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Priase the Lord…A Selfish Response to Tragedy

Priase the Lord...A Selfish Response to Tragedy

Priase the Lord…A Selfish Response to Tragedy

Leaving Alamogordo, New Mexico Friday morning, I set my gps for Joplin, Missouri and set my rain alarm app for push notifications. Our dog, Simin, developed a severe infection on his right-front leg requiring constant care throughout the day. Our plan for returning home was to spend around three nights on the road, stop off and see a few sights that we wanted to visit and arrive home on Monday. Those plans were shattered when Simin was diagnosed with this ugly infection. A friend’s daughter was kind enough to stay at the house to nurse Simin until we returned from our trip. But back to the point of this post.

Driving through Oklahoma City, the rain activity was picking up with storms tracking on either side of I-40. We drove on, with the bulk of the rain and storm activity either behind us or to either side. Pushing through Tulsa and on to Joplin, we arrived in Joplin tired and hungry. As we arrived the tornado warning sirens were blasting. We parked under the canopy to register but, rather than register, we were herded into the central hallway of the hotel and told that because we were under a tornado warning it would be best to stay in the hallway until the danger passed. They take tornados quite seriously in Joplin, Missouri, especially since the category five tornado that destroyed much of the town only a few years before. Once the danger passed we checked in, went next door to the hotel where there was a 24/7 Waffle House (hardly my first choice) for a light dinner and then back to the hotel where we went to bed.

From Joplin, we had about a 550 mile drive back home. With that in mind, I set my alarm for 6:00 AM so we could leave the hotel and be on the road by around 7:00 AM. At around 6:30 AM we were walking in the hallway toward the complimentary breakfast (which was, of course, included in the room rate) when a tiny, woman with a shock of tightly curled white hair greeted us. “Mornin’,” she said. “Quite a storm last night. But we’re okay…Praise the Lord.” That set me to ponder exactly what she meant when she so flippantly praised the lord. Was she praising the lord selfishly for her personal safety. If this were the case, then her praise is immoral, based only on her personal needs and desires and to hell with everyone else. If, on the other hand, she was praising the lord for the storms, including the tornado in Oklahoma City which killed at least five people according to the news that morning, then her praise for the lord was also immoral when one considers the fact that the storm was deadly as well as destructive to property. It begs the question, what did the people of Oklahoma City do to deserve this devine punishment of multiple tornados even as they were cleaning up from the Moore category five tornado which struck only a few days ago.

Either way, praise for survival when others lost their lives or praise for the occurrence of the tornado itself, the praiser is caught in a trap of immoral praise. Either the god to whom praise is offered is mean and capricious, offering a killer storm to some while saving others from wanton destruction or the praiser herself is acting from selfish relief that she wasn’t harmed by this god for whom she has apparently released her praise on purely selfish terms. It seems that one who insists on praising the lord does so without regard to the consequences suffered by others from the very act of destruction from which one is spared. This is an immoral, unethical act because it is self-centered, contained within the outcome of the self without regard for the outcome of the other. Shame on the woman in the hallway for her selfish response to the tragedy suffered by Oklahoma City residents.

A proper response to such tragic loss and one’s personal escape from the personal impact of that loss is not that of praise, for praise cuts a two-edged path. To the contrary, a proper response would be to consider one’s safety in terms of probability, a statistical calculation having little to do with one’s imaginary friend in the sky. When considering one’s own safety, one might also consider just what one is able to do for those who actually suffered devastating loss. In addition, one could consider one’s own contribution to the climate change that is bringing devastating weather events like category five tornados and super hurricanes to this small, rather insignificant blue ball orbiting a star which, in turn, orbits the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and work to reverse the harm to the planet we call home that we ourselves caused. Praise the Lord but Pass the Ammunition was a slogan that arose from the trenches of WWI. In the final analysis, it may be applicable here.  Go ahead and praise the lord if you must; in the end, it is what you personally do to influence the outcome that counts.

