by Sandro Bassanini
From the beginning of time, when mankind is faced with disease, is frightened, desperate and does not know of a cure he tends to reach for hope through the use of “Miracle Cures” and/or Miracles. I will not discuss Miracles, as this would be a Theological exercise well beyond my capacities, what I will discuss is the need for “Miracle Cures”.
Enter the Snake Oil Salesman.
The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California on January 24th, 1848 by James W. Marshall launched a mass migration the likes the United States had never seen before. In the years following the discovery of Gold, some 300,000 plus adventurers left the East Coast to travel to California in search of fortunes. The trip was arduous and perilous and soon the idea of a Transcontinental Railroad uniting East to West began to take shape. Work on the Railroad line began in 1863 and in typical American fashion the heavy lifting was not done by locals, rather Chinese immigrants who came from Rural China to the United States on typically 5 year contracts and were paid considerably less than their white counterparts. But let’s not discuss Imperialism, use of immigrant workers and other such nonsense, let’s focus on the Snake Oil.
As worked began on the 3,077 Kilometer of rail that would connect Council Bluffs, Iowa with the Oakland Long Wharf on San Francisco Bay the workers would develop severe inflammations, arthritis and bursitis and while the “white” worker population suffered, the Chinese would use Snake Oil from the mildly venomous Chinese Water Snake and voila, rich in Omega-3 acids, the oil would do wonders on inflammations and thus they could continue working.
The Chinese Railroad workers, being not so sharp on Sales and Marketing failed to develop a Branded product, rather they just focused on the task at hand which was to pound rail spikes.
Enter American ingenuity.
Clark Stanley, aka “The Rattlesnake King” was a lowly cowboy, but he did recognize the growing popularity of authentic Chinese Snake Oil and so in 1897 he declared that he had found the awesome and terrific healing powers of rattlesnake oil through a Hopi medicine man, and so at the 1893 World’s Exposition in Chicago, he whipped out a live snake and cut it open in front of a large crowd and Stanley’s Snake Oil was born, and with it various guarantees of its terrific healing powers. But there was only a small problem with Stanley’s Snake Oil, it simply did not work, and by 1906 the United States Government passed the Pure Food And Drug Act of 1906 in order to clamp down on product’s false claims because you see, Stanley’s Snake Oil contained NO snake oil at all!
Since Stanley, a slew of Snake Oil Salesmen has entered and exited the world arena, and the “concept” was exported to all corners of the earth, from Italy to India, from Japan to South Africa, however in the United States it holds a special place, mostly due to tradition. And so it comes as no surprise that during the COVID-19 Pandemic the United States has a new “King” of Snake Oil Salesmen in President Trump. Since the Pandemic began, Trump touts daily remedies which have ranged from mixing unapproved prescription drugs, to mouth washing and/or injecting disinfectants, to light radiation outside and why not, inside the body.
I have watched this modern era Snake Oil Salesman daily, and wondered how can intelligent people believe in such farcical ceremonies and when yesterday I found a lonely Basil Plant at the Local Co-Op Gas station for 4 Swiss Francs I immediately thought that I should buy it. Buy it to make this world a better place, buy it to give hope to people that nature continues and plants grow. Buy it to make it grow and give its product locally to those who may need it, buy it for my mental well being of seeing something grow and so without hesitation, bought it I did. I rushed to my shop, found an old empty tin can, got some good earth and planted it. I watered it, and left it outside my shop and went hope with a heart full of hope and a joy I had not felt in weeks. Yesterday I was certain that this Basil plant would make the world a better place.
This morning it was stolen.
Like a Snake Oil Salesman, I had hope that a 4 Swiss Franc Basil plant would bring relief, joy, distraction, restore hope and bring joy.
Today I will try with Rosemary.