Perhaps our need for some consistency and predictability in our lives makes it tempting to generalise lessons we’ve managed to learn in certain situations. But alas, life appears to defy simple analysis. So while it’s in our interest to uncover its most important governing principles, we should be wary of generalising.
In the present Covid crisis, medics and police are two professions on the frontline of the response. Medics have been hailed and there is no doubt about the sacrifices they have made. There is also a general prestige associated with the medical profession. Policing, however, is generally not the professional choice of many. It is not looked up to and as a society we appreciate it the least.
The job of the police is to maintain law and order, but many policemen are guilty of misconduct and oppression. “Ponda police” was a phrase used to describe a corrupt and violent police. David Devadas in his book ‘The generation of rage in Kashmir’ mentioned that Ponda police was a moniker invented during the British Raj as a corruption of “pound”. Vivin Spitz in ‘Doctors from Hell’ recounts in vivid detail the horrific human experiments conducted by 20 physicians and medical assistants in Germany under the direction of the Nazis. During that time the misconduct of the medics was amalgamated with the atrocities of the Nazis. Medics then would not have enjoyed the same prestige as they are enjoying now. The point here is that many medics do violate the code of ethics but a lot of it goes unnoticed because of the prestige they enjoy in society.
A study on the Lal Ded Hospital in Srinagar by W Qureshi et al suggests that about 20% patients are dissatisfied with the services provided in the hospital. On the daily news we watch reports of conflict between doctors and patients or cases of negligence on the part of doctors, such as the recent demise of a pregnant lady due to the hospital administration’s negligence in Anantnag. Of course, a handful of doctors can never represent the whole profession. But the same way, a few black sheep among the police should not tarnish the profession. Policemen make many sacrifices and put their lives at risk. They give up their sleep, family, festivals, and most of them don’t even see their children grow. There are culprits everywhere, whether a bad doctor or a bad cop.
George Orwell’s line, “All men are equal, but some are more equal than others”, from Animal Farm is apt for our society. An honest and hardworking cop will not get respect from society but a corrupt doctor will. We must not be blinded by prejudice for or against any profession and we must not generalise from a few examples. If everybody ceases to trust in doctors, our health system will collapse. Similarly, law and order will collapse if we do not respect the police.