On a final note, an old Jew was praying by the Western Wall in Jerusalem, something he did for the past forty years of his life. He was asked what he was praying for to which he replied, “I pray for peace, for an end to hunger, for the Messiah to come.” The questioner then asked, “Does it help?” To which the old Jew replied, “It’s like talking to a wall.”

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Choosing Not to Declare is Not a Negative Option

Choosing Not to Declare is Not a Negative Option

Choosing Not to Declare is Not a Negative Option

How exactly does one describe belonging? Belonging to what exactly? How am I defined in relationship to the exteriority of life in general? The difficulty lies in the bare fact that the description of belonging is a constant requirement applied to me as I trudge through the lived experience we call life. Yesterday, for example, I was at the doctor’s office, a specialist I hadn’t seen in a year, and I had to complete some new paperwork. At the very top I was asked to declare my ethnicity and my race. Suddenly, I was once again faced with the decision of whether or not I declare nothing or declare something. The issue of race is problematic for me. While I look rather Caucasian, when my grandparents arrived in these United States as immigrants in the very late 19th century their race was shown as “Hebrew;” a choice no longer available to me but one in which I take some degree of pride.

Ethnicity is also a problem for me. What does ethnicity mean? There were only two choices given for the problematic of ethnicity: Hispanic or Non-Hispanic White. While offended by the two and only two choices for ethnicity I wondered why ethnicity is both connected to race and to geographic linguistic associations.

There were many more choices for race than for ethnicity, among them White, African-American, Other, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American each of which presents a specific problematic. Take African-American as an example. If that is a category of race then why isn’t there a category for European-Americans? Or, what about the plain fact that I was born in the United States making me a Native American but the term is reserved for the aboriginal people who resided in this country before there were any European-Americans bent on eliminating or assimilating the aboriginal people in the 19th and 20th centuries. Confusing to say the least. What about the “Other” category, which, by the way, is the one I choose if I decide to declare anything at all. It seems to me that we all should choose “Other” and if it is not available make a new category with a pen and a margin.

My sense of belonging is not compartmentalized; it does not belong in a check-box for the sake of statistical data sets that somehow tell the collectors nothing about the individual, rather, the data set collected tends to flatten by reducing individuals to categorical compartments that focus on the sameness of belonging to the arbitrary category claimed by the declaration of belonging through the simple act of checking a box on a form. The only category that is uniquely different is that of “Other” the category that is a catchall for those of us who are uncomfortable with the reductionist choices available on most forms.

“Other” declares that I do not belong to the arbitrary groupings set down as somehow normative. The “Other” classification lets me honor my “Hebrew” grandparents, my assimilated parents and my acculturated self, each of whom are able to be represented in the category that does not contain an arbitrary reduction to the same; it is a choice that does not flatten into sameness the check-box membership declared out of a sense of duty or obligation to comply with the requested information.

The option of not declaring is one that embraces the uniqueness of the self, my uniqueness in this world while also recognizing the absolute uniqueness of every other [human being]. Not choosing to reduce the self into a compartmentalized arbitrary category is a way of screaming softly that I do not belong to that which is a capricious choice, rather I am not allowing myself to choose because I cannot rationally choose any of the categories and remain an honest ethical human being. So I chose to not choose, to not declare either race or ethnicity because the choice, if made, is too complicated for a check-box on a form.

