Humility is universally applicable

Yesterday I had the privilege of moderating a plenary panel discussion at the Thames Valley Family Health Team’s annual spring conference. The purpose of the panel was to share stories about patient experience. Four storytellers recounted personal moments when the healthcare system blossomed beautifully or failed miserably in response to an individual struggling with mental illness, addiction, depression, or post-traumatic stress.

I left the session with two salient points at front of mind. This post is a brief reflection on the first takeaway.

Listening to the panelist’s stories, it occurred to me that the concept of cultural humility has relevance beyond the domain and context of intercultural interactions. (Brief review: cultural humility is the idea that approaching an individual from another culture in a spirit of humble curiosity paves the way for a constructive therapeutic or clinical relationship. Now, juxtapose this approach of gentle inquiry with walking into the room thinking that you are aware of another person’s needs, beliefs, worldview, and convictions because you graduated from the ‘cultural competency’ course over the weekend.)

Conscientious, intentional, self-doubting humility is not only crucial in intercultural exchanges: the ethos transposes seamlessly when listening to individuals struggling with addiction or other psychological complexities. Assuming to know ‘the answer’ to another’s situation because you have a clinical category for their condition is something like ‘psychologicalism’ — similar to the way that a racist assumes to know particular facts about another person based on specific physical characteristics or ethnic appearances.

It is interesting to think about the ways that ‘cultural humility’ might be taken up as ‘clinical humility’ or in a broader sense. But creating more jargon is not the point: figuring out how we can inspire one another towards greater humility — and the curious, individual-centric inquisitiveness it fosters — is the bottom line.

It boils down to a question: as a healthcare system, how do we treat individual people as individual persons? The second takeaway from yesterday’s session follows from this question. It’s a reflection about the bottlenecks and potentials of bureaucracies. Will post shortly.

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The Lie of the Timeline

Having pulled the plug on my social media presence, it is interesting to think about these platforms from the outside. Indeed, I am thinking about them very often. The reoccurring engrained impulse, I should post this on Twitter, remains a very strong instinctive muscle response.

It’s like my brain is a recovering pigeon that escaped from a Zuckerbergian version of a B.F. Skinner lab.

This respond-in-the-moment impulse highlights one of social media’s most conniving sleight of hands. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter present themselves to us as timelines, as if this moment is a ‘snapshot’ in a timeline. They purport to engage us in this moment, in the present. But as we engage, we do not merely input data into a timecoded sliver of history called ‘the present’, but into an archival dataset that is ostensibly the property of someone else, and for their profit. Timelines that ask us to comment on the present are lies: a status update is not really about the present moment at all, but about compiling your data profile.

Social media steals our present, saves it ‘outside’ of time, so it can ‘serve’ us ads in the future. This exchange is equally true if you are a selfie- or foodie-enthusiast, a tele-grandparent, a hate mongering troll, or a social justice warrior. Everyone is being played.

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Alcohol to Opioids: Part 2

Curious Public goes on the road to visit the Middlesex-London Health Unit to talk with Christopher Mackie (Medical Officer of Health) and Ana Ning (Associate Professor in Sociology) about psychoactive substances in our community. In this episode we ask… * Are we in collective denial about the health impacts of alcohol? * Why are we removing tobacco displays from convenience stores and putting alcohol into grocery stores? * Will legalizing cannabis be a net gain or a net loss for society? * What are public health officials thinking about as they prepare for the legalization of cannabis? * Users, doctors, big pharma — who is to ‘blame’ for opioid crisis? * And much more… (This conversation is the second installment of

Alcohol to Opioids — an occasional series about drug use and society. You can also listen to the first discussion with Tara Bruno and Robert Solomon for more background.)


Christopher Mackie (@Healthmac) is the Medical Officer of Health for Middlesex-London and is the Chief Executive Officer of the Middlesex-London Health Unit. He previously served as the Associate Medical Officer Health for the City of Hamilton for four years. Dr. Mackie has published peer-reviewed papers and abstracts on a number of public health related issues, including vaccination policy, emergency planning, environmental health and child and youth mental health. Ana Ning is an Associate Professor in Sociology at King’s University College. Her research includes addiction treatment and harm reduction interventions, as well as the integration of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) in mainstream healthcare. She also studies traditional Chinese medicine and issues of evidence-based medicine model.

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Has the Canadian government done due diligence in responding to the opioid crisis?

In this episode, debaters from the UWO Debate Society take to the mics to argue about the efficiency and efficacy of the Canadian government’s response to the opioid crisis. Has Canada done enough, quickly enough, to be considered ‘responsible’? The motion: the Canadian government has not done its due diligence in responding to the opioid crisis.

The Debaters

Seth Kibel is the current President of the University of Western Ontario Debate Society, as well as the Executive Director of the Canadian Universities Society for Intercollegiate Debate. He has eight years of competitive debating experience and for the past two years, has has ranked in the top eight debate teams in the country. Seth represented Western at the World Universities Debating Championships in Mexico earlier this year.

Cassandra Cervi is the current President of the Canadian Universities Society for Intercollegiate Debate, as well as the Training Director of the University of Western Ontario Debate Society. Last year, she was part of the top ranked debate team in the country, and won the Canadian Public Speaking Championship. She has twice represented Western at the World Universities Debating Championship.

Selina Li has been debating since High-School, where she won the Western, Queens, and Mcgill Debating Tournaments and placed Top-Speaker at the International Competition for Young Debaters. Since coming to Western, she has been a Semi-Finalist at the Guindon Cup and Central Canadian Novice Championship. Selina represented Western at the World Universities Debating Championship in Mexico earlier this year.

Ethan Curry is a second year Philosophy and Political Science student at Western with five years of competitive debating experience. Most recently, he ranked fourth debate team in the country, and represented Western at the World Universities Debating Championships in Mexico earlier this year.

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Using Facebook is a ‘Poverty Habit’?

According to a Business Insider article posted yesterday by Thomas C. Corley, poor people tend to spend more time on social media than rich people:

74% of those defined as poor spent more than an hour every day on the internet engaged in some sort of recreational activity, with 95% admitting to using sites like Facebook for recreational use… Only 37% of the wealthy in my study spent more than an hour a day on the internet engaged in recreational activities, and only 17% used sites like Facebook for recreation purposes.

Corley goes on to conclude that Facebook and “recreational Internet use” in general “has now become a Poverty Habit.”

But I really think Corley should have included a few caveats to this conclusion. He does not provide any explanation of the directional causation. Sure, poor people might very well use Facebook more than rich people, but that is only a correlation — it does not necessarily mean that using Facebook makes you poor.

Rich people spend more time on yachts than poor people, but I doubt that Corley would argue that yachting makes you richer!

Alternatively, there is another argument suggesting that rich people today have less leisure time than poor people. If this is true, we would expect “recreational Internet use” to be higher within lower income population (along with other low-cost leisure activities, such as watching television).

Corley, on the other hand, seems to assume that there is a direct, explicit causation here: “Our daily habits are the reason why we are rich, poor, or middle class.” I am sure Corley can find many people who will agree with this statement on an ideological level, but to superimpose this conclusion on a set of statistical correlations is really quite dubious. (It is probably worth pointing out that Corley’s data and results are not peer-reviewed nor academically published. His data comes from a personal study on the habits of rich people, from which, according to his website, he extrapolates insights to provide his readers with ‘the key to success and a happy future’.)

So, speaking of correlations, please remember this: adding a bunch of factual percentages and empirical graphs to your own presuppositions does not cause your presuppositions to be factual and empirical.

Thus endeth yet another rant on causation versus correlation. Thank you for listening.

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