Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nurse Ratched, the Gentle Stalinist

Nurse Ratched: You know Billy, what worries me is how your mother is going to take this.
Billy: Um, um, well, y-y-y-you d-d-d-don't have to t-t-t-tell her, Miss Ratched.
Nurse Ratched: I don't have to tell her? Your mother and I are old friends. You know that.

I sincerely hope I am wrong about this, especially in my profession. But, I am chilled to the bone by what I see happening to dialogue in the West. In the past, unwelcome ideas were shouted down, and their proponents jailed or killed.

In today's PC world, ideas that don't fit the prevailing view are not shouted down so much as they are shushed. Their proponents are derided as silly . If you make the argument, it is petty, partisan blather. But, if I make the argument, then it is well-reasoned and important.

You can see this in many places. Conservative ideas are regarded as childish or stupid, and therefore not to be answered. This was on full display in Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The constant refrain was that, if a scientist happened to breathe the suggestion that a living cell evidenced any design that the person was not just mistaken, with attached reasons as to why he was wrong, but simply stupid and to be dismissed.

Now, a person may be stupid, and his arguments may be stupid. But, it s altogether another thing to simply dismiss inconvenient arguments as stupid, irrelevant, or, gasp, not furthering the conversation.

Which brings us to Mildred Ratched. Milos Foreman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is not for the faint of heart, but it is an important, tragic movie. A convict is placed in a mental institution for acting insane. When there, he begins to realize the humanity of other patients, and encourages them to assert their humanity --their rights.

Overseeing the ward is Mildred Ratched --an attractive (in the movie), soft-spoken, motherly nurse who controls every detail of her patient's lives without ever raising her voice (at least till McMurphy arrives!). And, she does this by quiet, gentle emotional manipulation. She does not shout down; she merely informs the patients that they are being impertinent. Simple requests for snacks and television are off limits. Anything that asserts their basic humanity is belittled, derided or manipulated.

This is the brave new world people, and we had better get used to it. Independent thought, much less Christian conviction, is about to be marginalized. Holding alternate opinions will likely have one branded a troublemaker, at odds with society and progress, impertinent, and slow of wit. Ideas will never be engaged; just dismissed.

Remember this, though. John Adams said that facts are stubborn things. The truth will win out. How often has the establishment been wrong, especially when it expected and enforced lock-step conformity with its worldview. Such a position belies its own weakness --if ideas are true and right, they need not be enforced by thought police. They can stand the scrutiny of the free market of ideas. They can be assailed and countervailed and still emerge and triumph. We may be in for a rough road --God only knows. But ideas that must win by either the blunt force of a Che Guevara, or the gentle Stalinism of Mildred Ratched, are not good ideas. They will perish, eventually.

3 comments:

  1. "In today's world, ideas that don't fit the prevailing view are not shouted down so much as they are shushed." I have always hated being shushed and I still hate it. I was shushed just a couple of months ago in my own church. It made me mad.

    "Holding alternate opinions will likely have one branded a troublemaker, at odds with society and progress, impertinent, unhelpful, and slow of wit. Ideas will never be engaged; just dismissed." I am used to being seen as a troublemaker. Guess I'll just keep on keeping on! :)

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  2. Oh. And the shushing is received is nothing we have discussed before. And I'm over it too. So no worries.

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  3. Hey Katie, shhh! hehehehe!!! :-)

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