Michael Moore's "Sicko," or, Jesus Was A Socialist
I've just finished watching Michael Moore's "Sicko." And I have some thoughts on the matter.
Here's the thing about medical care: We all need it. Most liberals that I know agree that we should, as a society, cover people's needs. This is addressed largely to the people out there who hate that idea - the ones who think the current American system is the best in the world. The ones who live in a society of "me" instead of a society of "we." The ones whose motto is: Everyone look out for number one and devil take the hindmost.
If you think that a doctor should profit from his or her work to the tune of a living wage - a single mid-sized car, a five-figure income, a two- or three-bedroom house - hey, I'm all for it. That goes for a medical researcher developing new drugs, a pharmacist dispensing them, or anyone else working in the medical field. Everyone deserves a living wage.
If you think that a doctor, or anyone else working in the medical field, should profit from his or her work to the tune of a Mercedes-Benz, a six- or seven-figure income, a six- or seven-bedroom house, or a closet full of Armani suits, you've got another think coming.
If you think that a bureaucratic paper-pushing CEO should profit off of health care for anything more than a living wage, I'm going to fight you with everything I've got.
See, the privatization of health care is immoral. Flat-out. It's immoral. It's sinful. It's wrong.
It is not moral to keep people from necessary health care just so you can save the money it would have cost and get yourself another Armani suit instead.
It is not moral to run medicine, or hospitals, or insurance companies as for-profit businesses.
It is not moral to deny people care that they have paid for.
It is not moral to deny people coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
In point of fact, It is FUCKING IMMORAL to profit on anyone's medical woes. FUCKING IMMORAL. No, it's more than that. It's FUCKING EVIL.
A doctor does not need a closet full of Armani, or three or four Mercedes, or a palatial estate. Neither does a CEO. Nobody *needs* to make more than a five-figure income. NOBODY. If you think you *need* that Mercedes, or that six-bedroom house, think again.
If you support the privatization of health care, you sicken me. More to the point: If you are pro-profit, you are anti-human.
A memo which responded to "Sicko," written by the CEO of Blue Cross, said snarkily: "As a viewer, you are made to feel ashamed to be an American, a capitalist, and part of a 'me' society instead of a 'we' society." Well, guess what, bucko? First of all, you SHOULD be ashamed. Secondly, we are NOT a 'me' society - we just think we are! We pretend to be, and the pretense is wearing thin. Regardless of vaunted American individualism, there is no such thing as a "me" society anywhere on this earth. Society is not a group of one. Society is inherently a "we."
As a member of a "we," you have obligations to the other members of the "we." That's the poor person who doesn't have insurance or a job. That's the person who just lost their job because of cutbacks and can't afford COBRA. That's the person who's working three jobs to make ends meet and can't get health coverage because he's not working full-time at any of them. We ALL owe each other whatever help we can give each other. Medical care is a moral issue, and it should be supported COMPLETELY by taxes.
It's time to repeal the laws that allow insurance company executives to get away with murder by neglect. If someone dies and you could have covered their treatment but you didn't, that's murder. You had intent, motive and opportunity, and you opted to keep the money rather than save the patient. That's MURDER.
It's time to repeal the laws that allow insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
It's time to enact laws that make for-profit medical care illegal and require all health care to be provided on a non-profit, taxpayer-covered basis.
If this makes you uncomfortable - if what I'm calling for makes you angry, or annoyed, or pissed off because how dare I challenge the capitalist system, just remember: It could be you next. All it takes is a cancer diagnosis or a car accident to make you one of the people whose entire life savings disappears due to the co-payments, the deductibles, and the non-covered conditions. You are not immune from these possibilities. 75% of able-bodied Americans become disabled at some point in their lives - and when you're disabled enough, you can't work. When you can't work, health care goes away. Then what are you going to do?
The root of the problem is unchecked capitalism. Unchecked, unregulated capitalism is the best way to create a class system with the extremely rich and the extremely poor and nobody in between. It's wrong. It's evil. Jesus did not preach capitalism. Buddha did not recommend it. Neither did Muhammed.
Guess what? Unchecked capitalism is also in direct contradiction to American values! What are American values? Freedom, liberty, justice, equality, right? Well, unchecked capitalism:
- Contradicts the value of freedom - those who have no choices are not free, and those who have no money have no choices
- Contradicts the value of liberty - because those who are shackled to debt and trapped in fear have no liberty
- Contradicts justice - because it is unjust to penalize people who do not have money just because they do not have money
- Contradicts equality - because only those who have money will profit from such a system, and that is inherently unequal.
It's also in direct contradiction to Christian values. Jesus said "Sell all you have, and give it to the poor." Paul required his followers to live in socialist communities, caring for those who cannot care for themselves - the widows, the orphans, the poor. Socialized medicine and socialized economy - communalist living - is the Christian way.
If you're a die-hard capitalist, or if you think this is a Christian nation - and especially if you're both - then great! Do what Jesus said, then: sell all you have, and give it to the poor... and then see how long you last when the "Christian" government doesn't provide you medical care. See how long you last when you're one of the poor.
If anyone can provide me with a good reason - a moral reason - for allowing capitalism to run rampant and unchecked, I'm all ears... but I doubt you'll be able to provide one. Justify denying health care to anyone. Justify it. Show me how it's moral.
And then, when you can't, sign up to help me get those laws changed.
