These challenges need our courage and unity…
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
“Are you guys ready? Okay. Let’s roll!”
The Tower of Babel in the Old Testament is the brief story of when the Babylonians attempted to build a mighty and high tower. Though the interpretations as to why vary some, they were apparently punished for their hubris and ended up being unable to communicate with one another.
Sometimes it seems that nowadays humans are becoming more like this tall Tower of Babel and are risking destruction in the process of being unable to converse positively with one another. Ukraine and Russia. China and the United States. The Middle East. The political parties in the United States, the storming of the Capitol building on 1/6/2020, and much more.
My wife and I just saw an alternative tower. Imagine driving east out of Pittsburgh on Lincoln Highway 30. One could say it is the old 2 lane highway representing freedom. As we approach Shanksville, we see a tower in an otherwise empty land in the distance. There is an entrance sign to a National Park. It is cold, cloudy, blustery, 32 degrees, and windy. We turn in and follow the signs to the Tower of Voices.
What are the sounds? We get closer. There are chimes within the tower—40 of them, the information states—one for every paid flyer and crew member. Each sounds different, but inspiring together. They represent Flight 93. Remember that? Those quoted words were from passenger Todd Beamer who, with fellow passengers and crew, attacked the hijackers on 9/11/01, preventing the plane from going on to crash into our Capitol building. The sounds of the chimes are always different, depending on the wind, and sometimes silent if the wind is too light.
Much of our work seems to be helping patients achieve freedom from their controlling illnesses, doesn’t it? Our work is difficult and challenging, but perhaps there are other current challenges that also need our courage and unity, such as:
-The Goldwater Rule. As our next Presidential race is getting off the ground, how can we effectively and ethically use our expertise for the public good and overcome our divisiveness? That means finding ways to talk about the issues without necessarily talking about the individuals. I do not think we did that anywhere near well enough during the 3 years of the pandemic, which just reached its third anniversary.
-Racism and wokeness. Blanket blaming of groups of individuals for racism may cause guilt and antiracism in some, but backlash in others. Courageous commentary that can bring diverse voices of people together is essential.
-Climate instability. There is a growing number of psychiatrists conveying concern, but are we being effective enough, let alone so many being bystanders?
The Tower of Voices, it seems to me, is a most thoughtful long-term model and metaphor for imaginatively responding to acute, and especially long term, danger. The diverse chimes of 40 individual voices ring together to produce beautiful music.
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.