You must think I love Shakespeare since so many of my columns invoke either his themes or his catchy lines. And you would be right. He was amazing, and despite the many centuries and changes in Western civilization that have passed, his relevance and poignancy remain. Sadly though, most of his themes, and many of my columns,  are dark and despairing. It’s now January, the days are actually darkest, the weather the most bleak in many parts of the country. And whether you’re focusing on world events, politics or the state of ophthalmology, it’s tough to find an optimistic corner for your mind to dwell. 

I touched on the seemingly endless bad news from Medicare regarding cataract reimbursement, MIGS policy and MIPS cataract cost regulations which have a tendency to spill over into commercial insurances in my online column end of December. Find it on Review’s website if you missed it. For this column, I have a need to turn to world events, however grim. In particular the very obvious machinations of Vladimir Putin. So much has been written. I find it hard to believe anyone in the West could support him, yet many do. His ham-handed and obvious lies about his invasion of Ukraine, his assertions that NATO was going to attack Russia, interference with public opinion in the West through the many hackers and propaganda organizations infiltrating social media, and now stirring up hot spots around the world through his proxies are among some of his recent actions.

Additionally, Russia’s ally Iran, is encouraging its proxies in the Middle East, both Hamas and Yemen, as well as groups in Iraq. The timing is clearly to distract both media attention and resources from the situation in the Ukraine. And now out of seemingly nowhere, another ally, Venezuela, has annexed a large part of its neighbor, Guyana. I’m sure this is just a coincidence. I suppose I should take my hat off to the master KGB agent for stirring so many pots at the same time. These many regional wars and the disinformation campaigns around the world are brilliant work. Admittedly, the United States and its allies are no angels, and the seeds for these disputes were sown decades ago. I’m finding it very depressing as someone who lived through the Cold War to be reliving a daily fear of nuclear Armageddon with the Russians. Talk about history repeating itself. It all very clearly illustrates that history runs in cycles: Good and Bad. Reactionary and Revolutionary, Fascist and Progressive. I find it hard to feel that our ‘arc of history’ is bending in any way for the better—just revisiting the same old bad news.

So what can we do about it? I think what we can and need to do, and what we’ve done a terrible job of so far, is to remember our history. Those who forget it are condemned to repeat it, as they say, and I’m afraid we’re condemned—by our own hand. We not only don’t teach enough history—including the very unsavory parts—we have elements in our society that are aggressively fighting to prohibit teaching it: Remove the history of slavery, deny the
Holocaust, whitewash Naziism. I could go on, but it’s not pretty. So, we find ourselves with individuals and groups enamored of some of these themes either by ignorance or evil. And it’s not wrong to call something evil. While we struggle to preserve free speech, we must agree that some thoughts, speech and actions are evil, and need to be not only prohibited but shamed and prosecuted. We can’t sacrifice our civility and morals to the unfettered anarchy of freedom. There are and should be limits. We have to find them, agree to them and enforce them. Or we will allow evil to not only go unpunished, but unrecognized.


Dr. Blecher is an attending surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital.