Survival Directive

So individuals, organizations, professions, even ideologies such as religions will take on what appears and functions as a “survival directive.” It will do what it needs to do to survive, similar to the traits of a single biological organism.

Let’s use the medical profession for an example: The medical field is a very complex “entity” consisting of hospitals, doctors, nurses, administrators, drug companies, insurance companies, lobbyists, interns, and the guy who fixes the elevator. An exhaustive list of organizations, companies and individuals rely on the medical industry for their health and financial prosperity…even their survival.

Now what would happen in a perfect world, is that we would eventually overcome most or all disease and the medical industry would shrink down to a “skeleton crew.” There wouldn’t be any cancer, AIDS, malaria, or MS and Aunt Betty wouldn’t offer you a quarter to rub her bunions because she would’ve taken the latest miracle drug, “Bunions Away!” There would still be injuries, but we would have tools and techniques, such as nano-technology, to quickly repair these injuries.

When we step back, however, and look at the ramifications of such a utopian situation, we quickly see that there requires a “leap.” Millions of people would need new jobs, new purpose. Many would face financial hardship, at first…maybe even permanently. Many would lose “cushy” lifestyles, McMansions in the Hamptons, fancy cars, $200 lunches and 7 figure investment accounts. These things are hard to give up, right or wrong. We can judge all we want, but if we had 9 million dollars in the bank, a vacation home on the coast of Southern France, 3 children in Harvard and a $900,000 mortgage (or two!), how willingly would we give that up in exchange for all diseases to be cured next week? Next month? Or even in five to ten years? I think a little self honesty would give us some unpleasant answers.

So of course, the survival directive of the “entity” is really the cumulative survival directive of “us.” Our unwillingness to step into the unknown … to give up our luxury now for a better world tomorrow. So at this point, you might be asking, “Ken, what are you saying? Are you suggesting that the medical establishment deliberately puts off finding cures to terrible, life ending, crippling diseases so doctors can keep their beach houses and $500 bottles of Chateau La Fite?” I’m saying just that. Except I’m using the word “we” and not “them.” I say we, because in truth, there is no “us and them,” there is only “us.” Dividing ourselves into “us and them” is just a tactic to make it seem (to ourselves) like we’re powerless, innocent victims who are being “duped” and taken advantage of, when the truth is that we are all in this together, co creating everything that we see with our collective choices and actions (or inaction).

So let’s assume that the premise I’m laying out here has an element of truth. What sort of survival tactics might this “entity” called the “medical establishment” utilize to keep itself alive and well, steam rolling along, creating big shiny cancer centers and hospital income statements safely in the black? I think the key answer is “speed.” In my humble opinion, I would say that the medical establishment would need to make visible progress, curing a disease here, increasing the five year survival rate there, and otherwise announcing the odd breakthrough or two, in order to keep itself credible and public support coming in. There would need to be the fear factor: We would need something to be “afraid of” that only the medical establishment could protect us from. This would probably be the most effective tool. So visible (albeit slow) progress, coupled with a good dose of “oh my gosh, what would we do without you,” would go a long way toward keeping this best alive.

The Cure: So now that I’ve spent all this time, energy and ink laying out the problem, how about a solution? I’m not educated or ambitious enough to give specifics, but I think I intuitively know the “core” answer. I’ve always been big on “core answers.” The final, sponsoring, underlying truth that makes all other thoughts, words and deeds nothing more than “busy work.” I think this is why I’ve never been very interested in learning about politics. It’s not that it’s all that complex, it’s just that most core truths are ignored, (take care of our fellow men, full disclosure, etc.) which immediately adds unnecessary layers of complexity. But I digress …

So the “cure” in this instance would be that the medical establishment, and any other establishment where it’s ongoing success runs counter to it’s underlying mission, would be “planned obsolescence.” That’s right; cancer centers would be designed as cheaply as possible, or designed in such a way that they would easily be re purposed because it’s anticipated that a cure for cancer is “right around the corner,” and the building will then be obsolete. Doctors would save a third of their income and never set foot on a golf course because they would know that someday soon, hopefully, they’ll be out of work and need to use their savings to bridge them to the next career.

Eisenhower, I believe, was talking about this very underlying truth when he gave his exit speech about the military industrial complex. (see link here: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/17/132942244/ikes-warning-of-military-expansion-50-years-later) He acknowledged the necessity of a standing army and strong defense, yet warned of the potential for abuse of power due to the vast sums of money involved in the industry. In short, he was warning of us of the pitfalls of allowing it to become an entity which was compelled to “survive.” In addition, he warned that if we kept a standing army, it would eventually “find something to do.” I think this is a valuable thought. Overlay this idea onto the medical, legal, or other large establishment and you will see the ramifications. And if you don’t’ see them, you may at least feel a bit of stirring in your heart. The medical establishment must always “have something to do.”

Until next time, remember … “something is happening…”

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