Theodore Dalrymple in Second Opinion on whether doctors should strike:
When we were [medical] students, a professor of public health once told us that the death rate declined whenever or wherever doctors went on strike. This was an even stronger argument, he implied, than the purely ethical one against doctors resorting to such action, or inaction. No profession should lightly expose its uselessness to the public gaze.
You are probably going to struggle to get public opinion on your side if your main gripe is that you’re going to have to work three years longer to get your £68,000-a-year pension. We do need doctors, of course, but then we also need people to empty the bins, deliver our letters and put out the fires in burning buildings. (Authors and publishers, not so much, sadly.)
As luck would have it I shall be out of the country on The Day, but I’ll be checking the news bulletins and Twitter feeds for reports of patients rioting in the streets because they’ll have to wait an extra day to see a dermatologist to secure regular supplies of E45 for life. As if. They’ve waited months already, what’s another day? Considering that it’s taken forty years to organise a strike, we could at least have done it properly. Taken a week off, barricaded the hospital doorways, let the homeopaths, witch doctors, nutritionists and crystal healers have the healthcare arena to themselves for a few days to see how patients got on without us…. (W)e’re worth every bloody penny we get… You didn’t spend long summer evenings poring over school work while everyone else was out on the town, long nights trolling up and down hospital corridors from ward to ward while all your mates were out clubbing and every other bloody weekend on call handling ‘urgent’ calls about snotty nosed toddlers with earache, just so that, when the time came to show a little muscle, you cowered in your consulting room from 8am to 6.30pm surrounded by sodding paperwork. Burn the sodding paperwork… (a)nd dance naked around the flames… Consider all the sore throats, tickly coughs, hay fever eyes and heartsinks moaning about their funny turns that you’ve missed hearing about in arse-aching detail. And for that fleeting moment, allow yourselves to think, Bollocks to ’em.
Anyway, as a Dalrymple freebie, here’s the rest of that particular mini-chapter from Second Opinion:
Crossing Belgium recently, at a time when it had had no government for several weeks, I could not help but notice that it looked very much the same as when it did have a government. Obviously the crisis would have to be resolved sooner or later because otherwise people would realise the redundancy of the political class.
According to one Belgian I met, the only real function of the latter is to vote a budget so that the bureaucrats got paid. For without a budget, how could their salaries and their numbers ever increase?
Of course, politicians are not the only flies in the ointment of modern society. There is the small problem of the people, too: they are constantly doing the most terrible things to one another and nobody seems able to stop them, not that anyone tries very hard. A Belgian journalist told me that his nephew aged 15 had recently been stabbed in the throat by two young Ukrainian asylum-seekers (presumably they were fleeing democracy). It happened on his first day back at school and for some days he hovered between life and death.
At first, the Belgian newspapers expressed horror in a perfectly normal and straightforward way, but the journalist knew that it wouldn’t last in what is, after all, one of the most politically-correct countries in the world. First a TV station was criticised for having shown the blood on the pavement where the boy was stabbed: we like our stabbings bloodless, it seems, like the murders in the detective stories of the golden age. Then some criminologists got going.
Two from the faculty of law of the Free University of Brussels denounced the hysteria. It made scapegoats of the perpetrators, they said, and (horror of horrors) ‘created a fundamental dichotomy between them and us’.
According to the criminologists, ‘the description of the victim as “completely innocent” strengthens the polarisation between perpetrator and victim’. At the very least, the victim must have been guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, to quote a British police spokesman deputed to comment in public on a particularly horrible attack on a passer-by. If you insist on being in the wrong place at the wrong time, what else can you expect?
The title of the article in which the criminologists wrote was ‘Stabbing in the Mirror’, that is to say, look in the mirror and you will see someone who goes round stabbing 15-year-old boys in the throat. We are all innocent because we are all guilty – or is it the other way round? Anyway, it doesn’t seem to leave much scope for faculties of law.
The criminologists end with a quasi-religious peroration in the imperative mood. ‘We must put our hands on our hearts and have this existential learning process.’
Next time a mugger has his knife at your throat, remind him that existence precedes essence. If that doesn’t stop him in his tracks, nothing will.