The Reduction of Self into the Same: Modernity Exposed

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Declaration of Independence

The Reduction of Self into the Same: Modernity Exposed

The Reduction of Self into the Same: Modernity Exposed

Drawing heavily on John Locke, Jefferson, in drafting the Declaration of Independence, states the case of modernity quite well, especially the sentiment that “all men are created equal.” Of course, when Jefferson referenced “all men” he didn’t include women, men without property, slaves, or others that were socially unequal to the propertied class in the then thirteen American colonies of Great Britain. No, “all men” referred to those men who owned property, land and houses, chattel including animals and slaves, and other evidence of substance. In the nearly 240 years since the Declaration of Independence was written, the very notion of equality in the United States expanded to include working males, women, and others originally excluded from the body politic. But, equality does not mean the same thing as justice or fairness. Simply to offer people the right to vote without providing them with an empathetic hand is one technical definition of equality but it hardly qualifies as fair or just. What modernity understands as equality is merely the concept of equal treatment under the law and even that idea is questionable as the United States disproportionately prosecutes and incarcerates people of color when compared to white people; this is, of course, only a single example of injustice under the flag of equality. Another arena where the failure of equality to render justice is in education. Urban schools are severely underfunded compared to suburban schools (rural schools also fare poorly) yet, in the current climate of assessment of educational progress through standards and testing, all children are measured against the same standards.

What the modern state does well is to embrace the rhetoric of embracing diversity through equality while creating definitions of belonging that reduces the individual, the self, into the same, the normative citizen. This reduction is carried out through a massive bureaucracy, one that is ubiquitous, responsible to the next level up the ladder according to Zygmunt Bauman, and is only concerned with efficiency and economy; doing the task quickly and for the least amount of money is an important bureaucratic goal. What this does, in practice, is to create rules for belonging and rules for effective exclusion from the body politic. While the rhetoric of embracing diversity is politically correct, the bureaucracy works hard to undermine this very concept by denying the uniqueness of each and every human being through the public policy of defining what is and is not normative. This practice is ethically bankrupt. By denying uniqueness, the bureaucratic apparatchik writes rules and regulations for each and every aspect of life resulting in alienation of body, mind and spirit except for those who are able to comply with the bureaucratically designed normative or desired compartmentalized compliance.

Let me provide an example with which I am most comfortable, that of k-12 public education. Since the early 1980s, coinciding with the publication of the Reagan administration’s publication of A Nation at Risk authored by Chester Finn of the Department of Education, a document bemoaning the failure of American public education mainly through a comparison of testing performance of American school children with the performance of children of other nations, the American political (and in some ways but hardly universally advocated by those of us who inhabit the community of professional educators) community and the right wing of American politics pushed for improvement on testing scores through the initiating of written standards to which teachers and their students will be held responsible. Berliner noted that the crisis in education was a Manufactured Crisis but his words fell on deaf ears mainly because those pushing for standards and single instrument assessment were ideologically committed to the idea of standards and testing, facts be damned. For the last 40 plus years, the standards and testing movement (funded largely by the testing and assessment industry) has evolved into a bureaucratic exercise in refining and rewriting standards and creating uniformity of testing so as to carry out the task of assessment in an efficient and economical manner. In fact, however, nothing has changed in the relative performance of children when measured by single instrument testing. Standards are written to embrace middle and upper class values thereby depriving those outside of the privileged classes access to fairness in education. I often told my students that the game of school is a middle class game played well by those who comply with the rules of the game while alienating those who are defined as outsiders by those writing the standards. While this brief argument is scant on details, it is nevertheless, one that I am developing elsewhere and will soon publish. For now, however, the argument is one of reducing each and every child in public education to the same, an act that embraces the idea of the commune, the group, the whole while eschewing the uniqueness of the individual child, his or her experiences in the world and crushing curiosity and creativity.

There are, however, particular cases in which it is efficacious to smooth data. Medicine is one such example where statistical analysis of competing procedures, drug therapies and other new treatment options makes complete sense because each and every variable other than the experimental variable can be controlled. In social science there are too many variables outside the control of the experimenter leaving the results of any experiment only suggestive and not generalizable. The application of scientific experimental methods to social sciences does not produce reliable results nor does it produce verifiable results in redundant experimental designs attempting to repeat the experimental results of others. Yet, sadly, through a profound misunderstanding of scientific experimentation and statistical results in social sciences, politicians continue to call for reliance on data driven teaching.

