Healthcare Reform: A Dystopian Nod to Charlie Dickens

Well, the snow is slowly settling and melting, and we have found our driveway, so although today’s high is forecast to be 19F, it appears spring may be imminent.

Sunday we had a lovely evening as friends joined us to acknowledge the vernal equinox and the coming of spring. I love the term “vernal” with its hints of the transitional and temporary. In a few weeks vernal pools will form in the woods behind our home, serve as breeding grounds for amphibians, then dry up. With luck, for a time the forest will fill with frog song.

I’ve been watching the news, from some distance, with interest, especially that pertaining to health care. Apparently those representing the government have been justifying ending health care for seriously ill folk by insisting the ill, and the general good, would be best served by dying. At first I took this as Dickensian hyperbole, but increasingly it appears the bureaucrats are, if you will pardon the pun, dead serious.

They appear to be taking a similar tack regarding hungry children and elders, insisting that both groups are an inconvenience and encouraging them to die as soon as possible, thereby reducing stress on federal and state budgets and the tax rate for the uber wealthy.

They apply the same logic to persons with disability. After all, supporting we disabled folk, and making public spaces accessible is expensive. The strong likelihood that these same politicians, or members of their families, will become disabled seems of no consequence. As for me, I have been facing repeated frustration with inaccessible places at home and abroad. After all these years I’m beginning to imagine that even in the West there is a strong public sentiment that disabled folk should remain invisibly at home, or at least magically rise above our disabilities a la Tiny Tim.

Finally, although there is extensive science declaring that environmental toxins and stressors are major contributors to illness in human, and non-human, populations, these same politicians seem hell-bent on flooding our shared space with pollution. Of course, they tend to live in areas removed from the immediate impacts of pollutants, but water and air move, and sooner or later these political sorts will encounter the toxic effects of their greed.

Now the thing that surprises me most about all of this is the absence of discussion about the social consequences of all these policies. Let’s just take health care for a moment. More pollution will result in an increased incidence of illness in the general population, and therefore in greater health care costs. Then there is the problem that, should twenty to forty million citizens of the US lose health care, a great many people will take the politicians’ advice and die. That will undoubtedly make for a host of angry, grieving family members, some of whom will enact their rage in arenas outside the ballot box. After all, loss is a very personal experience rather than an abstraction.

The idea that money and privilege should guarantee some folks happiness and health at the cost of others’ misery is ancient. That said, in the last three hundred years such practices have seldom worked out all that well.  Maybe we, and the politicians who claim to represent us, should rethink all this, eh?

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12 thoughts on “Healthcare Reform: A Dystopian Nod to Charlie Dickens

  1. It would seem that those who are charged with representing their fellow citizens in government and the making of policy which will affect all of us have drunk from the poison well of the Donald. They didn’t all of a sudden develop the uncharitable attitudes which they now show. But this new administration has apparently been able to activate within our representatives a very ugly way of thinking. Looks as though we need another Flood.

    • Gretchen, the conservatives in Congress have been saying this stuff for years. They were not able to act on their ideas until now. I suspect that if things do not change we will get our flood.

  2. What I am taking away from listening to the healthcare debate is that conservatives don’t believe that we the government, collectively, should take care of each other. It seems like a very selfish, greedy and cruel way of thinking that sounds like ‘survival of the fittest.’ It is so difficult for me to get my mind around it – because if we don’t take care of all people, we will all go down. This was so evident when they came up with their list of health issues that shouldn’t be covered – including prenatal care and pediatric care. I guess they wanted to throw all of us under the bus, Michael. Thanks for your clear thinking and for reminding us that their selfish, short-sighted thinking is pervasive.

    • Pat, I think the extreme conservatives are a minority, although they weld great power at this time. I am reminded of Marx response to a reporter who asked him to comment on “The Origin Of Species.” Marx replied he thought it was a masterful description of English society. Still, today, so many conservatives are focused on the “survival of the fittest, refusing to acknowledge that evolutionary theory now preferences co-evolution. As a result, they may well throw the entire planet under the bus.

  3. Overall, I see all these current (global) trends as an opportunity. It might be the time to stand on a different paradigm to understand health, to heal and to enjoy life. By promoting that kind of policies and speeches they might doing a favor to a new way of life to emerge.
    This is a perspective from far away and standing on what unites us rather than what divides us. Walking the path of being love.

    • Camilo, I so hope you are correct. In the meanwhile, the suffering that may happen ass a result of their policies would be horrendous. I am reminded that birth does not have to be an experience of suffering.

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