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January 2008

Sicko

I finally watched Michael Moore's film Sicko for the first time.  There can be no dispute that his comparison between the health care systems in the US and in other prosperous countries is accurate. 

I've lived in two countries; one in which the goal of the health care industry is to make money (U.S.), and one in which the goal of the health care sector is to...uh...deliver health care (Slovakia).  It is enough to say that the stories shared in the film, on both ends of the spectrum, do not surprise me at all.  I won't bore anyone with my personal stories.  The issue is so black-and-white that there is no honest moral argument that can be much different from the one made in the film.  What is more interesting is that this situation actually exists and that all of the candidates running for President tell us we need to accept, more-or-less, the status quo.

It occurred to me, watching the film, how deeply fucked the USA is.  How on earth have we been tricked into not just tolerating, but even oftentimes defending a system designed to exploit the ill and dieing?  How are we perfectly alright with a system that refuses treatment to children and allows a distant corporation to approve or disapprove treatment even to those who have played by the rules and paid them large amounts of money for coverage?  How can we leave the spouse of a cancer victim with a bill so large that his overwhelming grief is only made worse with the enslavement to a hospital bill that can never be paid off?  This is very personal to me.  I have family in exactly this situation.

If only Americans knew how life can be they would never tolerate what is.  Yet without time to travel the world, and without a media system that brings the world to them in an honest way, they have no way of knowing.  And even traveling on vacation isn't enough because it doesn't tell us anything about the conditions, beneath the surface, which allow for the beauty we might see on a culture's surface. 

I'll be very clear, Americans have no way of knowing that our lives are shit.  Ours are lives of worry, fear, uncertainty, intimidation, enslavement to debt, and employment instability.  We are scared of our government, while in better countries the government is afraid of the people.

When Michael Moore takes us to the UK, to Canada, and to France, he's not exaggerating.  He's just showing the plain reality.  We say that people come to America to live the "American Dream".  I left America because I knew that I could not live my dream there.  My dream was not of more stuff, but of a life full of experience, pleasure, relationships, enough leisure, and freedom in the truest sense of the word.  Over the past few years I've begun to find all of these things, but it doesn't mean that I no longer care about my country...the one I left behind.  I simply want the best for it, and wish its people had the common sense and courage to demand the best for themselves.

To look at a country's health care system is to look plainly at the country and what it stands for.  We Americans are, indeed, sicko.




Posted by Mark Manney.

Music as a life metaphore

At some point in life, most of us have discovered some new artist or new song that ignites our passions and pleasures.  We discover a new sound or a new style of music that awakens our senses and makes us feel alive to new possibilities.  And so we dance, we laugh, we cry, or maybe just lay on the floor in bliss.

For some undefinable, yet short amount of time, we savor that music even more with each listen.  We even allow ourselves to believe that the affection felt toward those songs will never fade.  Yet, at some point (maybe after 10 listens or maybe after 1,000), we feel less and less of that original inspiration with each listen...until one day we stop playing it altogether (perhaps only going back a few times a year, when we are feeling particularly nostalgic).

And so it is with all of life's pleasures.  Learning to ride a bike, drive a car, going to the dance club, enjoying our favorite foods, even traveling.  With more exposure and with experience, pleasures fade as we continue to up the ante and continue to seek new, undiscovered realms.

While this may seem like a pessimistic view, I point it out only to emphasize the importance of discovering new music, new foods, new experiences and new pleasures.  That which is fading must be replaced by that which is over the horizon.  That which we have lost in life must be replaced by that which has yet to be found.

And so, in a world where there is already far too much music, I'll keep creating and keep searching...because I, for one, remain constantly hungry for that next break-through sound that will shed light on some dark corner of the universe of possibility.

Posted by Mark Manney.