I received a message from a colleague asking me to reconsider this blog post and to "reconsider categorizing conversations about occupational therapy the same way that you are categorizing conversations about race relations and gender issues." I like to think that I am always open to feedback and to making an effort to being more clear if there is the potential that I have been misunderstood (or if I have just NOT been clear) so I have edited the post (8/5/16).
More and more often these days I hear a type of response to sharing an opinion (particularly in social media exchanges) that is a total deflection of any issue being put forward for consideration. It is a type of response that ignores the speaker and their message and sends the tacit or sometimes the blunt message that “What you have to say does not matter, because here is what is truly important to me.”
If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, my blog or OTConnections to some extent (I am not cross posting everything on OTConnections) there is no surprise that in social issues and health care policy I have liberal leanings. I am a strong supporter of social justice issues, global health care and equal rights. For this reason I immediately tuned in to one social example of the “what about me” political response when the “Black Lives Matter” movement was met with a retort of “All Lives Matter.” To me it is a tone-deaf, racially insensitive retort that responds to an imagined “only” that is not said (i.e. “only Black Lives Matter). I wrote on the day after the murder of Dallas Policemen, “It is possible to be equally incensed by the systemic racism present in our society, our justice system and our system of law enforcement AND the senseless murder of police officers. We don't have to choose.”
Recently posts on Twitter celebrating June as GLBT Pride month and a #GayPrideDay were met with a retort of “heterosexualprideday.” The posters of the hash tag vehemently advocating that if Gays, Lesbians and Transgendered persons could have a day to celebrate their pride than what was wrong with heterosexual persons having a pride day? Of course this tone-deaf, insensitive response ignores the reason that GLBT Pride Celebrations exist; which is a long history of discrimination, hate and violence targeted against the GLBT community. The retort of #heterosexualprideday ignores the fact that most heterosexuals have never had to experience the discrimination, violence and hate targeted to the GLBT community and therefore might be sensitive enough to realize they do not need a “heterosexual pride day.”
I am going to totally skip over the idea of things like responding to Black Pride Month with a White Pride Month.
In the occupational therapy world the “what about me” response can take a couple of variations. These interchanges are different than the examples above that concern racism and homophobia and related more to the interaction of colleagues. Just yesterday my comments on the value and need for occupational therapy practitioners to advocate for a “seat at the table” to promote OT as part of a response to bundled payments by CMS as one value-based strategy was met with (and I am paraphrasing) “but valued-based payments are partisan schemes and we need to advocate to kick over the table and defend against the status quo!” This response is tone-deaf and falls into the “but what about me” category because there was no recognition that bundled payments are a value-based strategy going into effect RIGHT NOW AS WE SPEAK and that whether you believe they are a partisan scheme or not, advocacy against them as a strategy is unlikely to change the impact on occupational therapy practice in the short-term.
Now to be fully transparent, I support the trial of value-based payment strategies and especially bundled-payments as a means of achieving the Triple Aim of improving health, improving healthcare and decreasing costs. There just are not enough resources to go around. Still, I have never discouraged someone from advocating against value-based payment and would never respond to a post from a colleague suggesting that we should advocate against value-based payments by saying, “but no, I want you to talk about this instead!”
Another common form of the “what about me” retort in occupational therapy is anytime that someone writes about a new practice idea, “emerging practice” or a new role that an occupational therapy practitioner can adopt and the immediate retort is “But is THAT occupational therapy?” More and more often I am saying in reply, “I’m not sure I care; sometimes “Is that occupational therapy?” is an important question but often it is not.”
So this blog post falls a little in the “rant” category so I hope that readers will not parse my words one by one and focus on the big picture. Can we care about multiple things at the same time and isn’t it a little more helpful to respond by acknowledging that a friend or colleague cares about or is excited about an idea before you rush in and say, “Yeah, but this is what I really want to talk about?”
The opinions expressed in my blog are personal and neither represent the views of my employer nor any organization.