Snake Oil Salesmen

Snake Oil Salesmen

Remember when there was a stigma attached to being called a snake-oil salesman … the sleaze that sold you a mess of pottage and then skipped town before the dung hit the fan? Well, not anymore! Snake oil has joined shark cartilage, bee pollen, and other homeopathic remedies that have proven to be of some medicinal value. They won’t cure everything, but there are those that will try to convince you that it is possible. It is difficult to frame Whole Foods and Garden of Light Health Food Store as hucksters for a universal cure. But that doesn’t stop the rest of the world from trying.

These days the huckster is you, your best friend, or anybody else who begins a sentence with …

“According to the latest reports…”

“I read this article about…”

“This guy I know…”

“I’m telling you…”

“you really should try…”

All these and similar phrases litter our conversation after the first and most dangerous question … “How are you?” No matter what body part hurts, there is somebody who knows what to rub on it, or what to drink for it, or what to wrap it in. We seem to be always at the mercy of someone’s good intentions. They love nothing more than to share their instant cure for whatever it is that ails you.

I know they are not really snake-oil salesmen. These are my friends and family, and they are sincerely trying to help. They are the Band-Aid suppliers in a world of ouch. They want nothing more than to kiss it and make it better.  And, I am equally guilty of getting into the groove and providing unsolicited faux medical advice. The instinct to provide a cure for a trick knee or frozen shoulder or stiff neck or blocked sinuses or general malaise is omnipresent in our culture. And as we age and feel the cricks and creaks and the snap-crackle-and-pop of our aging selves, it only gets worse.

In a sense, I suppose one could say that the truly smarmy, insidious charlatan … the snake-oil huckster and seller of pottage that leaves us with no cure-all … the true cheat, is our culture that pursues some form of eternal youth. We are over-achievers, and seem to believe we can fix anything, when in fact there are some things that cannot be fixed. At a certain point, one realizes that the honey-lemon-hot whisky cure might work for your sore throat, and a daily walk and some stretching can’t hurt, but beyond that, seriously … make an appointment with your primary care physician.

Although, now that I think about it …  weren’t doctors originally referred to as sawbones? Now there is a title to give one pause.

One Reply to “Snake Oil Salesmen”

  1. Connie,

    Will send you an email about this post but just wanted to say here that this painting is powerful! I am afraid of it, almost. Drawn to it but it also gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. You’ve captured something rare here, my girl.

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