Death By Incuriosity

Whether or not curiosity killed the cat, it is the lack of curiosity that killed the human. And sadly, lack of curiosity is common among humans, if not cats.

There are two people I’ve known my entire life. They are highly intelligent and well educated professionals, both having spent their careers as authority figures and both enjoying positions of respect where others look up to them. One worked in healthcare and the other in higher education. They are people one would expect to be curious and I would add that both have above average intellectual capacity. They are accomplished men who know how to get things done.

I pick these examples because each has had health issues. It’s actually the one in healthcare who has shown the least curiosity about his own health. I suspect this is for the very reason he has been an authority figure in healthcare and so has acted in the role of defending establishment views. And nothing kills curiosity quicker than conventional thought.

This guy didn’t only lack curiosity in his own field of expertise, though. In general, he wasn’t one who sought out learning for its own sake. He had no habit of intellectual inquiry. So, he had no habit of intellectual curiosity to fall back on when he had a health scare. The bad news he received was a diagnosis of a major autoimmune disorder. I would assume that he took this as a death sentence and most doctors treat it that way, as no medication has shown any significant improvement. But recent research has shown dietary, nutritional, and lifestyle changes that have reversed the symptoms even in people with somewhat advanced stages of this disease.

Once diagnosed, he was already beginning to show symptoms. He had a brief window to respond during which he maintained his faculties enough that he might have been able to take action to seek remedy or to slow down the decline. But this window turned out to be brief and the choice he made was to do nothing with some combination of denial and fatalism. Inevitably, this attitude became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It was not the diagnosis but his lack of curiosity that was the death sentence. His mind is quickly disintegrating and he won’t likely live long.

The second guy has a less serious diagnosis. He a fairly common disease and he has known about it for a couple of decades. It is one of those conditions more easily managed if one takes a proactive attitude. But that would require curiosity to learn about the condition and to learn about what others have successfully done in seeking healing. The body will eliminate damage and regrow cells when the underlying problems are resolved or lessened while ensuring optimal nutrition and such, not that one is likely to learn about any of this from a standard doctor.

Like the healthcare figure, this educational figure’s first response was not curiosity. In fact, he spent the past couple of decades not even bothering to ask his doctor what exactly was his condition. He didn’t know how bad it was, didn’t know whether it was worsening or remaining stable. He apparently didn’t want to know. He has a bit more curiosity than most people, although it tends to be on narrow issues, none of them being health-related. The condition he has that risks the length and quality of his life, however, elicited no curiosity.

I had more opportunity to speak to him than to the other guy. In the past few months, we’ve had an ongoing discussion about health. I recently was able to get him to read about diet and health. But the real motivation was that his doctor told him to lose weight. Also, he was beginning to see serious symptoms of aging, from constant fatigue to memory loss. It was only after decades of major damage to his body that he finally mustered up some basic curiosity and still he is resistant. It’s easier to thoughtlessly continue what one has always done.

I sympathize and I don’t. Not much in our society encourages curiosity. I get that. It not only takes effort to learn but it also takes risk. Learning can require challenging what you and many others have assumed to be true. In this case, it might even mean challenging your doctor and taking responsibility for your own healthcare decisions. Maybe because these two are authority figures, it is their learned response to defer to authority and any dominant views that stand in for authority. That is the same for others as well. We are all trained from a young age to defer to authority (even if you were raised by wolves, you received such training, as it is a common feature of all social animals).

So, yes, I understand it is difficult and uncomfortable. Some people would rather physically die than allow their sense of identity die. And for many, their identities are tied into a rigid way of being and belonging. Curiosity might lead one to question not only the ideological beliefs and biases of others but, more importantly, one’s own. It could mean changing one’s identity and that is the greatest threat of all, something that effects me as much as anyone (but in my case, I’m psychologically attached to curiosity and so my identity might be a bit more fluid than most; the looseness of ego boundaries does come at a cost, as is attested by the psychiatric literature).

