There is an adage modern doctors live by that encapsulates what their real role is in the holistic process of healing — Do no harm first. The human body is a wondrous but complex system. We never quite known what is going on in the way its billions of component parts interact. Yet many modern medical practices have reduced diagnosis and treatment of many ailments to formulaic exercises — and propagated the delusion that they have nailed down solid causal relationships between theory and effect.
Doctors are quick to diagnose “difficult” children as suffering from, say, “attention deficit disorder” and prescribe pills that suppress or enhance one or the other of one or a number of chemicals that interact within the brain and collectively contribute to governing brain function. The bodies of even the most physically-fit adults are engulfed by large doses of antibiotics at the first sign of infection, never mind that healthy immune systems eventually learn how to combat common bacterial and viral infections on their own.
Considering the complexity of the brain and the human anatomy overall, many such practices and approaches amount to intervention in systems we hardly know much about by applying measures that were developed within a very narrow range of design parameters.
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What did we get out of an overzealous medical practice that is quick to intervene in systems honed by millions of years of evolution? An entire generation of medicated and allergic people. We also get an astoundingly wealthy pharmaceutical industry that makes its money from kids growing up popping pills to “cure” bad behaviour and minor injuries.
You then start to wonder about all these “initiatives” to change stuff in the Philippines and the hubris with which their instigators proclaim expected “results”. You have well-intentioned “social media practitioners” presuming to govern — no, control — election campaigns. We see “advocacies” that seek to change entire systems of government. We’ve enacted laws that stipulate intentions to make the sex lives of Filipino women “more satisfying.”
What “results” do we expect out of all these lofty projects? A “smarter” vote? More prosperous Filipinos? More “empowered” women? But of course. Who wouldn’t want a smarter, wealthier, and happier country after all?
The point these “activists” seem to miss is in the ironically simple truth that their fellow charlatans in the consulting industry also profess to their clients — that everyone is ultimately personally reponsible for their own smarts, their own wealth, and their own happiness. As big an industry as pharmaceuticals is the self-help industry where “life coaches” encourage their adherents to “take control” of their lives, where caricatures of drill seargeants bark orders at fitness nuts enrolled in weekend “boot camps”, where investment “gurus” educate ordinary folk on the merits of betting their life savings on real estate.
Hawking “change” to suckers who, left to their devices, are blind to obvious solutions to their personal woes sitting right under their noses has always been a profitable underaking. That line of work trades on people’s deeply-ingrained feelings of inadequacy and fear of randomness inherent to living in a real world where natural and man-made disasters can strike anytime without warning and where the inherently incapable in most occasions get the smallest pieces of the pie.
The illusion being propagated here is that more intervention is necessarily good. These “thought leaders” forget that democracy, free markets, and life itself are all vastly complex self-correcting systems that sort themselves out eventually. When we apply a narrowly-thought-out set of principles within a small supposedly clearly-understood aspect of these vast systems to implement “solutions”, we are never quite sure what unintended consequences may strike outside of the scope of the theoretical models we used to develop said “solutions”.
It is quite ironic that the word “freedom” is a word that is in abundant overuse in the rhetoric of the vacuous “movements” and “initiatives” that drive the Philippine national “debate”. The only change we really need to see in a society whose people already enjoy the power to choose their leaders is a change in thinking — so that it is not the droll, irrelevant, and unimaginative ideas that rule Filipinos’ minds but the ones that have been critically evaluated and rigorously scrutinised.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.