An Opus for Health
Long-time readers of my own articles know that I am not one to write an article that is just another writer's work; while extended quotes from other sources, where allowed, are just fine for spreading good information especially when a useful, integrated compilation is the resulting post making a blog of nothing but aggregated articles strikes me as too parental for my own style. Moreover, given that Dr. Weil published his article at The Huffington Post, I am doubly reticent to use Websites of my publishing company for an extended quote from the author, given my open disdain for Arianna Huffington as a journalist and as a user of other people's talent to asymmetrically enrich herself.
However, what Dr. Weil has to say is far too important to allow myself to pass unrepeated and unpraised. It is a predicate to some of my gravest concerns about health care "reform" as it is now being cast by the Democrats who have crafted the House and Senate versions of responsive legislation.
Suffer me this relatively short, elided passage from Dr. Weil's article, after which I shall close this opening essay about health care reform with harsh words and then an altogether reasonable, if unusable, path to progress.
From Dr. Weil:
I'm worried -- and if I'm worried, you should be, too.
The reason I'm worried is that the wrong diagnosis is being made.
As any doctor can tell you, the most crucial step toward healing is having the right diagnosis. If the disease is precisely identified, a good resolution is far more likely. Conversely, a bad diagnosis usually means a bad outcome, no matter how skilled the physician...
But what's missing [from current reform legislation], tragically, is a diagnosis of the real, far more fundamental problem, which is that what's even worse than its stratospheric cost is the fact that American health care doesn't fulfill its prime directive -- it does not help people become or stay healthy. It's not a health care system at all; it's a disease management system, and making the current system cheaper and more accessible will just spread the dysfunction more broadly.
It's impossible to make our drug-intensive, technology-centric, and corrupt system affordable...
[Read the entire article at The Huffington Post]
Most unfortunately, the hysteria-whipped mobs now showing up at town meetings where health care reform legislation is supposed to be discussed have made any reasoned, rational attack on the reform efforts virtually impossible. This same problem faces any critic of Obama's policies and actions in other spheres, too. In my article, "A Paleo-Conservative Message to Republicans," I tore into the current breed of Republican conservatives for what they are doing to constructive debate:
My worst problem now is you Republicans: you swirling gaggle of disgraced, naked clowns still dancing on the stage while adults try to speak; you crowing blast of hot air gusts still trying to fan the flames of hate you once used to scorch the land of tolerance; you craven, culled pack of eviscerated hyenae nipping at heels of people far larger than you can ever again be.
I am maddened to find that opposing certain of President Obama's policies and personnel appointments, opposing the prevailing current in health care reform, opposing the already-established directions that financial services industry reform are taking put me in apparent, superficial league with vicious demagogues and their blind, uninformed masses.
It is like trying to give a lecture on exobiology while surrounded by Star Trek fans in full Federation and Klingon regalia.
It is like trying to explain the catastrophic failure of the Federal Reserve of the past eight to ten years while sharing the stage with Ron Paul's neo-Nazi followers slapping me on the back and saying, "You tell 'em, Boss! The Fed must DIE!"
(And in the interest of full and honest disclosure, that last one is way too close to my actual experience for comfort.)
Nevertheless and may God help me in this trial I shall have my say. I shall expect no increase in my popularity as an analyst: calling the Right-wingers and some conservatives "imbeciles" and calling some Leftists and liberals "air heads" is not the way to make friends and influence people, but if it is of any comfort to those on both sides of the political debate, I will have some kind words for what underlies your rhetoric. Setting aside self-serving, craven politicians and talk-show entertainers who care about nothing other than the power and wealth they garner, the rank-and-file of both the Right and the Left are not really stupid, and they generally, at least in their quieter moments of reflection, speak from their own hearts, even though their own hearts can be used by those who really care about no one but themselves.
I have much to write in opposition to what both sides are doing; and it is not that I am a contrarian that I take such a dim view of what is going on.
In fact, although beside the point right now, I am a contrarian. For example, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman says that current Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, should be appointed to a second term. I condemn this: Ben Bernanke is a failure, and Paul Krugman is a self-serving, lousy tool of an economist. Note that I provided a link for each of those harsh statements: read for yourselves that I provide sound reasons for my otherwise seemingly cruel assessments. When I can speak from facts, sound theory, and strong personal experience, I waste little breath speaking of my "feelings"; those come at the end of the day and speak for themselves through the subtext of my expositions and narratives.
At the beginning of this article, I quoted from an article by Dr. Andrew Weil and wrote favorably of what he had to say. Promoting fools, uneducated (and educated) imbeciles, and political opportunists is not my style. When I quote someone, especially at length, I confer an assessment I rarely give even to a President I might to some minimal extent, anyway actually like.
In at least one following article, few will be my opportunities to have good things to say about either side in the current debate about health care reform. An ignorant, hateful opportunist like Sarah Palin is a good place to start in condemning the Right for opposing reform. Any Congressman who thinks forcing uninsured people to buy "public option" health insurance under penalty of law for non-compliance the way Massachusetts does is a good place to start on the Left.