The very notion of the smoothing of society is the result of modernity’s rush to equality rather than to fairness and justice. This rush to equality is selfish at its core, providing a rational for acquisition and protection. Freedom is seen not as one in which justice prevails rather it is understood as one in which I must protect what is mine at all costs. Freedom under equality does not recognize the other, does everything it can to remove the other from the body politic sometimes overtly through incarceration and often through economic deprivation. In this sense the modern era is morally and ethically bankrupt.

Only by embracing the individual, the uniqueness of the other person, the contributions of that very uniqueness to the structure of society can modernity be left behind in the rubbish heap where it belongs. In the post-modern world, diversity is embraced, evidence trumps ideology and fairness and justice trumps equality. In a world where the self is responsible for the welfare of the other without reservation or expectation of reciprocation, the self is open to the uniqueness of the other, embracing the diversity of the other while waiting in proximate space for the call of the other to trigger responsibility. I often want to think of the posture of the self announcing its presence as response-ability, the ability to respond to the call of the other. While both responsibility and response-ability are pronounced the same, the distinction can only be seen in the written word, as letters on a page. The underlying force of the difference between the two may be thought of as responsibility being responsible ‘to’ the other whereas response-ability is understood as being response-able ‘for’ the other; a distinction of embrace the former being something akin to a smoothing of relationships into the same while the latter is one in which the absolute uniqueness of the other reminds the self of its own uniqueness allowing embrace to emerge.

 

Back Home After The Doctors Visit

Back Home After The Doctors Visit

Back Home After The Doctors Visit

Making an appointment with one’s urologist on his last day in this office was more interesting than I had ever imagined. For the first time in my memory I was buzzed back to the examining room on time. The efficiency of the staff was at its best. I first was visited by a resident who laid the groundwork for the ultimate visit from my urologist. Blood was drawn, fluid samples left and then some genuine time spent talking about how normal my recovery was up to this very moment. Absolutely nothing unexpected, unheard of, abnormal, or even slightly out of the ordinary. Good news once again. I’ll wait for the PSA results which are expected to be significantly lower than they were before this whole cancer thing began, maybe even undetectable but who knows. More than likely, given the time frame of four-weeks since surgery, a number slightly under 2 can be expected. Four weeks from now, however, a PSA of around 0.1 would be more like expectations. We’ll see. For the moment, however, everything looks quite positive.

As Guy Clark (a Texas singer-songwriter) once wrote,

Nothing lasts forever
Say the old men in the shipyards
Turning trees into shrimp-boats
Hell, I guess they ought to know.

Clark’s words have often been of great comfort to me. Change is a constant; randomness in this world is the grease that lubricates the entire machine. Accept that and the very idea of turning trees into shrimp-boats is something one must not only expect but accept as a rule of living in this world.

In my mind the universe is a very large random number generator, run by probabilities, predictable to a fault but not to the detail of any single individual actor in the play. If something can happen, if something is possible, no matter how small the probability, it will happen. You can absolutely count on that. It may not happen to you but if it is within the realm of possibility it will happen to someone or something. One cannot live in fear of the possible. That is a waste of one’s time and effort and gets you absolutely nowhere other than, just perhaps, causing significant stress, a factor which could actually trigger the unwanted. No, the only rational place to be emotionally is to be in this very moment, a time in which we deposit traces of an existential life and think about our own potential future by creating goals, hopes, and dreams.

Wasting time on the what could be, the what might be, the otherwise than what is wanted, the worst possible outcome without accepting what could be, what might be, the otherwise that what we want, or the worst possible outcome opens the door to negative energy and outcomes to occur. By accepting the worst, the otherwise, the could be, the door is open for us to work positively toward a more positive outcome.

