Mount Rushmore
Photo by Ronda Darby on Unsplash

My general physician quit UCSF and joined another group. After a few years of working with her, I hoped that at least, she is going to send me an email. Instead I got a letter which started — Om Malik, blah blah. The letter, and its dismissive finality stands in sharp contrast with my memories of Dr. Minocha, my childhood family doctor.

He lived two blocks over from my childhood home, and whose small, but efficient clinic is where I went every time I cut myself, fell off the roof or did something stupid. His was the first call my family made when my grandfather suffered a heart attack. I still think of him fondly. Mind you, it has been nearly four decades since I saw him.

Sadly, the latest episode of my departing doctor was yet another reminder that I live in the 21st century and in a world everything is transactional. Today a Facebook connection defines “friends” and double-tapping “like” is a shorthand for appreciation. It isn’t a surprise that we are becoming more unsocial despite having many more ways to connect and be social.

The fraying social fabric often catches me by surprise — it shouldn’t. But it does make me wonder how will we create social bonds in the age of remote work, where most communication is going to be either written or through video. I am not talking about just work-only relationships.

Instead, I am talking about long term friendships that form with folks at work. And even at work, when communicating online will we really be actually social? Left to our own devices, when it comes to online writing, we humans have shown an addiction for meanness. And nowhere is it reflected more than in social media streams.

There are times when I wonder if freedom of speech is actually freedom to shout and mock. I mean how else you could explain world’s richest person mock the US president or call the Canadian leader “Hitler.” It is because in a democracy you can say all that. That’s the gift of democracy – flawed and weird as it might be. You can live here and still plot against its future. You can be part of it and still be part of a rebellion. Democracy gives us that right.

Every so often many forget that our free society is a gift. You have an opportunity to shout at anyone from the president to the billionaire you despise. But that doesn’t absolve one of common sense, civility and pausing before saying something for impact. I wonder if Elon is ready to shout at or mock the Russian president or most importantly against the Chinese leader. Silence speaks for itself.

To my fellow Americans, a very happy President’s Day, no matter what you think of him (or her, hopefully soon.)

February 21, 2022. San Francisco