When Will We Realize That We Have Nothing Left to Lose?
By Louis Sportelli, DC
"When people lose everything and have nothing left to lose, they lose it" comes from an editorial a friend of mine, Gerald Celente, wrote as editor of the Trend Alert Journal. Gerald has been a true visionary, predicting many of the unforeseen events we have witnessed in recent years – from the increase in gold prices to the Middle East wars; from gasoline prices to the housing collapse.He has oftentimes held a strikingly contrasting, contrarian point of view to the TV "pundits and talking heads," as he calls them.
"When people lose everything and have nothing left to lose, they lose it." It seems almost prophetic as we look around the world and see the hostile uprisings and explosion of civil unrest. People feel – whether real or perceived – that they have nothing left to lose, so they lose it.
Falling on Deaf Ears?
How does this general escalation of unrest relate to our profession? The other day, I received a letter of appeal, as well as an e-mail plea, from the ACA regarding current legislative issues that could turn into a crisis for our profession. The association wanted donations to help "fight for," "defend against," "advocate in favor of" or "champion" some cause that would help the profession in some way. I also received a request from the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress for support to help its ongoing efforts to "gain positive press for chiropractic." I received several other queries from colleges requesting support for an important institutional objective. Appeals from several state and alumni groups soliciting support in helping everything from hurricane victims to legal action can be found in my regular mail or e-mail.
It is generally known that membership in our national and state associations is dwindling. The pleas for membership participation, support and contributions are increasing inversely as the number of members dwindles. The majority of these appeals are indeed valid; yet responsive action does not seem to resonate with the vast majority of the profession, regardless of whether they are current members. An analysis reveals that college affiliation, geography, gender and age also matter little. To all those who do not act, I ask, "Why?"
Why is the profession is so divided and fractured? Why do so few feel the need to coalesce around issues that essentially will have an impact on how each of us will practice in the future? Will the profession itself survive, perish or be forever transformed by external forces as the onerous threats to our mere existence continue to mount in a formidable fashion every day?
As I pondered these questions, I asked myself, when will we, as a profession, finally come to the realization that we have nothing left to lose and then finally lose it? I don't mean riot in the streets, burn down buildings or engage in civil disobedience; I mean lose it by coming to the realization that our differences are small (without diminishing the fact that they are important and relevant) compared to our commonalities (which are so often ignored).
Our college enrollments are down considerably since 1996, yet I hear my colleagues discouraging their sons, daughters and other interested individuals from entering the profession. Again I ask, "Why?" Alumni associations in every college are weak from lack of individual support and more disturbing, many alumni are hostile to the very college that provided them with their education. Why? Our state and national associations are barely able to exist due to lack of financial support and membership. Yet these groups continue to advocate for the profession with limited funds and limited numbers. Why? I hear from dozens of doctors each and every month with issues ranging from lack of fair reimbursement to limited scope-of-practice laws, to declining new-patient numbers; many are not members of anything, nor are they willing to personally participate. And yet they criticize the lack of participation by others. Why?
Calling for Participation
My earnest suggestion that we lose it is a euphemism for individual responsibility and participation, regardless of whether any of the above – the college, organization, group, committee or program – meets with 100 percent of your approval. Participation should not and cannot be predicated upon every individual's complete approval of everything the "organization or group" does. Participation must be based upon the individual responsibility that is incumbent with simply being and having the title of Professional.
I am reminded of the message from one of the great psychiatrists of our time, Viktor Frankl: "Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how.'" It was Frankl who demonstrated and discovered that a strong "mission" or "calling" provides "meaning" to our lives. It gives purpose to who we are, what we do and why we do it.
I ask myself, where and when did our profession lose its "meaning" for each and every individual doctor; to the point that we are essentially allowing our chiropractic heritage to be destroyed or, even worse, stolen? What is more disturbing is the fact that there is no indication that unrest is growing or that anyone is losing it, even by internally generating a dormant passion that quietly shouts: I must do my part!
I want to be clear (I know this will raise some ire), but I am not talking about the 5 percent fringe element in our profession on either side of the spectrum. As we all know, they constantly proclaim that the profession is dying because "their" definition or ideology of what the profession should be is not being promulgated, much to their dismay. I am talking about (and to) the 90 percent in the middle who are, for the most part, good practitioners, parents, community leaders and neighbors; who serve their patients, families and communities with dignity and distinction every day.
The paradox is the simple fact that these same individuals who serve their patients, families and communities have, for whatever reason, walled themselves off from their own professional involvement and effectively "dropped out." And again I ask, "Why?"
If this lack of participation was only from the newest generation, I could easily attribute it to a "generation gap." One could easily suggest that Gen Y and/or Gen Z practitioners lack the historical basis for how the profession achieved every single advancement in the past 100 years (which, by the way, was accomplished through concerted effort, personal participation, contributions, legislation, litigation and cooperation).
The doctors who fall into the Gen X or baby boomer generations, who truly have a lot to lose, seem to have dropped out of the profession as well and are seemingly attempting to "do their thing" in their communities, by themselves, without professional involvement. Many of these practitioners have heard tales from their fathers, mothers, brothers and other chiropractic leaders about the past battles fought and won, but they appear to be treated merely as stories without emotional attachment or meaning. Many in this age group have dropped out with battle fatigue and have turned a deaf ear to the pleas for support and change(s) they have heard and promised for decades.
Finally, the doctors who know the history of the profession, often referred to mistakenly as the silent generation, still represent the small core of loyal membership within the profession, albeit their numbers are dwindling. Many of these doctors and those of the late baby boom were the chiropractic warriors. They were jailed, ostracized, persecuted and ridiculed, yet while they were emboldened in the past, even they now seem ready to acquiesce.
Pay It Forward
So my quandary is quite simple: If we do not soon "lose it" and once again recognize that we, in the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, "Must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately," we will have no battle to fight or profession to save. We are dangerously close to a tipping point in the evolution of our profession; we are only one generation away from extinction. Chiropractic, the therapeutic science we all practice every day, will not be eliminated. What will become extinct is the profession of chiropractic; the profession we all elected to become part of, took an oath to preserve and have a responsibility to protect and pass on to the next generation. Whatever debt each of us owes to those who came before us, we also owe to those who will follow.
The message and plea I offer is quite simple. If you are MIA from your profession – the reason is immaterial – look in the mirror and ask yourself, why? Ask where you would be today if you had not entered into chiropractic as a career choice. Ask yourself where you would be without the dedication of those leaders who came before you, who paved the way for the profession to advance, often at great personal sacrifice and peril.
Ask yourself, what is something I can do to make a difference? It could be something as simple as deciding to join your state or national association, making a contribution to a nonprofit chiropractic entity, or paying a visit to your legislator and letting them know you are there.
I have no idea if this article will spark any action by anyone, but if it does, I hope you will find some impulse to share what it was that sparked your interest, renewed your spirit, engaged your sense of responsibility and caused you to do something. I guess I am and will remain optimistic because I believe that, once recognized, the problems can be addressed. While we cannot do anything about what has already transpired, we can, with individual effort and determination, change that which will follow.
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