Yet, in the end, it is hard for me to grasp this passive attitude. I’ve always been questioning and so I can’t easily imagine being without this tendency (I have many weaknesses, limitations, and failures; but a lack of curiosity is not one of them). I do know what it is like to be ignorant and to feel lost in having no where to turn for guidance. In the past, knowledge was much harder to come by. When I was diagnosed with depression decades ago, after my own life threatening situation (i.e., suicide attempt), I was offered no resources to understand my condition. The reason for that is, at the time, doctors were as ignorant as anyone else when it came to depression and so much else. High quality information used to be a scarce and unreliable resource.

It has turned out that much of past medical knowledge has proven wrong, only partly correct, or misinterpreted. Because of the power of the internet and social media, this has forced open professional and public debate. We suddenly find ourselves in an overabundance of knowledge. The lack of curiosity is the main thing now holding us back, as individuals and as a society. Still, that downplays the powerful psychological and social forces that keep people ignorant and incurious. For the older generations in particular, they didn’t grow up with easy access to knowledge and so now reaching old age they don’t have a lifetime of mental habit in place.

That is part of the difference. I’m young enough that the emerging forms of knowledge and media had a major impact on my developing brain and my developing identity. On the other hand, there is obviously more going on than mere generational differences. I look to my own generation and don’t see much more curiosity. I know people in my generation who have major health issues and their children have major health issues. Do most of these people respond with curiosity? No. Instead, I observe mostly apathy and indifference. There is something about our society that breeds helplessness, and no doubt there are plenty of reasons to be found for giving up in frustration.

That is something I do empathize with. There is nothing like decades of depression to form an intimacy with feelings of being powerless and hopeless. Nonetheless, I spent the decades of my depression constantly looking for answers, driven to question and doubt everything. I should emphasize the point that answers didn’t come easily, as it took me decades of research and self-experimentation to find what worked for me in dealing with my depression; curiosity of this variety is far from idle for it can be an immense commitment and investment.

My longing to understand never abandoned me, as somehow it was a habit I learned at a young age. That leaves me uncertain about why I learned that habit of open-minded seeking while most others don’t. It’s not as if I can take credit for my state of curiosity, as it is simply the way I’ve always been (maybe in the way an athlete, for random reasons of genetics and epigenecs, might be born with greater lung capacity and endurance). Even in my earliest memories, I was curious about the world. It is a defining feature of my identity, not an achievement I came to later in life.

Because it is so integral to my identity, I’m challenged to imagine those who go through life without feeling much inclination to question and doubt (as happier people may be challenged to imagine my sometimes paralyzing funks of depression). It is even further beyond my comprehension that, for many, not even the threat of death can inspire the most basic curiosity to counter that threat. How can death be more desirable than knowledge? That question implies that it is knowledge that is the greater threat. Put this on the level of national and global society and it becomes an existential threat. In facing mass extinction, ecosystem collapse, superstorms, and refugee crises, most humans are no more motivated to understand what we face, much less motivated to do anything about it.

We don’t have habits of curiosity. It isn’t our first response, not for most of us. And so we have no culture of curiosity, no resources of curiosity to turn to when times are dire. More than a lack of curiosity alone, it is a lack of imagination which is a constraint of identity. We can’t learn anything new without becoming something different. Curiosity is one of the most radical of acts. It is also the simplest of acts, requiring only a moment of wonder or probing uncertainty. But radical or simple, repeated often enough, it becomes a habit that might one day save your life.

Curiosity as an impulse is only one small part. The first step is admitting your ignorance. And following that, what is required is the willingness to remain in ignorance for a while, not grasping too quickly to the next thing that comes along, no matter who offers it with certainty or authority. You might remain in ignorance for longer than you’d prefer. And curiosity alone won’t necessarily save you. But incuriosity for certain will doom you.

* * *

For anyone who thinks I’m being mean-spirited and overly critical, I’d note that I’m an equal opportunity critic. I’ve written posts — some of my most popular posts, in fact — that have dissected the problems of the curious mind, specifically as liberal-mindedness such as seen with the trait openness. The downside to this mindset are many, as it true when considering any mindset taken in its fullest and most extreme form. For example, those who measure high on the openness trait have greater risk of addiction, a far from minor detriment. Curiosity and related attributes don’t always lead to beneficial results and happy ends. But from my perspective, it is better than the alternative, especially in these challenging times.

