My Life as a Token Consumer

John McManamy Health Guide
  • "A camel is a horse designed by a committee."

    No, that's definitely unfair. Look at all the great things that have come out of committees: The Iraq War, 45 million Americans with no health insurance, Brittany Spears.

    Okay, I take it back, but let's rework the phrase: "A committee is a camel designed by horses."

    No, horses are way too smart. Let's set up a committee to decide.

    Three or four months after I moved to southern California, I had a chance to get on a committee. The committee is part of a project underwritten by whoever runs mental health services in the state of California, which I now have good cause to believe is absolutely no one.

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    Recently an "innovations committee" came up with eight ways to stop innovations. I kid you not. California has some $1.7 billion sitting around waiting to be spent on new mental health programs. The money - the result of a ballot proposition that taxes millionaires - cannot be applied to old services. Hence a committee on innovations, which has had 18 months to prove they are utterly unfamiliar with the concept of innovation.

    I say give the $1.7 billion back to the people who created the wealth. Real innovators. People like Steve Jobs. Let him come up with iHealth.

    Anyway, here I was, with my chance to serve on one of these committees. The project was right up my alley. I had been covering the topic in my Newsletter for five or six years. I knew the players. In fact, I was working on a similar project, myself. In fact, it is safe to say I knew more about the subject than any patient in the world, bar none. Plus, I had street cred out the wazoo.

    A friend of mine introduced me to the doc in charge of the project. The doc was impressed. He would get me onto the committee. I could consider it a done deal.

    If you read my previous blog, you will instantly ascertain what is wrong with this picture. I was about to go onto a committee as one of the token consumers. Or maybe it was a token committee peopled by consumers. Same thing, really. The criteria for token consumers on mental health committees is extremely selective, namely:

    • You must know nothing about the subject.
    • You must demonstrate absolutely no interest in getting up to speed on the topic.
    • You must be adamantly opposed to working with people.
    • You must have a proven track record for posturing on topics totally irrelevant to the subject at hand.

    It also helps if you don't believe in mental illness or any form of psychiatry, are low-functioning, and have at least one raging personality disorder.

    These kinds of safeguards ensure that things like innovations committees will never come up with innovations. Believe me, wise people figured this out millennia ago. It's all in everyone's best interest.

    So now imagine this poor doc who has just invited me onto a committee. Clearly, he wasn't thinking.

    "!!???" those way high up in the California State Department of Doing Nothing remonstrate. Clearly the doc is in hot water. I never hear from him again. But it gets even more complicated.

  • Later, at a conference, I run into someone way-way high up in the California State Department of Doing Nothing. The Head Do-Nothing, practically. She, too, suggests I get onto the committee. I send her a follow up email, which she doesn't respond to.

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    It's apparent her action has incurred the wrath of the Governator.

    It's time for me to gracefully bow out. Clearly, I am ruining people's careers, left-right-and-center. We know from bitter experience the things that can happen when we people committees with individuals who know what they're doing, namely:

    • They don't worry about Esperanto.
    • They focus on things that are important.
    • They come up with brilliant ideas.
    • They get the job done.

    No, the system is simply not set up for that. To all the people whose careers I so thoughtlessly jeopardized, my sincere apologies. What was I thinking?

Published On: July 24, 2007