Because They Can

Because They Can


Leonard Zwelling

When bad things are happening, reasonable people seek to understand why. Today there is much to question.

Why is Donald Trump, a clear racist and misogynist, still in the White House? Why will members of his own Republican Party, the party that opposed slavery, sit silently by and tolerate his nonsense and bad behavior, much of which is probably both illegal and unconstitutional.

Why does the leadership of a number of leading American and Canadian academic centers allow the wholesale discrimination of their faculty members with roots in China?

And, closer to home, how could it be that MD Anderson, the acknowledged leader in clinical cancer care, allows the administration of human blood products without adequate consent and without standard monitoring during the administration? How could all of this be going wrong?

There are many answers.

Donald Trump was duly elected with the help of the Russians plus Jim Comey (and, of course, Hillary Clinton) using a system that clearly values votes in one part of the country over votes in other parts. If the popular vote had determined the winner, Mrs. Clinton would be President Clinton Deux.

Trump remains in office because, despite any effort in the House to impeach him, (and the latest fell far short), he would never be convicted by the Republican Senate that fears election challenges from the right and the loss of the votes of the Trumpist plurality. He also benefits from a Justice Department that refuses to indict him for offenses outlined by Mr. Mueller as probably constituting obstruction of justice. I am not sure why a sitting president is above the law, but this one surely is.

The current war against the Chinese is just the latest episode in the on-going history of America’s rage against immigrants (see The Gangs Of New York) despite the fact that other than American Indians, we all are immigrants. The faculties of these institutions sit silently by (with some exceptions) as administrators, encouraged by the federal government, and maybe threatened by that government with the loss of grant money, cooperate and expel Chinese citizens of America and Canada.

Finally, what has happened in the clinical care at MD Anderson is clear to anyone who is a patient there. No matter how hard the staff and faculty try, the numbers of patients overwhelm the ability of the system to handle them. My line is that MD Anderson gives great care, once you get to the doctor.

Cancer care is more complex than ever. Each patient takes more time, not less, yet the system keeps pushing patients through to keep up the revenue as the electronic medical record bogs down clinicians and nurses alike in an effort to grasp at every available insurance dollar. In addition, somehow the nursing at Anderson got sloppy. This calls for a full-scale investigation of nursing and the Quality Office. Someone is not doing his or her job. Those people may need to be replaced.

Those are all the reasons on the surface. But the real reasons bad things happen come in two forms.

First, there’s bad luck. If a meteor hits your home and destroys it, that’s bad luck. Bad luck is common, but less so than reason number two.

That reason is that bad things happen, because they can. No one is stopping them. Systems move toward chaos. That’s entropy. It takes free energy being pumped into the system to prevent the chaos.

The British were abusing the American colonies until those colonies said “enough” and declared their independence. Then they had to fight for it.

Hitler rolled through Europe until the Allies finally said, “enough.” Even then America stood on the sidelines until Pearl Harbor.

Evil will triumph as long as no one does anything to stop it. Each of the problems outlined above has occurred because those in positions to make sure they didn’t happen—the Democratic Party in 2016, the Republican leadership in Congress now, the leaders of academic institutions in North America, and the leadership of clinical care at Anderson—have all allowed bad things to happen. Bad things happen because they can. They stop when good people say no.

The real question is: where are the good people?

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