Essential? Whose Body is It Anyway?

Essential is such a funny word.  Having watched doctors fill in forms for my reasonable accommodations since the 1990s you start to get a feel for medicine and why some physicians are M.D.s and some are O.D. or D.Os as well as who is entrepreneurial in the field of medicine starting, for instance, physical medicine (dominated now by Physical Therapy or PT) and even more importantly what doctors contribute to the ever increasing and expansive field of “public health.” Were I home, look at my  neighbor Cornell Tech and its initiatives.

Not surprisingly public health is one of those fields that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg favors. Doing good by algorithm or at least taking the drama (read female) out of who lives or dies. To me, public health is really about what or whose bodies matter. The politics behind it, forget economics, gets translated into law.

I mean with behavioral economics out there like Freakeconomics, we don’t need to think there’s any one rational person that creates a standard for all. Thanks to AI we can quantify irrationality as well as rationality. This is actually quite serious or essential when you think about it. The American rule of law is based on that so-called rational person or human being, yet AI has replaced it with some courts going so far as mandating their judges use algorithms to determine sentencing.

Now that we’ve got “essential” workers (truck delivery, restaurants, meat processing plants, K-12 teachers), as opposed to those on the frontline in public health, what is to become of them?  

The term is perverse, risking your life and the life of your extended family all for minimum wage and life in a gig economy that cements working poverty as well as institutional racism and injustice. 

Checking out careers and professions as I’m won’t to do with two sons in their twenties, I noticed that K-12 teaching as a profession dropped out of the top fifty professions.  What a shame.  Meanwhile, of all things, Political Scientists still don’t beat economists, but one site had them ranked as 47th. I can never get comedian Robin Williams’ pronunciation of the term out of my mind.

Meanwhile, those on the frontline can feel proud as they helped stop death and hindered harm.  

The rest of us, as Harvard’s Ethic Professor Danielle Allen noted, are remote and will be the last to return to work.  I got notice that CUNY is going back. No more remote. I’m happy for what I learned but I can’t wait to get back into the seminar room.  

It’s hard to know how well one connects remotely unless we get great training. Fall 2019, I happened to be teaching one seminar on social justice and the ADA in the workplace at CUNY’s School of Professional Studies (SPS). Being the semester before COVID I happened to have gotten excellent training.  I was so happy to have learned my way around Blackboard. 

One happy surprise was that the post writing aspect of remote work makes the online teaching sometimes profound, more profound than utterances in the seminar room.  I suppose we all have a voice and some integrity late at night or in the wee hours of the morning when we’re composing our thoughts and committing them to our online or remote machine.

This entry was posted in COVID-19, Disability, Women Impacting Politics by Professor Ruth O'Brien. Bookmark the permalink.

About Professor Ruth O'Brien

Professor Ruth O'Brien, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY) & Honorary Unaffiliated Academic Book Series Editor for The Public Square, Princeton University Press & Heretical Thought, Oxford University Press, USA Last book: Out of Many, One: Obama & the Third American Political Tradition (U of Chicago 2013). Nickname: Professorette by Rush Limbaugh (see http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Faculty/Core-Bios/Ruth-O-Brien)