Thursday, July 05, 2007

in London, crawling.

Late at night, a strong weather alert, and a few kilometres from here down on the coast people are sandbagging against the rising tides. Floods in Queensland, droughts on the peninsula and ice in the mornings here.

And I've been reading about London. For those of you not in the know, there have been two failed car bombings in London in the last week - parked cars packed with explosives and nails, set to go off outside a nightclub. Initial arrests have been made - I vaguely recall reading that Britain has more CCTV cameras per head than anywhere else in the world - and disaster seems to have been averted.

And the thing that surprised me at first was that every one of the suspects I have read about has been a doctor. A neurologist, a resident medical officer, someone who worked in the ED.

Now leaving aside the observation that these men are innocent until proven guilty, and leaving aside the whole trying-to-get-into-their-heads thing - was there some moment, some speaking of a still small voice? Perhaps when packing the nails around the explosives, maybe when weighing up the merits of this versus that nightclub? When was the moment when it all became irrevocable? - there are many things to think about in this.

First off, from my understanding most of "the terrorists" since we started noticing have been relatively wealthy, middle or upper class men. That may not be the case, in fact it may be survivor error, or the fact that only the wealthy, middle or upper class men have the socioeconomic grunt to, say, emigrate, get a pilots licence, hire a car, that sort of thing. But from what I understand a number of the people relatively high up in al Quaeda, for example, are doctors. One's a paediatrician.

What would make "a doctor" do this kind of thing? Is it any different to what makes everyone else who does this do it?

I would imagine - and I don't know - that there are two main things that while present in most terrorists may be particulalrly important in the case of these doctors – loss of status and a tendency towards a certain way of thinking. And I should say that some of the following may offend some people.

There is a profound loss of status involved in being a doctor coming from, say, India to Australia. For a number of reasons being a doctor here is a lower status profession here than being a doctor in India. For a number of other reasons being an Indian doctor is a lower status profession than being a white - British, American, European, Australian – doctor.

Part of this is a perception (by patients, nurses and doctors) of inferior clinical skills, a perception which I believe is generally untrue.

Part of it is a mutually frustrating communication barrier and a consequent presumption of stupidity. I never felt as stupid as when I was overseas.

Part of this is a natural patient xenophobia that is magnified in times of terror. When you are having a heart attack, you are reassured when you see someone who looks and speaks like you, and you are terrified when you see a stranger.

Part of it is Australia’s two hundred year old tradition of racism - which, before you judge us, got us this whole damn continent.

Part of it, ironically, may be a class thing - I did work with a very competent, pleasant man, a top researcher in India, who when he wanted some menial task performed would produce a small bell and ring it. That's the way it was for him at home. If he did that in the Florey ED they wouldn't have found the body.

Part of it, for the English bombers, may even be a dissonance between the idea of England that they were raised with and the England of now.

Anyway, enough guesswork. But when you get a young, educated male, one accustomed to and who has worked towards and is entitled to a certain position, and you exclude him (overwhelmingly it's "him") from that position – I suspect that one by one you are removing the control rods.

The other part of it is linked to what kind of person does medicine. Without wishing to go into detail, many doctors come from wealthy backgrounds. They are more likely than average to be religious. Some may have come to medicine from a desire to help - to fight poverty, disease, injustice. They tend to be "doers" rather than contemplators. A proportion of them are believers.

With that in mind, and if packing nails around explosives primed to go off around a night-club seems utterly alien to you, consider the following thought experiment. Imagine if the situation were reversed.

Imagine, unlikely though it may seem, that in one hundred years the Chinese political/cultural/linguistic/military bloc occupies the space where the Special Relationship does now.

Imagine, moreover, that in Melbourne there are thousands of amputee children, that in Manchester our young men disappear overnight, that in Maine and Michigan our men** curse, cringe and obey, in Mississippi our women uncover themselves for bits of chocolate.

Who is going to buckle under? Submit, keep their head down, do the best for their family and friends, try to keep things going, keep themselves and those they care about alive?

Most people, I suspect. Most of life is that series of miniscule alterations and iterations, stuff that happens rather than the carrying out of vast plans. The thing about insuperable odds is, well, they're insuperable.

There's your vast majority of Iraqi people - like most of the French in the early forties, like a whole lot of examples.

But some of us will not see it like that. Some among are is going to take the other path. Strike back, make a stand for liberty, our children, our land, our people? Drive a car packed with explosives into a Buddhist temple, semtex and nails outside a nightclub in Shanghai, execute the journalists who record our degradation?

