The Generation X-ers who #RefusetobeHadiza
Through the K Hole
Having moved house eighteen months ago I still hadn’t unpacked. ‘The boxes have to go,’ I was told.
I like boxes of stuff, they let random things come together. As I rummaged through the dust and the cardboard I found a mix-tape from the 90s, a metal badge from the Soviet Union (which I embarrassingly used to pin on to my school bag) and a collection of George Orwell’s essays.
The essays belonged to my grandfather. When I was a boy I remember he only ever had two types of book on his shelf. One was a ‘darn-good Western’ with titles like ‘True Grit’ and the ‘The hell bent kid’, and the other was a collection of George Orwell’s essays. I think being shot at by the Nazis meant he couldn’t really cope with anything else.
‘Orwell is all you need to read,’ my grandfather had said, and he wasn’t lying. Orwell wrote lucidly about anything and everything, from communism to cups of tea, from coal miners to comic books. He could write as beautifully about imperialism as he could about the price of razor blades, often in the same paragraph. He was clearly a man who loved writing.
My generation of doctors won’t put up with it anymore and we’ve left medicine in our droves
The mix-tape though is a whole other story. It means I’m a Generation X-er. I’m the forgotten tribe that nobody ever talks about, I have the tape but nothing to play it on. We’re squeezed uncomfortably between the baby boomers and the Millennials who link arms above our heads. We’re the MTV generation that still gets a kick out of Smells like Teen Spirit, owned Sony Walkmans and long ago put a finger up to corporates and long commutes. We played space invaders, and you can stick your Twitter feed and your swipe screens as well, because we’ll get along just fine by singing to the Smashing Pumpkins.
The last thing at the bottom of the box is my Soviet badge. In contrast to Generation X, Generation P is the name given to young Russians who have grown up exclusively under Putin. Goodbye Lenin’s badges, hello sophisticated dictator. Interestingly, it is alleged that Putin’s government has started to punish and investigate individual doctors. In Russia they call it ‘The-Doctor’s-Business’ and it’s a smoke-screen to detract from the real issues. ‘We have a great health service, look at all these wrong doers we’ve rooted out,’ Putin is saying. ‘By punishing our doctors we are maintaining the highest standards.’
What they should be doing of course is building new hospitals, investing in new technologies and improving doctors’ salaries. But it’s much easier for the Kremlin to change public perception than it is to change Russian reality. This clearly resonates with what’s happening in the UK, where the recent trial of Dr Bawa-Garba has terrified everyone and rebranded clinical error as a criminal offence.
Orwell would have had a field day with these ideas. By criminalising human error the government has created the illusion of a robust health system and all this, as Orwell would have eloquently said, gives the ‘appearance of solidity to pure wind’.
But my generation of doctors won’t put up with it anymore and we’ve left medicine in our droves. We’ve either gone part-time, dropped out or moved abroad.
As I put my tape and my book and my badge back in to the box, not knowing where else to put them, the GMC, with its unsmiling, oh-so-clever face, leads a long line of manacled doctors back to the court rooms and Samuel L Jackson cries: ‘Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper.’
My generation is not Dr Bawa-Garba. We will no longer be tyrannised, we are Kurt Cobain’s suicide note, we are Uma Thurman smoking on a bed. And because we have left the UK in our droves we are also the death of the NHS.
Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Adelaide, South Australia who formerly practised in Edinburgh