Saturday, October 22, 2011

Because after the tear gas, there's nothing you need like acupuncture

This is really a celebratory post about professionals involving themselves in social-justice movements. Social Medicine has run a few posts the past two weeks about medical workers at the Occupy protests, both as activists and as volunteer medics:

  • "Doctors for the 99%: Physicians Participate At the Wall Street Occupation"

  • "Doctors for the 99% out in force on October 15th"

  • "How to be a Street Medic (updated)"

  • The first two highlight the organized activism of professional medical groups fighting for just health care systems. The last is an updated version of a 2004 article describing the activities of street medics - professionals who attend to the medical needs of protestors. Overall, it's fine and informative. However, it includes this bit:
    Who are street medics?

    Street medics come from a variety of health care backgrounds including herbalists, nurses, EMTs, NPs, health educators, physicians, medical students, and acupuncturists. In fact, a medical background is not actually necessary to be a street medic as most receive additional training in first aid, the management of activist-specific injuries and such topics as scene control and pre-hospital assessment. A large amount of formal medical training is not applicable to street medic work [?], so additional training is always necessary.

    Being a street medic requires more than just medical knowledge. The ability to work in non-hierarchical affinity groups, value non-western medical knowledge and work in stressful, and at times dangerous, situations are all equally important to street medic work. For many physicians and nurses, developing these skills will be the focus of their street medic experience. [my bold]
    There is no such thing as "non-western medical knowledge." There is no such thing as Western medical knowledge. There is only medical knowledge. Acupuncture is placebo. This is an insult to the medical professionals participating in the protests, who are working to make the fruits of medical science accessible to everyone.

    Developing a just system of health care means abolishing the corporate model of health care. That is entirely in keeping with, and in fact truly captures, the spirit of this movement. It is to create a system in which the powerful tool of medical science is participatory and serves human needs instead of corporate profits. Developing a just system of health care does not mean opposing science-based medicine in favor of woo. To throw the scientific baby out with the corporate bathwater is to unintentionally hand more power to corporations and their efforts at obfuscation in every sphere.

    As I said, this one point irked me but this post is really a cheery one about how professionals can lend and are lending not just their voices but their skills and talents to movements for social justice. And it's not just medical professionals. I posted a little while ago about the National Lawyers Guild's web site for cyber-activists. They've now initiated a large-scale Occupy legal support program:
    “We know from decades of experience in defending free speech rights that law enforcement agencies, absent competent and aggressive legal pressure, tend to run roughshod over the rights of those engaged in dissent,” [Carol Sobel, co-chair of the Mass Defense Committee] said. “We are taking a proactive approach to the defense of demonstrators.” “We don’t want to just defend protesters who have been falsely arrested—we want to head off the false arrests at the outset and send a message to local police agencies that suppression of free speech will not be tolerated,” Sobel said.
    The page at my link provides contact information and a listing of the cities in which they're already operating.

    This is all very exciting. So many people, it seems, think of activism as marches and protests only, and don't realize how their skills and talents - as artists, nurses, graphic designers, legal professionals, social workers, IT experts, scientists,... - can contribute to social movements, and in turn how their participation can expand their own consciousness and lead them to push for change within their profession.

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