Ask Your Doctor….

If you watch any commercial television, you have surely noticed how much of the advertising is for prescription drugs If you think that the advertising for prescription medication has increased over the past few years, you’re correct. Such advertising is legal in only four countries, with the U.S. being one of the four. Marketing of pharmaceutical products has been “big business” for a long time, of course. Companies making such products trained an army of sales representatives to take samples around to physicians and others responsible for writing the prescriptions.

They also initiated a major lobbying effort to persuade congress to approve advertising directly to consumers. How much did they spend on lobbying? Hint: It’s a lot. Most of the ads end by having a “voice-over” tell the viewer to “Ask your doctor” if the advertised medication is right for you. Pharmaceutical ads are ubiquitous. If you’re like me, you typically do what you can to avoid the commercials on TV. Before the days of DVRs, I used commercials as time to go to the bathroom or to the kitchen. With DVRs, “fast forward” comes to the rescue. Nevertheless, TV advertising remains the most effective form of advertising.

In the “old days,” advertisers could make effective use of print media, especially newspapers and newsweeklies. The most important aspect of advertising has increasingly become branding. Branding is the corporate equivalent of marking territory. All animals, including both insects and humans, mark their territory in ways others of their species understand. Most humans are at least somewhat familiar with the ways dogs and cats mark their territory, even when they don’t recognize their own need to “mark their territory.” In political life we have identity politics, to clarify differences in social beliefs. Are you for or against civil rights for minorities, immigrants, people with disabilities, and others who might be different from you? Or perhaps you are a member of a minority, an immigrant, or have a disability—in which case you already know how you are treated by the “majority.”

Branding, of course, applies to a lot more than the need to choose between Viagra and Cialis. You can, of course, also ask your doctor whether the civil rights of others is right for you. Or whether fear-based politics is right for you. A long time ago, a cartoonist named Walt Kelly, had his best-known cartoon character, Pogo, say, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” We (humans) are, of course, our own worst enemies. We think we are doing well when we make life difficult for others. We all want “our tribe” to win, however we define our “tribe” and however we describe “winning.” The Confederate States thought they had it figured out with slavery, but the costs outweighed the gains. The Germans thought they had it figured out with Hitler. They had some short-term gains, but ultimately the costs far outweighed the gains.

It the States we seem to be at another “choice point.” Do we want to go down the blood and soil road one more time, or do we want to try something new? Start paying attention to what you are being “sold” on the evening news. Points of view are being “sold” as surely as pharmaceutical and other products are being sold. We need to make a better effort to figure out what’s real. Although scientists have made some mistakes over the years, the scientific method remains the best way to discovering what is real. Scientists can and do make mistakes. When they do so, however, it is typically because they have made mistakes in the application of scientific method.

Consider Global climate change. At this point, for example, scientists know a great deal about climate change, and some politicians agree with them, and some (primarily those from or affiliated with states that produce fossil fuels and products—such as automobiles) that rely on them. Politicians, like most people, tend to vote according to their perceived self-interests. Unfortunately, it is a lot easier to perceive short-term interests than it is to think in terms of the long term. That view is understandable in view of human history. We always know our present. The future is unknown—at best, an educated guess: We “guess” at what’s necessary to secure a better tomorrow. The more you learn, the less you fear.

Be an active learner, and know more. Ask your doctor whether knowing more would be right for you.

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