Saluting the Doctors

“The most exquisite pleasure in the practice of medicine comes from nudging a layman in the direction of terror, then bringing him back to safety again.”

– Kurt Vonnegut

By Syed Kamran Hashmi | May 2020


It must boost their egos when people come up to the doctors, put their feet together and raise their hands to the forehead, saluting these health care professionals who expose themselves to the coronavirus infected patients without being provided with personal protective equipment (PPE), paying tribute to their heroes as they endanger their lives along with the lives of their families to save others. In one of the videos that has been uploaded on social media, one can recognize the surprised look of the medical officer standing at the side of the road receiving an informal guard of honour from the policemen.

Respect and admiration even in a tiny amount can make one feel bigger, sometimes bigger than one really is, but if it comes from every aspect of society en masse, the ego shoots up to the sky. That is how the doctors and other health workers must be feeling today, not that there was any shortage of arrogance in the profession to begin with, a profession that otherwise is supposed to be the marker of humility and modesty.

For this discussion though, I want to leave my personal reservations aside regarding how high the doctors think of themselves and how they market themselves quite hypocritically in front of non-physicians about the nobility of their cause, i.e. saving humanity, while privately focusing on making money by hook or crook. What I want to talk about instead is our national obsession with the defence of the country, the militarization of our culture, the combativeness of our ideas. These salutations and guards of honour provide us that opportunity to open the discussion.

Think of our national holidays for a moment. Except for some religious ones that are celebrated across the Muslim world with the same passion, every other holiday somehow is linked to the security of our country. Jets fly on the 23rd of March, tanks roll on September 6 and cannons fire on September 11. The national anthem and patriotic songs are suffused with military parades, guns and fighter planes. Why?

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