Saturday, July 15, 2006

The 'One-Size-Fits-All' Mentality & The Drive To 'Follow The Herd'!

In some areas of human endeavour the "one-size-fits-all" approach is fast falling out of favour. One area where it is clinging on for dear life is the medical profession. No matter what your race, culture, sexual orientation, gender, genetic predisposition or age may be, if you go to a doctor with a group of symptoms you are almost guaranteed to receive exactly the same drugs/treatment that every other Joe (or Joan) Bloggs has had when presenting with the same or very similar symptoms! I don't know about you, but whenever I've been to a doctor he's had his pen poised over his prescription pad before I've even closed the consulting room door behind me and sat down! I'm sure there is a ready-reckoner, supplied to all doctors by the pharmaceutical industry, which lists every possible symptom or group of symptoms alongside the drug or drugs considered most effective for each! In an ideal world this kind of approach would be all fine and dandy - everyone, doctors and patients alike, would know exactly what to do and what to expect in any given personal health crisis. Unfortunately, this world does not exist. We may all be human beings but we are by no means all alike! On a genetic level we are, each of us, completely unique. We may share racial, cultural or family traits, but even family members have genetic differences. We all react differently to physical, mental and emotional stimuli. Some people can eat junk, drink alcohol to excess, smoke all their lives and never take any regular exercise and live well into old age with no apparent ill effects. Others can eat a wholesome diet, exercise regularly, avoid tobacco and alcohol but keel over with a heart attack in their thirties! Surely the same must be true of medicines? As the saying goes, "one man's meat is another man's poison"! It is not much comfort to be told you have suffered serious side effects to a drug but that you are just one in a thousand to do so! So many drugs are prescribed to merely "manage" non-life-threatening symptoms but have potentially worse side effects. And what if the antacid you are taking to stave off the occasional bout of indigestion after a curry-house blow-out is causing you to come out in hives? Don't worry, we have this other spiffy new drug to counteract it. Before you know it, you are taking a cocktail of drugs with the potential for a myriad unexpected and unpleasant side effects and interactions. But they have all been rigorously tested in double-blind trials - Oh, yeah? On how many subjects? A couple of hundred? Even a couple of thousand is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the billions of unsuspecting guinea-pigs all around the world who will be subjected to these drugs once they are licensed for public use. On top of which, there is nothing to deter an overzealous practitioner from prescribing the latest anti-psychotic to treat a mild case of bemusement!

Which brings me onto the "herd mentality". Seeing as we are, each of us, so individual and unique, why do we have this uncontrollable urge to follow the herd - to conform - blend in - be a part of the in-crowd? Every now and then some movement away from conformity will emerge...in the seventies it was the 'punk' movement. We want to express our individuality was the cry... from a large group of people all dressed similarly in black bin-liners, chains, trousers covered in zip fasteners and sporting spiky hair-dos in flourescent green, orange and purple! It seems as soon as one person has the courage and principles to stand up and declare that he is his own man and no one will tell him how to dress or think, a bunch of other guys in search of an identity will jump on his bandwagon! Oh-hum, has mankind marked himself out for extinction? There's an asteroid up there somewhere just waiting to make it's impact here on Earth and put us all out of our misery!

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