My argument, of course, is context-dependent. If you are living in an authoritarian state or locked away in prison, curiosity might not do you much good and instead might shorten your lifespan. So, assess your personal situation and act accordingly. If it doesn’t apply, please feel free to ignore my advocating for curiosity. My assumption that my audience shares with me a basic level of life conditions isn’t always a justified assumption. I apologize to anyone who finds themselves stuck in a situation where curiosity is dangerous or simply not beneficial. You have my sympathy and I hope things get better for you in that one day you might have the luxury to contemplate the pros and cons of curiosity.

I realize that life is not fair and that we don’t get to choose the world we are born into. If life was fair, a piece like this would be unnecessary and meaningless. In a society where we didn’t constantly have to worry about harmful advice, including from doctors, in a society where health was the norm, curiosity might not matter much in terms of life expectancy. The average hunter-gatherer no doubt lacks curiosity about their health, but they also lack the consequences of modern society’s unhealthy environment, lifestyle, and diet. As such, in some societies, how to have a healthy life is common knowledge that individuals pick up in childhood.

It would be wonderful to live in such a society. But speaking for myself, that isn’t the case and hence it is why I argue for the necessity of curiosity as a survival tool. Curiosity is only a major benefit where dangerous ignorance rules the social order and, until things change in this society, that major benefit will continue. This isn’t only about allegations of psychological weakness and moral failure. This is about the fate of our civilization, as we face existential crises. The body count of incuriosity might eventually be counted in the numbers of billions. We are long past the point of making excuses, specifically those of us living in relative privilege here in the West.

* * *

To make this concrete, let me give an example beyond anecdotal evidence. It is an example related to healthcare and deference to medical authority.

The United States is experiencing an opioid crisis. There are many reasons for this. Worsening inequality, economic hardship, and social stress are known contributors. We live in a shitty society that is highly abnormal, which is to say we didn’t evolve to act in healthy ways under unhealthy conditions. But there is also the fact that opiods have been overprescribed because of the huge profits to be had and also because painkillers fit conventional medicine’s prioritizing of symptom treatment.

Ignoring why doctors prescribe them, why do people take them? Everyone knows they are highly addictive and, in a significant number of cases, can destroy lives. Why take that risk unless absolutely necessary? It goes beyond addiction, as there are numerous other potential side effects. Yet, in discussing alternatives, Dr. Joseph Mercola points to an NPR piece (Jessica Boddy, POLL: More People Are Taking Opioids, Even As Their Concerns Rise):

“Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that as many as 1 in 4 people who use opioid painkillers get addicted to them. But despite the drugs’ reputation for addiction, less than a third of people (29 percent) said they questioned or refused their doctor’s prescription for opioids. That hasn’t changed much since 2014 (28 percent) or 2011 (31 percent).

“Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and commissioner of health for the City of Baltimore, says that’s the problem. She says patients should more readily voice their concerns about getting a prescription for narcotics to make sure if it really is the best option. […]

” “Ask why,” Wen says. “Often, other alternatives like not anything at all, taking an ibuprofen or Tylenol, physical therapy, or something else can be effective. Asking ‘why’ is something every patient and provider should do.” ”

* * *

“Knowing is half the battle. G.I. Joe!” That was great wisdom I learned as a child.

10 thoughts on “Death By Incuriosity

  1. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2018/02/26/why-has-the-us-opioid-crisis-not-spread-to-the-uk-thank-the-nhs/

    It seems in most editorials on the opioid outbreak, the patient seeking treatment is portrayed as pliant victim; the doctor’s “bedside manner” might involve selling the patient to another force in the bargain. But the temptation to assign the Doctor a motive also denies the non-addicted patient any responsibility. In my few encounters with the mental health system in a fairly hippie liberal area, I’ve witnessed the strange event of licensed doctors attempting to imply that I shouldn’t take their advice to accept certain things like Xanax or anti-depressants, or them alluding to the insurance game that they are compelled to play. Even labyrinthian bureaucracy can’t kill the conscience , not all the time .

