How do you judge if one movement is good and another bad?
Presumably, no-one would dispute that the improved diffusion of oxygen through the pulmonary interstitial space of a COVID-19 sufferer is good. And we can celebrate those that made that possible.
But what about the movement of air in a black man’s throat, or the movement of the knee of the police officer that killed him?
What about the lack of movement of the people who stood around and watched him die?
Is the movement of a thousand protesters good movement, even when it defies the law?
Is the #blacklivesmatter movement an act of domestic terror that needs to be suppressed?
Are these the kinds of movement that physiotherapy as a profession speaks to? Or do we reach the limit of our interest when movement ceases to be biological?
In her time as an art critic, Rebecca Solnit used to joke that “museums love artists the way that taxidermists love deer” (Solnit 2015).
Physiotherapists are trained to think of movement like this.
We share the same “desire to secure, to stabilize, to render certain and definite the open-ended, nebulous, and adventurous”.
And that’s been our default mechanism to avoid the difficult questions that our claim to being movement experts throws up.
Biology trumps beings.
It’s easy to say that physiotherapists are movement experts, but in reality that is only true of certain kinds of movement; the kind that doesn’t call us to judge the difference between a man in a chokehold and alveolar gas exchange.
Physiotherapy has enormous reserves of social capital, and our leaders are rightly anxious about spending that on campaigns that divide public opinion.
But if our desire to protect the good name of the profession prevents us from speaking out against injustice, hatred and tyranny, what right do we have to claim to be experts of one of the defining features of our humanity?
Solnit, R. (2015). Men explain things to me. Chicago, Ill.: Haymarket Books.