The ram chased my wife this week. We heard about it at dinner.
Whether the year-old sheep just wanted to put on a show, got overly excited for some midwinter hay or was protecting his flock, we’re not sure.
It doesn’t matter. Rams will be rams.
It’s life on the farm.
A lot of folks have asked us why we put up with it… why we spend so much time nurturing our crops and critters. The list of answers is as long as my arm. Lifestyle… discipline… a reliable source of food… they could all stand on their own.
But lately, we’ve added another.
You see, our trust is waning.
YOUR LIFE VS. THEIR WORD
Much of our food is produced in a factory – in a process that’s not all that different from making a chunk of plastic.
Sure, that cow in your burger may have grown up on a pasture. But by the time it gets sliced, diced and put in a nice little wrapper at the grocery store, it’s been injected with drugs, flash-frozen in a chemical atmosphere and preserved until even a roach won’t touch it.
We’re told the process is harmless. The government gives us its guarantee.
But – perhaps it’s the onset of old age – we’re skeptical. And we’d rather be chased by a ram than find the “experts” were wrong.
It’s happened before.
And folks are dead because of it.
We’ve been studying the nation’s opioid addiction. (It’s for a fascinating project we’ll soon be able to tell you about.)
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have needlessly died or become addicted to prescription pills… all because the medical community was wrong.
It promised we were safe… but we weren’t.
You see, in January of 1980, the New England Journal of Medicine published a short 11-line letter from a couple of doctors who had studied opioids – drugs made from the poppy plant. They claimed “the development of addiction is rare in medical patients with no history of addiction.”
A few years later, a similar paper was published. It claimed “opioid maintenance therapy can be a safe, salutary and more humane alternative” than surgery or lesser treatments.
Those beliefs led to huge changes in the way doctors treated pain. And it changed the way drugs were sold. Many opioids were marketed as safe and addiction-free.
Wow, were they wrong.
The medical community is paying the price. It’s now in the midst of one of the largest self-made epidemics in history.
Of course, it’s not the only time the smartest folks in the room were wrong.
WHEN WE GOT SMOKED
Let’s not forget the great tobacco mix-up. How many folks died because our docs were once convinced smoking was not only harmless… but good for us?
After all, the ads told us “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!”
But Lucky Strikes, well, they’re great on your throat.
How wrong we were. It took nearly 30 years for the medical community to fully embrace the dangers of cigarettes.
By then, countless addicts were formed and lives were harmed.
As we let our mind wander, we think of other things that once were accepted as safe but we now know are quite deadly.
Do you remember the fluoroscope? Kids loved taking X-rays of their feet to find the best-fitting shoe. And we didn’t hesitate to expose our bodies to their wondrous rays.
It’s crazy now, but in the 1900s, radioactive drinks were popular.
And not long after that, sugar was promoted as a weight-loss aid. “Have a soft drink before your main meal” we were told, or “snack on some candy an hour before lunch.”
Wrong… and wrong.
PASSING THE BUCK
In many cases, the medical community is innocent. It simply doesn’t understand the science or, more often, it doesn’t have enough time to study the downside. After all, many of these deadly concoctions take years to kill. And yet they hit the market quite quickly. (We’re already pondering if someday we’ll regret what the internet has done to our social skills.)
When it comes to cancer-causing chemicals, our longer life spans play a role, too.
Generations past didn’t live long enough to see the downside of their dangerous cancer-causing habits. But now that the average American can expect to live to nearly 80 years old, that’s changed… quickly.
In many other cases, though, there are clearly guilty parties.
That was the case at Purdue Pharma, the company that hid the deadly addictive nature of its opiate OxyContin. Three of its top bosses pleaded guilty, and the company paid a $635 million settlement to Washington.
Meanwhile, innocent folks are still addicted to its pills.
That’s why we’re careful not to jump to conclusions. It’s why we don’t trust somebody just because he has a few initials after his name (we do, too, but we sure aren’t perfect). And it’s why we’d rather do it ourselves than rely on the word of somebody else.
Our farm isn’t easy to run. Rams attack. Bees sting. And the hawks love our chickens as much as we do.
But the alternative isn’t so grand, either.
A healthy distrust of the system is, well, healthy.