Thursday, May 7, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Edge
I woke up this morning with insanity on my mind. No, I didn’t say I was insane…only that it was on my mind. Of course, why wouldn’t it be on my mind? These are crazy times, man, crazy! On the other you hand…
You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy But I Just May Be The Lunatic You Are Looking For
Now THAT is a classic Billy Joel song, is it not? I found the “official video” of it on YouTube and it is at least as fun to watch as the song is to hear. You’ve got to love Joel’s hair, glasses, tennis shoes…his whole outfit really. Take a look and then we’ll get back to insanity:
So, why is insanity on my mind? Because I thought I had awakened in 1984…not the year, the book. George Orwell’s book 1984, published in 1949, is a post-World War II dystopian view of the world. At various times it has been banned (even in the United States), hailed as one of the best books in the history of world literature, and even viewed as a prophecy for the world to come. Whatever you think of it, it is a fascinating story.
(Non sequitur alert!) In high school I was a member of the International Thespian Society. I credit our drama coach, Ms. Bacon, and the Society for giving me my love of theatre and the opportunity to break out of my introversion. Some now may regret that they did this for me, to be sure. It seems I got a lot of “heavy” roles in high school theatre: Dr. Chumley who has kindly Elwood P. Dowd hospitalized in Harvey; a righteous serial murderer in Dr. Cook’s Garden; and a brutal inquisitor, O’Brien, in 1984.
Look, ever since the 2016 election many people have been trying to draw a comparison with 1984. I’m not going there. All I’m saying is that the world portrayed by Orwell in his book was an insane place and it was allowed to become that way. It is a shocking story because it seems incomprehensible that it could ever happen in civil society.
The most insane aspect of the story had to do with the reframing of language to mean its opposite through “Newspeak.” That is “new speak” not “news speak,” just to be clear in this age of “fake news.” No where was this more clearly seen than in the names of the government’s four agencies:
- Ministry of Peace – which waged war and provided for the defense of the country;
- Ministry of Plenty – which dealt with the economic welfare of the country and its people – who were living with rationing and starvation;
- Ministry of Love – which assured law and order through torture and brainwashing; and
- Ministry of Truth – which melded news, entertainment, education, and art into propoganda.
There was no Ministry of Health in Orwell’s 1984. If there were, I wonder what it’s mandate would have been? Assuming Orwell used the same convention as he did in naming the other four ministries, it would not be about health at all. Quite the opposite.
Frankly, I awoke this morning wondering if our public health system isn’t devolving into an Orwellian Ministry of Health. I do not say this to offend the many friends, colleagues, and clients I have who work in public health. In fact, I may be saying aloud what many of them are already thinking.
Clemencia and I have worked in the public health sector many years. We believe in public health and know what it can do when it is allowed to work, especially in the midst of a health crisis. We admire and appreciate the efforts of Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, and Robert Redfield. As we have watched them during the torturous Coronavirus Task Force updates we can see they share our pain and agony. Despite their valiant efforts to communicate accurate public health information to us, I fear the devolution continues.
Why do I fear this? Because I believe we are seeing evidence of it in this moment. Think about it a moment. If public health had won the day:
- Would the whole country be rushing to re-open in the midst of a raging pandemic that is still growing?
- Would leaders be ignoring the wishes of 93% of Americans who say we should not be re-opening despite the economic hardships?
- Would states be re-opening when most have not done enough tests to keep their COVID-19 outbreaks under control?
- Would Stupid People be protesting wearing face masks?
- And, this just in, would the White House be shelving a detailed re-opening plan created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow re-opening while keeping people safe?
You may say, “Tom, you are crazy. The public health system has not devolved, it is just marginalized.” Well, whoopy ding fine! And marginalization is just a step toward devolution and devolution leads to irrelevance.
Marginalization or devolution, who is to blame? Some blame the CDC and the public health system itself. Others blame the Trump Administration. Still others blame Congress. In truth, there is a lot of blame to go around and all of us are really good at finger pointing, eh?
You know the problem with finger pointing, right? When we do point a finger at others, there are three fingers pointing back us (remember, the thumb is not a finger). We get so busy with finger pointing that we lose sight of our own responsibility.
Fingerpointing is like failing to understand why we have a headache all the while we repeatedly hit ourselves over the head.
If the devolution of our public health system is to stop, it is on us to step up and make a difference.
Or, you may be right. I may be crazy. Maybe it is just marginalization. But if I’m right and it is devolution, could I just be the lunatic you are looking for?
The View from Jeff
The Adventures of Chickenman
In Episode 22 Chickeman and the Maternal Marauder visit Clyde Crushman in and effor to reconcile the criminal with the Winged Warrior, who put him behind bars.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing you mask, keep physical distance, and especially keep away from Stupid People – because all are good public health practices.