"Politicians are all the same, it doesn’t matter who you vote for."
“Don’t vote, it just encourages them.”
“The pharmaceutical industry is so messed up, I only do alternative medicine these days.”
“I rely on homeopathy, non of that dodgy pharmaceutical stuff.”
To my middle-class, healthy, white friends who post this shit on facebook:
So, important institutions are at risk and are being compromised and your solution is to give up and let it all fall apart?
Why can you choose this solution, why can you choose to give the finger to both democracy and to medicine? Because you’re priviliged, most likely.
Because to you, it doesn’t matter which party comes to power, because your life will likely stay the same. To you it doesn’t matter if we have a racist party in parliament, because you’re part of a priviliged group of white people. To you it doesn’t matter if the parties speak for or against austerity because you don’t have to rely on the institutions of the state to get through your life. To you it doesn’t matter if one party will persecute immigrants because you are not one of them. To you it doesn’t matter that education becomes privatised because you’ll find a way to provide for your childrens education anyway, or you plan not to have any and you do not care about the welfare of society as a whole.
And to you, it doesn’t matter if the clinical research is screwed up, because you don’t have a chronic disease and neither does anyone close to you. You don’t have to bother your brain with thoughts of trial data going missing or researchers being biased because for you, all you need is a cup of green tea and a sandwich and your morning is complete, as opposed to the millions of people who rely on medicines to even be able to function, and to whom these things are matters of life and death. It doesn’t matter to you that homeopathic remedies have never been proven to be more effective than placebo because your ailments have never been crippling in the first place. You don’t have to read the books, lobby for change, visit your GP or your specialist doctor regularly or be treated for life threatening conditions. You are priviliged enough to grab some advice from some blog online and go on a banana detox and chew some kale and think that somehow that could work for everyone. Nothing bad about kale or a good diet, but wake the fuck up, not everyone’s choice is that simple.
Many people depend on medical science for their lives, and if we, who don’t or at least don’t yet, take our eyes off the ball, and sit on our priviliged thrones of alternatives remedies that haven’t even been proven to work, and tut at the medical science, and won’t apply ourselves, and won’t try to fix what’s wrong with the pharmaceutical industry, we’re telling millions of sick people that they’re on their own. They are stuck in a fucked up situation, with fucked up corporations, fucking with their lives, and we, who have the privilige not to bother about whether drug A or drug B will save our life, sit there with a mug of green tea and preach about the wonders of the alternative.
It’s not an alternative for everyone.
And we, who are able to work, who are part of the priviliged groups, who won’t be struck down unto the ground by austerity policies and to whom it doesn’t much matter in our day to day lives whether party A or party B wins, we are telling the people less priviliged than us, less empowered, less able to work, less well off, that they’re on their own. That we won’t vote for parties that make a REAL difference in their lives and that we won’t stand against racism, sexism, classism, or any other oppressive force, because this particular oppression doesn’t apply to us. We can choose not voting and being flippant about it.
It’s not a choice for everyone.
So, can we stop for a minute and think about the other people around us? The people who need us, all of us, to lobby for a better health care and for better medical science and research and for better institutions and for better democratic accountability and for better justice systems and for better care, and stop lifting our hands out of the democratic processes that include all of us and leave the heavy lifting to the oppressed, the sick, the poor and the one’s not priviliged enough to turn away from democracy or science based medicine?
Something that has bothered me to no end recently is the demise of a proper argument. I don’t mean like a proper shout-match with your loved ones, I mean like a grounded, bound-in-some-form-of-scientific-or-logical-or-empirical-or-academic-or-such, informed and worthwhile argument. Let me give you some examples: “Check your priviligies!” “If you only knew what I know….” “I don’t agree.” “Well, you’re just part of big pharma/the establishment/the brainwashed/the reptiles that rule the world behind closed doors.”
