Lisa's Journal of Chinese Medicine article seems to have struck a nerve in many Acupuncturists, both pro-and anti. I am here writing about what's up with the anti people. I'll get there by way of a detour…
Hey you! Have you seen the movie, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy yet? I loved it. It also got me to reread the book, written by John Le Carre. If you've never read anything by Le Carre I think you'll be in for a treat. He transcends the spy genre effortlessly cause he's a really good writer. (There's a lot of subtleties in the book that the movie can't do justice to, though the movie is also good.)
At any rate, there's a passage in the book that I want to quote here. It's at a crucial part of the book where the hero, Smiley, has figured things out, which is the Soviets have penetrated the English secret service with a double agent or mole, and is talking to one of the highest ranking spies in the English service, Toby Esterhase, who is totally clueless by what's been going on. Its Smiley's job at this point to tell Toby what's been happening: that a Soviet spy, code named Merlin, has infiltrated the English service by way of a double agent, called Gerald, and he starts off his explanation by way of telling a “theoretical” story. Smiley's been at it for a bit and we enter in at this point:
” …And that's why his (Merlin's) fellow conspirators look to him to deal with Gerald and agree to the terms, the financial terms. Because they do want money. Lots of money. I should have mentioned that. In that respect, secret services and their customers are like anyone else, I'm afraid. They value most what costs most, and Merlin costs a fortune. Ever bought a fake picture?”
“I sold a couple once,” said Toby with a flashy, nervous smile, but no one laughed.
“The more you pay for it, the less inclined you are to doubt it. Silly, but there we are. It's also comforting for everyone to know that Merlin is venal. That's a motive we all understand-right, Toby? Specially in the Treasury. Twenty thousand francs a month into a Swiss bank: well, there's no knowing who wouldn't bend a few egalitarian principles for money like that. So Whitehall pays him a fortune and calls his intelligence priceless. And some of it is good.”
The boldface is by me. You see what I'm doing here? The boldface wording is Smiley telling a universal truth about us humans. There is an underlying venality in all of us humans and we do our utmost to make it okay. In the passage the Soviet spy is using that universal truth to dupe, not just the English spy service but the English government (Whitehall) and the CIA (not mentioned here) as well. The bigger the lie they more they believe.
Again this venality and its defense is universal. So it applies not only to spies but to, oh, to take a random group of people, Acupuncturists. On a certain level what the Boutiquers have preached as a business model, charge a lot of money per treatment, takes perfect advantage of the venality truth: if the treatment costs a lot then it must be good. This it makes total sense that Boutiquers would be upset that we CA people charge so little. We are calling their lie. We are saying that Acupuncture is good AND its cheap.
But wait! There's more! Read the passage again and you realize that the Boutiquers are not just playing a scam, they are like Toby: dupes caught up in the game. They value most what costs most. Its not that they are some smart cynical players fooling their patients. They are just as caught up in the belief that if it is expense then it must be good and if we say that they are wrong then not only are they mad at us they are embarrassed as well. And more: they are scared that people would see them as venal in their core. And so they get all the more upset with us. They really believe in that Ming vase.
Venal is a bad word. In the US, and most likely everywhere on this planet, people do their utmost to pretend that they aren't venal. It gets silly. Just look at the Republican's in their nominating process. People will do almost anything to get away from being identified with that sin. But we all have it, including me and Lisa. That doesn't make it right. And suppressing our venal urges into our subconscious is really not the right thing to do. Yet that's what we routinely do.
Community Acupuncture tries to bring to the light our venal urges, our love of money and comfort. It automatically calls our acu-education into question as well as Boutiquer prices because it calls our love of security into question. It challenges the idea that high prices = right and valid treatment, even if a patient's pain goes away. Note that it doesn't answer the question for us. We each have to do that on our own. For those Acupuncturists who resist taking an honest look at their fees, they are often inclined to get real defensive and lash out in al directions at CA Punks. Their carefully agreed upon way of living is being called into question. Really, its a surprise that we Punks are surprised at all.
And, yes, I am a PK.