And anyone on either side who thinks shutting down a vigorous conversation with a "my-way-or-the-highway" mentality merits nothing other than scorn, and I will be more than glad to mete it out.
I wish I could offer an olive branch to everyone passionately involved in this acrimonious debate. Those opposed to health care reform are difficult for me to reach at this moment. They have built a fortress of certainty around their sentiments. It will be hard to overcome the sound-deadening ramparts that insulate them from alternatives to the extremes to which they believe they are justified in going; but that is precisely why I shall, instead, offer some words to my more progressive friends, should they be interested in a non-aligned, alternate idea for overcoming not just the barriers stopping reform, but also the despair of trying to talk with people who are not listening.
I need not tell you that this is a difficult and wholly new area of social progress you are seeking in health care reform. The United States of America is not Europe, and it is not Canada; it is not even the United States of the 1930s, when sweeping changes brought the federal government into the lives and business activities of the people more than had occurred since the War between the States.
Yes, our health care system is in desperate need of reform, but its need is part of a much larger, much more complex need for reforms of our antitrust laws, our regulatory structures, our courts, and even our law enforcement model. Underlying and, oddly, beyond all of these, though, is our need for renewal of ourselves and our civil society. As Dr. Weil implied in his article, we cannot cure a disease by addressing symptoms alone. We can, of course, offer comfort while the illness, itself, is being addressed, and that is what health care reform at this time should be about.
The last attempt to reform our system of health care in this country met with complete failure, but this was not, as many progressives believe, because of the conspiracy of business interests and their feckless minions in politics; instead, it failed because it was crafted beyond the view, input, and dialectical process of the people the people who would be its beneficiaries. That early-1990s reform proposal came to the citizenry fully developed, complete and integrated, with virtually no room for deep change based upon the input of real people with honest-to-goodness, real ideas, concerns, fears, and questions.
In a democracy, we the educated the elite, the informed, the knowing simply cannot presume that we know better than those we govern, those we educate, those we pose to lead. As frustrating as it might be, we are no better than they when it comes to either the ballot box or the grocery store. Simply handing the electorate the products of our ideas and saying something to the effect, "Now, ask us how this works," is a prescription for disaster.
The considerable and legitimate fear of a neo-fascist movement in this country is not addressed by labeling it, demanding action against it, and decrying its beliefs. Beneath that extremism is a penetrating, unspoken, sometimes unconscious fear among far too many of our brother and sister citizens that their lives all of our lives are now beyond our control, in the hands of faceless technocrats, academics, shadowy forces, and law enforcement personnel who are without mercy, without control, and beyond redemption.
Ignore the fears of these people as you will, but I can draw straight lines for you across the years and decades from the here and now clear back to 9/11, on back for some of those "Right-wing crazies" to Ruby Ridge and Waco, and on back from there.
Symbolic representations are not just for dreams. We lose control of our children to entertainment media and its unwashed trash, to technological innovations, and to education theoreticians, so why is it surprising that this billows forth as out-sized fear of everything from evolution education to child predators around every corner?
We lose absolute sovereignty in our own homes and in our cars, so why is it surprising that this comes out in skyrocketing sales of personal firearms and cries for more of the very police who will treat us all like we're criminals waiting to get caught?
We lose control of the right to work, to earn a living without being fired for no reason, so why is it surprising that people blame everything from unions to immigrants?
We lose control of our bodies to media-flogged fears of cancer around every corner, diseases of which no one even heard (including doctors) a generation ago, so why is it surprising that a non-existent status quo is far preferable to a situation where bureaucrats take control of the health of people who have no control over it, as it is?
Stop. Think. Most importantly, shut up and listen. Do what President Obama did with Gates and Crowley.
In fact, President Obama, to whom I gave high praise for sitting down with the professor and the policeman, should do the same right now, except that he should let the progressives stay at home. He needs to peel off common citizens protesting against the health care reform effort, bring them to the White House, and talk with them. Get them away from their mean, opportunistic, talking-points cheerleaders, and let them speak for themselves to him; and once an honest dialogue has been fully engaged and exhausted, let Mr. Obama take what he has heard to the Congress with the full intent of making its Senators and Representatives listen, that they may have yet another chance to reform themselves before they seek to reform that which is outside their chambers and their own interests.
I remind you of what Mr. Obama said during his acceptance speech in Chicago, Illinois, on the night of Tuesday, November 4, 2008:
I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.
It is not enough to decry "the mob," the obstinate congressional representatives, the profit-hardened pharmaceutical companies, the intransigent GOP, the hateful grandstanders of the Right, and some ill-defined "capitalist system." Break the back of these destructive forces by taking their very instruments the people who have real, honest, and genuine concerns and bringing them into a truthful, productive, nation-changing dialogue.
If you think that cannot be done, you don't believe in your own President. Worse yet, you don't believe what you have seen and heard in his own words and ways when he is at his very greatest.
"Change you can believe in"?
That begins in your own house.
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