Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bigger is Best

When you're a 12 year old boy and discover that you may have more than a passing interest in girls' breasts you take upon the childish conclusion that if some is good then more is better and huge is best. Of course this rather linear aesthetic is abandoned when one discovers that the concepts of balance and proportion might have more to do with it than size. Still, at that immature stage of development it is considered to be a axiom that any good thing must be even better in larger quantity and scale.

What is alarming is that many people never seem to get past this stage of aesthetic judgment. Marketers know this. That's why they can advertise such things as "super extra strength headache medication, the strongest most lobotomizing pain-killer you can get without a prescription". The approach in this case is to beat your headache into submission and to kill your headache, dead. The insight that is being missed is that you probably have that headache because your body has been put off-balance for some reason. Your goal should therefore be to put it back into balance - not to swing it madly into the other direction.

This pendulum approach is precisely what drug addicts are known to do. It seems that there has been an wholesale abandonment of the concept of balance as it applies to almost every facet of our lives. The effects of its absence are manifested in the tragic overreactions of modern politics. Vigilance against terrorism is good, therefore pathological obsession with it is better and therefore focusing on it to the exclusion of countless other public policy initiatives is best of all, even if spending on the environment would probably save millions of more lives than stepping up the surveillance of the citizenry.

So we continue popping pills, swilling caffeine injected sugar waters and driving our grotesquely over-sized SUV tanks as our governments use our massive military arsenal to swat at mosquitoes in far away lands.


amy said...

lovely, lucid, human.

i agree about the pendulum effect, but to me addiction seems different from the other things you mentioned, more like a breakdown of the negative feedback loop. repeated harmful behavior versus overcorrection. maybe they are related.

JakeJakob said...

Good point.

The addict achieves a "high" that is often followed by a lower "low". They then need to medicate to offset the "low" and so the cycle repeats itself.

The original motivation to medicate is a reaction to counteract the imbalance (ie a negative feedback loop) but the end result is often ironically a progressively amplified imbalance.