Treating the Symptoms Instead of the Disease

One thing that we have to be careful of, whether when dealing with a physical illness or a social problem, is the tendency to treat the symptoms without treating the disease. Treating the symptoms is not bad. It’s just less effective if that’s all that you do.

For example, let’s say you have a patient with a rash that is caused by a virus. And let’s say the virus is racism and hate, and the rash is the results of that racism and hate. Many tactics will focus on and treat the rash, which is a good thing. We want the rash to go away. But, we must also address the issue of the virus as well. If we don’t, what happens is that we successfully treat the rash, but then it comes back again because we never got rid of the virus.

Or, to look at it another way, bailing water out of a sinking ship may keep the ship afloat longer, and may even prevent the ship from sinking if we remove the water fast enough, but unless we plug the hole, more water will keep coming in.

If we want to be effective at dealing with social ills, we have to target the causes.


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Scott M. Stolz

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