What are you going to do about it?

I have a friend who works in the field of healthcare, and we were talking about corruption in the medical and pharmaceutical industries – the kind that leads to patients getting misdiagnosed and mistreated. I had shared something I had written with him, and as he is also a renowned author, I asked for his opinion on the piece… which was in particular also quite critical of healthcare providers in his particular niche (though it was not critical of him personally).

He remarked that it was very well written and convincing. I wondered and asked whether he also felt that my criticism of his professional colleagues was warranted. He noted that his profession could hardly be criticised, and agreed that this bad situation is rather the result of a corrupt system. Then he asked me what I intend to do about it.

I was somewhat taken aback, because I feel I am already doing quite a lot. I quite oftenly speak publicly on this and related topics, I probably write even more on them, and then I am also working to correct what I consider to be one of the primary root causes of these very significant, very fundamental problems in the healthcare industry.

In order to explain what I mean, I need to backtrack… more than a decade. Another one of my friends has done a lot of medical research, has quite advanced academic degrees and is also the director of a hospital. (I have many friends who work in healthcare, in part because I spent a large portion of my adult life living very close to a quite well-known medical school) Once in a discussion with many of his colleagues – plus me – I heard him say that the vast majority (perhaps something like 80%) of medical conditions are a matter of psychology, or at least that they are so strongly influenced by the patient’s psychological state, that it is essentially a matter of psychology. This statement strongly influenced my thinking then, and since then I have also not heard of anything that might contradict the hypothesis. Nonetheless, I don’t know to what degree it is an accepted medical theory.

On the contrary, my close affiliations with the healthcare industry – whether as a patient or as a support group leader or even simply many close connections to people affected by a wide variety of conditions – strengthen my belief in this very insightful observation. Another „academic“ friend of mine has quite often mentioned Rudolf Virchow in this vein, maintaining that it was Virchow who first recognized that many illnesses are … something like: socially constructed.

This is no wonder to me. For years now, I have increasingly become aware that perhaps one of the greatest plagues humanity suffers is the way some humans behave with respect to their fellow humans – to put it succintly, many (if not even most) behave abominably. One example of how such abominable behavior plays out „in real life“ is what is often referred to as „bullying“ (or a similar phenomenon known in Europe as „mobbing“). My gut feeling is that whereas bullying refers to demeaning a person in general, mobbing is more about a concerted „social“ effort to „be negative“ towards a person. What I find particularly odd is how the healthcare industry appears to have no problem whatsoever with portraying the victims of such behavior as the people who are ill, sick, who apparently need to swallow pills or whatever. The same holds for many other illnesses considered to be psychological in nature, such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, etc.

Now let me get back to my discussion I had the other day – and my answer to the question: „what am I going to do about it?“ After being taken aback, something clicked in my head and I replied: The problem is, really, that we measure the value of people using only one statistic: money (see also „the vast majority of people have been drilled with truisms such as the notion that money is a reliable metric of value“). Today, if you have a lot of money, then you are usually considered successful. Likewise, if you have little or no money, you are usually considered a failure. What is more: The validity of many statements (e.g., what is written on the front page of the New York Times) is often considered to be supported by the money „leading“ companies contribute (i.e. as advertisements) in order to show up in support of such headlines (cf. also the definition of „retard media“). The meaninglessness of brand names is very closely related to the anonymity of money as a unit of value, as a technology for transferring value without the friction of any sentiments whatsoever. Ideally, you can easily use „cold hard cash“ to pay for a product or service without leaving even the slighest trace of your name, your identity, or your affilation with anyone or anything on Earth. Your cash bills may contribute to slavery, exploitation, global warming or any other issue on a long laundry list of social diseases… without leaving any fingerprint, footprint, or whatever. Money enables you to be so careless that you are basically free to have no cares at all.

This care-free power of money is probably why many people consider it to be the ultimate measure of success. I, on the other hand, see in money nothing but anonymous power – like that of a king with no face. Money is actually no more capable of transmitting what you care about than a robot is capable of feeling what you feel.

If you want to feel – no, if you want to be attached to something you care about, in other words if you want to engage in a relationship with that thing or person, then you shouldn’t use money to do that. Money leaves no trace. You want to create a bond. You need to sign, your signature needs to be part and parcel of your care, your values, your engagement, your actions and you yourself. You must use an „alternative currency“.

The currency you use must be meaningful, the antithesis of a meaningless brand name. Meaning is also socially constructed. You can heal just as well as you can hurt. What are you going to do?