Saturday, January 21, 2012

Give it to me straight, doc

I give you four television characters: House, Hawkeye, Becker and Cox.

Broadcast television is intended to be universal. It is the definition of lowest-common-denominator entertainment. It is inoffensive, bland, and frequently actively works to reinforce social norms rather than challenge them. Yet here we have characters, three out of the four being main characters, whose main schtick is pointing out the stupidity of social norms. They're the only characters around who attack the irrationality of inter-human relations, of religion, the pretense of family values, sports, machismo, sexual relationship power games, the armed forces and every other display of primitive simian idiocy that are otherwise lauded in all corners of human society.

So why, even as a fictional character, does an angry nerd need an M.D. after his name in order to be allowed to tell the truth?

"And this guy knew that he wasn't accepted by the staff, didn't even try, didn't dress well, he didn't pretend to be one of them. The people around that place, they didn't think that he had anything they wanted, except when they needed him. Because he was right; which meant that nothing else mattered, they had to listen to him."
(From that episode of 'House, M.D.' where House recounts why he became a doctor.)

There is a mystique about medicine to the common mind, an aura of divinity. Doctors are automatically seen in a positive light, are automatically viewed as pillars of society. The main difference is that unlike other pillars of society, they are visited by commoners in order to acquire truth or facts. You go to a doctor for answers, not platitudes. Priests, teachers, cops, politicians and every other kind of charlatan in a position of power is expected to lie, cheat, beat a confession out of you or at least serve up nothing but platitudes. When you go to a doctor, you need the truth.

Ironically, this is anything but a representation of reality. Philosophers, scientists, thinkers of any type are readily available in the real world, but they are viewed as nerds, external to the human condition, dangerous megalomaniacs of alien motivation and thought which the kin recognition instinct of every ape on the planet labels as targets for ostracism. Only doctors are allowed the luxury of displaying intelligence.

Most M.D.s are idiots. Hardworking idiots, but idiots. They go into medicine because they want to be viewed as pillars of the community and paid as such. Four out of five doctors recommend doping you up, overcharging you and sending you out the door. They are technicians, working off whatever script the pharmaceutical companies feed them. Finding a doctor who is intelligent and interested enough to actually keep advancing the science of medicine, to keep looking for questions and answers like the four examples above do is about as likely as spontaneous cancer remission. You might as well just pray for it.
As far as challenging social norms, well, hah! The mercenary nature of their motivation precludes it. They're in it for the social standing. They're not going to challenge the values that set them above others.

17th of March, the year of Jeebus 2014
The search for nerdy life continues. Add Doc Martin to the list.

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