Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ye Shiwen, Acupuncture and Racism

I've been seeing an acupuncturist for a couple of months now, and I am in no doubt at all that it has been beneficial. I would not otherwise spring for weekly visits. Most of the benefits have been nebulous in terms of scientific data--they could all come from the haphazard results of neurological activity.

The same cannot be said about the improvement I have felt in my paralyzed face. It will inevitably take time for the feeble muscular motion that I can feel to be easily visible, since the relevant muscles have had nearly ten months off to atrophy, but unless I'm delusional, I can tie that progress directly to acupuncture.

When you realize how little is honestly understood about neurology, and that we are only just getting scanning machinery capable of tying new theories of pain to anaesthetic acupuncture, then you have to ask why acupuncture has so long been pooh-poohed by western medicine.

The question can be rephrased: given that western medicine knows very little about how the nervous system really works, why is the evidence of a technique that has been successful for several thousand years dismissed?

The only answer that I can come up with is that most of the successes were on Chinese people, and most of the practitioners were Chinese. In other words, fundamental racism.

While I was pondering the question and the inevitability of the answer, Ye Shiwen swam her amazing and inspiring races, and had her achievement sullied by the coach of Team USA, who did all but actually accuse Ye of doping.

It's worth pointing out that Ye is at the age when great leaps in performance can happen, that she has never tested positive for doping, that China's swimmers are not all doing extraordinarily well this Olympics, that Ye was less than four years old when China was doping its swim team. and that the American swim team, excellent as many of them are, is not nearly as representative of US demographics as, say, their women's gymnastics team.

Which leaves the dirtiness of racism sullying the US team. Shame.

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