Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Oh yeah . . .

After a fairly miserable week, I finally feel like myself again -- and that actually feels better than feeling like myself. I think we really need to get sick once in a while to appreciate feeling well. Conversely, I'm more and more sold on Ivan Illich's idea of social iatrogenesis -- that as a culture, we've come to believe that perfect health and freedom from pain is some sort of a human right, and we're just going to keep going to doctors and guzzling pills and having ourselves sliced and diced until everything is perfect. That's one reason for all this influenza hoopla -- the idea that you might feel like shit for a few days is a major emergency.

Listen up buster. Life is tough. You're gonna get sick sometimes. Sometimes it's gonna hurt. Get over it.

Having gotten that off of my thorax, a couple of news flashes, one of them pretty disturbing. From Felix Salmon: "The length of time the average unemployed person has been without a job has been hitting new record highs for a while; it’s now managed to pass the 6-month mark. That’s much higher than any previous peak in this data series." And those folks are exhausting their unemployment benefits -- 7,000 a day hitting the end of the benefit period and now having zero income, last I heard. These people are almost all going to be wiped out -- they'll lose every material thing they've gained in their lifetimes -- financial assets, houses, furniture, cars. They're destitute. And their chances of ever getting it back are very small.

Now that really is pain worth worrying about, and if it continues and doesn't get a whole lot better pretty soon, it's going to put major strain on the social fabric. And it will be all over for the Obama presidency. We've read about people living in tent cities here and there, but the only reason we haven't had Hooverville scale phenomena is because of unemployment insurance, which didn't exist in the 1930s. But it might just be a delayed reaction. Watch out.

Now for something completely different, some investigators are saying that rats become addicted to junk food in pretty much the same way they do to heroin and cocaine. This hasn't been peer reviewed and what is more, people aren't rats (with some exceptions). Still, there may be something to it. Eating habits for many people do seem almost impossible to change. We'll keep watching.

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