Photo: whoislimos, Unsplash

Health and healing have become deeply politicised

I live at the very edge of the century.
One can feel the wind from a great page –
Which God and you and I have filled with writing –
Turning high above in foreign hands now.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Our civilisation has engulfed the world. It straddles the world not as a colossus but as a world encircling, beguiling dragon, openly hidden in our everydayness, in an engulfing beguiling universality, a uniformity of sameness, termed individual freedom. The normal, the ordinary, our everydayness manufactures the diseases of Western Civilisation: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, depression and cancer, these emerge wherever our lifestyles and diets arrive. Vast arrays of scientific literature record this worldwide march to civilisational desirable normalcy, referring to our disease burden as the diseases of civilisation, treated uniformly with the medicine of our civilisation. Our global disease burden ecosystems are now referred to pharmaceutically as markets and therapeutically as industries.

Turning high above in foreign hands now – Rilke

But is healing truly found in you becoming a commodity, a consumer or a market of these? And can healing be manufactured? These are amongst the questions that we must ask. And I will not pretend to have the answers! One thing is clear and that is that if our diseases are caused by our civilisation then if we wish for health then our civilisation must change.

And so where are you going? – Al Quran 81:26

I do not desire to make this unnecessarily political but in the conditions that we face now in the 21st century health and healing have become deeply politicised and ideological. But it is in healing and living healthily that the encompassing ideological enframing of politics and rights that is the habit of our civilisation, collapses into phenomenological questions of how we choose to behave and how we choose to direct our lives, based upon wanting to change our experience of living. This is so much more straightforward than we often think. It is in the exercise of our choice and our courage to change our behaviour that we engage with healing and begin to pursue a path to health. Basically by now we know where we are going, and if we don’t want to get there then we have to change how we journey.

And when your Lord said to the Angels, ‘Surely I am creating a steward in the Earth’ – Al Quran 2:?

Diet which diet?

Our meat heavy, sugar and carbohydrate heavy diets are central to Western Lifestyles. And as if this is not enough we flood the market with these foods. We do so through industrial scale farming, which systematically destroys topsoils at a rate of 3.4 tonnes per person per year. Industrial farming has resulted in a systematic reduction in mineral content in our fruit and vegetables. Over the last 60 years mineral content in our fruit and vegetables has halved, despite our industrial usage of fertilisers to counter the reduction in fertility of topsoils due to industrial farming practices. We now get better but minerally poorer yields. We have radically reduced the time it takes to fatten cattle for market by at least half of the traditional times and in some cases up to three times less.

The result is that the fat, and pharmaceutical content in our meat has increased drastically and this is marketed by the meat industry as a good thing. Marbled meat due to the increase in fat content is promoted as tastier, as better meat despite the fact that we have unhealthier animals. These animals are also consuming food that is less mineral dense. Just have a look at the symptoms and conditions caused by mineral malnutrition.

As muslims we are obligated by our purpose of creation to protect our topsoils, the animals and the people who end up eating from these food chains. We can do this quite simply by informing ourselves and our communities about the conditions under which the food that we eat is reared and deliberate community based purchasing choices, by entrepreneurship and charitable activities within the food industry. If not then about us also the next verse is applicable.

‘Why will you create in it (one) who will corrupt it (the earth) and shed blood?’ – Al Quran 2:??

Veganism, vegetarianism or pathologically meat heavy diets or any of the ideological positions on our food spectrums if based upon topsoil destroying industrial agriculture, are all problematic. Most traditional diets are vegetable heavy, with meat being occasionally eaten and since vegetables contain every food group and are easily grown it doesn’t take a university degree to understand why traditional diets are usually like this. For healthier diets, increase our vegetable portions to at least half our portions, our food will automatically become more nutrient dense and this over time will tend to significantly reduce the size of the portions that you need. And your diet would have changed, significantly reducing your risk of contracting the diseases of Western Civilisation.

The Prevalence of Anxiety & Depression

In economics 101 we learn that our economy is a credit or debt based economy because it forces people to work. In our economy money is itself a debt from its inception and as time goes on the debt as part of the economy continues growing exponentially. Usurious debt drives the creation of social systems and attitudes to work which create the psychology of the worker. Education is reduced to that which prepares us for work. Our families are reduced to a container for the maintenance and production of workers.

The entire situation habituates us to normalised levels of stress and the passive acceptance of the status quo. The richness and variety of community life constantly comes under economic and social pressures, creating ecosystems that meet the needs of industry but not our fundamental human needs. In schools we are taught to be normal, which ensures that the cycle continues.

As stress levels increase and the rich variety of social experiences embedded within traditional community life are no longer there to offer opportunities for recovery, stress has increasingly become an embedded expectation of our lives. We should be aware that chronic stress changes our hormonal behaviour, restructures our brain chemistry and architecture, affects our gut biota, restructures our bodies’ natural barrier tissue prevalent in the gut, lungs and skin. This probably accounts for 70% of our other diseases, such as asthma, Crohn’s disease, eczema and many others diseases. And it certainly explains why in the cases of anxiety and depression the limbic or emotional brain centres increase the creation of links to the hypothalamus and pituitary areas which give central regulation to hormonal activity.

In my clinical practice I deal with anxiety and depression as a natural reaction of a body in crisis trying to put hard stops on activity. Usually these conditions radically transform within 6 to 9 months as people commit to restructuring their lives and I give them medicines to rebuild hormonal robustness.

An economic and sociological problem will not be solved with a pharmaceutical solution or more therapy. Pharmaceutical and therapeutic solutions will HELP us to continue with our pathological economic and sociological conditions, however since the economic and sociological issues are likely to worsen then we will need more therapy and more pharmaceuticals.

The solution to economic and sociological pathologies are economic and sociological solutions. However against our interest our mental health issues have become defined by pharmaceutical and therapeutic industrial interests as pharmaceutical and therapeutic problems, which provides them rich perpetual markets.

Context is everything

Yes there are herbs, medicines and there are therapies but we as muslims must step back and get context because we are in danger of sticking our fingers in the cracks of the leaking dam in the hope that it will stop a catastrophic flood. Well it won’t!

It is for this reason that in my research I have begun to investigate and talk about communities addressing disease in their own communities. We really need much wider and much more nuanced discussion. May Allah help us! And if we turn to Him He will.

Allah is the Wali of those who believe, taking them out of darkness into light – Al Quran 2:??

What is even more fascinating and promising is that if we begin to develop working solutions for these issues then we will have profound solutions to offer our wider societies. Have a look at the urban agricultural revolution which occurred in the wake of the economic collapse of Detroit, and which reversed the food apartheid conditions that they had been living under, as an example of what I am talking about. To quote from the Bob Marley and the Wailers’ song, So Much Things to Say:

Oh, when the rain fall fall, fall now
It don’t fall on one man’s housetop. Remember that;
When the rain fall
It don’t fall on one man’s housetop

Orphans of Uganda
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