1. “Check your privileges!”. Although this is a fully valid argument in what it implies and is based on (that privileged people/s often take things for granted, only see their view of the world, deny other people a world view of their own, are accidentally racist/sexist/-ist), but just countering a thought-through, valid and balanced argument with shouting “check your privilege” just because the person delivering it happens to be a man/white/middleclass/etc, is not going to get anywhere and is just plain counter productive. If you think someone’s opinion is based in the fact that they are in a privileged position in society, say that! Explain why this specific argument or opinion is biased due to these circumstances. Don’t shout someone down before you’ve had a chance to actually take in their point of view, because you might miss something important that actually might help in the grand scheme of things, even if it comes from someone structurally more powerful or in a “better” position than you or those you are trying to “protect”.
2. “If you only knew what I know…” Okay, so tell me what you know. Tell me all this vast knowledge that you have aquired. No? Why not? Firstly, this type of argumentation is not going to lead to a fruitful discussion, because if one side harbours some hidden information that apparently you are either too fragile, too stupid or too far gone into the “dark side” to be given access to, then the whole thing just grinds to a halt. I cannot counter a hidden piece of information that you claim to have. And you cannot have a productive discussion if you do not put your cards on the table. And if you are using this little piece of drama to cover up that your cards are low, your argumentation fairly empty and that most of the things that you “know that you know” are coming from obscure or dodgy sources (like some guy ranting on his blog or some girl whispering beer-soaked truths to you in a pub toilet), then just bow out. Don’t cover up your ignorence with the claim to secret information.
3. “I don’t agree.” Well, good for you. Can I go now? If you don’t agree, tell me WHY. Give me sources or valid arguments or SOMETHING. If I give you my point of view, based at least to some extent on things that I have read or heard, at least have the decency to, if you are going to comment on my rant, to tell me why you don’t agree. This is not “I like this chocolate cake” “I don’t agree”. There are things you can disagree on, based on personal preferences. There are other things that you plainly cannot just “disagree” on because you feel like it. If I go through the trouble of venting my concerns and you go through the trouble of venting your opinion on those very concerns, please, at least have the decency to tell me the basis of your disagreement. Unless it’s about chococlate cake, of course, then you are free to freely disagree.
4. “Well, you’re just part of big pharma/the establishment…….” Okay, this might not be something that I have encountered myself, but it infuriates me nontheless. It’s, in many ways, just an extention of “I don’t agree” or often a combination of “If you only knew…” and “I don’t agree” and, often, “check your privilege!”. I have seen countless valid argumentations, valid sources, valid and logical conclusions, being swept aside by conspiratiorial people who just don’t want to agree but have no basis not to. So they prefer to lump the person into a group that is by default evil and therefore the arguments can be safely dismissed and ignored. Just because you stick a label on someone, doesn’t make their argument less valid. Stop obsessing about these grand schemes and just listen to what people have to say.This comes mostly into play, from what I have seen recently, with regards to science and medical science more than any other. Any arguments that point out the lack of scientific evidence for the link between MMR-vaccination and autism for instance is immidiately shut down as being “big pharma”, no matter how independent, valid or well made the studies are. Same thing for critique of a lot of alternative therapies (my favourite-least-favourite may be homeopathy). It pisses me off and it tries to boil science down to some idea that it is performed by shady CIA men with hidden agendas. Of COURSE there are truth to the claim that “big pharma” are often utterly disgusting in their methods, that their science isn’t always as solid as it should be based on their subsequent actions, that they’re often money grabbing scumbags, that medicine that harms more than it helps is sometimes released onto an unsuspecting public and then slow to be retracted (I would say Thalidomide might be an epitome of this), but it does not make everyone who is in science a shoddy individual. It does not ruin the scientific methods, when performed correctly and carefully. And scientific experiments, whether in the natural sciences or in the social ones, are published with all the methodology and the conclusions for everyone to see. It is not written in ancient greek and it does not require magical glasses to be viewed. It’s there. If you have a problem with methodology, say so. If you have a problem with the funding, say so. If you have a problem with the conclusions others draw from the study or studies, say so. Don’t just dismiss, it does not lead anywhere.
Okay, rant over.