tv After Words Barbara Ehrenreich Natural Causes CSPAN July 6, 2018 10:00pm-10:58pm EDT
readers. >> up next on book tvs afterwards, barbara explores the science behind how the body ages. she is interviewed by a new york times science writer. afterwards is a weekly interview program with relevant guest hosts interviewing top nonfiction authors about their latest work. >> i'm here with barbara to discuss her wonderful new book, natural causes. it is perhaps her most straightforward look into what she started out being in life which is a scientist. she studied science at rockefeller university, got her doctorate and became a noted activist and social justice worrier. in this case, it is a wonderful change of pace in a way that is
not been done before. looking at things that we are concerned about now with the wellness movement, how much you can do with it, how much you can do with your body, how much control we have over our health. could you start by explaining the title, natural causes? >> guest: sure. the publisher makes up the title. i had another title. which was, old enough to die. then i realize that's not a book you could give to your mother on her birthday. anyway for me, it is a great thrill to me natalie, science writer who i greatly admire. at one point i wrote a huge article in "time" magazine, an essay based on i forget the title of your book, woman. >> yes, loved it loved writing the essay. this is a thrill for me. >> thank you. so you did not come up with this
title. so for me it had other -- on the one hand natural causes because you are talking about how you reach a certain age you no longer have to say that the person died of, they are old enough to die. they died of natural causes, the other thing that occurred to me is that it is also the way in which basically your own body ends up killing it. it is an interesting idea that you have less control of your body than you think. you have an illusion of control perhaps but even with the emphasis on the wellness movement, this is one area of your life you can control it. you may not control your job or your kids but you can control your health. in fact, it's one of the
overarching themes of the book is that you have less control than you think. like your kids, your body is born -- the science here was something very familiar to me. what i had studied as a graduate student was these new cells called macrophages which are the killer cells that if microbes go to pager body they get right there and double them up and dissolve them. i was fascinated, they were the good guys protecting us. then, at about 6007 i wrote an article that astounded me. it was known for a while that they congregate around a tumor. it had been thought they were congregating around the tumor to maybe fight it. that's the job.
they were congregating around the tumor because they hoped the cancer cells metastasize. in life if you take out all of -- cancer cannot metastasize. >> host: that is kind of amazing. >> my first thought was, you traitor. why are you turning against the body that you are part of? the idea of science and the way i learned it in the 60s and 70s is very deterministic. every cell in the body is like a citizen and a communist dictatorship. you have got to give your all for the collective. you do your function, that's it. >> we have to face the fact that cells will rebel. they will go off on their own. they will do very harmful
things. >> it's interesting. there are sort of heroes and villains and you cannot help but admire them. they seem to have a lifeforce to them. they can look at other cells, they have this independence which is perhaps there. if you want to have surveillance for invaders but they can also just decide is you said soldiers can just turn against. >> it's very interesting, i was so surprised as i got into this about the trader macro faces that other cells do things that they're not supposed to do. now, the cell biologists use the
phrase, cellular decision-making. they use that to describe what they do. how could they make a decision? >> host: it depends on the cell. >> guest: but were talking about something. it has a nervous system obviously. it is one cell. yet, it's getting incoming signals all of the time. in deciding both where to go next, what to attack next and we are not anywhere near figuring out how to influence those decisions. >> and this changes my whole sense of what am i? we think of ourselves as being something unitary. in fact, i am more and you are
more like sites of conflict. placid between different parts of the body in different cells. >> that is true. it can be a little grim if you start to think about it too closely. at the same time, there is a balance between this concept and cooperation which is every scale of life you look at you see that going on. the genes within the cell, the organs different species that might collaborate, different bacterial strains that will collaborate. >> the system is a difficult kind of collaborator. of course we depend on it to battle microbes, but that is a little bit like depending on the
garrison of soldiers to guard your community. you need them to be strong, brave and bold. but they can decide to rampage through the village and steel, and rape. >> so, it's always an uneasy situation. >> that is true. you also mention the fact that people have autoimmune diseases which is another rebellion. >> it's like let's attack some healthy tissue while we're at it. so you have decided in the course of how many years that there is no more routine tests. mammograms, pap smears, even dental x-rays. i am absolutely in your camp on this one. we are in the minority. most people want to do more
testing, lack not less. explain your reasoning. >> guest: i think you can appreciate this. i get the reaction from some people like that is just crazy, like there's some type of alternative medicine fanatic. no, it's all based on science. if they say you need a such and such test, i'm going to find out everything i can about that test to see if it doesn't a good. written interesting time in the medical profession where they are having to abandon things that were sacred 20 years ago or ten years ago. things like the annual physical. well, it's not evidence-based. there's no evidence that it prolongs anybody's life makes them healthier. the annual pelvic exam, that
