Ethics and Morals

Decent Human Beings

I’m digging into research for a post, which I will probably put up tomorrow, and as I am, I’m contemplating something. I’m researching the possible toxic effects of a home remedy, because people I know and love are interested in taking the remedy to help them. I’m not at all opposed to the placebo effect it may have, but I am very concerned about the toxicity of long-term consumption of something unknown. In other words, they might be poisoning themselves in their attempt to self-medicate, and that concerns me. But they are also talking about the way the Evil Big Pharma is keeping them from being able to easily buy cheap medications that will help with their pains. Except… I happen to know that the folks who work for big pharmaceutical companies are decent human beings, by and large. I am one. Sure, there are power-seeking money-hungry people in this world who just want to profit and don’t care who suffers as long as they get that. There are also serial killers who get off on pain and torture of their victims. Both categories are very small, relative to the general population.

It irks me, more than a little. I’ve never been a fan of conspiracy theories, in part because I grew up surrounded by them, and I’ve had the normal human reaction to rebel against the pap fed to us in childhood (no matter what form that took). But as I got older, I also realized something. Most of any population is simply decent human beings. They might not believe the same thing I do, but they will still make goo-goo eyes at babies, pat the dog, or help a little old lady across the street. There are rare humans who will drop the baby on it’s head, kick the dog, and giggle when the old lady gets hit by a bus, but they are the exceptions. I know, I know, I need to be more cynical… this isn’t about cynicism, it’s statistics. Sociology studies that show people deliberately harming others tend to have been manipulated. Besides, with any conspiracy, you will have leaks. That thing about two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead? I’m also a scholar of criminology. Most killers? Either can’t shut up about it, or they are ratted out by someone who saw too much. Again, the rare one who escapes capture is the exception. Criminals as a class are no different in intelligence range than the rest of us. Human nature is to talk, to tell stories, to boast, to… help out when people get sick. I want to help my family. I’m not going to let them poison themselves if I can help it. I’m also, if I were in a position to do this, not going to let the ‘cure for cancer’ be covered up if it could save just one person. Not even a person I particularly like. A blowhard with a perpetual sob story and no social graces, even him I’m not covering up a cure for. I wouldn’t care if I were threatened, either. Actually, being a contrarian, that would make it more likely I’d talk and blow the whole thing. I don’t think I’m the only one, either.

This applies to individuals, primarily. The sole person is a pretty nice bloke, with a heart and feelings just like anyone. Get him in a mob? All bets are off. The guy who’d give you the shirt off his back is suddenly splashing acid on you because his buddies are egging him on to do it. The mentality of a gang, a mob, the social justice protester types, is all frighteningly alike. The now-infamous Stanford Prison Experiment (, which was set up to discern human behavior when placed in a position of power over purported criminals, started out with 24 people who had been screened for mental health (to the best of the ability at the time, but even now, keep in mind psychology is as much an art as a science, and as such, highly subjective). They became a gang, reinforced by the behaviours of one another and their overwatch, and subjected their ‘prisoners’ to cruelty and abuses they would have singly objected to. Time and again we see that unless an individual speaks up, the group carries on in their chosen direction. Even if they began with good intentions, as feminism did over a hundred years ago, they drift over time into the realm of toxicity and blindness to reality. It is a somewhat inevitable warping of the human mind, when minds are grouped and left unchecked.

Which is why I’m going to do some research. Because the plant might be perfectly harmless, and the placebo effect helpful to those in pain. But it might also be something that will cause illness, unforeseen side effects, or even death. I can’t not speak up. It’s difficult to challenge beliefs in a close group. Speaking against the trend can result in arguments, ostracizing, or in extreme examples, violence. But I wouldn’t be a decent human being if I didn’t say something.

18 thoughts on “Decent Human Beings

  1. I wonder… if the infamous Stanford Experiment had had mostly (all?) the picked-on contrarians.. would it have happened the same way, or the opposite? I can see solid arguments for both, alas.

    1. Even one? Might have made a difference. I have to wonder how the screening worked – or even if the self-selection of the 70 volunteers they pared down to 24 had a role in the results. There’s a reason I (and others) are skeptical about many psychology experiments performed in academia – the pool of participants is already warped when you begin, as many are college students in the same discipline as the researcher.

      1. If they were other psych majors, I’d be concerned about the fact that they rejected two thirds of the volunteers.

      2. My bet is that the head researcher effectively selected against anyone who would resist his authority, probably without even thinking about it.

    1. Yes, and I’ll get into it in depth tomorrow, but the short answer is that it is edible, if you are eating the right species at the right time. It does not, however, possess the pain-killing effects claimed for it (well, maybe… species dependent.) It’s interesting.

      1. *ears prick up*

        That sounds a lot like the issues with herbal teas while pregnant— say, stuff like cinnamon, and lemongrass. You can’t eat enough of either to cause problems, but depending on the raw ingredient in the tea (Good Eats has a great episode on the many types of cinnamon), how you prepare it, how much you drink and how sensitive you are to it, you might cause serious harm to yourself or the child.

        There are a LOT of herbs that, when prepared as a tea, can help induce labor– which you don’t want at, oh, week 35! But people respond oddly to herbs already, I have a cousin whose female system responds to the smell of peppermint extract, I can spill half a bottle on my hand and nothing happens, but it’s one of the few always-safe with pregnancy herbal teas….
        Lemongrass and cinnamon are just two that are commonly used in cooking and are in most of my favorite teas.


        And that mess is why medicine exists at all. :/
        I’m one of those folks that wishes that the FDA was a certifying agency*, rather than a permitting agency, but…..

        * think like underwriter labs.

        1. well, there is certainly always the danger of an idiosyncratic reaction to any drug – and natural rememdies, including teas, are certainly drugs in a relative comparison – but there’s also the unreliable yield of natural products, so you might have one batch with very high active ingredient, and another with barely any. The wild lettuce issue is that there are many species, and some of the claims on the internet are for species that don’t even grow in America, so what people are thinking is basically an opiate… isn’t (thank goodness).

          1. Nah, it’s safe in the amounts used for cooking. The thing is that the amount in a baggy of lemon tea might be as much as for a whole family’s entire recipe, and two or three strong cups of tea is nothing to someone who’s seriously drinking tea….

            1. Okay, phew. Because I’ve been craving lechon lately, and the only way for me to get any is to make some of my own. Fortunately, I don’t have to go the whole roast suckling pig route, (if I did, it’s roast pork for DAYS) I can do the pork belly roulade version; but a main stuffing ingredient is lemongrass. (I found lemongrass paste, hurray, which I will mix with garlic paste and leeks, to stuff the roulade with…)

  2. Well said. The coss of proofing a new drug have to come from somewhere (they pay your salary in part) and our Capitalist economic system arranges reimbursement this way. The Socialist system doesn’t allow for it at all.

  3. Pick up a copy of the Physicians Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines (now available used for cheap) and read just the Side Effects and Contraindications sections. That’ll scare you out of ever so much as considering the average herbal remedy, even those GRAS.

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