Wellness and Avoidance

An office building in my neighbourhood announces itself as a “Wellness Centre”, featuring a variety of services, including naturopathic practitioners, massage therapists, chiropractors, and tooth whitening — but no medical doctors. In his recent collection of musings Scattered Limbs, English physician Ian Bamforth wrote: “Health isn’t enough. Now we have wellness and its promise of radiance and effulgence: wellness is the look of health.” In other words, the goal of these establishments is the appearance of being healthy.

The “wellness economy” was valued at more than $4 trillion in 2018, according to figures from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI). “That’s roughly the combined GDP of the United Kingdom and Canada. The development of an immense, international wellness market may reflect consumers’ changing relationships with their health care. Perhaps more than ever, people are prioritizing lifestyle, taking health into their own hands and spending money on their well-being.”

The key idea here is made explicit with the phrase “spending money”, for the motivation of this article in the global media company Forbes is mainly the growth of profit. This is hardly surprising, since greed has been the bedrock of human civilization since antiquity, facilitated now by the capitalist neoliberal structure of the world economy.

In the soothing, greenwashing language used by those promoting operations in non-renewable enterprises like the Alberta tar sands, providers of “alternative health care” and “wellness” avoid any reference to unpalatable issues like sickness and death. When privately owned and operated, the primary goal of wellness centres is that of maximizing profits. Although referencing health and compassion in their advertising, their goal is promoting sales and increasing profits.

Governmental provision of services may be contrasted with private enterprise, but government infrastructure is dependent on taxation, and any tax rise is powerfully resisted in democratic societies by conservative political parties, more concerned with promoting private profit.

Appropriately, our friendly local “Wellness Centre” is located just down the street from a manufacturer and purveyor of tombstones and graveyard monuments, itself conveniently situated around the corner from a large cemetery, unspoken reminders of our mortality.

Authorities may manipulate language to avoid referring to sickness and death and invest in state-of-the-art modern patient care facilities, while the local small palliative care unit remains squirreled away under the roof in an nearby old building, shamefully dependent on donations and bequests, but providing compassionate care to those in the final stage of their lives.

June 23, 2021

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.