We’re all members of a cult. Whether we like it or not, since mankind first appeared on earth, there has been a need for the majority of humans to flock together in some form or another. Whether it was for protection by strength of numbers, or to increase the genetic variety of a group, the formation of cults, tribes or groups has always been something that the human race has experienced.
I’m not talking here about race-related groupings of human, because that is something far more fundamental. That is all about the genetics that make you part of one race or another, and there is precious little you can actually do about the genes you were born with.
What I’m thinking about here is the tribal nature that makes you support one football team over another, or a different political party to someone else. Religion may also be part of this, but I am going to steer well clear of that for obvious reasons. However what is apparent is that most of these tribes and cults are based on the shared values and belief structures that the members of the cult have.
“Where is he going with this blog?” I can hear you all thinking. This is not one of my normal types of observational commentary on the state of dentistry where I’m having a go at some (dis)organisation or system in dentistry.
Or is it?
Because it actually is exactly the same as usual in that I’m pointing out something that I believe is fundamentally inherent to the problems that we are experiencing in the profession at the moment.
Cults and tribes are collections of people who flock together under one belief structure. The profession of dentistry is such a tribe. We all share the same skill set fundamentally, and are working together to provide the same goal of health for our patients.
But within a tribe are often sub-tribes and cults. These are the things that seem to me to be dividing the profession in more ways than one and can often cause problems. When we look internally we see the infighting between some of the orthodontists and those providing GDP orthodontics. You can guarantee a lengthy ‘discussion’; when some of the more evangelical on both sides come out to discuss their views on this subject. The same is true of the two cults of private and NHS dentistry.
It is actually possible to be a member of different cults at the same time, and cross over seamlessly from one to another depending on the situation. You might find yourself agreeing with someone from another cult one minute, and then vehemently arguing the next.
When your strongly held values and belief structure is in disagreement with someone else’s equally strongly held views then conflict is almost inevitable. Only the control of the emotional aspects of these differences is what prevents the breakdown of the relationship between these two sides. Some people are able to control it more than others and agree to disagree, but many others are not.
Dentistry is absolutely full of cults.
More so than I think it has ever been before. I personally think the rise of social media and the ease with which one like-minded individual can find others who are from the came cult has been at least partially to blame.
The problems arise when the cults cause not only infighting in the profession, but also are responsible for the perception of the profession to the public (who I’ll just take as one big tribe at the moment).
Within the profession we have the cult of the Key Opinion Leader, some of whom seem to have opinions based on their parallel membership of the financially motivated cult, and who can pay them the most. Then we have the Celebrity dentist cult, often admitting to no personal or clinical failings and who may have sprung from anonymity in record time, with fawning acolytes who can see no fault in their heros. Given the following of some of these two groups, I’m actually waiting to read in the BDA news that 600 cult members have all drunk copious quantities of Hypo in a mass attempt to align their teeth. Ok, maybe that’s a bit far, but what will usually happen is the acolytes will be the ones who get left in the lurch either with the GDC or with a load of obsolete materials when the Guru-esque leader moves onto the next best thing since the last best thing.
There is the huge cult of the NHS dentist, who can often see no way out of the cult, but stay because they are also members of the ‘I’m alright Jack, my pension’s great’ cult or the ‘We cant go private where we are’ cult. There is also the sinister ‘Gamers’ cult, where you’re a member but don’t admit to it, either because you don’t want to, or because you don’t realise you are.
I could go on and on with this but I think I’ve made my point.
I’ve probably managed to alienate a huge chunk of my readers now with those analogies (perhaps it would have been more sensible writing a blog on the various religions after all !) because I’m sure you now will find yourself both agreeing and disagreeing with me and become annoyed at me in some way.
The point I’m making is that the values and beliefs that we have developed place us firmly in pigeonholes and groups in such a way that someone else can make an observation that can start a conflict if you don’t like it. I’ve done precisely that in the previous paragraphs.
But the above is all a myth based on your belief structure, which can be changed if you really want it to. Do you want to be a member of the cult of materialistic egotistical, self-promoters? Fine, do that, but then don’t be shocked when others take issue with that.
Until we have the unification of the profession behind one overriding cult then we will always be divided. Since these cults are nothing to do with our genetics but only down to our beliefs, it is all an entirely fictional situation that causes the problem; a brainwashing due to our desire to hold onto our beliefs and opinions.
We need to not become a profession against itself especially as we have enough external factors affecting us already. Unity and a sense of purpose is more important now that it ever has been.