To misquote Francis Bacon:
It is generally better to deal by radio than by print […] print is good, when a man would draw an answer by print back again; or when it may serve for a man’s justification afterwards to produce his own writing.
Radio, instantaneous and far-reaching it may be, but it still is a dangerous medium, as your reactions must be instantaneous, and correct first time. There is no room in the editing suite for the guest, no track changes, no jolly sub-editor polishing your answers to a high gloss. The weighting is very taxing, as while you may know the first question, after then it becomes more free-form, and commensurately more dangerous.
So it was with trepidation that I entered the Radio 5 studios to be interviewed live on air regarding the problems with dopamine agonists. The interview is to be found here until May 4th. It starts at 7.30 and is about 6 minutes long. It’s followed by philosopher Simon May on the philosophy of love, and then by the 5live Men’s Hour doctor, Mark Hamilton, who sadly demonstrates one of the problems faced by parkies as he apparently hasn’t heard of the compulsive behaviour patterns directly attributable to dopamine agonists. It’s not surprising, as he’s unlikely to know many, if any, early-onsetters, and we’re generally whisked off to consultants at the earliest opportunity. We, however, know quite a few of us. This does illustrate, perhaps, how the GP’s role as gatekeeper and source of general information, so important for sufferers of many conditions as well as their families, does seem in certain situations to be under threat – one can only assume it’s a lack of training.
The other problem with radio is that there’s always a clash of agendas, as presenter and guest tussle to mould the interview to their particular needs. Once when I was interviewing a rather famous musician he commented that my job was to put his message across to the readers. I knew if I pointed out that my job was to write what I saw as the story he’d put the phone down … so I simply prruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu … that was my early afternoon nap, right there. Symptoms in action.
Yesterday’s piece ended with the presenter asking if we trivialised the disease in concentrating on the salacious aspects of dopamine agonist therapy. Now really, what could I say but ‘Absolutely’?
As ever, it’s all down to the context. In the context of a nuanced discussion of the disease, its psychological and physiological effects, and those of its therapies, then it’s absolutely vital. If, however, it takes place in juxtaposition to lurve, with emotion as a binary opposition, playing a sort of devil’s advocate, ‘you can’t complain its salacious because he’s ill’, then the waters are muddied somewhat. Perhaps had the moral dilemma been teased out, namely do we allow behaviours from those who are ill we would frown upon in those who are well, perhaps adding the double-standards applied to men and women to the soup, then we may have done rather better.
To mix my metaphors into a smooth paste, it’s a fine line, and one that’s vulnerable to being vigorously trampled by the elephant in the room after just the tiniest squeak of a mouse.
My final word was not expected, but in the circumstances was true. Do I regret doing the interview? Hell no. It is what it is. And in case you were wondering, you can buy my books Slender Threads and Black Box, and you’ll be wanting to turn to Full of wise saws: on making a plan of action, in the former, and Don’t disturb Mr. Evans and April Fool in the latter.
Radio is a sword with four edges, its very vitality the quality that slices both the hand that wields it and the hand that fends it off.
I thought your radio segment was intelligent, thoughtful and starkly honest. Just as you did in Slender Threads, I think you captured the complex nature of compulsion very accurately. The question about discussion of hypersexuality trivialising the condition is an interesting one and it’s a shame the host didn’t give it the time it deserved. I think the ‘sex’ bit of hypersexuality leads people to assume that it will only happen to other people. Stories about compulsive knitting or stamp collecting don’t attract media coverage so much but they can be just as damaging…..
Yes, yes, yes indeed … thank you