disgusting ritual has been abandoned. and prostate testing for men. that also did not work out. so, just because i will google anything or give you a clue, but they say something like colonoscopy, google colonoscopy controversy. or colonoscopy evidence base and then make up your mind from what you see. tell your dr., does not go to my standards. >> have you had a lot of people saying that you're going to be promoting an idea that is going to be putting people's lives unnecessarily at risk if they
neglect to do these surveillance techniques that we have developed? i think colonoscopy is a good example. mammograms, think the data is clear they really don't help. colonoscopies, not as much. i had one dr. was very sympathetic about my attitude towards test and he say the colonoscopy is one thing doctors will do. because you can diagnose it and treated and that it would be so embarrassing to a dr. if they were to actually get colon cancer they didn't get a colonoscopy. he said that was the one thing he would recommend to me. >> well, i would point out that in europe for most countries
there is a noninvasive test that we do first. you see if there any traces of blood in the feces. if there are, then he can proceed to the invasive and slightly risky, colonoscopy. why are we doing the noninvasive thing first? one might be that a lot of money is made from colonoscopies in this country to make it seems to be in that industry now. it is something that most doctors will how to about. >> i've had a dr. basically on his knees begging me. come on. >> so you decided that it is its evidence-based, are there any things that you do medicalize?
>> i exercise. but, i'm not thinking of things like 30 minutes on the treadmill outlived three more minutes. i'm thinking i'm having a good time and i feel good when i'm doing it and when i'm done. so that is more hedonistic than anything for me. that would be -- i should get health points for that. for those who regard health is virtue that would be. >> that's kind of the goldstar there so you talked about this in can you also talk about medical exam and ritualistic quality of the lab coats in the devices and then i found it
interesting that you made the connection between the pushback you saw early with the women's health movement when women were saying we want more control over our own health care and there was the whole movement for women to see their genitals. so getting spectrums and mirrors and then you have many doctors were outraged. as one arguing that the speculum was on likely to be sterile yet of course anything that enters the regina should first be boiled for at least ten minutes. i thought that was a hilarious line and also revealed something that was very profound about what doctors try to do and what the reality is about your own body. >> this is a revolutionary step in the 70s when they got a
hold of a speculum and all you needed was a speculum, mirror and flashlight and you can see your own cervix in the vaginally wall and see if there's anything wrong yourself. i don't know what happened to that spirit? there were feminist women at one point in several spots in the country. i don't know how many are functioning still. >> it is not that something i spent a lot of time doing, looking at my cervix, but just the idea it's mine, i can see this i can find out if something is wrong rather than the way i grew up which is down there, we don't go down there we don't touch, we don't look. >> of course many people have argued in the times look at this
book and they say the real problem here in the united states is not too much healthcare, but too little. too many people that don't have access to affordable healthcare and that's more important than overtreatment. given your skepticism about the medical oversight, what are your thoughts? what you think should be done? >> we need to distinguish between different things that the medical industry can do for us. some things it does well. if i get run over by a bus, i'm not going to go seek an alternative healer was burning incense. i'm not to say want to do this myself either. with the trauma i think our medical industry is good at but there is something so
grotesquely skewed but our priorities in this country. when you get to be 65 you get health insurance. then, you get invited into this realm of rather dubious tests and things they would like to do to you. meanwhile, younger people often go without the most obvious, most needed kinds of care. will give you one agreeable, the fact that maternal mortality is rising in the united states, that is down for decades. now it's going up especially with black women. black women in southern states, there is a lot to study here. there's an obvious preventive care which is prenatal care and
being able to have prenatal and postnatal checkups. that is not being done while medical talent is being wasted. >> so why do you think it is that maternal mortality is rising? is that people can't afford or they are not going into the. >> they can't afford it. not everybody gets onto medicaid which is your only option when you are poor. very often, the care offered support, especially black women is kind of offputting to put it mildly. >> all woman complained about arrogant doctors and insulting
-- of cut care, but i think poor black women get the worst of it. >> but i don't think there is an effort either. it is states that are worse for infant mortality are also the states that have the most restrictions on abortion. now, i don't know if this is cause-and-effect in any way but it is to say this states that don't really care much about women in their lives are the lives who are dying unnecessarily. >> interestingly, you talk a bit about hidden culture and you've been going to -- quite a while and how simultaneously how easily it can be in comparing
working out to a cross between manual labor and office work. people walking around with boards, they have a plan, though 45 minutes on aerobics, and there's not much socializing goes on. everybody is plugged into their personal music providers. yet, you make the point that you work and work and you are still going to die, this illusion of immortality that your for is just that. it's easy to make fun of yet you have looked at this for decades now. >> guest: i have to admit something that i cannot point out and say in the book.
