What does this world need more than anything else this Christmas? It needs gifts of love, empathy, civility, less hatred, less poverty and less environmental pollution, destruction of guns and missiles before it becomes too late. It needs a mindful civilization that cares about every human being. And it must start with individual families and end with politicians throughout the world who control nuclear weapons.
I enjoy the festivities of the Christmas season. For a short time the world looks less likely to blow itself up. But for people who’ve lost loved ones it’s a grim, lonely time. A Christmas surrounded by possessions, but without family and friends who care is the setting for depression.
As a doctor I’ve seen much unhappiness at this time of year. I’ll never forget one call my nurse received just prior to the holidays. It was from a young female patient who asked if I could drop by the hospital to see her at the end of the day. She was a young mother with young children and she was dying of cancer.
I discovered she merely wanted to thank me for caring for her during her long illness. But she also asked if she could thank me with a hug. I bent over her bed so she could do so. Somehow I can’t imagine this happening today as I might be accused of sexual harassment. The following day she died, leaving her husband and children. Can you imagine the sadness of that Christmas?
Unfortunately we have no way of controlling fatal accidents and illnesses that occur just before the holidays or any time of the year. As the immortal bard Shakespeare wrote, ‘Each new morn new beggars howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike heaven on the face.'
But what about the big picture as we end 2017? It is not a pretty scenario. For the first time in history life-expectancy in North America and other developed countries has slowed down. In fact, today’s expectancy is one-fifth of what it was prior to 2011. The idea that today’s babies may live to 100 years is less likely.
What’s responsible for this change? Some say it’s the rising gap between rich and poor, the decrease in medical services and deaths due to opioid drugs. Others argue that medicine has been able to cure the easy problems and now faces the tough ones.
The blunt fact is no one knows the ultimate answer and neither do I. But I have some ideas. Obesity has to be a factor. A huge number of North Americans are obese. When you’re overweight you walk each day hand in hand with the big killers, hypertension and heart disease. I’ve written for 60 years that obesity is the top killer.
I’m also convinced our world is slowly, but surely choking to death with environmental pollution and it is starting to kill us. As the old Indian wisely remarked, “When you poison the land, then the air, then the water, you will eventually realize you cannot eat dollar bills.” Just look at how China’s growth has poisoned its land, water and air.
Today it’s impossible to escape industrial pollution. There’s a great debate about whether insecticides used in food production are a cause of cancer. But I wonder how many readers realize the adverse effects of individual human pollution? For one example, studies show that those on antidepressant and other drugs are passing these medications in their urine day after day. These drugs enter our water supply. We’re all drinking this human pollution. No one knows what it’s doing to us.
I was asked on a radio interview recently what I’d like to put in this year’s Christmas stocking. I replied that “I’d like to see Big Pharma do something that no one could criticize, namely produce an honesty pill.” A little honesty could solve many or this world’s problems. A little love and civility might too.
This is the 42nd year I’ve had the pleasure of wishing readers a happy and healthy Christmas. And my thanks for sending along your comments this past year.
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