Opposition takes strange forms and resorts to devious means to achieve its end. But one hardly expects a respected member of the medical profession, who is also a professor in one of the world's leading educational institutions and who has achieved a reputation as a poet and essayist, to openly advocate permitting medical men to kill their incurables to prevent them from getting well under other plans of care. Whether this was the real object aimed at by the man in question may be difficult to prove, but Trall thought so.
In 1875 Oliver Wendell Holmes, M.D., of Harvard, whom Trall referred to as the funny poet, made a strange suggestion. Writing of this suggestion, Trall said that "Dr. Holmes is not the stuff that martyrs are made of." While not blaming Holmes for his weakness, he decried Holmes' demand for physicians the "right of procuring a painless passage out of this world, so far as is practicable, for the patient whom he can keep no longer in it." Trall regarded this as a direct attack upon his business and that of every other Hygienist.
"Grant," said Trall, "the physician the privilege of killing his patients when he cannot cure them, and every Hygeian-Home, Water-Cure, Hygienic Institute, and other establishment where patients are treated without drugs would soon be closed. Not one of them could pay expenses. For myself, therefore, as well as in behalf of every Hygienist in the land, I protest against giving the drug-doctors the right to deprive us of our patients."
Explaining this, Trall said: "More than three-quarters of our business is due to the medicines the patients have taken. We have more than three drug diseases to treat to one original ailment. If the drug doctors are to be allowed to kill their patients when they refuse to get well under drug-medication, our Health Institutes will very soon subside; and probably this is the object of Dr. Holmes' suggestion."
Principles and practices which are radical and revolutionary and are subversive of established usages and existing interests must, of necessity, be opposed by the learned and rejected by the illiterate. Before they can be generally accepted or generally established or even fairly investigated, the public mind must be re-educated. And it is infinitely more difficult to dispossess it of its ingrained errors and life-long prejudices than to educate it truthfully.
Good men, bent upon the promulgation of new and therefore strange truths are frequently surprised at the slowness with which new truths are accepted by the people. But they should not be surprised; they should know that man changes by inches, that any change that requires growth, and especially growth from long entertained fallacies to new and strange truths, from long accustomed bad to untried good conditions, must be slow, the slowness being the cosmic surety for the value of the new growth. Quick and rapid transformations more often than not betoken early decay.
We never accept new ideas all at once. We need a previous preparation, and in those instances where radical changes in the human mind appear not to be gradual, there have been previous experiences and preparations that have, perhaps all unconsciously, prepared the way for the apparently sudden change.
Hygiene will outlive the jibes, jeers, snears, sarcasisms, doubts, distrust and the great variety of sham-practices, as well as serious, well-organized opposition, else it is unworthy of survival. While we would gladly see the people awaken to a more ready realization of the superlative virtues of Hygiene, we cannot permit ourselves to become discouraged by the slowness of the revolutionary process. Ridicule, rejection, trials, troubles, severe hardships, even persecutions are the handicaps that all genuine progress must overcome. Prejudices are not immortal, but truth is.
We think that we can discern the rays of the rising sun through the increasing gloom. Disease is not, in the nature of things, eternal. Ignorance, prejudice, fallacy, drug fanaticism and superstition may sway the multitude for a season, but Truth and Right in serene majesty sit enthroned forever. Order is Heaven's first law and the present subversion of reason and desertion of the paths of nature cannot last. The poisoning system has reached the end of its rope. Twenty-five hundred years of poisoning the body has been long enough for any experiment to last.
In the developing light of Hygiene's own intrinsic truthfulness, all of these finely polished weapons of opposition have grown dim and pointless and are gradually crumbling into dust and ashes. At the present time great effort is not required to interest and convince even the most warped and biased mind of the fundamental truths of Natural Hygiene and their surpassing beauty, if they can be induced to stop long enough to think for themselves. Not only have the foes of Hygiene been unable to demolish a single one of its basic principles and to destroy a single one of its essential practices, but these have been strengthened by all genuine discoveries made by its very foes. Every advance in knowledge of biology and physiology has served to add strength to Natural Hygiene and to remove the foundation from under the ancient system of the medicine man.
Considering the vast importance of this now extensively recognized body of truths and practices and its importance as a means of both preserving and restoring health and also the increased light its principles shed upon many other related phenomena, it would seem, at first view, somewhat strange that it has not been more extensively cultivated and its resources more fully developed and more generally applied to their appropriate uses. This wonder, however, will partially disappear when we consider that many of its present believers who could be among the most influential in bringing it into general notice are still smarting under the embarrassment of having been compelled to relinquish a previously avowed hostility and assent to its claims and in their wounded pride, most of these are still not disposed to give it the attention which its importance demands.
The facts of Hygiene are such stubborn things, however, that eventually the most incredulous will be compelled to accept them. Prejudices are like mercury in the bones: they cling to one despite his better judgment. But even the strongest prejudices must ultimately give way before the bombardment of Hygienic truth.
It remains to say a few words in reply to the charge of quackery that was and still is frequently made by the medical profession against Hygiene and Hygienists. A quack, in popular language, is just what you choose to make him. Calling a man a quack, however, does not make him such. The medical man regards all practitioners who care for the sick and who do not believe in and employ the same means and theories as those employed by medical men as quacks. Members of all schools of so-called healing other than the regular medical school, by this standard, are quacks. The dictionary defines quack as synonymous with charlatan. Etymologically and historically, this is not its true definition. It is a shortening of the German word quacksalber (quicksilver) and was originally applied to those regular physicians who poisoned their patients with mercury. As originally employed, the term was applicable to regular physicians and to no one else.