The Key to Solving the Ebola Crisis: Behaving Symptomatically is the Key

Edgar J. Ridley ©2014

 It is generally asserted that Africans’ superstitious thought processes and behavior patterns make it difficult for many diseases to be controlled. However, the Ebola crisis presents a special danger because of its potential high mortality rate and the danger of global spreading. It is important to note that this propensity to think symbolically extends beyond Africans to other populations, who also display that symbolic thought process that initiates superstitious behavior. The symbol systems that produce symbolic behavior also produce superstition and mythology, which has caused widespread inefficiencies in solving not only diseases but business problems as well.

Our research suggests that the historical treatment of root cause analysis by medicine, non-medical academia, and business is incorrect. Recent research compels us to note that the labeling of a patient as asymptomatic is a misnomer. The common belief that focusing on the symptoms of any problem distracts us from getting to the root cause is inaccurate, leading to a delay in analysis and treatment. As is consistently being noted in the handling of the Ebola crisis on the African continent, medical experts are confusing signs and symptoms by suggesting that some patients are asymptomatic, until it’s too late.  Indeed, due to our latest technological discovery systems, we can detect symptoms long before the patient presents physical evidence, but it requires an avant-garde awareness by the medical establishment. We call this a willingness to employ symptomatic thinking (see Basch). [1]

The general assumption of the superiority of the symbolic over the symptomatic has caused considerable human error and needless delay in diagnosis. This is an attitude that posits that dealing with the symptom actually makes matters worse. This is a misunderstanding of the phenomenon of symptoms.   All scientists agree: we either behave symbolically or symptomatically.  The problems of the world come from symbolic activity, leading to the wide misuse and misinterpretation of symbolic interaction over symptomatic interaction.  If we are to survive as a population in today’s world, we must change our behavior from symbolic to symptomatic.


[1] Ethan Basch, M.D., The Missing Voice of Patients in Drug-Safety Reporting, The New England Journal of Medicine, March 11, 2010, p. 865-869.

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