All men and all philosophies find their level; for after their kind, things tend to flock together. Ours is an age of compromise, of half measures. We choose the "lesser of two evils" instead of seeking for radical solutions of the problems that confront us. We seek reforms instead of revolutions. We deride and despise the visionary and exalt the practical man. He rules our lives. The poverty of present-day vision is appalling.
Today we tend to exalt liberalism. The very essence of liberalism is to want to abolish the evils of a system while striving to maintain the base of the evils it would destroy. Thus, while those medical reformers who write learnedly about the evils and shortcomings of present-day medicine have not the vaguest urge to see the abolition of the system, they are quite voluble with their suggestions for reform. They are visibly agitated over the growing evils of the side effects of drugs and the increasing incidence of iatrogenic disease; but their reformist zeal to attain an apparent solution to a problem that, however submerged at times, will remain with us so long as the poisoning practice remains, betrays them.
We have people write us and express admiration for some respects of the Review and who say they would subscribe to it if we would rely upon the intrinsic merits of Hygiene and let medicine alone. But we cannot agree to let medicine alone on any condition whatever. We neither seek nor expect the patronage of medical men. Our aim is to break up, overthrow, destroy, not only their evil practice, but also their false theories. We cannot be silent so long as the practice of dosing the sick with poisons is continued. How can we compromise with a system that prescribes and administers such substances and agencies as wear out and destroy instead of building up and strengthening the forces and structures of life? It is all very well to feed milk to babies, but those who have dealt out doses of death and have removed essential organs from the body need something more than a light diet. We have a world of facts attesting to the soundness of our position. When the medical profession lays down its knives and saws and its vials of poison and retreats from the field, we shall let them alone and devote our attention exclusively to the presentation of Hygiene. Till then we must fight with the weapons we have at hand, with all the knowledge we have and all that we acquire as we go along.
Writing editorially (March 1855), Trall said: "So far as the common doctrines--the pretended philosophy of medical science--are concerned, we plead guilty of the extremist heresy and the most ultra infidelity. We believe the popular medical system is radically wrong, and its principles essentially false. So believing, we could not be honest nor humanitarian--we could not recognize a 'higher law,' without seeking to reform, or rather, to overthrow it." This well expresses our present position towards the profession of medicine. He who "halts between two opinions" and seeks to combine two opposing modes of practice, who sacrifices principles for popularity, such a person will inevitably become obfuscated. He is neither fish nor fowl, neither cold nor hot, and will be spewed out by an enlightened public.
Trall noted that all the schools of healing were willing to compromise with Hygiene. They were willing to accept some Hygiene if the Hygienists would accept some of their theories and practices. They were as ready and willing to make compromises as are politicians, but the real Hygienists took the position well expressed by Dr. Nichols, when he said: "Truth is always the loser, and fallacy always the gainer by compromises."
The principles of Hygiene are either true or false. If true, they will have to be accepted; if false, they will have to be exposed. They cannot be destroyed by ridicule, slander, misrepresentation, denunciation, vile epithets, cunningly-devised falsehoods, cowardly dodges and subterfuges, nor by hiding behind popular prejudices and superstitions and poisoning the popular mind against them. They have to be met squarely, openly, candidly, honestly and with fairness and decency.
The philosophy of him who would compromise involves a highly skillful effort to reconcile conflicting systems, opposite principles and conflicting modes of practice. At one time he is a shrewd Hygienist, attacking the curing professions for their antiquated ideas and practices; at another he is a therapist attacking the Hygienists for the "inadequacies" of their principles and practices and demanding that the need for "aids to nature" be recognized. He lacks that scientific humility that would enable him to surrender to a principle of nature in its inexplicable integrity.
Truth is never in either extreme, but always halfway between the two extremes, is the popular but false doctrine. They who hold to it are continually trying to reconcile Yes and No. Ifs and buts and excepts are their delights. They have such great faith in "the judicious mean" that they would scarcely believe an oracle, if it uttered a full-length principle. Were you to inquire of them whether the earth turns on its axis from East to West, or from West to East, you might almost expect the reply--"a little of both," or "not exactly either." It is doubtful whether they would assent to the axiom that the whole is greater than its parts without making some qualifications. They have a passion for compromises. To meet their taste, Truth must always be spiced with a little Error. They cannot conceive of a pure, definite, entire and unlimited law. These are the people who, in discussions such as the present one, are always petitioning for limitations--always wishing to abate, modify and moderate--ever protesting against doctrines being pursued to their ultimate consequences.
The platitude that nobody has a monopoly on truth has been repeated so often that it has worn threadbare--indeed, it has become a dogma that we begin to suspect. Those so-called friends of Hygiene who class themselves as liberals and who pound their chests and say they will not accept Hygiene as infallible are but parading their own assumed infallibility. Hygienists are well aware of their many shortcomings and mistakes; if the liberals can do no better than to remind them of these, their criticism is in vain. All too often the liberal position is but a camouflage for commercialism.
In terms of sacrifice of the individual's character, the price of "success" can be high. Conformity is the first requisite of "success" in almost all societies. If one does not conform, one speedily becomes an outcast. This is the reason that so many begin life as rebels and end as conservatives, even in some instances being more strict conformists than those who have never rebelled. The cultural pressures towards conformity are often stronger than legislative enactments. The conventions of society are chains about the necks of its members. These conventions may be social, political, religious or medical, they may exist in almost any sphere of human activity-wherever they are, they stand in the way of change, advancement and the discovery of truth.
The position of the Hygienist is a peculiar one in our society. He is in opposition to many things. No sooner than he gets through denouncing the evils of modern scientific medicine, its terroristic methods and its effort to coerce the people into patronizing it, than he is forced to take up the cudgels against some proponent of some stupid new scheme of curing that, although it may not be as damaging as drugs, is equally as unfounded and ineffectual. But, if we are not willing to stand up and be counted, no matter what the cost, if we surrender to the group pressures that bear upon us from all sides, we are certain to be lost. Only the courageous can ever hope to stand out in this herd-minded society of ours.
Man's best qualities are tested and tried in the crucible of struggle. Man is developed by opposition, not by herd acceptance. Mass culture tends to reinforce existing low standards rather than elevate the general level. It is an observed fact that when everybody is exposed to education, only a small fraction of them are genuinely improved.
Henry David Thoreau declared:
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches
Of evil to one who is striking at the root."
The true radical applies his axe to the root of the great tree of evil; he is a revolutionist, not a reformer. He is a true conservative, not in the sense that he seeks to preserve outmoded institutions and special privileges, but in the sense that he seeks to preserve the integrity of life itself. The radical is the man who would abolish the slave system; the reformer is the man who would eliminate some of its worst features to the end that slavery may be made more bearable. The true radical in the field of health-disease is the man who would abolish the false systems of cure and substitute for them a system of mind-body care based on the laws of life; the medical reformer would abolish the worst evils of the older systems and make them less deadly. He would abandon some of the more destructive drugs, lessen the size of the dose of others, give the drug less often, and otherwise make the evil more tolerable. These reformers seek merely to make old-school medicine feel more comfortable than it now feels.