Monday, October 4, 2010

What Have We Lost?

"Homogenization and the detrimental effects of a uniform bureaucracy may make local places and people more legible to governments and other large institutions, but they rob us of something deeper, more profound, and more human. Tradition, folk wisdom, and the particular knowledge of place are brushed aside and replaced with lists and grids.

"Such standardization occurred early on in the field of medicine. As the medical profession first gained a footing in the 17th century, many of the natural folk remedies known to local places were replaced by the conventions of modern medicine. Birth, once the realm of midwives, became an act performed by doctors. Women who once used birthing stools and squatted when delivering babies were now strapped to a gurney. This made delivery more efficient for the doctor and his forceps, but much less convenient for women. Soon women required powerful drugs to stand the pain. Early on women were given chloroform; now they are given epidurals. Lying on a gurney works against gravity, whereas traditional methods of giving birth were quicker and less painful.

"In the West, this folk knowledge was quickly extinguished and is only recently undergoing a revival. However, modern medicine has also brought great advances to human health, and much of its success relies on standardized practice and an elaborate codification of medical terminology."

We really don't know.  Fortunately the Internet is allowing us to route around the intermediaries that have been stomping out our natural, human diversity.  Hopefully that will continue.