Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Healing the Heartless

Seventy Five Million people - at least - had their lives greatly shortened by the events of World War Two.

Died. Dead. If not during the war itself, then not long after.

Set against that toll (the worst ever disaster in human history) the act of extending, for a few years, the lives of about 25 civilians with a physical heart disease may not stack up for much.

Connecting the two - vast military forces raging overseas with a small quiet medical affair that could have just as easily happened in peacetime - may seem impossible.

But I think there is a strong connector and it is that the curing those physical heart cases was dependent on first healing some Home Front civilians of a metaphorical heart disease far more deadly than Endocarditis : Scientific Heartlessness/ Scientific SansCoeur.

Calling upon Science and Nature to justify a lack of compassion for those not among your own kind was Modernity's abiding moral failing.

It was displayed not just during modern warfare or in everything that Hitler ever did - it was habitual, in varying degrees, among most all of us back then.

Only Time will tell us what abiding moral failings of this postmodernist/quantum/commensal age will engender - I am sure that Heartlessness will be chief among them.

But hopefully we will no longer boast about our heartlessness as being based on the best scientific discoveries from Nature.

The decline of Modernity came not from any external assaults, rather it rotted from within, from among its strongest supporters, the Scientist.

This happened when a few, then some, and finally many,  saw that Nature did not favour heartlessness at all but rather the opposite, and translated that new knowledge into concrete human behavior : they changed their day-to-day ethics accordingly.

It wasn't a rapid or smooth process nor has it ended yet but it had to start somewhere and Dawson's story is as close to the beginnings as I have been able to find  AND  it had consequences that we have all felt personally - so it it is an excellent place to start recalling when Mo went Po, if only because the first person cured of the metaphorical heart disease was Dr Dawson himself. 

Not that he was heartless by any means anytime in his life, but he was a proud member of a relatively new profession, that of the Clinical Investigator, which had the potential for exposing all the ambiguities of Modernity's reforming spirit.

Only when Dawson started questioning the disinterested objectivity he always had upheld so strongly, was he himself on the road away from Mo and heading for Po.....

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