Saturday, December 21, 2013

One Doctor Cannot Stop an Epidemic Overnight. What Can One Person or Doctor Do to Help Promote Real Health Care Reform?

Short answer: A lot.  Many valuable tips provided in the below essay. 

"What Can One Do?" 
by Ayn Rand

 "This question is frequently asked by people who are concerned about the state of < today's health care system > and want to correct it... More often than not, it is asked in a form that indicates the cause of their helplessness: "How can an individual propagate < the correct ideas > on a scale large enough to effect the immense changes which must be made in order to create the kind of ideal social system < or health care system > which you picture?"

 If this is the way the question is posed, the answer is: he can't. No one can change a country single-handed. So the first question to ask is: why do people approach the problem this way? 

 Suppose you were a doctor in the midst of an epidemic. You would not ask: "How can one doctor treat millions of patients and restore the whole country to perfect health?" You would know, whether you were alone or part of an organized medical campaign, that you have to treat as many people as you can reach, according to the best of your ability, and that nothing else is possible. 

 People approach intellectual issues in a manner they would not use to deal with physical problems. They would not seek to stop an epidemic overnight, or to build a skyscraper single-handed. Nor would they refrain from renovating their own crumbling house, on the grounds that they are unable to rebuild the entire city. 

But in the realm of ideas, they still tend to regard knowledge as irrelevant, and they expect to perform instantaneous miracles, somehow or they paralyze themselves into inaction by projecting an impossible goal. 

If you are seriously interested in fighting for a better < health care system >, begin by identifying the nature of the problems. The battle is primarily intellectual (philosophical), not political. 

Politics is the *last consequence*, the practical implementation, of the fundamental philosophical ideas that dominate a given nation's culture. You cannot fight or change the consequences without fighting and changing the cause; nor can you attempt any practical implementation without knowing what you want to implement. 

In an intellectual battle, you do not need to convert everyone. History is made by minorities or, more precisely, history is made by intellectual movements, which are created by minorities. Who belongs to these minorities? Anyone who is able and willing actively to concern himself with intellectual issues. Here, it is not quantity, but quality that counts (the quality and consistency of the ideas one is advocating). 

 An intellectual movement does not start with organized action. Whom would one organize? A philosophical battle is a battle for men's minds, not an attempt to enlist blind followers. Ideas can be propagated only by the men and women who understand them... 

Today, most people are acutely aware of our cultural-ideological vacuum ; they are anxious, confused, and groping for answers. Are you able to enlighten them? Can you answer their questions? Can you offer them a consistent case? Do you know how to correct their errors? Are you immune from the fallout of the constant barrage aimed at the destruction of reason ? Can you provide others with antimissile missiles? 

 * A political battle is merely a skirmish fought with muskets; a philosophical battle is a nuclear war.* 

 If you want to influence a country's intellectual trend , the first step is to bring order to your own ideas and integrate them into a consistent case, to the best of your knowledge and ability. This does not mean memorizing and reciting slogans and principles; knowledge necessarily includes the ability to apply abstract principles to concrete problems, to recognize the principles in specific issues, to demonstrate them, and to advocate a consistent course of action... 

If you like condensations (provided you bear in mind their full meaning), I will say: when you ask "What can one do?" the answer is "SPEAK" (provided you know what you are saying). 

 A few suggestions: do not wait for a national audience. Speak on any scale open to you, large or small, to your friends, your associates, , your professional organizations, or any legitimate public forum.  You can never tell when your words will reach the right mind at the right time. You will see no immediate results, but it is of such activities that public opinion is made... 

 The opportunities to speak are all around you...Most particularly, do not keep silent when your own ideas and values are being attacked... 

 It is a mistake to think that an intellectual movement requires some special duty or self-sacrificial effort on your part. It requires something much more difficult: a profound conviction that ideas are important to you and to your own life. If you integrate that conviction to every aspect of your life, you will find many opportunities to enlighten others.... 

 If a dictatorship ever comes to this country, it will be by the default of those who keep silent. We are still free enough to speak. Do we have time? No one can tell. But time is on our side because we have an indestructible weapon and an invincible ally (if we learn how to use them): reason and reality. 

 "What Can One Do?" by Ayn Rand < with personal editorial modifications in brackets > 

 Entire essay here.  Additional similar articles here.