14 September 2012

Social Triage

Whenever conversation turns to social issues, it is inevitable that someone will categorically dismiss the relevance of an entire subject as something that "can wait" until such time as another subject is fully resolved. We can talk about space exploration when there are no starving kids. We can protect the environment when everyone has a job. Who can be bothered with funding for college or the arts with a war going on in Afghanistan? We come to each of these issues not even as though we must triage the allocation of resources, but as if we are incapable of multitasking.

This problem is, each issue exists concurrently, whether we devote attention to resolving them or not. Yes, the patient with the gun wound has more pressing need of medical attention than does the patient who stubbed his toe. But the thing is, that stubbed toe can present its own challenges that can evolve into something life-threatening. Don't believe me? Go ask Jack Daniel.

It's consistent with conservative thinking to be fearful of an assault on resources. "We can't spend time/money on that; it'll take away from what we can do about this later." We do have limitations on what we can accomplish simultaneously. However, the notion that we can postpone indefinitely doing anything about issues that seem less urgent - or, if we're being entirely honest, that we just don't like - is absurd.
"He's intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking." - Spock, about Khan, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
I'm reminded of Sudoku. Novices make the mistake of trying to solve one thing at a time; one number, one row, one column, one section. The key to Sudoku, however, is knowing that it must be tackled full-on. You must be willing to find out where the 7 in that section goes in order to learn where the 4 in this row goes, so that you can ascertain where the 2 in another column must be.

The next time you find yourself in a conversation about a social issue, Dear Reader, I ask that you be mindful of this post. Do not let yourself be the one to marginalize the topic at hand on the basis that it's categorically of lesser importance than another topic, and do not allow anyone else to re-frame the discourse in such a fashion. We must first acknowledge the legitimacy of each issue before we can honestly begin to improve the situation. Deferment does not seek to improve; it hopes that the stubbed toe becomes gangrene and that the patient dies while we're treating the patient with the gunshot wound so that we don't have to deal with Jack Daniel.

No comments:

Post a Comment