Distracted by Bread and Circuses

My partner and I are trying to make decisions concerning the future of our practice. Obvious considerations include our personal and financial goals, as well as our current economic situations. Another important factor is the country’s economic and political future. It is the last topic that creates consternation.

Where do we get information on national issues that we can trust? The news media? I think not. It has become apparent to many that major news organizations have deeply ingrained biases. It also seems obvious they are fed information that serves the individual or organization that supplied the data. For verification, read articles on the same subject in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Two totally different stories emerge.


We are also being distracted. While our country faces significant challenges on multiple fronts, including foreign wars, spiraling national debt and even thermonuclear war, we are fed a daily dose of cat videos and escapist television. The ancient Romans had a term for this: “bread and circuses.” Keep the masses fed and entertained to divert their attention from issues that matter. The current version involves government handouts and mindless entertainment. While we have certainly not reached the goal of providing for all those in need, a majority of our citizens have a roof over their heads and adequate food.

Most Americans would like to gather pertinent data to make appropriate decisions about our personal and professional lives. To do this, we need accurate information. A reasonable source should be our government. I am led to believe that, at one point, it was a good source of this data — and, in some cases, government information is still reliable. Unfortunately, after Watergate and other scandals, many have lost faith in the information it delivers. Over the years, this concern has exacerbated. As an example, testimony before Congress that the private emails of individual U.S. citizens were not being read was proven to be false by data released the next day. Could this behavior be an intentional device to lure us away from critical information that deserves national attention? As noted, more absurd examples of this behavior include videos of cute animals, instead of pertinent information concerning major issues, such as the national debt and health care.

So, without the data we need to make personal and professional decisions, how should we proceed? When we do not trust the information available, many of us simply decide not to decide. We will not take that course on implants or buy that cone beam computed tomography unit because we cannot plan without good information. In the end, this hurts our patients, practices, personal lives and country. For most of us, the middle road is the most reasonable path. Learn, modify our practices to the changing economy, and hope for the best.

Thomas G. Wilson Jr., DDS
Editor in Chief

From Decisions in Dentistry. October 2017;3(10):8.

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