Until the end of the last century, the dominant metaphor for Health was Religious/Spiritual. Body is a temple, health is godliness or saintliness. Even the words for health hinted at their religious origins: Sante in French for example. Leading a good life meant leading a religiously compliant life
In an editorial published in the Lancet, a well known medical journal, it was interesting to see how the metaphor has changed and how much health occupies a central role in the discourse in our society.
Published on line on 6th October 2017
In her compelling account of the 2016 US Presidential election (What Happened, Simon and Schuster), Hillary Clinton invokes a powerful metaphor to express her concerns for the health of America's democracy. She argues that a body politic needs a strong immune system to survive. The elements of that immune protection are facts and reason. But “our immune system had been slowly eroded over years”. Democratic institutions of “the greatest country in the world” became vulnerable to attack. Americans must “heal our democracy”. Yet the prospects for repair seem poor: “I'm worried about our democracy at home…I'm worried about the future of democracy around the world.” With “epidemics” of despair, guns, and substance use, it seems impossible to deny that America has a “broken political system”. This view, from someone who has served her country for over a generation, should surely be taken seriously. Some critics have interpreted Clinton's book as a bitter parting shot against those who defeated her. They are mistaken. Her analysis is a disturbing autopsy on the state of America today. What Happened is an urgent plea directed not only to those concerned about America's capacity to survive, but also to all who are anxious about protecting America's international contributions to human health.
Thus MEDICINE has become a central theme, metaphorically at least, in the discussion of ills of society (pun intended).