America was born in an age of quackery. When nameless goop passed for soothing balms and questionable practice led to unimagined complications. The foundations of the medical profession stretch back into antiquity. Nestled somewhere outside of the indistinct recesses of the classical dark ages the triptych tools of triage, diagnosis and prognosis were fashioned into a workable methodology. During the 5th century BCE, the Greek physician Hippocrates laid the groundwork for all future medical ethics in his much-celebrated oath — Primum non nocere – first, do no harm.
The Renaissance brought with it a greater understanding of anatomy but sans knowledge of germs – a theory that did not gain in prominence until the mid-19th century – effective treatment remained elusive. Surgeries were a torment, disease an inexplicable terror. Treatments – such as they were – offered little comfort; in many cases, they hastened the onset of death.
Just ask George Washington.
Not that most people were privileged enough to have a physician half bleed them to death from time to time. Common folk most often fell back on the old stalwarts of therapeutic antiterrorism; folk remedies, charms, prayers, ointments, potions and –ah yes – snake oils. Still, as medical science improved fall-back positions became less and less relevant. The scientific method’s separation of fact from fiction was gradual at first but picked up speed at a rapid pace. Once-fatal diseases were brought low by the relentless ingenuity of human innovation. Surgeons cleaned up their act and segued from the performance of survivable amputations to live organ transplant in the blink of an eye. Tropical diseases were humbled. Cancers were forced into remission.
The microorganism became supplicant.
In Sickness There Is Wealth
Sure, there was much that remained beyond our ability to heal but the momentum was hard to ignore. We had clawed our way out of the putrefying filth of the past and broken through to a wilderness rent tame, ascetic and clean. The wizardry and superstition of the past were put to bed. We popped pills, we consulted specialists and as if by the opposite of magic, we began to enjoy lifespans undreamed of by our forebears.
Meanwhile, on Goop — Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle blog for the chronically vacant –Psychic Vampire Repellent sells for $27 a pop.
“It’s a spray-able (sic) elixir we can all get behind”.
The site croons:
“This protective mist uses a combination of gem healing and deeply aromatic therapeutic oils reported banishing bad vibes (and shield you from the people who may be causing them). Fans spray generously around their heads to safeguard their auras.”
Oh yes, whatever you do, don’t skimp on the psychic vampire repellent.
It’s easy enough to scoff, easy enough to dismiss the obvious incongruity to be found here. The nation that built the Saturn V the iPhone, Google, The Gibson Les Paul, and Harley Davidson motorcycles is also one in which a woman can purchase a $66 jade egg with the express intention of inserting it into her vagina in order to:
“Increase sexual energy and pleasure. This nephrite jade stone helps connect the second chakra (the heart) and yoni for optimal self-love and well-being.”
Over its tumultuous six years in business, Paltrow’s blog has grabbed the art of pretention with both hands, doused it in peppermint scented ‘sex bark’ and turned it into a lucrative science. They have marketed ‘cleanse approved’ cabbage-leaf dumplings to the perennially susceptible. They have flogged $2,400 spirit-animal rings to the criminally naïve. Their website has touted the benefits of vaginal steaming, 24 carrot gold dildos, and the benefits of wearing $60 stickers that ‘rebalance the energy frequency in our bodies’. They advocate letting bees sting your face and then partake of an eight-day, mono-diet goat-milk cleanse—accompanied by a specific vermifuge made of anti-parasitic herbs — because you ‘probably have a parasite’.
It’s all there.
And it’s all horseshit.
That millions of Americans buy into it — that they invest so much wasted energy in such perished boloney– is hardly a surprise. Indeed, as Kurt Anderson points out in Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, the U.S. is far more likely to quaff drivel than other nations.
George W Bush’s political mastermind Karl Rove understood this all too well. Speaking to a journalist in 2004 he noted that:
“People in the reality-based community believe that solutions come from a judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world works anymore.”
According to Anderson he:
“Said it with a sense of humor but he was also deadly serious. A year later the Colbert report went on the air. In the first few minutes of his first episode. Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing populist character performed a feature called the Word in which he riffed on a phrase. Truthiness.”
That was back then of course. Back then, the absence of ‘truthiness’, in the dictionary was only just beginning its transition from evidence to its non-existence to suspicions of elitism. Back then the notion that the truth comes from the gut was still something we could laugh at.
Because the link between Goopism and Trumpism was not yet apparent.
“President Trump is the extreme weather event of 24-hour rolling news. He sits at the eye of the storm spitting out news alerts like unwanted cherry pits. Trump is the forest fire sucking the oxygen out of our very lungs.”
He owes his tenure as president to many things. Election meddling at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The wholesale abandonment of Blue Collar America by Democrats. The disastrous repeal of Glass Steagall. The blinkered abomination that (would have been), the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Obama Care, Solar Panel subsidies Alaskan oil drilling. Pick a policy – any policy, good or bad — and you’ll find an associated cluster of disgruntled activists ready to proclaim the onset of a second civil war if their demands are not met.
But Trump’s victory marked a genuine turning point, a transition from an honest difference of opinion to the fantasist ramblings of fanaticism. Trump’s pronouncement that he could shoot someone and not lose a single vote was more or less accurate. Dire though his approval ratings might be his base remains solid. Faced with mounting evidence that he conspired with Russia to help win the election they choose instead to rant about Hillary’s emails. North Korea? Problem solved: refer to photo op. Dissent is fake news. The wall is being built even though it is not. Obama separated immigrant children from the parents even though he did not.
And Vaginas need steaming.
(Even though they most certainly do not).
“Exciting time to be an American because we are at this amazing inflection point and everything is kind of up in the air; such an amazing time for entrepreneurship” …
Is beyond poignancy to the point of absurdity.
Because Trump’s America is the perfect venue for a company that waxes lyrical about skin creams that have been chanted over by pretend-shaman. The misinformation that lies at the heart of Trumpism works so well with cures for insomnia and depression that simply involve removing your shoes. Trumpism and Goopism – a latter-day Gordian knot – might well seem at odds with one at first glance. Demographically, they probably could not be more divided. Where one appeals to the ordinary Joe’s and Jane’s of a forgotten America, the other panders to the pretensions of new age affluence. Where one is crass and uncouth the other is hip, trendy and sport obsessively cleansed genitals.
Yet, both are fueled by an unending cavalcade of willful ignorance, intellectual contortionism, and outright stupidity. Trump’s time will pass but in order to defeat Trumpism itself, America has to attack the root causes on a broad front. America needs to put rationalism back on equal footing with fantasy before it can escape the staggering stupor its political system has fallen into.
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