Let me give you an example. After a radical resection of the prostate, even with nerve saving techniques and the steadiest of surgical hands, it is quite likely that one will suffer from some form of urinary incontinence. I know this for an absolute fact. The truth is that it is possible for this condition to be permanent, the worst possible outcome I can think of; the otherwise of desired outcomes. That being said, if this were true in my case, that the worst outcome possible were to occur I would not allow that to interfere with my zest for living. I have accepted that possibility. It would be something I would simply have to get used to. But I am doing everything humanly possible to assure that this outcome doesn’t occur. I do pelvic floor exercises on a regular basis. I left the urology clinic with a new, quite difficult, pelvic floor exercise that I do twice a day, morning and evening. This combination is expected to produce results sometime in the next 11 months, yes 11 months; I have already experienced some positive signs from just doing the pelvic exercises regularly.

So there you have it, accept the worst, work toward the best; it is a combination guaranteed to provide one with a serenity beyond one’s wildest dreams.

On Suffering

All that is past and that is future draws near to the present. Time shrinks, the line between the eternities disappears, only the moment lives and the moment is eternity.
Martin Buber,  Hasidim and Modern Man

Mask by Carl Milles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suffering Mask by Carl Milles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Existentialists find life itself absurd, that suffering, that feeling of dread and woe, is the hook upon which absurdity hangs. Through suffering one comes to the very profound conclusion that even in an absurd life one must still live a life of responsibility; to behave in an ethical and moral manner toward one’s fellow man. Briefly, assuming responsibility for one’s actions toward the other.

I would like to take a different approach to the very notion of suffering, one that centers around choice and action. Let me start with the very idea that suffering is nothing more that an overload of external (or internal) datum experienced as a turning inward to the exclusion of the rest of the world. An escape from the real into the depths of despair  In this sense, when faced with such an overload of phenomenological sensations one is, in reality, faced with a choice; turn inward, thereby derailing one’s ethical compass or embracing the sensations yet projecting those sensations outwardly as an empathy for the suffering of the other. Self pity or empathy are the choices when facing potential suffering in one’s life. Nothing lies in between.

Suffering is born of projection into the future emboldened by fear that is coupled with a profound regret of the past. When one complains of pain, real or imagined, or hurt, or loss, or any other thing one is truly embracing the experience of self-pity and seeking attention from others. “Oh woe is me,” is really a cry for sympathy, a cry for understanding of those fears and for the guilt of the past, whether deserved or not.

So, with this in mind, I could ask about my cancer, “Why me?” But I am savvy enough to understand that whenever one asks a “why” question the only reasonable response is. “Because!” As I understand the universe we live in , the only place we have direct knowledge of, pretty much everything is based on probabilities. Once born, for example, the only outcome of life is not life or death. When not life occurs, however, is a matter of probabilities (if this were not the case all life insurance companies would necessarily go broke because of the inability to create reasonable actuarial tables). I like, then, to think of the universe as a random number generator complying with the mathematical laws of probability. The simple fact is, that I got cancer because the probability meter pointed toward me. It is as simple as that. I cannot dwell in the past trying to think about why or what I could or should have done differently to prevent this disease. If I did, I would be suffering needlessly; needless suffering is self-defeating because it only turns one more deeply inward leaving little room for escape. I also cannot project into the future a myriad of possibilities that hinge on fear and lack of knowledge for that is also self-defeating. I must, therefore, choose to live in this very moment.

Learning to live in this very moment is a difficult journey. For me two things are required. First, I make time for sitting quietly every day to clear my mind of wandering thoughts and just sit comfortably listening to the silence of the universe. Sometimes I chant a repetitive OM sound over and over until my brain hears nothing but my own breathing, while other times, just sitting quietly will do. Secondly, learning to let go of those things I cannot control, to not think about those things where I have no dog in the fight, where I have no interest whatsoever in reasons for or outcomes of, to accept the absolute worst outcome of those things that absolutely effect me, of things for which I have some level of control and then work for a better outcome; one might call that acceptance; I prefer to think of it as living in this very moment.

