Wednesday 2 June 2010

The culture of analgesia

Analgesia = pain-killing.

This is our culture, now. The culture of analgesia - in which relief of pain and suffering is primary - and not a means to an end.

In medicine, the relief of pain is, or ought to be, of central importance - but on examination it is not primary. The primary goal of medicine is to preserve life and functionality - and this only makes sense where life and functionality themselves have an implicit goal.

(This implicit goal of life is not a part of the concern of medicine as a specialty - but medicine as a human activity only makes sense if it can be assumed that people have something significant to do with their life and functionality. In the past this could be taken for granted - but not any more.)

Medicine is not and never has been a matter of 'first of all, do no harm; because harm is always a risk in trying to preserve life or functionality, or in relieving pain and suffering.

The primary imperative for modern secular democratic liberalism is the avoidance of suffering. Lacking any rationale or context for this, the definition of suffering has expanded without apparent limit.

In particular, hedonism - pleasure-seeking - is now re-labeled as analgesia; since there is an element of suffering involved in *not* being able to indulge one's desires.

The suffering involved in thwarted desire or the necessity for self-restraint is now inflated to a cosmic injustice, so encompassing as to trump almost anything and everything.

Any of the petty humiliations of everyday existence (being forbidden, sneered at, patronized, made to feel inferior, rejected, ignored) are amplified infinitely, and can indeed become the focus of whole life views.

To suffer *offense* is automatically to require, to deserve, analgesia - reparations, compensations, special consideration.

Sensitivity replaces morality.

In the culture of analgesia, life in both its strategy and its moment-by-moment existence, becomes a serial seeking after pain relief. A search for losing oneself, for forgetting, for tranquillization, or at least for distraction.

Ah! - to live a life of serene analgesia varied by serial pleasurable distractions…

(then to die, to sleep and *not* to dream)

- this is, in a sense, the ulimate goal of modernity.