Care at the Point of Injury

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin A post from early December – ‘Don’t worry about them – the rest of us feel great!’ – outlined the problem of boosterism & babbittry: it urges people to look away from real injuries and to gaze instead on delightful distractions.

First the problem summarized, then the better, ethical response –

The problem:

A doctor walks into a town of one-hundred people, and finds that half of them are pale, feverish, and vomiting blood. The physician calls out to a community leader, “Send for help, you have an epidemic on your hands.” The community leader replies, “Oh no, don’t worry about them – the rest of us feel great!”

There one sees the self-regard and self-promotion of some, while ignoring the condition of others.

A response to injury like this entices others to do anything except ponder the injury. There may even be an acknowledgement of the problem (‘yes, yes, of course we know that many are pale, feverish, and vomiting’) but then comes the selfish entreaty to spend not a moment more on the problem, but to look away to a new building, bridge, celebration, or parade. Indeed, this foul boosterism & babbittry is sometimes so distinctive that it’s as though one could see or smell it even from a great distance.

The better, ethical response:

Upon seeing an undeniable injury – those pale, feverish, and vomiting – the ethical response of those in authority is to describe – then and there – the care that is being provided at the point of injury. Perhaps that care will prove enough, perhaps no care could be enough, but there is a moral obligation to state plainly what is being done about manifest suffering. In describing what is being done, there is both a moral acknowledgement of the most important concerns, and simultaneously a practical invitation of others’ assistance and suggestions.

The simplest truth is that many in authority in Whitewater, and places elsewhere, have spent entire careers – entire lives – urging others to gaze instead on delightful distractions.

The simplest solution for those in authority is the ethical one: acknowledge injury and describe what one is doing on behalf of the injured.

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