95% of cats now develop kidney failure and 12 is also considered a ripe old age for them.  Cats receive fewer chemicals and vaccines, but they still eat nothing but processed food, day in and day out.  My first cat – who hunted daily and was vaccinated probably once in her life – lived to be nearly 20, which was pretty common for cats at the time, and was spry right up to the end.  Dogs used to regularly live to be 16 or older.  What’s going on here?  And why do we just sit back and accept this instead of asking WHY?

To me there is a very clear link between health, diet and environment.  Our pets, who live lives more extreme in terms of physical assaults to their life force, are showing us quite clearly what awaits us if we continue down this path.  Yet our society is turning a blind eye to this avenue of understanding.  We cannot look into the causes of cancer and our other exploding health problems.  For if we did, we would have to acknowledge that we are killing ourselves quite willingly with how we live our lives, and especially with how we eat.  That would mean having to completely reconstruct our food system (among other things) and that just can’t happen.  The forces that are currently in place to prevent this are all but immovable.  Big agriculture is very powerful in this respect, but it is not the sole actor.  For one, it works hand in hand with Big Pharmaceutical.  And these companies, which are inseparable from Big Oil (and the Military Industrial Complex), operate almost seamlessly with governments, which kowtow to the multinationals in the name of World Trade Organization (WTO) international laws and agreements.  

All of these organizations reap tremendous profit from the system as it currently stands.  Big Ag makes billions pumping out the processed foods thanks to manufacturing methods made cheap by Big Oil, and then Big Pharma makes billions selling us all the drugs and medical procedures we need to keep us alive after consuming this crap.  Governments are hamstrung to prevent this because – as they admit with a sigh of relief – they helpless in face of international laws of trade.  How convenient.  

Earlier this week, a friend told me about efforts in his state to make it illegal to place the words “hormone free” on milk that does not contain rBGH.  The argument being made is that if milk produced by cows raised without being pumped full of recombinant hormones is labeled as ‘hormone free’, it will give the consumer the impression that it is better for them than milk produced with the help of genetically engineered E.coli.  Heaven forbid the consumer should be allowed to make that choice and select unfavourably against some company’s patented product. 

I thought the argument behind the benefits of market liberalism (aka neoliberalism) was that the consumer choice would dictate what was best, and social justice would be attained in the balance.  That is what governments have been touting since Reagan and Thatcher (who launched the reconstruction of the global economy based on this premise).  But now the government is arguing that the consumer can’t make these decisions anymore, for that would hurt the companies, which in turn would hurt the economy.  

The irony of the above is chilling.  We have (re)constructed our society such that the responsibility of our health and well-being rests our each of our shoulders.  We are responsible for our own success, and for being entrepreneurs in resolving our personal (and collective) dilemmas.  It is up to us now to raise money to pay scientists and doctors to fight the cancers created by (I know there’s no “scientific proof” to support this) the very products we work so hard to purchase.  And the icing on the cake is that governments – in the name of international trade and the health of the economy – are working to prevent us from knowing what’s in those products in the first place, in case we elect not to consume them after all.  Heaven forbid we should avoid getting cancer and put the multinationals out of business by making informed choices. 

*****

Now that my mind has been cleared, I’m going to go back to my yoga, then off to market.

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