Public Hostage: Public Ransom – Inside Institutional America             18 of 39

Chapter Fourteen: The Radiator

Seeing takes time. We live in a fast society—30 miles per hour, at least. What we see is so often like a billboard: colors, shapes, a quick message among an avalanche of quick messages—numbing. It doesn't take long to withdraw from all that, for most of us. There is only so much one can sort out, understand, emotionally recognize, respond to, use.

For a health worker, seeing—really seeing—is critical. Each time an opportunity arises to see, every sense must be alert. Every bit of experience and stored knowledge must be somewhere close at hand. Each time that one only half-sees, is blind to what one sees, misinterprets, makes false assumptions, has incorrect expectations, a life is at stake.

I don't want to romanticize the doctor or add to the mystique and awe in which medicine is held in the minds of people. Seeing is not any more than a good parent or a loving and dedicated worker does all the time, naturally.

But this is a problem for the professional who is trained to be detached and alienated from people— "Objectivity" is the cover term. It is a real chore for the professional to be natural, alert, and insightful. To feel identity with people rather than functioning in a role, in a status pose flowing from authority, from failsafe aspirations, possibly from even downright dislike of people and human service.

If the feeling of identification between server and served is underdeveloped or absent, seeing is arduous. Seeing, really seeing, requires feeling. It is the difference between human understanding and object spectating.

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