“All the tales of miracles, with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for impostors to preach and fools to believe”
~ Thomas Paine
Growing up as I did with spells of Catholicism constantly cast in my general direction, the idea of miracle cures seemed … well … reasonable for a while. The film version of St. Bernadette’s escapades at Lourdes did much to solidify images of the manifestations made possible by just enough faith to draw the attention of the Man Upstairs toward the suffering of those who jumped through the right hoops and deserved to be healed.
I was probably about ten when it dawned that such concepts pretty much left anyone unhealed in the shit pile of undeserving, a concept contrary to all those warm fuzzies created through the magic of Hollywood and the smoke and mirrors of Rome, and although I will to this day still acknowledge occasional unexplainable restorations of health and the sometimes-effective wonders of modern medicine the idea of miraculous cures seem nothing but more marketing of snake oil in various flavors for the obvious benefit of those collecting the profits.
I do understand the motivation behind the desperately ill, the hopelessly condemned; when there’s nothing left to do but grasp at straws the option can seem sensible, but since none of us get out of this alive, perhaps more than a bit futile or at most a temporary reprieve.
When a miracle can be bought at a reasonable price … a trip to France, maybe, or some set amount of hours on the knees while fingering beads X number of times … it’s a viable option for passing the time. Waiting for the magic to happen isn’t a bad way to spend that eleventh-hour, unless by doing so those last bits of life are sacrificed in the process.
When, however, attempts at intervention come in a jar labeled “Utter bollox at great cost”, the evil of canned hope becomes apparent, as evidenced in this article:
A Tanzanian pastor has asked people to stop going to his remote home for a “miracle cure” after thousands flocked there, causing chaos in the surrounding area.
Rev Ambilikile “Babu” Mwasapile, 76, says he does not want any new arrivals until after Friday 1 April, to let the crowds die down.
Local media report that about 52 people have died while waiting to see him.
A BBC reporter says the queues to see him stretch for 26km (16 miles).
Belief in magic and the powers of traditional healers are widespread in Tanzania.
Some witchdoctors say that the body parts of people with albinism are effective when making magic charms, leading to the killing of dozens of albinos in recent years.
The retired Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania preacher is sick and tired of the crowds of people who are yanking loved ones out of hospitals and making the trek to his village … while dying both before and after spending time and money … as “medical experts” investigate and debate the intrinsic value of his snake oil.
Yeah, sure … this is Africa and such mumbo-jumbo is part of the culture in many areas, but it’s not the only place claptrap flies to the detriment of others.
Although Africa is presently one scene of devastation in the name of remedy, that’s only because one cornucopia of crap has been virtually wiped out in the parts of the world that insist there’s a cure in them thar hairs.
Rhino populations in Africa are facing the “worst poaching crisis for decades,” say conservationists.
Over the past three years, gangs are said to have killed more than 800 rhinos for their horns, which can fetch £22,000 per kilo on the black market.
Experts fear the rise in poaching could undermine recent efforts to stabilise black and white rhino populations.
… t is estimated that 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone last year, with a further 70 being shot dead so far this year.
Conservationists suspect that most of the illegally harvested rhino horn are destined for the traditional medicine markets of South-East Asia, and the growing demand and high prices are fuelling the sharp rise in poaching.
We’re not even talking hopeless desperation here, since murdering a magnificent animal seems a fair enough tradeoff for comfort:
Rhino horn is a time-honored component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). For thousands of years, TCM has credited rhino horn with the potency to cure an unusually wide array of maladies, from headaches to pus-filled boils–and even devil possession.
… Rhino horn has been an essential ingredient in traditional chinese medicine for centuries. An unfortunate proximity to China explains why the combined total of the three Asian rhino species (Javan, Sumatran, and greater one-horned rhino) is still smaller than Africa’s critically endangered black rhino population.
Despite China being a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and banning trade in rhinoceros horn and its derivatives in 1993, current rhino poaching levels suggest that the use of rhino horn continues unabated in traditional medicine markets.
According to Bernard Read’s 1931 translation of Li Shih-chen’s 1597 materia medica Pen Ts’ ao Kang Mu, rhino horn was prescribed for nearly everything: “To cure devil possession and keep away all evil spirits and miasmas. For gelsemium poisoning. To remove hallucinations and bewitching nightmares. Continuous administration lightens the body and makes one very robust. For typhoid, headache and feverish colds. For carbuncles and boils full of pus. For intermittent fevers with delirium. To expel fear and anxiety, to calm the liver and clear the vision. It is a sedative to the viscera, a tonic, antipyretic. It dissolves phlegm. It is an antidote to the evil miasma of hill streams. For infantile convulsions and dysentery. Ashed and taken with water to treat violent vomiting, food poisoning, and overdosage of poisonous drugs. For arthritis, melancholia, loss of the voice.”
Since rhino horn is made of the same stuff as fingernails … agglutinated hair … hiring nail biters to spit shards into a collection plate would make as much medical sense and perhaps save a species.
Of course, it seems our species … we furless bipedal wimps that we are … calculates our worth in profit-per-head, and it matters little if it’s grinding up albinos, raping child virgins or ridding the world of rhinos … tigers, bears, whatever … that generates income as long as someone can make a buck and others are so easily convinced to hand over their money for snake oil.
Perhaps there’s a way to turn this inborn stupidity to the advantage, however …
How about we try pushing the notion that powdered brain of greedy people will make one rich?