'It seems like anger is everywhere – right v left, rich v poor, young v old, eco-warriors v climate sceptics…'

Dr Chris Edmond

By Dr Dr Edmond

I’VE been in a philosophical mood recently. Perhaps it’s because of the Easter break. Perhaps because of major world conflicts, or smaller local ones. Maybe it’s been my reading material – for one reason or another it’s all been rather serious, and I’ve also been thinking about a national presentation I’m doing later in the month on the links between work and health which brings up rather “big” issues.

But 2024 does seem ripe for big, philosophical thinking. While the world has mostly moved on from the pandemic, we face other huge challenges. Half of the world’s population take part in elections this year in a time of conflict and no shortage of despair. And it seems like anger is everywhere – right v left, rich v poor, young v old, eco-warriors v climate sceptics, woke v whatever the opposite of woke might be called (I won’t suggest a name in case I offend those who get angry at the National Trust using margarine rather than butter in their scones).

The reality, however, is that we succeeded as a species through communication, co-operation and invention – and we were so successful that homo sapiens now dominate and control all life on Planet Earth. But honestly, we don’t seem to be doing that great at it.

I know that when others start to ponder such big issues, they often turn to their religion. However, I don’t have a faith with a good book to turn to – whatever your thoughts on organised religion, there is a lot of good advice embedded in the stories passed down through the generations.

Instead, I tend to describe myself as a humanist. My favourite definition of humanism, that sums up the world I want to live in, is probably “that man should show respect to man, irrespective of class, race or creed is fundamental to the humanist attitude to life. Among the fundamental moral principles, he would count those of freedom, justice, tolerance and happiness… the attitude that people can live an honest, meaningful life without following a formal religious creed”.

I guess it might be assumed given my profession, but I genuinely care for my fellow human beings. My job is mostly listening to people tell me their story, and then I try to offer assistance where I can. It really is a privilege for people to let you into their lives like this and I often learn more from my patients than I am able to give them in return.

The sad reality, however, is that the issues faced by many doctors these days are not ones that we can solve with a pill or even a listening ear – we can’t solve poverty, abuse, poor housing, poor employment practices or any of the other issues we see damaging individuals, families and communities day after day.

Outside of work, I also have many conversations with people who think things are going in the wrong direction. Even in our relatively wealthy island, as is also the case in the UK, both financial growth and health improvement have stalled and most people’s dreams seem to be moving further away rather than coming closer.

But I never forget that almost everything we have is a human construct – our democratic system, our finance system, laws, buildings, businesses, our entire way of life. It wasn’t always like this. And it won’t always be. We have it in our power, as the most intelligent and capable species ever to have existed, to change things. To deconstruct and to reinvent.

So, whoever you are, I ask you to take some time to join me in reflecting on the big issues. If you had a blank sheet of paper and you were designing a society, is what we’ve got now what you would come up with? If not, what would you change?

And even if you thought back 30 years and looked forward to today, is this the world we were meant to have by now? Where is our extra free time to spend doing the things we cherish, whilst the robots and the AI take on all the menial tasks we don’t want to do? Where is the society where everyone gets to benefit from the advances we make? Why does every family need to have two adults working all hours just to make ends meet? Where did we go wrong?

Part of me wonders if those of us who try to make the world a better place are just wasting our time? That the system has outgrown any hope of us homo sapiens controlling it to our advantage. Should I just take off the rose-tinted spectacles, accept too many of my fellow humans are inherently selfish and self-centred, and fight for everything I can get for myself?

But one of the other things about my job is you get to look beneath the surface, at what really matters to people.

And through that I know, from multi-millionaire to homeless addict, most of us just want to love, and to be loved in return. So I’m not ready to give up on society just yet.

But if we’re going to change, we really do have to speed up and get better – we only get one shot at this life.

  • Dr Edmond is the founder and medical director of WorkHealth (CI) Ltd, a dedicated Jersey-based occupational health provider. He is also a director at Jersey Sport and Jersey Recovery College, and adviser to the Jersey Community Foundation. He writes in a personal capacity.

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