there is a downside to muscle building and sauna at a certain age. nobody told me that that by doing like presses, and i use to show off with how much weight i could do, i was wrecking my lower back. things like that, somebody or something should of intervened and said wait a minute. you have to make some changes now. that there is nothing. life thought was bigger muscles and more weights. >> you actually ended up injuring yourself. >> yes. i'm now doing physical therapy very religiously. >> some of the data on that. >> well, yes. there are big differences.
when i go to the gym now i'm not just trying to build muscle. my dream for many years was able to walk on the street and intimidate men. i never achieve that. now, my goal is to have the mobility of flexibility ahead five years ago. >> host: one of the other points you made that i think was interesting and you talked about gloria stein them saying that we need progress every year and having more physical strength could have an impact on our everyday lives. i figured you probably had some sympathy with that idea that somehow physical strength could translate into some other source of strength with how you move
about the world and present yourself. >> yes. the criticisms of the fitness crave as it was called when it was started was that an intellectual thought it was just like a retreat from politics and public life and public responsibility. but, i could see how it was political for women. the big message to us in my generation is that the women wanted to be thin, tiny. at the gym we realized we could be bigger and stronger. and my glory days at the gym i would actually swagger.
>> host: i have done that too, i must say. there is something about it, this idea that a lot of women i used to here would say i don't want to get too muscular. first of all, it is not easy for any woman to get muscular, and second of all why not? what message is that going to convey that you don't want to have. i wonder if it's relevant now in the me to arrow? i don't how you feel, if women should also be able to -- i don't know, i've had mixed feelings they think there's something about the idea that women are completely vulnerable and would do anything to defend ourselves but it has to be based on the good behavior. you're just like a child, victim. >> i love that point.
we have to learn to fight. i have teenage granddaughters and i am thrilled that one of them at least is going to the gym with me. it's about getting strong, not about being prettier in some way. we have to have that as a goal for girls and women. i think, i don't know if i could have taken on our view weinstein. i think he outweighs me considerably. but the confidence to say what's? get your hands off me and run out of the room, i think it's too much about women is about pleasing people and not about getting out of line. >> i think that is true.
i sometimes do wish there is more talk of not just the victim aspect of it but okay, someone does this to you, i remember once i was walking down the street and had just come back to the gym. the guy was going past me and ran his hand along my arm. also proud of myself because i reacted instantaneously and he looked back at me like i was some kind of crazy woman, as though i was the one was out of line. i think if there is more of that if not physically, at least by the way they present themselves. >> i have felt that a little bit
that i don't like to fall into the trap that everybody should be carrying a gun. there is a limit to how far you can go. i think sometimes the strength can help with that. >> guest: and we do need to learn self-defense. >> host: my daughter got her black belt in karate. i want to talk a little bit more about the idea you discussed, the communication between your mind and your body. you talk about how you think of the body as a domestic animal that has to be trained the mind is in control of the body yet, as you point out there is this new that comes along and there's a mindfulness on this idea that
not only do you have to have control of your body, unique control of your mind and your mind control several things at once. have you tried any of these mindfulness approaches? >> no. i people i dearly love that to meditate. i have nothing against meditation. the studies i have found and mentioned in the book could not distinguish any benefit of short-term medication compared to having a glass of wine with friends and sitting around and talking or listening to music or solving a heart problem. all of those things clear your mind. the other problem with
mindfulness, is what are we supposed to be mindful of? seriously? if you are a mother with young kids, one toddler is biting your ankles, phone call is coming in from your workplace about urgent things, the dinner is boiling on the stove, so many of us face multitasking situations. for me it was being a waitress. how can you carry that much in your mind at once? so when mindfulness turns into an industry, it is an industry now and it's about selling ads for like one minute, 60 seconds of medication. the timer.
