Saturday, December 13, 2008

Letters to the editor... 'splained up good!

Years ago, S.F Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll wrote that nearly all letters to the editor are variations on the following theme.

Dear editor:

There are many fine oxen* in the world, and they possess many fine qualities. I do not deny this. The important point your editorial and other letter writers seem to have missed is this. In the current situation, it is my ox that is being gored, and that changes the situation entirely.

a concerned reader

I thought of this several times this week. In an article on Monday, a bio-ethicist was discussing the implications of smart drugs. There are now drugs that actually can do what energy drinks and supplements like ginkgo biloba have claimed they can do, improve concentration and memory. Mr. bio-ethicist was asked if three people are taking a test and one of them is taking smart drugs, is that cheating?

No, that's not cheating.

If three people are in an athletic contest and one of them takes steroids, is that cheating?

Yes, absolutely, said Mr. bio-ethicist.

To sum up: Smart guy says smart guys taking smart drugs is hunky-dory. Smart guy says strong guys taking strength drugs is dirty pool.

Chris Bell's documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, reviewed on this blog last month, looked at the whole "Are drugs cheating?" aspect of steroids as well. Bell found out that among professional musicians, beta blockers, which are proven to reduce symptoms of performance anxiety, are extremely popular and the use is widespread. Musicians did not think there was anything ethically wrong about this. Porn stars using Viagra to maintain an erection was not considered cheating by most porn stars, though some older adult film actors thought less of their young counterparts, since the aging actors didn't need some fancy drugs to keep an erection back in their day!

This casts a new light on the ox being gored metaphor. I bring this up, but I won't go into it further.

Away from bio-ethics and drugs for a moment, the whole question of who gets bailed out next and for how much has clearly become an issue of oxen and their injuries. For many decades, it was understood that the Democrats were not going to crack the whip on the auto industry, largely because of how many Democrats from Michigan, mostly liberals, were beholden to the industry for contributions and how many auto workers were their constituents. Now, the whole industry, foreign and domestic, is in trouble and other countries are bailing out their car manufacturers, but in this Greatest Country In The World™, we have plenty of foreign manufacturers with plants here, and their senators are just as loyal to those companies as the Michigan senators are loyal to the native auto industry.

For, you see, there are many fine oxen in the world, and they possess many fine qualities. But there is an important point here which you may have missed...

Wait a second, I think I typed that already.

* Side note: I love the picture of the ox. This is obviously a show animal, given how nicely it's groomed and the fancy doo-dads on the tips of its horns. I wonder if the picture has been airbrushed?


Distributorcap said...

i will say none of our senators took any of the smart drugs

namastenancy said...

I'd love it if there were a drug that promoted the growth of ethics, intelligence and compassion. But what do we have? The things that most guys (sorry) value - physical strength and sex.

Anonymous said...

I'm still hung up on the porn ox getting gored. Or the porn getting gored by the ox. Or something....

Matty Boy said...

Dcap - being a smarter senator doesn't make you a better paid senator, so there isn't much point.

Nancy - I've heard that Ecstasy is something like a compassion enhancing drug, but that is from second hand information. I've never tried it. If there was a drug that made you more ethical, would it be ethical to take it?

Dcup - I saw some vague similarity between goring and porn, but I didn't look at it too closely, delicate flower that I am. Upon further review, I am close to regretting that I typed it.