Dressing Up to Suit

There used to be a TV program called "Truth or Consequences".

Today we have to consider that truth for the consequential (read significant, powerful) is malleable, weatherful (ie, subject to change, like the weather) and costumeable (when the truth won't suit, dress it up).

Truth for the nonconsequential, however, has powerful consequences. Martha wasn't powerful enough. She had the wrong gene combination. She dared to climb the male ladder of success. She refused to be modest and shy. She may therefore rate a tax-free cell without a view, compliments of me and you.

Any number of the suited in the current administration could well be her cell mates, but will they?

So we look at current literature for some vestiges of the truth, and find, first, a new book on (warning: the following word may be harmful to your health and banned in Boston. It may also cause you to be fired from a federal job) --- masturbation.

If you're still with me, the official title is "Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation", by Thomas W. Laqueur, Zone, 2004. It seems that society's attitudes toward self-service gratification have been more suited to whatever is the current cultural norm than to any fixed ethical standards.

According to George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain demonstrated that "telling the truth was the funniest joke in the world".

The truth about cancer research is far from a funny joke, except to those who have pocketed multiple millions on the tortuous path from science to patients. The latter are not dying of laughter but of malignancies, a poisoned earth, and a culture of greed.

If you have any doubts, be sure to read "The Cell Game" by Alex Prud'homme, Harper Collins, 2004. According to the author, Sam Waksal, former CEO of ImClone, was incapable of distinguishng truth from auto-generated fiction. He was fired from several prestigious laboratories, told people the results of experiments he had never done, and charmed Bristol Myers Squibb into a two billion dollar deal for a product with sloppy protocols. And as he wined and dined his way into the homes of the famous and the infamous, desperate cancer patients left as many as 400 calls a day on the ImClone phones hoping for access to a drug that was languishing in the laboratory.

Shortly after finishing this book I read the breathtaking headline that "Genentech profits surge on brisk cancer drug sales". Perhaps the entire arena of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals is in need of a major paradigm shift. I can tell you from personal experience that when you are diagnosed with a deadly genetic disease there is little comfort in being told that a new drug exists to palliate the effects but it costs $400,000. a year to obtain. Isn't it time for profits and sales and huge compensation packages to be reassessed and reorganized into a public-spirited non-greed-based structure that concentrates on relieving pain first and compensating CEO's and Directors only peripherally?

Another devastating comment on truth and its consequences (or lack thereof) is supplied in "Fraud" by Paul Waldman, Sourcebooks, 2004. Subtitled "The Strategy Behind the Bush Lies and What The Media Didn't Tell You", Waldman's book delves into the manipulated public image of the nation's current CEO, his eminently successful attempts to silence dissent, and his view of truth as inconvenient and expendable.

Perhaps the most succinct observation on deception at the top, however, comes from Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, better known as Chuck D, who tells us:

"Have you forgotten

I been thru the first term of rotten

The father, the son

And the holy Bush-it We all in

Don't look at me

I aint callin for no assassination

I'm just sayin

Sayin who voted for this asshole of the nation?" (quoted in The New Yorker, April 12, 2004)

Truth seems to wear a Halloween mask all year long. At least what masks as truth does.

c.Corinne Whitaker 2004