December 3, 2020

Best Days Ahead of Us

By Glenn

I always get a chuckle when people talk about the “good ol’ days.”  When people image the past, they usually imagine themselves in a utopian cottage or a royal palace.  For the vast majority of people in past, their life was nasty, brutish, and short.

Before the late 1900s, humans lacked basic knowledge of microbiology and chemistry.  Instead of science they relied on common sense and superstitions to make sense of the world.  These methods were not very reliable.

Humans are particularly bad with evaluating novelty. We can’t recognize the benefits of something new.  We also have a hard time admitting the dangers of something old.

Two everyday items that had a hard time breaking through were potatoes and tomatoes. These two plants were indigenous to the Americas.  When explorers brought them back home, Europeans refused to eat them.

Can you imagine Italy without a tomato sauce or a St, Patrick’s Day boiled meal with potatoes?  Who would the nightmare of a burger without fries?

Europeans were convinced these modern staples were poisonous.  It took centuries to overcome this “common sense” of the Good Ol’ Days.

Hot showers and regular baths took even longer to catch on.  Well into the 1800s Europeans rarely bathed or washed their hands. 

In 1846 Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor, discovered hand washing prevented patient deaths.   Backed with data to support his argument, he recommended doctors wash their hands before treating their patients. 

Unfortunately, doctors refused to listen.  They refused to accept that they themselves introduced deadly pathogens into their patents.  I am certainly happy more doctors and nurse learn real science.

Hand washing was a relatively pain free and inexpensive solution to premature death.  What happens, however, when the solution costs someone money?

We don’t have to look much farther than the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke.  In 1964 year US Surgeon General linked smoking to cancer and discouraged its use.

The merchants of death kicked into high gear.  They hired public relations firms to discredit the government’s report.  There was big money in selling cancer in a stick.  

Thankfully, we put the Good Ol’ Days behind us.  Our society values reality over conspiracies. We are getting better at distinguishing good from bad.  America’s best days are ahead.  

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