I love Stefan Molyneux. He’s dreamy. Smart as a fucking whip. As bald as a porn-star’s nutsack. He has a wacky, unidentifiable, accent. He is an actual philosopher. AND an actual real live god damned motherfucking anarchist. No pussy shit libertarian bullshit, people. Fucking anarchy.
And then, cancer, cancer fucking cancer! Lymphoma or something. “The Big C” came for Stefan Molyneux.
Because he is an Anarcho-Capitalist superhero with nary a mean bone in his Canadian body, and because he literally loves each and every one of his listeners, “Stef” began receiving all sorts of woo-tastic advice on how to beat cancer. You see, out here… you refer to it as ‘the fringe’, but I call it home… out here, there is deep and justifiable mistrust of the government; deep mistrust of anything that is considered mainstream.
Science and treatments approved by the government, becomes a bouncing, peer-reviewed baby tossed out with the bathwater of mistrust and suspicion. There is the flawed logic of guilt by association. It goes like this: Since the government has done crappy stuff with science like the Tuskegee Airmen experiments, and since big bad pharmaceutical companies rely on the force of government and collude with politicians to hamstring their competitors or make their products mandatory, science is evil.
Simple translation: Since government methods are bad, anything associated is bad.
There’s the hot sexiness of conspiracy, too. What’s cooler than connecting the dots and blowing the lid off that government conspiracy to make our children deaf so “Big Ear” can sell them hearing aids? Aids!
Fortunately, Stef is someone who relies on evidence and reason, so he took the advice of doctors and, because the Canadian health care system failed him, he went to a private facility in the U.S. and began chemo and whatever other evidence-based treatments for lymphoma. Apparently, the type of Lymphoma (“Big L?”) he contracted was, as he says “The kind of cancer to get if you’re gonna get cancer” and the odds of full recovery were good. Treatments are going along swimmingly and the odds of remission are now at something like 1%. One. Percent. Huzzah.
YOU’RE DOING IT RIGHT
He had a guest on his podcast the other day who, it turns out, is married to someone who has a business “doing alternative medicine” and they “specialize” in cancers. Now, Stef’s a better person than me so, instead of screaming “CHARLATAN!” and ending the podcast, he listened to her toss out anecdotal evidence such as “everyone who’s come to us has done well”. As Stefan gently begged off on the subject she pulled out the zinger that I find completely and utterly abhorrent. “If you’re open to it, I’d like to send you information.”
HERE’S A BIG LEFT TURN. STAY WITH ME.
A few years ago, one of my best friends in the world died of cancer. One of the things that broke my heart about his illness was how he questioned if his behavior was cause for his illness. Not if he ate the right food or exercised enough… not that type of “behavior”, but if he had thought the “right” things or done something “wrong”. When he was diagnosed, he then began trying to somehow atone. It seemed to have scared him and made his final, shitty year, shittier. Watching him deal with that guilt, the insecurity… horrid.
As a professional in the entertainment industry, I struggle with the impulse to ascribe superstition to those events I have little to no control over. In a word: everything.
There is an entire “audition industrial complex” that caters to these superstitions. The superstitions are endless. They aren’t all tips like “wear a lucky shirt to the audition.” They’re deeper. Audition classes, commercial acting classes, even “traditional” acting classes provide actors with arbitrary “hurdles”. “Memorize the first three lines of each script… find the blah blah in the scene and emphasize that… Make sure you’re following the objective…” and by “blah blah in the scene” I do mean “blah blah”. It could be anything.
The reason these workshops and classes are so popular with actors is that when you have hurdles to cross of your list, you are then asserting some control over this experience where your amount of control and influence is so small as to be pointless. “I followed Joe Acting Coach’s 5 steps to a great audition perfectly, so if I don’t get this, it’s not me.” And then, if by chance someone does get the gig “I followed Joe Acting Coach’s 5 steps to a great audition! Of course I got the gig!”
Here’s how the late, great Ray Hyman became a skeptic. He was a young guy getting in to palmistry. As he did more readings, he began getting really “good” at it and people told him how accurate his readings were. At one point, someone he knew challenged him to tell people the opposite of what he was “seeing” in their palms and, sure enough, the reaction was the same.
REALLY, THIS IS ABOOT CANCER
I’ve performed in plays that were the worst nights of my life. I’ve felt as if the audiences weren’t listening. I’ve forgotten lines. I’ve missed entrances. Switched dialogue around. Other actors have missed cues. Props go missing. Invariably, someone watching the performance will come up afterwards and say “you were soooo good. You were soooo alive!” and they’re absolutely right. I was “in the moment”. The reason little kids and animals are so interesting on stage is that you have no idea what the hell they’re going to do and that is exciting to watch.
When an actor knows exactly what he’s going to do on stage, there is nothing interesting to see. He knows the big line of the scene and says it exactly the way it was rehearsed. Well… there’s nothing new or interesting going on. But, if he’s waiting for the other actor to show up on stage when she’s missed a cue, it’s completely watchable. If he’s thinking “HOLY SHIT THIS IS THE WORST SHOW I’VE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE” people in the audience are seeing something in the behavior that is in conflict with the “I love you, Marsha!” he’s saying. That is why those clinics and things “work”. They can get actors “doing” something in the room other than what they’re there for which is “PLEASE CAST ME! PLEASE LIKE ME! I WANT TO BE ON T.V!!!!”
It’s subtext. Often, subtext is behavior in conflict with the words being said. Dad says “I’m listening, son. I’m here for you.” and checks his watch.
BRING IT HOME, DINO!
Saying “If you’re open to it” is one of those things that can give grief to someone who is ill. Suppose he says “No” and doesn’t want her “information?” At that point, he could be thinking “have I just passed on a cure?”
This is my non-gmo beef with alternative medicine industrial complex. They make the person with the illness a victim.
Yep, it’s true – attitude can shape our health, absolutely. But woo blames the person if they don’t get better. “Well, he didn’t pray hard enough… he had a bad attitude… so much negative energy… he wasn’t open to healing modalities…”
Alternative medicine builds in wiggly excuses when it doesn’t work. Treatments began too late. Negative energy. The person didn’t trust it. The traditional procedure was destroying the woo treatment. And, let us not forget: TOXINS!
CONTINUING THE JUDGMENT
Once again, Stef was able to extricate himself from her b.s. He actually told her he’d be interested in her information but, he did say that he was going with real science. He talked a bit about how he felt, mentally, about the whole situation. He said something pretty cool, actually. “Chemotherapy kills worry cells.”
Instead of being gracious, the wife of the quack took the opportunity to tell Stef he was “Doing it right…”
I get so protective of the people I love and admire, I had to shut it off at that point, wake the bride and talk it out. I immediately wrote Stef’s operations guy a rant that was more inarticulate than most of my blather, steeled myself and finished listening to the rest of the show.
Happily, all that crap talk was over and the show got back on track.
Fact: If you’re not a doctor and you say “You’re doing it right” regarding treatment to someone who has a potentially life-threatening illness, you are a dick mountain.
Otherwise, do what we always do. Sit in silent judgment until someone asks. Okay?
Okay. Thank you.
Get well, Stef. We need you.