    I recall that when the opioid wave swept over my social circles about 5 years ago, an almost evangelical fervor displayed itself; a former friend wouldn’t let me leave his house without trying some new pill, I was always touting the wonders of kratom for cutting dope sickness. I understand wanting to share something you enjoy; but even in the rave scene I didn’t feel pressured to take anything, and I had no problem with straight edge or what not. Opioids are a blessing and a curse; I’m glad they exist in case I survive a car crash with multiple injuries, but as “recreation” they are uniquely sinister. It was only a deep aversion on the level of the cells ( or the soul in the body, if you like) that pushed me away from that scene. I remember quoting some WSB to that friend and it fell on deaf ears though he was perfectly capable of understanding the deal he was making with his life on those drugs. But he didn’t want to know the score, and our friendship had to end.

    Maybe it’s my autism, assuming that other people will react to some piece of prose the way I did. Maybe I was sensitized since I was taking psychedelics again, which introduced some instability into my life that was sorely needed. I now find few horror movies more disturbing than the young junkie specters on benches and public buses in my town, slack jawed and serene like Javanese theater puppets. Benjamin and Adorno might say that on a society wide level, curiosity and imagination can be felt as burdens, and the cultural ideology seeks to blunt the actual qualities while celebrating them as an empty gesture.

    • Both patients and doctors are in a tough position, at least here in the US. It’s hard for the patient to know where to turn to and who to trust, assuming they ever get to the point of awareness about the dysfunctional medical system. The doctor, although likely to be more alert to the problems, is forced into an impossible situation and often feeling gagged.

      My dad told me of two people in the medical business. A doctor friend of his retired early because insurance companies were making his job near impossible. He wasn’t free to treat his patients as he knew they deserved, as authoritarian insurance companies demanded he follow their recommendations or else he wouldn’t be reimbursed. Another person he knows, a dentist, found himself constantly having to talk to insurance representatives to justify his every decision and it ended up taking up much of his time.

      Besides the difficulty, those in the medical field who don’t do as their told by following officially mandated decrees can find themselves hit with lawsuits or potential loss of their licenses. In the documentary The Magic Pill, they cover a case in South Africa. A doctor casually shared advice online about a high-fat diet to a pregnant woman. The South African government spent millions of dollars attempting to destroy his career. It turned out he was well-versed in the research literature and was able to prove their was strong scientific support for his recommendation. But few doctors would have been able or willing to defend themselves in such a manner.

      It’s easier to simply go along to get along. That is as true for doctors as for patients. In another documentary, Statin Nation, one doctor interviewed talked about the problem in terms of how hierarchical is American healthcare. It’s a top-down system built on powerful institutions of authority. That applies as well to medical schools where prospective doctors learn conventional views while rarely hearing about alternatives, no matter how much evidence supports them. So, it is understandable that, in a system that discourages and disincentivizes curiosity, few people are curious. It is understandable and it is sad. The harm done is immense.

      As for opiods, I’ve never been around people using them. And so no one ever attempted to foist them upon me. My circumstances caused me to be surrounded by deadheads who preferred pot and psychedelics. I didn’t much enjoy pot and psychedelics are the opposite of addictive. The only addictions I’ve experienced in my life have been to sugar and for a brief period to cigarettes. Of the two, sugar was by far the worst addiction.

      This seems true: “Adorno might say that on a society wide level, curiosity and imagination can be felt as burdens, and the cultural ideology seeks to blunt the actual qualities while celebrating them as an empty gesture.” I often don’t know what good curiosity does in a society such as this. It’s not as if it is a choice, anyhow. I’m curious simply because I don’t know how to not be curious. But I suspect without it, I might already be dead at this point.

