Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article on how China is expanding its military budget by just seven percent this year, noting that this is “the slowest pace this decade.” The day before, it had reported that China was increasing its military spending for 2017, adding to an already volatile situation in the region, particularly in the South China Sea, which should be a concern for all of us.
So, you might ask, which is it–increase, decrease, good news, bad news, no news? Build a bunker? You might ask the same of cashews. I read that they cause fat to grow around your waist, which is dangerous. This, after years of articles and research extolling the nutritional benefits of nuts.
Add to this list coffee, green tea, bananas, watermelon, egg whites, eggs, tofu, carbonated water, tap water, grains, butter, ice cream, wine, and chocolate. I have read articles citing credible sources (i.e., experts in bow ties) promoting these as–if not exactly health food–then certainly good for you in moderation. Others have lambasted them as if they were immoral. Actually, the tone of much of this reporting is moralistic, as if eating a Belgian waffle might cause the destruction of the European Union. Would that it were true.
As with the Chinese military, this kind of on-again, off-again reporting is not limited to food and diet. You see it everywhere, from credit and debit cards to cardio exercises for men over forty. When my kids were infants we gave them a bottle, burped them, put them to sleep on their stomach, and then covered them with a blanket. If we did that today, we’d probably be arrested. I hear that my mother once flung the Dr. Spock book across the room. I understand that now.
In Howard’s End, E.M. Forster writes, “Science explains people, but cannot understand them. After long centuries among the bones and muscles it might be advancing to knowledge of the nerves, but this will never give understanding.” Knowledge of bones, muscles, and nerves is important, but I want to understand their sum total and how that total comes together to affect me and my interaction with you.
I don’t get that with fake news. The “facts” it is based on have come into question because of such disparate voices as Facebook, Twitter, Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, the Ninth Circuit, and Alex Jones. We can’t trust facts anymore. Jack Webb must be turning over in his grave.
Or is it that we can’t trust ourselves? We seem to have no difficulty employing the same set of facts to support opposite sides. And then we claim the moral high ground. In extreme cases, it’s the violent low ground, as with those idiots who attack others in the name of tolerance. Or the smarter idiots who fund them.
I am amazed at how much personal authority we are willing to hand over to others because they are in positions of power or present–as the wife says in Brother, Where Art Thou?–bona fides. I will not surrender control to someone just because they have a powerful institution behind them. I would not deny my children vaccines, of course, but I do not want Pfizer determining whether they get Zoloft, which is essentially what happens. Everybody’s on it, you know. But shouldn’t the job of physicians be to get patients off drugs, not on them? But big pharma has gone directly to us, the consumer, and we are easily manipulated. It’s called marketing.
Now, who would have thought that China’s military, cashews, and a morning cappuccino have anything in common? And don’t get me started about the cult of celebrity.