In 1899, social philosopher and early gay activist Edward Carpenter argued in Civilization: its Cause and Cure that civilization was a disease that no human society had ever survived. He justified this startling assertion with a medical statistic: “I find that in Mullhall’s Dictionary of Statistics (1884) the number of accredited doctors and surgeons in the United Kingdom is put at over 23,000. If the extent of the national sickness is such that we require 23,000 medical men to attend to us, it must surely be rather serious !”, leaving a space between word and exclamation mark in accordance with the punctuational etiquette of that now-remote Edwardian era.

In 1899, social philosopher and early gay activist Edward Carpenter argued in Civilization: its Cause and Cure that civilization was a disease that no human society had ever survived

Today the number of Registered Medical Practitioners stands at nearly 260,000 and the “national sickness” burns with feverish intensity amidst revelations that medical staff at Colchester hospital may have been bullied into falsifying the records of up to 6,000 cancer patients to indicate they were treated within mandated NHS timescales. That Colchester alone has 6,000 cancer patients would have horrified Carpenter; the heartlessness underlying the falsification of such emotionally charged records would only have confirmed his assertion that civilization, in its current guise, is a terminal case.

Image: Hospital by Yuya Tamai on Flickr. Cropped to 16:9.