Enabling the Status Quo

Holiday music, the enforced cheerfulness, the sugary food everywhere – not a problem. The one aspect of the holiday season I truly dread it is the hokey appeals from disease-specific organizations. The promise of cures around the corner. The hyped “breakthroughs” that on closer inspection are slight, incremental gains in our knowledge (and usually of animal models not people) at best. And the gratuitous claim that just as the cure is within reach the feds are yanking the funding and slowing progress (and you know who to blame for that!). It is all nonsense. And yet – I appreciate that for individuals with diseases and for their families hope is what keeps you going through the dark days. Raising money and pushing the science forward is how you gain control over this terrible occurrence over which we have no real control. SO what’s my beef?
My beef is that all this rhetoric actually has the opposite effect from what is intended. Our unquestioning acceptance of the assumptions explicit and implicit in these appeal missives does not drive progress. It enables the status quo. There is no need to really reach, to really try new kinds of studies, to re-evaluate our knowledge, or to challenge the reigning dogma if we consider it our duty to clamber aboard for the sake of holiday-feel-good. One of these years, MY holiday wishes will come true and some disease charity somewhere will write something authentic. And no one but me will respond. Because serious thought is so much harder than hype and hope. Pass the eggnog!