October 23, 2019

Things that Puzzle Me

The standard way of entering the New Year is with a list of resolutions we intend to keep but end up breaking rather quickly. Instead of that futile approach, I think I’ll just make a list of things that puzzle me.

Why do grown men accept the new fashion in suits that look as though they were bought three sizes too small?  The jacket buttons are well above the waist, leaving tie and shirt and belt showing when the jacket is buttoned, and the lapels open at the top. The sleeves are well above the wrist bone. The back of the jacket barely reaches the buttocks. The legs are almost as tight as a woman’s stretch pants and end several inches above the shoe tops. Do men not realize that these “designer” suits not only make them look ridiculous, but also cost more for substantially less fabric, and thus benefit the manufacturer at their expense?

Why, until fairly recently, did young men wear oversized jeans with the crotch sagging to the knees and a waist positioned half way down their boxer shorts? I’m still puzzled by this trend in younger men’s clothing that, mercifully, seems to have faded away. Those who wore those pants couldn’t have run if chased by a wild animal (or the police). Nor could they have adequately defended themselves against assault because one hand was always preoccupied holding the pants up. Sadly, they shuffled around as if they were at the pinnacle of fashion, seemingly oblivious to the fact that, a couple of generations earlier, allowing kids to wear such clothing would have been considered child abuse.

Why are many young people (and more than a few adults) obsessed with taking “selfies”? I recently saw a young woman spend at least half an hour sitting in a condominium swimming pool taking picture after picture of herself, first with her hair flipped this way and then that, then looking up, looking down, right and then left, and so on. Something similar happens with people’s travel photos. The labels no longer read “The Taj Mahal.” They read, instead, “There I am in front of the Taj Mahal.” (And likely as not, half-blocking it.)

To be fair, I have to admit the selfie craze has a positive aspect: it saves people from the fate of Narcissus, who looked at his image in the water so intently that he fell in and drowned. Now the greatest danger is falling more deeply in love with a questionable object of affection.

Why are so many people swayed by drug ads? You’ve no doubt seen the ones I mean. They show ecstatic people cavorting around singing the praises of Sludge, or some other miracle drug, oblivious to the side effects whispered in the voiceover or positioned at the bottom of the screen in small print—such as afflictions of the lungs, heart, intestines, pancreas, gall bladder, liver, brain, and/or kidneys, and the possibility of suicidal thoughts (no doubt prompted by one or more of the side effects).

Why do many doctors suffer from tunnel vision and/or groupthink? An example of tunnel vision is warning patients that taking vitamins can be dangerous to their health while ignoring the much greater dangers of prescription drugs. Greater dangers? Absolutely. The warnings in drug ads aren’t there because drug manufacturers ask for them but because the FDA requires them, and the FDA requires them because there is evidence to support the warnings. Many doctors ignore that fact, and if patients mention having one of the dangerous side effects mentioned in the ads, the doctors defend the drug by saying, “Chances are the drug didn’t cause what you are experiencing because it only occurs in 3% of the cases.” Alas, that answer dissuades most patients from responding, “How can you be so sure I’m not one of the 3%?”

An example of doctors’ groupthink is automatically prescribing what their peers are prescribing without carefully considering whether those drugs a) really address the cause of their patients’ symptoms, b) are as efficacious as the manufacturers claim, and c) might do more harm than good. I believe such groupthink is a major reason why statins (Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor) are the leading drug in the world and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec and Nexium are a close second. This despite the fact that high cholesterol is not a reliable indicator of cardiovascular disease, and according to a number of gastroenterological researchers, heartburn is likely caused by a deficiency rather than an excess of stomach acid.

How serious is such groupthink? Consider the fact that many doctors seem unaware that statins have been linked to memory loss, surely not a trivial matter, and that by focusing so narrowly on lowering cholesterol, they are overlooking a clinically proven factor in cardiovascular disease—sleep apnea. If a fraction of the time spent lecturing patients on the dangers of high cholesterol were used to examine patients’ sleep habits, public health would improve dramatically and many strokes and heart attacks would be prevented.

Why aren’t voters more outraged about the inconsistency of many elected officials. Both political parties have members who, judging by their performance in office, seem to have no intention of keeping the promises they make before being elected. However, on the dominant issue of the moment—border security—Democrat politicians are the greater offenders. Ten or twelve years ago Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton all offered strong arguments for having a wall, fence, barrier (or whatever one chooses to call it) on our southern border. Today every one of them has embraced the exact opposite view. Even more important, not one of them has explained the change to their constituents. Absent a plausible explanation, we must conclude that they did so purely for the political end of opposing President Trump. And that would be a grave disservice to the country.

I began by saying these things puzzle me. To be candid, I should add that they also ANNOY me. I shouldn’t let them do so, I know. Because I cannot change them, I should stifle my displeasure. So that is exactly what I am going to do. With luck, I’ll keep that resolution . . . at least for a few days.

Copyright © 2018 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Written by
Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

VINCENT RYAN RUGGIERO, M.A., is Professor of Humanities Emeritus, State University of New York, Delhi College. Prior to his twenty-nine year career in education, he was a social caseworker and an industrial engineer. The author of twenty-one books, his trade books include Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America and The Practice of Loving Kindness. His textbooks include The Art of Thinking and Beyond Feelings, both in 10th editions and available in Chinese as well as English, Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, and A Guide to Sociological Thinking. His latest book, Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America's Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, is available at Amazon and in bookstores. Professor Ruggiero is internationally recognized as one of the pioneers of the Critical Thinking movement in education. Earlier in his career, he published essays in a variety of magazines and journals, including America, Catholic Mind, The Sign, The Lamp, and Catholic World.

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Written by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero
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