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Friday 8 December 2023

What Matters


I was watching a medical show recently and something incredible happened. The episode was based around a young Roma man who got sick and needed to go to hospital. The medical staff needed to work out what was wrong with him. But there was a subplot that one of the doctors working on his medical case was concerned for this teenager because he was living in a community that did not allow this young man to leave, at least not easily. He was concerned about his lack of education and his lack of opportunities in life.

There was this scene towards the end of the episode where the doctor offers this young man an internship in the hospital (not as a medical professional) as a way of helping him get some experience and work that is outside the family. The doctor tells this young man how he can have both the family and the job if he wants. The young man responds that things do not work that way with his people. But then something incredible happens. The doctor is coming from a place of superiority in this whole episode, he is a black man who came from disadvantage and had achieved a phenomenal level of success in the world. But the young man says how he chooses his family. He tells the doctor, I look at you all and I see your success, your skills, all that you have in life, and then I see that none of you have rings on your fingers, I see that none of you are married. And then he drives it home by saying, “And you are all lonely.”

The doctor is taken aback by this, because the young man is right, he is lonely. The show finishes by showing the doctor eating dinner at home alone and the young man leaving with his large extended family.

The point of the episode was not that if you choose a medical career you will be lonely. Many doctors have healthy and good families. The point of the episode is that if you choose what the world offers as success you risk losing what is far more important, the family that you love and that loves you. The young man wants to keep this above all else. And why should he not? How many people have gone beyond getting good jobs and have been driven by ambition, greed, or other desires to abandon family and friends long the way? This happens especially for women who pursue high end careers, because the world is much crueller to women in this regard than it is to men.

I was struck by the message of this episode. I don’t watch this show often, I find the main character to be an insufferable gamma narcissist, but I was shocked by how cleverly this episode of this show drove home such an important truth through this support character. 

How much better would our world be if we all accepted a little less shiny things and success and prioritized our families and loved ones much more?

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