I cannot control the absolute fact that I have prostate cancer nor can I control whether or not it is metastatic at this very moment. I can, however, control what I will do about it when presented with choices for treatment. As readers know, I have opted for surgical removal of the prostate two days from now. Surgery and, then, pathologists will then determine what the next options will be. I have no reason to project beyond the surgical procedure and all I can do about that is anticipate the operation itself. The closer I stay to living in this very moment, the less I think about the procedure.

At the same time, I have accepted the worst possible outcome of the consequences of this disease; death. By acceptance I mean to eschew denial, recognizing that this is only a possibility among an finite number of possibilities but I refuse to deny that it is a very real possibility. In terms of probability I currently have a 15% possibility of dying in the next ten years from this disease (a bit more than a 5 to 1 chance of death). Should the biopsy of my lymph nodes prove positive the probability will increase to around 2 to 1, a near coin flip.

Yet, what do I have to complain about? Absolutely nothing! I am grateful for all those little things that make life worth living to its fullest up to and including this disease. Why, in other words, should I spend my time in unproductive suffering? I think the answer to those questions is that I should not. Rather than suffer, I choose to continue to live, to live for rather than to live with this disease, to live for rather than live with others. In short, I choose to be present in the world at the very moment of eternity contained within the immeasurably brief time represented by this very moment rather than to sink into the unproductive world of suffering. It just isn’t worth it!

Something About Statistics and Cancer

English: A photo of Stephen Jay Gould, by Kath...

English: A photo of Stephen Jay Gould, by Kathy Chapman online. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am something of a statistician, having endured five semesters of post graduate statistics and research methodology classes while working on my doctorate.  As part of that education I read an article by Stephen J. Gould discussing mortality statistics and cancer survival.  Wikipedia summarizes the contents and force of that article as follows:

In July 1982, Gould was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer affecting the abdominal lining and frequently found in people who have been exposed to asbestos. After a difficult two-year recovery, Gould published a column for Discover magazine, entitled, “The Median Isn’t the Message”, which discusses his reaction to discovering that mesothelioma patients had a median lifespan of only eight months after diagnosis. He then describes the true significance behind this number, and his relief upon realizing that statistical averages are just useful abstractions, and do not encompass the full range of variation.

The median is the halfway point, which means that 50% of patients will die before eight months, but the other half will live longer, potentially much longer. He then needed to determine where his personal characteristics placed him within this range. Considering that the cancer was detected early, the fact he was young, optimistic, and had the best treatments available, Gould figured that he should be in the favorable half of the upper statistical range. After an experimental treatment of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, Gould made a full recovery, and his column became a source of comfort for many cancer patients.

The whole point of Gould’s position is that the median, which in the case of cancer is highly skewed to the left due to the fact that many cancers are not discovered early making the overall statistic biased toward terminal patients discovered in the late stages of the cancer, as the proper statistic, rather than the mean or average, is a very powerful statistic.  Mortality statistics begin with the day of diagnosis, not the time of the onset of disease.  So my diagnosis places me in Stage 1, while that could have been, and may still be, Stage 4, depending on the presence of cancer cells outside of my prostate.  If, in fact, I am truly in Stage 1 then my chances for survival of this particular cancer are far greater than if I fall into Stage 4.  Because mortality statistically begins at the time of diagnosis, there is a significant bias toward the later stages of cancer where treatment is often unsuccessful.

Taken in total as I look at the mortality statistics and my own adenocarcinoma of the prostate, I can take some comfort in the fact that the cancer was discovered quite early and I am relatively healthy for a 69 year old male.  With the sole exception of some significant osteoarthritis and well controlled atrial fibrillation, my health is quite good.  The fact that scans do not indicate any metastasis is also a good sign; the fact that the CAT scan is inconclusive around the groin area muddies those waters a bit but a resection of the lymph nodes around my prostate will either rule out or confirm a metastatic migration of the cancer. Only time will tell if the Stage P1c is a correct stage diagnosis.

