I could post this on my work medical blog, but it’s work, and I may get into trouble, so I’ll post on my food blog. Because I can.
There has been a re-emergence of the Cricoidgate scandal of 2014, whereupon a most prolific and upstanding proponent of the FOAM world, Dr Cliff Reid wrote a brief discourse around his views of the continued use of cricoid pressure in emergency airway management arena. He used the acronym R.E.T.A.R.D to summarise this. I can’t even recall the exact expansion of this, but people were OFFENDED. Essentially, the equally prolific and wonderful Dr Minh Le Cong was not pleased as he was a proponent of it’s use based on current expert practice from our gaseous colleagues.
There was a lot of talk about being offended. I tweeted a Stephen Fry interview in there, and I believe Dr Nicholas Chrimes later suggested this ‘offensive’ discourse was ‘just semantics’. Or something like that.
Well, I would like to explore this a little further.
Nicholas has now ended up feeling the offensive wrath of EMS_junkie, who has shown equal disdain for his use of the word ‘zealot’.
Now, a quick disclaimer- my other half (SB) is a philosophy graduate, and we’ve spent 20+ years ‘discussing’. Incidentally, she’s irritatingly rather good at biostatistics, and I need to thank her for the romantic pillow talk on this very topic.
I’ll just pick a bone about ‘just semantics’, as Dr Chrimes has used it again in the recent twitter dialogue. I would suggest that phrase just semantics’ doesn’t make sense, given that (linguistic) semantics is about meaning, as well as other branches in psychology and computer science. I might need my French speaking philosophy other half to assist with the rest of the wikipedia entry.
Anyway, back to Stephen Fry’s comment, that the statement “I am offended by that” is essentially a whine; a statement with no meaning.
Here’s a situation we considered from an actual occurrence. A meal with a number of friends and colleagues, and someone at the table cracks a joke about paedophiles/ paedophilia. Where are we now on the Fry ‘offense is meaningless’ position?
SB raised the idea that really it is an emotional reaction. Being offended as an emotional reaction? So to deny that is as logical as to deny someone isn’t sad, or angry etc. I think this is a useful concept. We may not really understand the reason for the ‘offense’ but it is there. What about the dinner party case? Or indeed the casually racist remark in a hospital meeting, or a member of staff in an open area in the department, or a patient who states ‘I’m glad I’ve got you doc, at least you speak English?’.
The offence may indeed stem from anger, but here it is not really the anger of being offended, it is the anger of someone stating something you feel to be morally wrong, (to open a whole new can of philosphical worms).
And this emotional reaction should be considered distinct from the message of the argument, in the case of Cricoidgate, that the application of cricoid pressure is perhaps a position of dogma, but even worse, it is a position that is potentially doing harm. It is therefore understandable that to get the point across, to draw attention to the other persons seemingly contradictory point of view, an offensive strategy might be required. Perhaps, to go on the offensive?
Of course it then reminds us of the military or sporting connotation, which is one of attack. And this was SBs point again, it can be (or perceived to be) an attack on a person.
And this where doctors might feel this differently to say a scientist, who might feel somewhat less invested in a certain ‘practice’. When that practice is critiqued, it is perhaps more likely to cause some kind of emotional reaction. In fact I bristled at a skull X-ray I ordered being critiqued the other day. Personally I feel there is a role, and it’s a well thought and logical decision process to me, so I reacted to this. We all do.
So what to do in the case of the racist remark at work, or the paedophile joke at the dinner table. I think the former is easier, unless you’re colleagues are drunk. But an immediate comment stating that is not a reasonable thing to say, possibly with an apology, is probably required, without the emotion.
The dinner table guest should probably get the same swift unemotional comment and not be invited again.
And the blog post/ Twitter comment?
Well, now we are in new territory, as the instant thought, witty cutback, etc etc becomes essentially irreversible and re-tweetable with countless edits and mis-contexts as woeful as an ABC radio news edit.
Let’s just have a chat over a pint……..