Revisiting the Health Topic (at least) One More Time
I think after this post, these comments, and this subsequent post, it’ll probably serve us well to talk at least one more time about what’s going on here regarding the concern for health. To be sure, everyone everywhere is generally as concerned about their health inasmuch as they can frame their idea of what healthy behavior is within the constraints of their own social situation. That’s a bear of a sentence, but I think what I’m breaking it down to is that people here in Azerbaijan are health-obsessed, much as we can say that people in America are health-obsessed. How we are able to express that here and in America are two very different things, probably stemming from the same impulses.
In America, we take a much more scientific-empirical approach to solving health problems. At our disposal are legions of doctors and scientists and health experts telling us that that there are bad bacteria, bad germs, bad practices that we must avoid in order to be healthy. And we have health classes in school to reinforce that. Then we go out and buy something like antibacterial soap and Clorox wipes. And we use them all the time because that’s what’s going to keep us healthy. In fact, the benefits from something like antibacterial soap are dubious at best. Our science tells us bacteria are bad, but we forget that our bodies are no slouches and they know how to handle things like a cold virus. You just have to give them a little time and then in the long run you’ll be healthier for it. The end result is that our consumerism is really the winner here, as we grab onto whatever catchphrase or buzzword that dubiously connotes health, like antibacterial might in soap. Or the way Clorox can somehow ensure your countertops to be germ-free.
Take the flip-side, the Azerbaijani approach that is based much more on folk-knowledge. Instead of science telling us what we need to do to be healthy, we pick out habits that seem to lead to better health, whether there is causation or not. The legions of doctors and scientists aren’t as prevalent here. People avoid going to doctors as much as possible. And the crumbling of the education system hasn’t spawned any effective health classes. The consumerism that exists in America doesn’t exist here in the slightest, so things like antibacterial don’t catch fire as fast in the marketplace. Instead of running out and buying drugs and soap to stay healthy, here you don’t leave the house after you shower, or you don’t sit on the bare floor, and these serve perfectly well as stand-ins for antibacterial soaps and germ-killing hand sanitizers.
In the end, we still have some very strange cultural practices on both sides, just viewed from a different angle. Sure we all want to be healthy. And we all know that both America and Azerbaijan are terrible at following through on that desire. But there is nothing that says that, to stay healthy, drinking a cup of tea after showering is any more ridiculous than using antibacterial soap to wash my hands.