What confusion could I hope to conquer with the scattered, fitful enterprise of blogging?
The phrase To Conquer Confusion has two meanings for me. First, it is the working title of what I hope will be my second book on the history of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. As such, it describes both the ostensible goal of finding effective ways to prevent, treat, or manage Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and the struggle of people in the dementia field to make sense of its dizzying array of sometimes conflicting ideas and practices.
But as the title of this blog, the phrase To Conquer Confusion also describes my own struggle to make sense of this project amidst the conflicting demands of life. Scholars are perhaps always prone to the delusion that their current project, into which they pour so much time and energy, is the most important thing in the world. That is especially true when you work on something like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, which cause so much real suffering for millions of people, and is characterized in popular discourse in terms of crisis and catastrophe. But, despite the rhetoric of Alzheimer’s advocacy, it is not the only or the most important challenge facing us. Rather, it is one of many significant interconnected problems – poverty and wealth inequality, environmental degradation and climate change, global conflict and war to name a few – that demand our attention.
Part of my struggle in working on this project is to avoid being captured by the rhetoric of my sources. As a historian, my contribution to getting our response to dementia right is to place it into a broader social and cultural context, and as a historian working in bioethics, to think about how it fits into a larger constellation of moral concern. So on this blog I will not write only about Alzheimer’s and dementia, but about a broad range of things we need to care about, with the aim of exploring how these things are connected.
There is also the typical challenge for academics of fitting this work into a job with heavy teaching and administrative responsibilities, and balancing all of this against the normal responsibilities to one’s family. And this blog will also be about those kind of struggles, if only in the inevitable gaps and shortcomings that reflect my inability to keep all these moving balls in the air.