What good is history if we can’t learn from it, right?
Lots of experts, and non-perts, are pontificating on comparisons of today’s financial meltdown to 1930’s Depression Era America. And they’re finding plenty of similarities in the political and financial departments – big banks, bubbles, unemployment, New Deals – but what of the nation’s health? We’re no historians, but FDR did push for affordable health care in troubled times, as one could say, Pres Obama is shooting for today (in troubled times, arf). And the people on the ground? According to Mark Adams’ article on the Huffington Post, citizens of the 1930s had a “general disgust with and mistrust of organized medicine and the food industry”, which he posits is pretty much the case today.
Just as organic foods, detox regimens and stress-relief yoga classes have mushroomed in recent years, the 30s were a golden age of preventive medicine through exercise and healthy diet, as well as a willingness to dabble in unorthodox therapies. FDR was no exception; he chose his retreat at Warm Springs, Ga. largely so that he could receive hydropathic treatments on his withered legs.
Mmhm, interesting. In his case, Adams highlights a pied piper of sorts during the 30’s named Bernarr Macfadden, a fascinating gentleman, and entrepreneurial superstar, who ushered in the concept of physical culture, and consequently a popular publication of the same name. The guy was a health idol, proselytizing many to the benefits of lower-calorie/food intake and maintaining a prudent diet of just 2 meals a day (the man himself didn’t eat on Mondays). In fact, Macfadden was so fervent about his theories “he cast overeating as an unpatriotic act, and a Spartan diet as the cure for every malady from tuberculosis to cancer.”
Despite 25 percent of Americans being out of work, the wellness guru’s mag circulation was through the roof, he had his own exercise programs on the radio and his health food was being dished out in restaurants. In essence, Americans were looking for Kool-Aid and they drank it in the form of carrot juice.
‘What’s so bad about the masses eating healthily and getting physically fit,’ you ask? Nothing! Except maybe when it’s a fad. We’re not sure we agree with the 2 meal a day thing, but we’re also not nutritionists, and whatevs, right? The people asked for an alternative and natural route to better lives, something to provide the hope and health to live better days, despite being out of work. Job shmob they said, we want relief and enlightenment (and affordable health care). That is most important.
So, does any of this ring a bell in today’s temperament? A climate of massive job loss, scarce funds, flocking to yoga classes. Has it been a slow climb to a new age of people just trying to get healthier? Or has the surge been a get-fit quick clamoring for relief from the stress of recession? Again, either way can we necessarily say it’s bad?
Turns out once the nation rebounded and penicillin became the panacea of the day, Macfaddan faded. Now if only we could think of one or two guru crusaders today who might be able to fill his shoes…
The Obamanomics Diet [Huffington Post]