Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Old Style, New Style

The doctor who came to give my mother her covid booster apologised profusely for ringing the doorbell twice- and continued in the same vein: "Sorry, sorry, sorry." How very different from the magisterial doctors of my childhood. They commanded, she deferred.

And I was going to say, "How very refreshing," because I don't like authority figures, but then I went a little deeper and thought how those imposing, self-confident old doctors- whose medicine was probably rubbish- almost certainly cured a lot of people simply by convincing them of their mastery over disease. They may have been bluffing, but very few of their patients were going to call them on it. They were, in effect,  placebos in human form- and placebos- to the despair of mainstream pharmacology- have been shown to work- sometimes just as well as the drugs they're ghosting.

The doctor arrives in the darkened sickroom, he takes up a lot of space, the dim light catches on his eyeglasses and the links of his heavy watch-chain. He deploys the mystic tools of his craft- thermometer, stethoscope- and speaks words of power. He prescribes you some worthless stuff in a bottle but his presence has been reassuring, calming, convincing. You believe in the slop he's given you because you believe in him- and the placebo effect kicks in and you rally.

So then I asked myself what faith you would place in a doctor who apologizes all the time?

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