By Bhaswati Bhattacharya
MPH MD (Family Medicine)
PhD (Ayurveda ‑ BHU)
Freedom is a central tenet in any democracy. The right of the people (Greek, demos, the People) to have power (Greek, kratia, power) over how they are governed is a backlash to earlier systems that ruled on the planet for over 1000 years, in which greedy, strong-willed people ruled over weaker, weak-willed or less-able people, forcing them to be slaves and serfs. People in France, the Isle of Man, Iceland, the Maurya people of 300 BCE, modern India, and the USA had enough of Being Slaves and invested in building a society that allowed freedom of the people and the right to live as citizens choose. Yet the Masters found another way to enslave the Free People.
Citizens in free nations pay a portion of their income in exchange for freedom from having to do work that benefits the people as a collective. Claiming free health care as a central tenet to a civilized society, many of the wealthiest nations began to provide national health systems for citizens. Many believe that the state paying for all health care is a sign of benevolence.
The problem of health care is that it has become the healthcare industry, another wheel in the profit-making agenda of societies that focus on GDP and not wellness of its people. “Healthcare” now has several crown-like spikes studied in public health. The ethics of control vs. the right to freedom of our own health dominates one discussion; paying for health dominates another. People do not want to be controlled on their food, exercise and social choices; yet when they become sick, they want someone else to take care of them. Some feel that if they are naturally stronger, they should benefit by paying less than the weak person: let the weak and meek be left behind and pay more. But when the weak person is their mother or their child born with disease, suddenly they want benefits for that person, forgetting their earlier convictions.
The modern medical hegemony is a cleverly calculated system in which decades of investment by the architects have shaped an industry of invested employees, corporations profiting from health care ventures, and government officials often related to the architects. It has very little to do with science or with healing the People.
To enroll us, we have been taken to the brink of survival and led back by the hands of the rich philanthropists who told us to trust in their wisdom. After creating wars, they created a recovery program with medical systems that seemed miraculous and had us buy-in to a way of life in which we should just enjoy ourselves, and when we get sick, we should go to the doctor. That doctor sold us pharmaceuticals and surgeries, not evening walks and proper sleep. They did not help us gain mental strength or heal our traumas. They enrolled us in experiments such as Tuskegee and Stanford and the Yale twin studies, and gave us cholesterol busters and blood pressure medicines. They suppressed the data that processed wheat is detrimental to health, and that processed milk is a death sentence for the immune system. Toxic fluoride. Stabilizers. Fillers. Preservatives to Maintain Freshness. Processed Foods.
Was there anyone who taught us that good health depends on mandatory self-education and self-reliance? Where is the dependence on awareness of health and how to maintain it? Where is the emphasis on promoting healthy habits? As biomedical science grew, it emphasized chemicals to treat ailments, rather than lifestyle, food, or interventions that draw upon our self-sufficiency. The chemical industry paid for their laboratory playtime called experiments. Lobbies of meat salesmen, food processing specialists, soil science specialists, agri-economists, animal farmers and natural resource excavators won votes from government officials to move their business forward, luring laws by promising to pay taxes to the government that helped them. Hungry for power rather than for service, the legislators wrote laws that favored the bodies of profit, corp-orations, rather than laws that favored the bodies of humans. These laws distorted the education and muffled the true scientists. The EPA, created for the public, is now dysfunctional. The Department of Education is now privatized and owned by the highest bidder.
Depending on the government, and lured by toys and comforts, modern living includes hours in front of televisions watching commercials for processed food, bigger vehicles, and larger homes. It instilled fear in us of not having enough protein unless we eat meat. Schools have stopped teaching kids to be in Nature, to be aware of their bodies and their environments. Children are afraid of the next gun shooting incident as much as they are of getting a bad report card. Vacations outside our homes became mandatory, in which we vacate the temples we build in order to live, eat and consume while spending our money on things that lower our health quotient. Today, mobile phones, computers, video avatars, and social media consume hours of our lives. We come to the dinner table or a meeting with a phone, not a smile. We have forgotten what brings us health, if ever we learned it.
We have also forgotten the unalienable right to choose our own path toward health because we no longer know the path. Most people have been taught that vitamins are needed because the soil is poor, not that the processed food deprives us of nutrients. Most have been taught to drink more water and fortified, bottled water. No one encouraged them to check the data that the bottled water harbors more microbes and toxins than freely flowing water. And when we get sick, we have been taught that cancer suddenly occurs and is not our fault. We are bewildered when we are suddenly diagnosed with osteoporosis after dieting for 40 years and depriving ourselves of sun and natural bioactive calcium. We are shocked when decades of low-fat and no-fat diets suddenly and inexplicably lead to neurologic disease.
The science is there. Nerves are surrounded by insulation tissue that are primarily made of fat. When they are deprived of fat in the diet, the body suffers. The nerves suffer. When we drink too much water, the kidneys have to filter beyond their normal capacity. When chronic inflammation occurs after eating decades of chemicals that “preserve freshness” in our frozen, canned and jars food, we are surprised. We know enough physiology to know what is wrong. But no one wants to talk over the loud music in the commercials. The World Health Organization teaches about a world free from disease. Yet they are enslaved by their greed for large budgets so that their elite employees can live posh modern lives. They tout vaccine and pharmaceutical research studies from the richest men, who “donate” tax-free dollars while buying companies that sell more drugs.
We have also forgotten the unalienable right to choose our own path toward health because most of us do not know what causes health and what causes disease. The medical system does not educate us because it needs us to be sick. Physicians and nurses have no jobs if we do not get a nice combination of preventable, non-communicable, and communicable diseases. They need us to get infected, and to require advanced care.
The right to choose our own way to health has been taken from us because we have forgotten how to know our own bodies and what heals us. True freedom is having that awareness. Do you know how you feel? Do you know how to assess how you feel? Do you have control over your mind? Do you have control over your tongue? Do you have control over your sex drive and your urges? What are your rights over your own body if you get sick? What are your rights to choose your own medicines?
Ayurveda is timeless because it teaches us how to know ourselves. Ayurveda speaks a different language than the complicated scientific lingo, which changes every few years claiming evolution of data and knowledge. Ayurveda tells us that true technology is about watching the patterns of nature and applying them to ourselves. The best nanotechnologist is a forest of old trees. Ayurveda advises that we should understand the physiology of our minds and bodies with a keen awareness of our senses. We should not wait for the doctor. Ayurveda whispers that true Freedom is Health Awareness.
The South Asian Times
Columnist Dr. Bhaswati
Bhattacharya is a Fulbright
Specialist 2018‐2022 in Public
Health and Clinical Asst
Professor of Medicine, Weill
Cornell Medical College, New
York. Her bestselling book
Everyday Ayurveda is
published by Penguin