>> host: i wanted to talk more about the idea of this cellular conflict and the immune systems. it seems as though this is an important idea that trying to bring too much control is actually ultimately not possible. there is a certain degree of chaos in the body. then you talked about the role in active participants in aging and they settle in the arteries leading to the heart. they gorge themselves until the arteries are blocked.
they gather in the pancreas where they destroy the cells. you get diabetes, they help break down bone tissue, they might increase the progression of alzheimer's, so you're talking about these ordinary breakdown these purposeful attacks, why does it keep happening? >> why shouldn't it? at the age when these inflammatory diseases, the inflammatory aging systems happen, past the reproductive age. so an ineffable a evolutionary sense, needs you. so yes, let them rampage around us they want.
it is, very shocking. i haven't fully absorbed it myself to think that it is our bodies ourselves that are turning against us in many ways. there's so much snake oil out there now. if inflammation is the problem in aging, better go on an anti-inflammatory diet. i cannot find evidence for anything sound about what an anti-inflammatory diet might be. generally, all of these diets are after the same thing, depriving yourself of anything that tastes good. really. i don't want to go through old age in a state of deprivation. >> host: your very philosophical
about the self. who am i and you point out the self of the ego is a great achievement. it's hard to imagine it without this engine of discovery. the self keeps us vigilance and it keeps us a live, but it can also turn on itself, particularly in diseases like depression. so we are gnawing away at ourselves all of the time whether it's proactive immune cells are everyday anxiety. >> there's an analogy here between the self which is
vigilant and looking out for danger in all the egotistical ways we entertain and when you look at the immune system they can both turn on us. when we get completely engorged by ourselves it's all vanity. it is all me and it is very hard to face death if that is what you like. i'm not a buddhist, but you have to lose yourself in your work and those that consume you.
and then death becomes incidental. i consider my long involvement in the women's movement for economic justice. when i am gone, you're going to go on. every people will do that better. so that's good. it's not scary. wonderful. one of my tasks and old age is in fact to reproduce myself and to help younger and writers of color become journalist and get an airing and those are like children to me i just think that is one of the jobs of being old.
taking what you know or accomplished were wonton and passing it on to younger humans. >> you have been very inspirational to a lot of people. >> i have a mechanism for doing it, the economic hardship reporting project that i started. i started this a few years ago, we raise money to help journalists. so i have institutionalized this -- of mine. >> so this is what you do to looking at this you say basically through techniques like that now that there's more mindfulness perhaps. >> there are other ways to get
out of yourself, just being fascinated by something that he must know that as a researcher. >> host: curiosity. so, your background, your renowned left-wing arthur and you have a phd rockefeller, to think your scientific training shaped your thinking about other issues? >> just that i approach and investigated journalistic project like i would approach a scientific problem i am trying to solve. the research is an orderly progression that you have to
eliminate, it everybody should have a phd it's a lot of work to get that phd. >> i know. i thought it was interesting that in the book you say your thesis advisor who is upset with you when you decided to go into writing and he is dead now but you hope this, just yesterday an e-mail, this is my thesis advisor who died a few years ago, somehow his wife had gotten a hold of this book, saw the dedication to her husband and wrote to me how wonderful that
made her feel and how he would have felt. i felt like a total failure with respect to him. he put a lot of energy into making it into this. and then i went on to other things. >> to ever wish you had gone into research? >> did you ever do lab work? >> i wasn't that good at it. i am not needed tied in a? i want other people to do that and then i'll read about it. i am a consumer not a producer. >> i had been impressed by your intellectual breath. you explore different topics i thought your explanation of the origins of or were right. you continue to do in that sense
>> i think being a member of this culture, it snows idea about the two cultures, there is the third culture which is people who have a foot in both camps, sciences and humanity. and they are able to do a synthesis of the two, to you think it seems to me it's a very unusual position for someone like you. most of the people come from a humanities background but you bring science to bear. do you think that is something you wish you saw more of? >> i wish i saw more people who are less bound by the conventions of a career and more motivated by something they really want to understand or
change. and then the different disciplinary kinds of boundaries evaporate you just go crashing right over them. >> what about religion? i think you have described yourself as a fourth-generation. >> i think it's for, get a little confused, family history is a little smudged, but the new atheist meant, it seems to be more at the moment. >> i feel as though it came under so much criticism and backlash and it kinda retreated and then of course some of this
has turned into other issues that i consider to be unfortunate. >> like what? well, some racism i think. sam harris is getting into arguments about the bell curve and on and on. >> some of that is a llama phobia. >> exactly. that has been something unfortunate. but what you think about religions of persistence now. >> well it would be gone by now according to carl march. but i don't see my activism as an atheist.
