Hypo-politicosis = A behavioral condition where political thought and action is dangerously below an optimal range. Leading to the ostrich phenomenon of delusionary belief that there is nothing outside of medicine.
In an age of ever great openness, communication and democratic rights, the population of the western world is disengaging with political ideology, political debate and political engagement.
This disengagement is nowhere more prevalent than in the UK. The total membership of all the political parties are at the lowest since they were formed. There are less trade unionist today than a century ago. And most importantly the proportion of people that vote regularly is at an all-time low. Surely, this is a sign of a dysfunctional democracy? Can we truly call it a democracy if the state’s citizens have no interest or control over how the state is run?
What worries me even more than this dire situation, is the lack of interest in politics from fellow medical students. If you were to sit in a bar in a medical school city, I am sure you would be able to hear groups of medical students unwinding over a pint and discussing some political issues. But those political issues almost always evolve around medicine, such as abortion laws, public health initiatives, doctor’s pay and the re-structuring of the NHS.
This insular mind set worries me because there is more to life than medicine! And while so much of our lives may be taken up with the learning and practice of medicine, our lives will be affected by so much more, and before medical school we all had to take an interest in so much more just to get an interview. Do you remember having the time and inclination to take an interest in something that wasn’t medicine? Like reading history or poetry?
This insular mindset is detrimental because it means that as a demographic group we may not engage as fully as we should do with the rest of society, this could be bad for us but more importantly bad for the greater society. If medics become too disengaged in the greater political debates then we may find that society decides that doctors are easy targets and easy scapegoats. We may find our working lives extended, our social lives curtailed, our pensions decimated and our earning power diminished because we did not engage with the public and discuss these issues openly. We may also lose influence with the government if medics don’t vote for their local MPs, question their local party officials and fight our corner over important issues via the BMA.
The other side of this coin is that medics are selected from some of the brightest in the country, educated at great expense by the state, trained and employed by the state and pay a huge amount of tax to the state. If we engage in politics less then society as a whole may suffer from a lack of highly intelligent, highly educated individuals, who should hopefully have a strong social conscience and interest in well run state, from putting their thinking skills to good use on societal problems.
Dr Liam Fox is a conservative back-bench MP and use to be in the shadow cabinet. He has used the skills he developed as a doctor to try and follow an evidence based political career. He recently released a book called “Rising tides” (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rising-Tides-Facing-Challenges-New-ebook/dp/B00CUE0DKQ) which analyses many of the world’s current political issues and I would highly recommend as many people as possible read it. I also hope that in future I can walk into a bar, meet some medical colleagues and talk about an issue that affects more of society than just medics! How about using a scientific approach to discuss how Britain’s education system could be improved? Or how Britain could use its welfare resources better to decreased homelessness (which would also reduce a burden on A and E’s)?