Thursday, September 28, 2006

Metabolic Syndrome and the Human Condition

A fascinating, though over long, article in Wired outlines the metabolic syndrome controversy. This is said to be a disease that afflicts 75 million Americans, causing, among other things, obesity. The drugs companies are now racing to produce treatments. However, many now dispute whether MS is a discrete condition and evidence suggests, contrary to the warnings of MS boosters, that it is no indicator of future health problems. This is a very profound issue and one that is seldom intelligently debated. One book - Ian Hacking's Rewriting the Soul - gets to the heart of the matter. Here is an article I wrote about this book some time ago. This is about multiple personality disorder. This used to be an unknown condition, but, as soon as it was defined, it became an epidemic. Hacking, reasonably enough, started from the position that these people were suffering from mass hysteria, not a real condition. But he arrived at a more subtle conclusion. These people were unwell, but they expressed their illness in the symptoms offered them by the age. In MS, unease becomes disease in the form of MS. Nothing is changed, however. The unease is the real condition, the human condition.

12 comments:

  1. I don't see what the problem is, Bryan.
    1- Inane culture makes people imbalanced, confused, unhappy etc.
    2- Unhappiness manifests itself in overeating of crap food.
    3- Disease is diagnosed.
    4- The sufferers have sense of belonging because of commonality of disease. And guilt eased as it's a disease over which they have no control.
    5- Society's bonds strengthened.
    6- Drug companies make fortunes. An idea here I haven't time to ponder about this being a kind of modern confessional in terms of alleviation of guilt.
    7- Everyone is happy.

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  2. Well, yes, Andrew. But I do think the culture doesn't have to be inane since what is being diagnosed and 'treated' here is, in fact, the human condition and your point 7 I take to be a joke. Everyone happy! I don't think so. And, by the way, have you seen Aussie Jack's outrageous contribution to the Archer Snowdon post? Things are getting out of hand.

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  3. I must admit, Bryan, I was rushing away to work...overnight stays, no computer access......and kind of snatched at a couple of words like obesity in your post and leapt to a few conclusions. Yup, I saw Jack's contribution; a terrible beauty is born.
    Related to the thread, I remember Huxley writing of how mental illness sufferers used to experience external possession in religious terms- God & the Devil kind of stuff, whereas in modern times things like alien possession, radio waves and the like taking one over, were often how madness was experienced. Brings to mind that brilliant passage in Bros Karamazov where Ivan encounters the Devil who attempts to prove the reality of his own existence. Whatever is really going on too elusive for easy interpretation, or maybe even difficult interpretation!
    Anyway sounds related to your Aliens book which I've not got hold of yet.

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  4. It is related to Aliens and it will be explored in a book I am now writing - not the immortality one which is long finished.

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  5. Ah, Daniel, quite a site you have there. What did you just want to say? Nothing is good - but something may be better.

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  6. Bryan, well, let's just be thankful that Metabolic Syndrome doesn't involve pointing a finger at the brother or the sister or the father or the mother, or a lawsuit against the uncle by one of the hundreds of alters. And so from a certain stand-point, this shift looks like a sad step forward: better, some might say, and far more profitable for the drug companies (it was a nice try, you know, but no matter how many alters a person had, the doc could only prescribe the pills to a single person). Indeed, this next big thing is a giant, but the backfire will be a bigger monster.

    But in the end, I agree: "The unease is the real condition, the human condition." And I think Andrew's List is right on the money (money, money, money), with the exception of that last bit about Happiness.

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  7. Thanks, Daniel. Why isn't Marilynne Robinson among your darlings?

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  8. Bryan,

    Now this I love: Tell me where to start reading with Marilynne Robinson and I'll walk down to Powell's City of Books and buy a copy.

    I have many Darlings, but I couldn't possibly list all of them on the site. Darlings in film and music, for example. If and when I figure out how to do it, I'll put them on rotation...

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  9. Daniel,
    You spoil me. Some context: I have long read and admired big male American fiction - Updike, Roth, Bellow, DeLillo etc - and my admiration for them is undiminshed. However, I did read two late short Roths and felt suffocated. My friend, Nige, who appears on this blog occasionally as Nige but more often as Anon, the guy who seems to know everything, had badgered me for some time about Robinson. Then, around June, he said that she was rather like me. This, of course, had the desired effect. I read Robinson in August. Four books appear to be extant - one seems to be about politics and the British nuclear industry so I have not read it. The major works are two novels - Housekeeping and Gilead - as well as a book of essays The Death of Adam. Both novels are masterpieces. I had to break off from Gilead on several occasions from sheer weight of emotion - that's not happened for some time. You, as a writer, will understand all that is necessary about her technical mastery. She freed my mind in ways that over the next five years I hope will become apparent.

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  10. Bryan,

    Just got back from Powell's, where I purchased Marilynne Robinson's GILEAD and HOUSEKEEPING, which the woman at the front desk had read and said was amazing.

    Thank you for the tip.

    Best,

    Daniel

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  11. "...if there was one thing I should have learned from them and did not learn, it was to control my temper. This is wisdom I should have attained a long time ago. Even now, when a flutter of my pulse makes me think of final things, I find myself losing my temper, because a drawer sticks or because I've misplaced my glasses. I tell you this so that you can watch for this in yourself.

    "A little too much anger, too often or at the wrong time, can destroy more than you would ever imagine."

    And it was there that my eyes filled with tears. So I'll be reading Marilynne Robinson's GILEAD very slowly. But I thank you for it.

    Best,
    Daniel

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