back at our European heritage, we find a society made up of aristocrats and
commoners. We continue to emphasize similar values today, particularly
in our classrooms. In our educational system, everyone is focusing on
the future. The implication being that if you struggle now, making
countless sacrifices and learning a lot of irrelevant information, you will
be happy in the future. You will receive some fancy letters after your
name, which will serve as your ticket to success. You will, in effect,
become an aristocrat. This is sick thinking. It is a lie
perpetrated by our educational system.
Social lies stem from individual lies. A
person can lie to himself, on an unconscious level. One of the themes
that runs throughout much of psychology - and receives nearly universal
agreement - is that feelings of inferiority commonly develop in early life.
To counter these feelings, individuals strive to gain a position of
superiority over other human beings. So part of the mind feels inferior, and
another part of the mind feels superior. The two don't cancel each
other out. How can one have both feelings at once? The mind is
split into compartments.
When the desire to be superior has a neurotic basis,
it is accompanied by many misperceptions. Things that should be
obvious are 'tuned out'. Often, the first thing that gets tuned out is
emotion. There is a lack of social connectedness. When I walk
into a group of strangers, the first question I am asked, is: "What kind of
work do you do?" This makes me feel uneasy, because I know what is
coming. When I say than I'm a doctor, or a psychiatrist, I am
categorized. Some people who I know are unable to call me by my first
name, even when I ask them to do so.
If we as a society believe that certain people are
aristocrats (and as such are entitled to certain extra privileges), it will
make it much more difficult to reform our dysfunctional systems. But
reform is what we need most. Our notion of aristocracy is offensive to
me because it severely interferes with functionality on both a social and a
There are a limited number of positions in medical
schools. All too frequently, the would-be doctor has to push himself
relentlessly because of the competition. There is a tendency among the
"aristocratic" groups in our society to guard their turf in order to
maintain their position of privilege. I have witnessed this phenomena
over and over again, both as a doctor, and as a patient. I have
listened to my patients talk about their experiences with other doctors.
I have encountered this phenomenon from so many perspectives and on so many
occasions that there is no doubt in my mind that this is a real problem.
And then I encountered experiences with lawyers that dwarfed any experiences
that I had with doctors. Needless, to say, there are many exceptions
of which you are probably aware.
I'm telling you things you already know. But
rather than sweep it under the rug and say: "What do you expect me to do
about it," I'd like to challenge you to think. What if we restructured
our attitudes and educational programs in a way that would eliminate this
sense of aristocracy? What if we eliminated titles altogether?
What if we made information regarding these fields more available to the
public, and in a form that was much easier to understand.
How many times have you heard people say something
like, "I can't answer that question because I would be practicing law
without a license." My opinion is that you can answer the question if
you know the answer.
Our aristocratic notions are damaging to everybody,
including the people who consider themselves aristocrats. I am not
approaching this from the perspective of a liberal ideology, but rather from
the standpoint of functionality. When a system works well, it flows.
It is like listening to a beautiful piece of music. When it does not,
it is persistently troublesome.
Some cultures have carried this notion to a
damaging, freedom-robbing extreme. When this is approached
ideologically - whether from the left, right, or what have you - the outcome
is unsatisfactory. I am suggesting that we set ideology aside, and
approach these problems functionally. I think that given the right
conditions, we can all be free and prosperous.