      Curiosity is a halfway decent stand-in for hope when faced with hopelessness. Other people prefer numbness and one way of achieving that is opioids. I’m glad I’ve avoided that path because I have no doubt that the gravity pull of mind-numbing drugs would have been impossible for me to have pulled free from, back when I was in the furthest depths of depression. Then again, opioids would have cured me of sugar addiction and of hunger in general.

      Let me say something about “the cultural ideology seeks to blunt the actual qualities while celebrating them as an empty gesture.” Even as curiosity can feel like a rare commodity, we are in a basic sense a well-educated population and we are drowning in information. Most Americans are literate and have a high school degree. Each generation of Americans is more educated than the last, with college rates continually rising. Yet the knowledge in our society is shallow, an empty gesture. Even higher education mostly teaches us factoids and formulas to regurgitate. Most Americans spend their educational careers having curiosity drilled out of them.

      • “Each generation of Americans is more educated than the last, with college rates continually rising. Yet the knowledge in our society is shallow, an empty gesture. Even higher education mostly teaches us factoids and formulas to regurgitate. ”

        One reason I used to read certain tech/science blogs was for the arguments about academia that resonated with my experience of this; David Chapman is good at articulating the need for drawing coherent narrative and context from the piles of data and formulas. This is what the humanities was supposed to teach; my liberal arts advisor said “these courses will teach you how to tell people what to do”, by which I assume he meant rhetoric. Since its mostly used to abuse the intellect, rhetoric is deservedly attacked, but I wonder if the inability of climate scientists to reach more people on a visceral level is due to them lacking any gift/grift of gab.

        Of course the humanities have been under attack by neo-lib and reactionary forces for decades; the only part of Paglia and Peterson’s crusade that has any merit is when they bring this up, but instead of turning their focus on capital’s priorities and contradictions they blame left wing students, which is only compelling if their audience already hates those students. Ibring this up because its an example of people knowing something but not following through. Reactionaries are like stillborn radicals. Did you already write something like that?

        • Oddly, right-wingers seem more interested in rhetoric than the political left, especially liberals. It might have something to do with a fair amount of those on the political right having gone to Christian schools that taught them apologetics, which is essentially rhetoric. There are also the secular right-wingers who are obsessed with abstract logic as universal truth (i.e., A is A). There is no equivalent to these on the American left.

          Reactionaries as stillborn radicals. I like the idea of it. And I can sense the potential for that line of thought. But I’m not sure I’ve written about it. Though it’s possible that I’ve mentioned some similar idea that I can’t recall at the moment. I do go by the view that labels can be deceptive and categories simplistic. For certain, I’ve noted a radical quality to reactionaries, in that (as Corey Robin argues) they seek to destroy and rebuild.

  2. Its only after typing that out I realize how boring this stuff is. It takes a skilled writer like Irvine Welsh or WSB Jr to bring out the interesting parts of that world. I was only on the edges of it but drugs seem basically mainstream now; its like having a coffee across the classes in the USA. As for the other stuff, I’d be interested in how it breaks down by class and geography.

    Working class people usually respond well to conversations about art or learning if you don’t come off as self important. They also don’t have tons of free time to be an aesthete or whatever. More priveliged people in media jobs can get extremely hostile if you don’t come on all sly and disguise yr learning. Its fascinating; I’m sure Thorstein Veblen would give some insight.

    • I’m not sure I’d even want to try to write like WSB. But I appreciate his insights. And as you say, it is now a different world than it was when WSB was first writing. Drugs have become mundane aspects of social reality. Popular shows are made these days based on the drug exploits of middle class white people.

      In response to the second thing, I’m in an atypical position. I’m working class and without much education. But I love to learn and read. Even when I was below the poverty line, I’d spend my last dollar on a book while eating Ramen noodles or else skip meals. I’ve chosen relative poverty to ensure I have the free time for my intellectual and creative pursuits. Or rather my curiosity chose poverty for me, as I couldn’t imagine myself doing otherwise. Besides, my learning disability never made higher education much of a likely possible course of action.

      Living in a middle class town, most of the incurious people I’m surrounded by are well educated professionals. That is why it’s natural for me to use examples like those I shared in this post. For such people, it’s not for a lack of luxury in time and education. I don’t have much patience for incuriosity, especially among the privileged who have no good excuse.