if that became an issue of people said we don't want an atheist living in our apartment building with us then i would have to face it right. i have been in situations, christian college the students were surrounding and have never seen an atheist. >> in many ways i was a normal but i cannot make that my number one issue they do believe in the deity. i am not going to get in the way of that, well, i might. i might argue with them, but it shows in this book at the end,
my big role as with , the idea of a single point of right in the universe that is running everything. our ancestors were closer to the truth with animism which persist in some indigenous societies around the world. the idea that all kinds of things have spirit or have life in them, the life in the world is animated and is not dead as western science tends to see it. otherwise how can you have these teeny tiny things running around and doing so much good, and so much damage. we have to respect that we are not the only one, were not the only agent in the universe
except for god. and when i say agent, i mean a being that is capable of changing things around it and influencing it. there is beginning to be a tiny movement, away from to seeing that there may be agency in very small things that we have considered this matter like electrons, they're pretty small i when they come to a grid it is one that you have to decide which way to go worth there's a political waiver so on and one famous it physicists who says we
medicine will say they have free will. once they started looking at more things like that, it's not abandoning science but learning to deal with alien agencies, alien to us then there so much a part of the natural world. >> i think that's a regio reasoe position to make. it can also start to loot into a new age thinking. i am not asking anybody to believe in anything. the point is not to believe, but to know and find out. i have far less use and wellness than i do with the so-called scientific one i do not
do that it would break my teeth. but we get you to spend money applying more and more things to your skin, adding these weird things to your diet and these are not all in that space. >> people continue to be a lot of resistance also is this feeling like your active and in control. it's difficult to just let go.
>> it's especially difficult when we have this movement dedicated to promoting a particular type. giuliani, with his first name, the mayor of new york promoting cancer screening. even when the medical professions go back on the psa testing, juliana said we wanted anyway. i can understand that partly, were so used to having things taken away from us, from getting less and less medical care and services because our insurance company doesn't want us to have on that they were actually suspicious. >> they feel like you're doing it for sound medical reasoning.
>> it is true, finding a balance seems to be very difficult for people. i can tell you that the stores and the times are extremely popular. people seem to gravitate towards every little thing. now there's a movement to bring back replacement therapy when they're stressing because it seemed like the health initiative was a complete study. it goes on, i don't know what is going to happen but what about you? what you hope or think is going to happen come november? do you have any thoughts about
the political area? >> well, that's a curveball. i can hope and pray that we get some control over situation as a nation. talk about losing control when you have at the very center, where the brain should be, we have a delusional narcissist, impulsive. so, and while we focus on controlling our own bodies, we have let our society kind of run amok. >> i think that's true. there does seem to be some relationship.
>> i admit, there have been times in the last year when there have gone to the gym thinking can they do anything about this? it's insane. >> i do think that is actually there is some reality behind that. do you feel that way? >> yes. although i have to admit i do get in trade it's like what's going to happen next, we haven't seen that character for a while, trying to remember all the
names. it can be a challenge. >> have you come upon anyone that is up for running for office or anyone that you are behind all the way? >> i don't have a particular individual, but it is so encouraging that all over the country so many women are enraged by the misogyny of the trump administration and are now running for office. and getting local support. a lot of that is based on networks of the women's march. >> that's true. but my one of going to something eventually. the optimistic. >> guest: i'm never optimistic. it's just a principal.
if we lose, we just have to fight in different ways to find different ways of organizing or something. we have to be ready for that there is no positive thinking i'm also very interested in narcissism. there is a lot of history and a lot of things i want to know about that. >> it sounds like a great book. i'll be the first to buy it. >> thank you.
>> president donald trump looked at the supreme court and will nominate to someone to replace kennedy. listen on the free c-span radio app. >> look into next week, the senate is back monday for the fourth of july recess. the debate will resume on the nomination for mark to be a judge in the ninth circuit. president trump nominated him to limit the debate and it's scheduled for 530.
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i'm next on book tvs afterwards. south carolina republican tim scott and trey gaddy discuss their friendship and time in congress. there interviewed by jim. afterwards is a weekly interview program with relevant guesthouse interviewing top nonfiction authors about their latest work. >> thanks for joining us, senator tim scott and trey gaudi, i love your