We Can Make Him Better Than He Was

Steve Austin, I think.  The six million dollar man. Bionic, of course.

They liked having a bionic man, I’m sure, but it wasn’t as difficult a decision as it would have been had he not been so badly injured in that crash.  It is a mark of how long ago the show was that he had to be so damaged before the decision to rebuild him  made sense.  I don’t think we are doing it that way any more.

The New York Times ran a really interesting article on that.  The lines are now being redrawn on how shy you need to be before treatment is called for.  If you read the article, you will see that it is more about evolutionary styles than about the creeping pathologization of our culture.  The article opens with a finely drawn example.  “A beautiful woman lowers her eyes demurely beneath a hat.  In an earlier era, her gaze might have signaled a mysterious allure.”  This is, however, an ad for Zoloft, an anxiety drug, and the caption attached to the mysterious woman is: “Is she just shy?  Or is it Social Anxiety Disorder?”

There was an article in the Times last year about a drug for women who don’t have as much sexual desire as they “should have.”  What if the women in question have just as much sexual desire as they want to have?  Are they still “sick?”  Do they still need to be diagnosed and treated?  It wasn’t hard to tell whether Steve Austin needed to be treated. Men who don’t have as much sexual desire as they want can happily take meds that will give them more.  The medicine is, in that case, an answer to an urgent desire.  But what if, as in the case of the women, the men were told that they really ought to have more sexual desire than they have?  Or that they should have less?

It is hard to determine, in many cases, whether the men and women are better off after having been diagnosed and treated.  The drug companies are definitely better off.

The evolutionary emphasis of the article is interesting too, and on another day, I would follow it.  It says, in brief, that most species are divided 80/20 into “rovers” and “sitters.”  The sitters look before they leap and then sometimes don’t leap even after having looked.  The rovers “Just Do It.”  Each is a valid evolutionary strategy, depending on the threat environment  Let’s just hope that the Pumpkinseed Sunfish, which were featured in one of the experiments described in the article, are not diagnosed and treated for their respective mania and depression.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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4 Responses to We Can Make Him Better Than He Was

  1. Doug Hess says:

    I like pretty much any article that begins with a Six Million Dollar Man reference. But don’t forget to add something with your name on it. I can tell it’s you just by the writing style, but not all of your fans know you as well.


  2. Doug Hess says:

    Nice NYT article, and it asks all the right questions, in my opinion. The main question we should all be asking ourselves is, What is this [disorder/condition] costing me? If the answer is “Not much,” then I think the course of action would change.

    Loss of sexual desire is an odd one, because it’s hard to imagine how you would desire to have more desire than you have. Sexual function is another matter, but desire is trickier.

    But back to the NYT piece. This reminded me of an old Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk was split into two people: one indecisive but compassionate and one very decisive but evil. The “Good Kirk” was completely unable to make the decisions required of a starship captain, but the “Evil Kirk” was, well, evil. The point of the show was that we all have these two sides, and together they make up who we are. No one can live without both halves.

    I think the article here makes the same point about society. The shy people and the extroverts bring different things to the party, and they’re of equal value. But that doesn’t make drug companies money, does it? No one wants to be different, and the social pressures to be normal and to fit in are tremendous. A pill that alleviates that would be a Godsend to those people.

    So is it wrong to sell people something they want? Are the drug companies at fault, or should we blame society for not equally valuing the individual gifts we all bring?


    • hessd says:

      Everyone brings something to the party. The way I get the article, whether what you bring has any value depends on the kind of party it is. I think about the old jock/nerd split in highschool. You have to go to the right party.


  3. Doug Hess says:

    I’m not at all convinced that you’re not the person who does the moderating. Did you receive an email that this blog had gotten a comment? My first comment is still saying that it’s awaiting moderation.


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