      I don’t care about someone’s socioeconomic class. I try to neither condescend nor defer, at least not without good reason. I tend to be direct, blunt even. It’s not my talent nor preference to win friends and influence people. I don’t believe that people will be influenced by my writing. All I attempt is an explanation of the world from my perspective, nothing more and nothing less. So others either find it interesting and insightful or they don’t.

      I’m fully self-aware that I’m abnormal and won’t appeal to many. I accept that as my fate.

    • One thing that is clear to me is that none of this has to do with rationality. My devotion to curiosity is no more rational or even sane than is the devotion to the modern death cult. It isn’t rationality upon which the conflict turns and so can’t be resolved by rationality. But I’m not advocating for curiosity on those grounds.

      When I think further about it, following my curiosity was never a sacrifice. We are all who we are for reasons we don’t understand, motivated by causes we can’t discern. There is no choice made and so the only sacrifice involved is that which we force onto others (military invasions, mass extinction, etc). But eventually we all will meet those consequences and then face a do or die scenario.

      Assuming I’m right that curiosity may lead to survival at a time when our survival is under threat (as individuals, as a civilization, and as a species), avoiding death is nonetheless a side effect and not a causal force of our behavior and actions. Still, that is a heck of a side effect and such a benefit shouldn’t be dismissed. As catastrophe becomes a greater reality with climate change (along with refugee crises, starvation, plagues, etc), more and more people might find themselves suddenly questioning and doubting, not because they hold up curiosity as an ideal but because they will be backed against the wall.

      We as a society will have to go through the process of suffering and struggle that many individuals have gone through in coming to an inquisitive mind. That is what happened to me. Sure, I always had an element of curiosity. But it was something else that drove me to embrace it or for it to embrace me. Curiosity pulled me from the brink. It’s easy to dismiss what curiosity can mean until you’ve experienced its full force. In the end, it isn’t about any potential benefits. I have to be honest that, even if I were trapped in an authoritarian society, I doubt I’d be able to stop myself from being curious and I’d probably meet an untimely death. It’s not as if I would be able to choose against something that has defined my lifelong identity and my entire sense of existence.

      So, there is no argument I can make for curiosity that would persuade the incurious. It’s like a parasite. You are either infected or not. A mutual wall of incomprehension stands between the two sides.

    • I’ve long thought about suffering and its relationship to compassion. And I’m starting to think that suffering has a parallel connection to curiosity.

      What is required is reaching rock bottom suffering. A mortality crisis often will work. Still, though suffering is necessary, it isn’t sufficient. There is a mysterious agent that must be added to the mix in order to precipitate a depth of compassion and curiosity. Our egoic boundaries must be broken open but broken open to let something else in. Suffering is the path that must be followed to its bitter end. But few survive traveling it, either not surviving physically or morally. The experience of suffering when cut short or leading astray easily elicits unhappier states of mind: cynicism, brutality, cold-heartedness,cruelty, vengefulness, etc.

      I say this as someone who still struggles with this. Without compassion and curiosity, the world is a dark place. And such a worldview is soul-killing. Anyone struggles with this should understand that failure can lead to far worse fates. That is why most people try to deny suffering itself, try to avoid wrestling their own demons. Incuriosity is a way of conforming, gouging out one’s eyes so as not to see. It’s a scary world. This response is understandable, as it is sad. The stakes are much higher than learning or not learning.

    • I once again came across someone claiming that they didn’t imagine how bad it would get. This was from a standard liberal Democrat responding to right-wing violence incited by Republican rhetoric (and, yes, it ignores the neocon violence of the likes of the Clintons and Obama).

      I find that shocking? How could they not imagine? The fact of the matter is that they lacked the curiosity to imagine how bad it could get because they lacked the compassion to realize how bad it had already gotten.

      Right-wingers made as stupid of comments when Obama was president. It’s a mutual state of ignorance and cluelessness that upholds a collective moral depravity. But none of this requires conscious bad intention. It’s a passive state of incuriosity and indifference.

