I am wondering if I should be worried about neutrinos.
Neutrinos apparently are ghostly subatomic particles. I didn’t know there were such things until last week. I knew there were nachos and chinos and had safely navigated my way past both - but neutrinos?
Anyway, they exist and may be travelling faster than the speed of light. If that is the case, the universe as we understand it has stopped making sense. I hate it when that happens.
Of course, chances are the scientists have made an error. Why the attention-seeking boffins are telling us about results that may not be accurate, we don’t know. However, if it was my job to look at things you can’t see doing things that can’t be done all day I’d probably want to break things up a little now and again with the odd unbelievable claim. Although I’d go with “I can lick my own elbow” before “I’ve found something moving faster than the speed of light”.
Anyway, the idea of having something moving faster than the universe’s previously known speed limit apparently opens up the possibility of time travel. If I could type as fast as a neutrino moves, I would know what I am talking about before I start talking about it. Or you could go forward in time 20 years to see if you will have a pension.
Or we could all go back to 1997 and not buy into the PFI hospital-building programme, secure in the knowledge that it would be an unhelpful economic burden for years and years to come.
Except we all knew that PFI, under the auspices of a partnership between the private sector and public services, would create a crippling unending debt for much of the NHS. We knew it was the political equivalent of phoning up one of those loan shark companies and asking for some cash and not minding when they say: “Our interest rate is 1,765%. Just sign here.” We don’t need time travel or the benefit of hindsight to know PFI was unwise.
Indeed, perhaps it reminds us that the effectiveness of a partnership depends in part on its moral intent and in part on the power balance between the partners. Partnerships work best between equals - failing that, they need to be based on a commonality of either purpose or intent. Failing that, some mutual respect might be good. Without those, it is not a partnership but a simple contract. This is not in itself a bad thing but it is something less than a partnership.
I am a big fan of partnership. Against a backdrop of economic threat, professional assault, clinical disinvestment and educational dismay, I wonder if building partnerships around shared moral aims rather than a potential for profit might be the way forward.
Perhaps there could be a partnership between nurses and doctors that extends beyond practice into the political arena. Or a partnership between educationalists and clinicians that transcends the limits and demands of the Nursing and Midwifery Council to form progressive and confident nurse education? Or one between unions and professional organisations that sets aside political point-scoring and instead defends the things that matter most to nurses and their patients.
Because it seems to me that the politics of cuts forces people to defend themselves, their wards, their hospitals, their profession; it can make us insular so divide groups with shared interests. We don’t need economic partnerships but moral ones. That shouldn’t be beyond us, should it? If this neutrinos story is true, then surely everything is possible.
Mark Radcliffe is senior lecturer and author of Gabriel’s Angel.