Friday, April 11, 2008
This week the FDA announced a couple of recalls that sparked attention. First there was a seizure of more than $100,000 worth of unapproved drugs marketed as "natural supplements" under the names "Shangai Regular""Shangai Ultra" "Super Shangai""naturale Super Plus, and Lady Shangai." These little magic pills were designed to apparently treat erectile disfunction, impotency and to provide sexual "enhancement." But according to the FDA these products offered more in terms of dangerous side effects, then potency effects. Earlier in the week the FDA also seized nearly $1.3 Million of illeagal dietary supplements that were marketed and distributed on-line and in retail stores under the names "Methyl 1-D," "Methyl 1-D XL," and "Formadrol Extreme XL." This particular potent brew was sold to body builders. It got me wondering how did our culture that also spends a whopping $1.7 Billion on Viagra and over $50 million a day on weight loss products, get so dissatisfied with ourselves, and when did this become the stuff of pop culture?
What stuck out for me about the recalls was not so much that the drugs were unapproved but that there was a significant market to buy them. On the one hand we are never thin enough, muscular enough, virile enough or young enough, while on the other - there is always some perceived ideal, that is always "out there" - conveniently within reach of a new product that's for sale. The message is - you can buy peace of mind in a bottle, a pill or a surgical procedure. I mean, what would happen to countless industries if we just gave ourselves some peace; came to terms with our less than trim thighs, and receding hairlines, and developing "character line?" What if we looked at our shifting hormones and our changing libidos as evolutions instead of inadequacies in our super-sexed society ? What would happen if we just...well...gave ourselves a break?
A lot seems to be blamed on media. Skinny celebrities in tabloids, and waifish models in fashion mags supposedly dictating what we come to believe about ourselves. Frankly, I'm not so sure about that. Its easy to point fingers and offer blame. We blame that we get fat as a country because of processed foods, and our kids are stressed because of the violence on T.V, and our girls are dying of eating disorders because of the fashion industry, but in truth - its our values, and those we instill in our kids, that dictate what we choose to buy in principal and in reality. Call me the unrelenting optimist but I believe in free will, human intelligence, and our ability to differentiate right from wrong. Video game manufacturers serve a demand, just as much as tabloid publications, and "sexual enhancement" supplement manufacturers. We are the demand. Maybe the problem is less with how we are marketed to, but in how unwilling we are to be active in the process of discerning the messages being sold to us. Maybe we are not so much dumb and easy to influence, as perhaps a bit lazy and complacent.
I'm all for self development and feeling and looking your best. But true growth and vitality is the stuff of process, both internal and external...neither of which, ultimately can be delivered in a pill. Next time you look in your mirror and don't celebrate what you see, or head into your wallet to buy into the fountain of youth and perfection...take a break, go easy, give yourself some peace..and save a buck or two in the process. Ask yourself what idea you are buying into and does that idea celebrate who you are, or condemn who you are ? Be less critical of yourself and more critical of the criticism itself. Perhaps you are not "too anything"...other than-too willing to be too tough on yourself.