      It’s one thing when this merely leads to the death of the individual. What pisses me off is that the same mentality that causes that death also causes the modern death cult. Most of the victims are innocent. And most of perpretrators and the complicit can act innocent because their incuriosity allows them to remain in the dark.

      This is why I’m less forgiving of incuriosity. It’s not a mere personal failing.

    • As you surely know, I have much more sympathy and forgiveness toward the poor than the middle-to-upper classes. In a country like the US, the mass media and public education system is designed to keep the masses ignorant and incurious. But that is all the more reason to self-educate, especially these days with more access to knowledge than even rich people had in the past.

      Think about it. What did the slaves do once they gained freedom? Among their first actions was to build schools, educated their children, and learn how to read and write for themselves. What did farmers, miners, and factory workers do during the Gilded Age? They studied company documents, wrote their own newspapers, printed their own books, and started their own borrowing libraries. Maybe we have come to take knowledge for granted. It is so easily available that it comes to seem cheap. We don’t take it as the precious resource that it is. But as in the past, I suppose it will take another crisis to wake up the public mind.

      The middle-to-upper classes have even less excuse. They have the best schools, tutors, libraries, and paid-for online services available to them. I myself grew up middle class, but because my parents were raised working class they didn’t go to any great length to give my brothers and I many advantages, besides teaching us the value of education. Even though they could afford private schools, they always sent us to public schools that were mostly average to mediocre in quality. Yet I had some advantages. I got good healthcare and a somewhat nutritious diet. I had a certain amount of resources and opportunities available to me. But (possibly related to dietary problems, heavy metal toxicity, and who knows what else) I grew up with learning disability, depression, some anxiety, likely on the autism spectrum, and maybe some kind of thought/personality disorder issues (the latter was diagnosed after my suicide attempt, but I’ve since forgotten what it was other than I was put on anti-psychotic meds).

      The advantages don’t necessarily outweigh the disadvantages, not that I don’t take seriously the advantages. I consider myself to have a certain amount of privilege simply being a white male American in a middle class town, albeit being working class myself. I’m surrounded by educated people, by a great public library, numerous college libraries (I’m using the university’s open internet right now), and some nice bookstores (including Prairie Lights, an alternative bookstore that is known by writers around the country). Between the University and Prairie Lights, I can regularly hear in person well known and lesser known writers read their own works.

      I’m entirely of the mindset that with privilege comes moral and social responsibility. It’s not easy being working class. But I do my best to take advantage of what advantages I have. To some extent, almost all Americans are privileged compared to most people in the world, no matter how crappy public education and no matter how powerful media propaganda. Indoctrination is an explanation, not an excuse. Even poverty isn’t necessarily an excuse. Now, if you’re so poor that you’re working multiple jobs while taking care of family, if you are homeless or are constantly in fear of becoming homeless, if you find yourself trapped in the legal system, if you’re incapacitated with sickness and drowning in medical bills, all of those are definitely good excuses. But for almost all other Americans, no excuse.

      A while back, I went to a family reunion in southern Indiana. It was family I never met before, on my mother’s side. But I knew the kind of people, since they were very much like the people I already knew on that side of the family. Plenty of them poor, although maybe a few had professional jobs. I connected with one particular guy who had many health issues and was on disability living at home with his father. I wasn’t on a paleo diet or reading about functional medicine at the time and so we didn’t talk about anything along those lines. Instead, we somehow got talking about WSB and psychedelics. Despite being poor, he was surprisingly well read. It’s not that he could afford to buy books and probably only had access to a small county library. But he went to the effort of reading what he could get his hands on. He apparently had a significant level of curiosity and didn’t take himself as a mere victim of circumstance. Fortunately, he had internet access and he liked to read forums and such.

      We live in an awesome time for anyone with curiosity. Awesome and frustrating, but for the moment I’ll emphasize the awesome part. The kind of knowledge the average person has right now would have been unimaginable to prior generations. If that doesn’t make people curious, they must be immune to curiosity.

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