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That Pure Marketing Scam We Call Detox

A detox smoothie
A detox smoothie
Julie Rambal

Every November, the erudite British council behind Oxford Dictionaries picks a word of the year to signify the term that most influenced society in the previous 12 months. They picked the word "selfie" in 2013. "Vape" was the winner in 2014. Last year, it wasn't even a word. It was an emoji (the one with the tears of joy). This year, if current trends are anything to go by, it would be "detox."

What is "detox"? It's an increasingly popular therapy that originated in the self-care industry to get rid of imaginary toxins. Detox treatments are varied: from diets of broccoli smoothies to fennel tea. The promise remains the same — to give people a "cleansed" body, as fresh as a baby's.

Retreats based on detox are now a vacationing option, provided you can afford to pay between $2,000 and $5,000 for a single week. And are willing to hear your stomach growl in your five-star hotel room.

You can find detox syrups, capsules and other powders in organic, health and beauty stores. Online, the word demonstrates magical properties in attracting readers with such headlines as: "10 Delicious Detox Water Recipes To Cleanse Your Body", "Top detox diets", "Cleanse Your Body With These Detox Teas", and "Want To Lose Weight & Cleanse Your System? Try A Birch Sap Detox".

Women's magazines have even started talking about a jet black "detox ice cream" made out of "black coconut ash" and set to become the latest summer trend in New York.

Gian Dorta, a doctor at Lausanne University Hospital, is annoyed by the detox trend.

"These detox things mark the return of charlatanism," she says. "We have absolutely no need for detoxification since the human body does it itself with the liver and the kidneys, which are dedicated elimination organs."

French playwright Molière wrote about an imaginary invalid who was fond of bleeding and enemas. Almost 350 years later, some people discreetly indulge in "colon hydrotherapy" — a technique that consists of cleansing the colon with liters of water injected through the rectum. Self-proclaimed "hygienists" claim this method removes toxins that have accumulated in the intestines, and promise countless more benefits such as beautiful skin and the energy levels of a Marvel comic superhero.

Dorta is appalled by these claims, which she says are false.

What could have led us to this desire to have an internal body as shiny as a floor cleaned with bleach?

"As French philosopher Baudrillard would say, we're trying to "whiten" the body, that is, to conceal its natural state, which we see as flawed. Total purification is the sign of a persistent unease in the Western world regarding the natural and imperfect body that releases smells, and which, we think, we're improving through cleansing," says Yannis Constantinidès, a philosopher and author of the book Le Nouveau Culte du Corps ("The New Cult Of The Body")

"This is a metaphysical guilt. The disappearance of religion left a void that's filled by this second religiosity, a sum of vague and confused beliefs, without any form of transcendence. We thus maintain old rituals, even modernize them, but their deeper significance is lost," says Constantinidès.

The longing for purification exists due to the surfeit of material things in society. Consumerist urges, too often out of control, are now believed to affect our serenity and our productivity. "Detox therapies and their emotional asceticism mumbo jumbo lead people to think that there's an existential Eden somewhere, accessible only through exercises prescribed by self-esteem dealers. And the message is always the same: You're only using 10% of your capabilities but you could soon be at 90% if you follow these new dogmas everyday," says philosopher Vincent Cespedès.

Cespedès says that these beliefs have taken hold as we've become more addicted to brands, TV shows and high-technology gadgets in an age where we're always surrounded by new time-consuming distractions that alienate us.

There's even a detox in case you fail in your detox plan and are feeling guilty. The "sorry detox," is a therapy to quickly learn how to stop apologizing.

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Geopolitics

Utter Pessimism, What Israelis And Palestinians Share In Common

Right now, according to a joint survey of Israelis and Palestinians, hopes for a peaceful solution of coexistence simply don't exist. The recent spate of violence is confirmation of the deepest kind of pessimism on both sides for any solution other than domination of the other.

An old Palestinian protester waves Palestinian flag while he confronts the Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Dajan near the West Bank city of Nablus.

A Palestinian protester confronts Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the West Bank village of Beit Dajan on Jan. 6.

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — Just before the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, a survey of public opinion among the two peoples provided a key to understanding the current situation unfolding before our eyes.

It was a joint study, entitled "Palestinian-Israeli Pulse", carried out by two research centers, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, which for years have been regularly asking the same questions to both sides.

The result is disastrous: not only is the support for the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine side by side — at its lowest point in two decades, but there is now a significant share of opinion on both sides that favors a "non-democratic" solution, i.e., a single state controlled by either the Israelis or Palestinians.

This captures the absolute sense of pessimism commonly felt regarding the chances of the two-state option ever being realized, which currently appears to be our grim reality today. But the results are also an expression of the growing acceptance on both sides that it is inconceivable for either state to live without dominating the other — and therefore impossible to live in peace.

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