Who will those people be, what will be their characteristics? My guess is it will be those who've lost most. Those least accustomed to humiliation. Those with a tendency to do, rather than merely look on. Those with beliefs compatible with sacrifice, ideas about eternity, strong feelings about injustice, maybe even those with a desire to help those less fortunate. Humanitarians - albeit pipe-bomb making ones. A fair few may be doctors.

Anyhow. Back to the study or whatever.

*My experience has been that there is minimal difference in clinical skills. Of the three truly bad doctors with whom I have worked, one has been overseas trained - probably around what you'd expect from chance. The other two were Australian born and bred, including the infamous Dr Knuckle. For overseas doctors there is an initial settling in period, but after that and once they become familiar with Australian clinical presentations, things even out.

**Nail this poem to the church door. Worked for Luther.


Blogger Foilwoman said...

As always, I'm just wishing I wrote that. And I feel not well read. To my knowledge, I hadn't read Robinson Jeffers's poetry before, which is clearly a sign of missing big gaps. Now I'm going to fritter away more than a few hours on that poetry website and it's all your fault.

I have a man who works for me who was a professional in his home country. Here, he's got a good, secure job, but it's paraprofessional. It pays enough to live on and has good benefits, but it isn't a high-paying job with lots of societal prestige. And he really doesn't like taking orders from women. I've managed this by simply giving all orders to another of my subordinates who is a man, and that subordinate then orders this man. Works out okay, but I do wonder about the loss of status and stuff like that. Food for thought.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Benedict 16th said...

A strong argument here by Neil Cavuto on Fox News (Rupert's) against universal health care.

BJ - I have a mental image of your reaction - tell me if I am wrong....


"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1952

10:48 PM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

Readers of this blog, why the heck don't you comment? Drs. John gets more than two hundred hits a day, and you don't comment. What are you, autistic. Come on, people. Blogs are about the discussion. Of course, we all worship the ground Dr. John walks on, who wouldn't? But say something, for love the of puppies and all that is good in the world.

This comment is in no way representative of the views of the author of this blog, and is merely the irritated comment of his number one stalker and fan. Who are you people, and what's wrong with you?

10:55 AM  
Blogger Ladyk73 said...

Now...foilwomen...don't be using the term "autistic" like that! I work with that population....they have enough stigma!

Anyways, I think this post is very thoughtful, articulate, and interesting. It is just goes to show the complex way in which individuals function in this world!

11:37 AM  
Blogger Camilla said...

Foilwoman: sometimes I just don't have anything to say/add. Sometimes that's because BJ's said everything, and it seems silly to write just "I agree". Sometimes it's because I'm not knowledgeable enough about what he's written to contribute anything significant.

It doesn't mean I don't read along or appreciate what he's written though. IMO BJ is brill, and he always gives me something to think about.


4:29 PM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

Ladyk73, absolutely, I shouldn't use terms like that lightly.

Camilla: I know. I've been trying to figure out why some blogs are comment heavy, and others, with similarly high readership aren't. It's a mystery.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Benedict 16th said...

Look another Terrorist!!!!

Man threatens to kill Waffle House workers, have the UFOs come
Two Waffle House workers were forced to deal with an angry drunk man when he went in to eat a steak on Sunday at about 4 a.m.

According to the BCSO incident report, Matthew Todd Corley, 26, of Sunnyside entered the Waffle House at 10 Carson Loop, Cartersville, and demanded a steak.

The victims told deputies that Corley threatened to kill them if they did not cook him a steak. The female victim said he told her he would have the UFOs come for her.

According to the male victim, Corley beat on the tables with his hands before grabbing the telephone and calculator, also using them to beat on the tables. He also tried to jump over the counter during the nearly 30-minute ordeal.

Both victims provided written statements and, although they wanted him to go to jail, told deputies they did not want to press charges for the threats, which could have lead to charges of terroristic threats.

Corley said he had been drinking all day and was in a bad mood but did nothing wrong. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.


10:16 PM  
Blogger Bronze John said...

Hail all,
Cringe,cringe, cringe... thanks very much. I don't comment much myself, and I feel I probably should. But I do appreciate the things people say. By the way, I didn't know until FW said about the numbers who read this and I remain stunned. Seriously, I guessed closer to ten people.


3:58 PM  

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