As things stand at this very moment, I have a very good statistical probability for long term survival.  In probabilities, however, it is black letter that if something can happen it will.  As an example of probability I can relate the time there were ten people left in a poker tournament at Caesar’s Palace and the last nine players would get paid.  I had three nines after the flop with two in the hole at a table of 5 players.  I went all in, expecting to collect the chips in the pot without opposition.  Everyone folded except one player who had three-3s.  I was a 99% favorite to win that pot and double up almost assuring that I would be in the final nine.  My opponent had only one card in the deck, the final 3, to win the hand unless I got the final 9.  The very next card to come on the turn was that 3, the 1% possibility happened and I lost the hand and was knocked out of the tournament.  Probability is good when it is in your favor but it is never a sure thing.

Science and Postmodern Ethical Response

I [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia CommonsScience depersonalizes the individual; it addresses the exterior as a statistical body without regard to the individual human being.  In this sense science is impersonal, detached and objectivist.  Medical science speaks in terms of cure rates, mortality statistics and efficacy of treatment options all based on access to controlled experimental data and other statistics gathered through data collection in the field.  The goal of medicine, it appears, is to reach optimal cure rates with the fewest side effects based on a large and robust data set.

This does not mean that there are not going to be side effects of any treatment option; in fact they occur in x patients per 100 treated.  If the statistics call for a 10% possibility of any given side effect of treatment then 10 out of 100 patients treated will absolutely obtain the side effect in question.  It is a matter of numbers and a random luck of the draw that determines whether or not a side effect will occur.

The human being, the patient, is objectified into a group of patients for which treatment is offered.  The patient is a statistic, one that will comply with a normal range of expected results.  It is a matter of simply waiting to see which place on the bell curve any individual falls as treatment is administered.  No matter that a doctor will say, “We treat patients, not statistics,” they cannot escape the fact that the options offered are based on the statistical efficacy of the selected treatment.

All this means is that medicine is a-ethical.  It does not reach the standard of postmodern ethical obligations because it fails the test of humanizing the patient being treated.  In around four weeks, for example, I will undergo a robotic resection and removal of my prostate.  I will lay on a table with a robotic machine at my feet and my surgeon sitting at a control console somewhere in the operating room where he will control the robot as it performs the surgery.  In fact, the surgeon needn’t be in the room at all; he could be in Amsterdam or Melbourne and still perform the surgery if his console was linked to the robotic machine at my feet.   This places the surgeon two steps removed from the patient.  The surgeon need not look at the patient, only at the camera view of the insides of the patient, in order to perform the necessary steps of the operation.  The patient is objectified, turned into a piece of meat, and in doing so, is no more than a statistical probability.

Postmodern ethical relationships require a face-to-face responsibility (being responsible for the other even to the extent of being responsible for the responsibility of the other) which, in turn, may or may not elicit an ethical response.  The responsibility of the self is one that is given without reservations or expectations and once given, once announced, creates a state of proximity or waiting that is only interrupted by the commanding voice of the other.  While, entering the operating room, I may present myself as an ethical human being, what I am met with is a cold, sterile (in every sense of the word) environment filled with masked men and women, beeping machines and bright lights.  The room itself is uninviting and the people around me are cogs in the surgical procedure, each one with a professional task to perform; each one following a pre-determined procedure designed to depersonalize the procedure itself.

The operating room is far removed from the postmodern ethical stance.  But, it must be that way because if it were to somehow become a subjective space where ethical commands can be acted upon by individuals involved, there most certainly would be chaos; the last thing one might want in a surgical stage.

In the final analysis, it is clear that some things are best seen from an objectivist stance while other things must follow a subjectivist approach.  They are not mutually exclusive.  Each has a place and each must work within the boundaries acceptable for the practice.  So I will be objectified as I enter the surgical suite, put to sleep and violently operated on.  The ethics begin when I wake from the procedure and present myself to the nurses that will care for me during my hospital stay.  I’m fine with that!

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