Thursday, September 8, 2016

Craft Beer, Vaccines, Trump And The Winds of Change in America

There’s a breeze blowing through our culture. A yearning to live a more authentic life. A search for something less contrived, less advertised. If it’s corporate or branded or the choice of the elite, well, it’s a little suspect, or maybe even an automatic joke. Not everybody sees it this way, but the breeze is blowing.
It's all craft beer in the Contrarian's beer fridge, leftovers from a recent din-
ner party. Not one single guest brought a corporate brew.
The craft beer world provides a thumbnail sketch of this movement. At some point in the ‘80s, restless American beer drinkers flocked to the broad varieties, quality and flavor of European beers. Once you’ve fallen in love with a full-bodied stout from the British Isles or a Belgian wheat, comic commercials filled with aging sports stars and girls in bikinis trying to convince you that Bud Lite is better than Miller Lite look embarrassingly lame. A small craft beer industry began brewing interesting, complex beers and grew until now virtually every corner of America has a taproom serving local brews. The folks drinking there are openly hostile to whatever bill of goods the corporate breweries are peddling. 

Go to one of the great Americana music festivals around the US and you’ll find these kinds of people drinking their IPAs and listening to music that doesn’t get played on the radio–wasn’t approved by somebody at the record company’s corporate headquarters. In recent years I’ve attended many, many big, sold out shows for acts that rarely or never get played on the radio. And much of what the radio plays, this crowd avoids.

The breeze is blowing through the food industry, too. We’re increasingly seeing small organic farms, small cheese and meat producers, people tending bees for honey in their backyards and planting gardens and canning their homegrown produce. There are people in my life who refuse to go to fast food restaurants and roll their eyes at the highway’s usual suspects – Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, and Chile’s - places derisively called, “McSitdown Restaurants.” Instead, they're looking for the oddball food truck or the little restaurant with local flavor owned by a mom & pop. Farm-to-table, vegetarianism, anti-GMOs, free range, organic, veganism; it goes on and on.
Home grown and canned peppers sit beside organic products in the 
Contrarian's frig.
Peek around any corner and you’ll find folks recoiling from the technologically filtered and yearning to be closer to the source. My three 20-something sons all have turntables and buy albums, not CDs or MP3s. They claim it has a warmer sound. In fact, last year more albums were sold than CDs in the US. 

I know young gals in their 20s who are knitting and others friends making their own musical instruments. If it can be made rather than bought, there's a growing movement to do just that.

I feel the breeze in my real estate business. A decade ago people were mortgaging themselves through the eyeballs to buy mega-square footage McMansions with vinyl siding and plastic baseboard, cheap cabinets and builder-grade carpet that was worn out in a couple years. Today, more buyers have saved a bigger down payment and they're buying smaller houses with higher quality finishes. It's less financially precarious and less superficial.

There hasn’t been a mass rejection of mainstream culture like this since that 1960s. And to a great degree I’m fine with that. It diversifies our economy and puts regular folks in greater control of their own world. But it’s not always a gentle, sweet breeze. Sometimes it’s an ill wind.

This breeze of doubt and suspicion also blew the anti-vaccine movement into our culture–the belief that those vaccines that have eradicated diseases worldwide and saved tens of millions of lives were more danger than cure. If fifty scientific studies can be ignored because just one said vaccines were dangerous, you’re supporting an outsider view to the point it could kill your children. And so, we’re seeing once eradicated diseases reappearing in the wealthiest nations on earth.

And this breeze blew Bernie Sanders to near the top of the Democrat ticket and Donald Trump to the top of the GOP, and thanks to Brexit it’s blowing England out of the EU. People are doubting old tried and true answers. It’s here in medicine and politics that I get nervous about this search behind the billboards and beneath the well-paved way of doing things. Just because you’re tired of the insider elite doesn’t mean the outsider is better. The outsider might be lying to you. The outsider might be more fake and corrupt than the well-paid corporate insider.

Because we were so fed up with "business as usual," the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are now almost completely void of statesmen. We've replaced pragmatic statesmen with angry, insurgent outsiders who don’t have the education, temperament, or the clue needed to strike a deal. Democracy is utterly dependent upon making a compromise–accepting that you won’t get everything you want and neither will your opponent.  

Deciding emotionally is the danger. Once you’ve done that, reason is out the door and you’re either ignoring one thing or pointing at another to justify your choice. Maybe the key is stepping away from the corporate and insider elite with an open heart rather and an angry resolve. Open hearts make for clear minds. Angry resolves lead to quick, cloudy judgments.

Now back to my local craft beer, organic chicken, and outsider music.

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