The difference between sin and crime
Last night, I got the opportunity to show my partner Danny this video
, which I found through a friend on LiveJournal. There's also a great essay by Anna Quindlen about it here
. Additionally, in her own essay about it, my LiveJournal friend talks about how these people have a real problem understanding the difference between morality and legality: specifically, that never the twain shall meet, and trying to mix them usually results in failure.
When I showed this video to Danny, his response was interesting, and got me thinking. He said "The problem is, these people don't understand the purpose
of the law. What they want from the law is a validation of their religious belief, and that's not what law is for
." I think he's right.
When you watch this video, you can almost see the gears turning, freezing, and jamming up in these folks' heads. They haven't thought it through. In some cases, they not only haven't thought it through, but they have avoided
thinking about it at all. They literally have no answer as to what should happen to women who have abortions; they only think as far as legitimizing their views on abortion by making those views into law.
I think that's a pretty important observation. Simply put, it's about definitions. There's a disconnect there because they don't get that the law - at least, criminal law - isn't about validation of belief
but about assignment of penalties
. Laws do not, or at least should not, exist to simply promote the majority's values. They should exist to prevent or punish harm caused to other people through any number of vectors (personal assault, financial harm, etc.). Laws that have no penalty attached are generally unenforceable... and if there's no penalty or point, then the law doesn't mean anything, doesn't accomplish anything. It's just words in a book. The law is supposed to say "IF you do [x], THEN [y] will happen to you." You have to have both parts to make workable law. Otherwise, it's just a statement - a validation of some belief or other.
The problem is, in the world that these people live in (inside their heads and their shared collective consciousness), the point is that Good People Don't Break Laws. Law isn't about avoiding penalties. It's about not doing bad things. That's a problem, because for most people, the law isn't like that. Most of us trust our own judgement to decide whether a law is functional or not, and weigh the risks involved in breaking it. We all do that - speeding on the freeway being a prime example. I don't feel enormous guilt about going a few miles per hour over 65, especially when everyone else around me is doing it too and to slow down to the speed limit would create a traffic hazard. There are a lot of laws like that. But it seems to me that the viewpoint of the criminalize-abortion (and criminalize-homosexuality, and criminalize-polyamory, and criminalize-obscenity, and criminalize-immorality-in-general) movements seems to boil down to: if it's against the law, people won't do it.
Quindlen's article also points out that this is the Daddy State treating women like they're children, as if they aren't able to think for themselves. Women, in this view, are considered nearly innocent bystanders who just happened to be in the wrong clinic with their feet up in the stirrups at the wrong time; it's the doctors
who do the deed who are the criminals. Even the idea of a woman giving herself an abortion with a bent coat hanger does not change this viewpoint - because what virtuous, good woman would do that? None, right?
This explains a lot of the motivation behind laws which criminalize consensual or personal decisions, such as polyamorous relationships, homosexuality, obscenity, gay marriage, and abortion. In all cases, the people who are trying to pass the law apparently think that simply having a law in place will stop people from engaging in these actions that they find so repulsive. If there's a law against homosexual behavior, people won't do it, right? If there's a law that says you can't have more than one partner, people won't have one, right? If there's a law that says you, a woman, can't make a simple decision about your reproductive health and welfare, then you won't do it, will you?
If only things were that simple! If they were, I could lobby for all kinds of laws, such as laws criminalizing non-critical thinking, abuse in the name of religion, and neoconservatism. I'm sure the world would be a much calmer place. But then again, I'm not willing to take people's choices away from them, no matter how much those choices annoy, frustrate, or irritate me - and no matter how much I rant and rave about the effects those choices have on me. If nothing else, it makes those who choose them quite obvious, so I can avoid or mock them as I please.
My partner also observed that these people don't think in terms of crime
. They think in terms of sin
. The disconnect may be too big to fix, because they may think of crime in terms of sin - confusing law with The Law.
Frankly, I think that's both sad and scary. It explains so much of the dominionist, fundamentalist, and uber-religious movements in this country and elsewhere... and at the same time, I haven't a clue how we can pierce the veil of ignorance and educate these folks as to the differences between law and The Law. I really don't. Apart from large billboards saying "SIN AND CRIME ARE TWO DIFFERENT AND UNRELATED THINGS," which probably won't penetrate but will simply give them that confused, someone's-speaking-Greek-again look. It's a problem of cultural context. In their context, anything bad is automatically both sin and
crime. The two terms are pretty much synonymous. In the reality-based community, sin and crime are two totally separate things.
In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, culturally defined terms actually have a huge impact on this entire problem of dominionism and fundamentalism. Words like "marriage," "relationship," "partnership," "husband," "wife," "family" - all of these have culturally-defined meanings which vary from subculture to subculture. "Family" means one thing to a Dominionist, something else to a gay person, and something else again to an average suburbanite. Similarly, certain subcultures (such as dominionism) assume that two different words that mean the same thing in their culture will mean the same thing in the greater culture as well, even though they don't. This way lies much confusion and misunderstanding, for all sides.
I wonder if it might be as simple as sitting someone down who thinks that "sin" and "crime" mean the same thing and explaining, slowly and gently, that although those two words mean substantially the same thing in their religion, they don't mean the same thing in the larger culture, and explaining what each word does mean. I wonder if that would have any effect at all.
Probably not, but then again, it's worth a shot, isn't it?
Labels: abortion, crime, ethics, fundamentalists, law, morals