The word you’re looking for is hyperbole, and you are mistaken. Let me explain.
What’s the first thing a new dentist does? X-rays. Why? A cynical man might point to the sizable profit margin. But, according to spokesmen for the molar-industrial complex, however, frequent x-rays are essential for my wellbeing. I might have a rotting root, a twisted tooth. Heck, I may even have mouth cancer. An x-ray, dental advocates explain, could save my life.
According to news reports, however, dental x-rays cause cancer. Pro- and anti-x-ray forces have drawn battle lines. An alliance with the wrong side may kill me.
Cancer is just the beginning. The whole time I’m being shot in the face with that expensive cancer gun, the tab is running. A dental assistant shoots me in the face, and then a pretty hygienist pokes my teeth with an awl while I try not to recall scenes from The Marathon Man.
Once she’s done jabbing and flossing and explaining that I am on the precipice of end-stage terminal gum disease, a car salesman with a dental license will materialize to make small talk for thirty seconds, which is when I find out if they think they have a shot at hitting up my insurance company for preventive fillings.
I leave, I finish my day, and I go to sleep. The vast medical insurance industry does not sleep. Reports crisscross digital space. Satellites link up in the exosphere. The dentist’s office manager, his billing firm, my insurance company, and their claim-evaluation vendor all begin swapping digits.
Loggers are dispatched to the Pacific Northwest to fell a tree. The tree is chopped and ground and pressed into paper, so the aforementioned offices can hurl mail at every address I may have visited over the past decade. I begin to get bills that must be paid immediately or babies will be thrown from windows.
Meanwhile, part of that tree goes to minions of my insurance company, so they can send me indecipherable forms purporting to explain why they cannot possibly be expected to approve the outrageously high bill my bamboozling flimflam dentist had the temerity to submit.
They include rows of numerical codes in their explanation of non-benefits. This was a code 22798, you see, with just a splash of 87453. Obviously, we cannot be expected to cover it. You owe your dentist one million dollars and eighty-seven cents. This is not a bill.
Now I’m seeing news reports from pro-business outlets, decrying the earlier reports of cancer-inducing dentists as the work of a coven of pinko-commie math-impaired al Qaeda-loving hacks bent on inducing widespread panic and poor dental hygiene.
I’m not shaken by this new information, because I was expecting it. This is the way of modern information.
The earth is getting hotter, except that it’s cooling. There’s a Social Security Trust Fund, chock full of empty paper. Genetically modified food will save the world from starvation, especially after it turns half of us into zombies who will feast on the other half. This presidential election is about a choice between universal prosperity and instituting infant sacrifice at the base of the Washington Monument.
The only conclusion I can draw is that the boundaries of science and knowledge, after expanding in the West for a good three hundreds years, are finally shrinking.
We’ve had a decent run, but the barbarians have stormed the gates. They’ve become professors and Federal Reserve economists and dentists, and you’d no sooner trust any of them than you’d put your savings in the Bank of Genghis Khan.
As a consequence, each layer we build atop our firm metamorphic blend of medieval classicism and Enlightenment inquiry is shabbier than the last.
Ask the experts. Are things getting better, or worse? Are my children healthier, or sicker? Are jobs coming, or going? Is college worth it, or not? Is my church orthodox, or heretical?
The collective answer from squabbling intellectual luminaries is that they have no freaking idea.
Scientists have become shamans, preachers have become jesters, statesmen have become talk-show hosts. We tribes gather in darkness, we cast suspicious gazes across the plains; we despise those benighted hordes huddled about their dim and distant fires. Our shamans cast curses at one another, our jesters heckle, our talk-show performers try to catch each other up in a vast, televised game of gotcha.
When our authorities have squandered their authority, each of us can believe anyone we like. That’s a dangerous thing for any society.
I’m no better than dentists or politicians, so I have to get quiet and empty when I want to hear God.
I wait for a voice not my own, and pray it belongs to God. I pray that this is the one thing somebody is right about, that there is a God who loves us, and that there is truth, though we’ve mostly forgotten how to hear it.