About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Yes, Moore's movies are not “fair and balanced” (news flash: if you think Fox News is, I'd like to sell you this beautiful bridge here in Brooklyn, real cheap...). But, unlike certain notorious right-wing outlets (like, say, Rush “I can take drugs, but you are immoral if you do” Limbaugh?), Moore is on the side of the downtrodden and against big corporate and political interests, and that's the way anyone with a sense of decency and fairness should be. I mean, conservatives keep telling us that how and with whom we have sex is a “moral issue,” but somehow their so-called family values do not extend to making sure that everyone has access to a minimum level of health care. Assholes.
Moore's movies are clearly not documentaries. Think of them rather as op-ed pieces, where you know exactly what point is being pushed and why. But, just like a good op-ed, having a point of view doesn't mean that one is inaccurate, unfair, or “biased.” I strongly defend the “point of view” that the earth is about 4 billion years old, give or take. If you think that's just my opinion, you should have your reasoning abilities checked immediately. Seriously.
Sicko is touching and funny, and it makes a compelling case for one fundamental point: the health care system in the United States (started by none other than Richard “it's ok to go illegal if it allows me to win” Nixon) is rotten to the core. The reason for it is that it is in the hands of private corporations whose goal is to make a profit, that goal is reached by doing exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to do: instead of giving you care, they deny it as much as possible.
I clearly advocate a single-payer system like the ones in Canada, Britain, France, and Italy, to mention a few (and yes, they do work; and no, the waiting times are not long; and yes, the quality of care is actually higher than in the U.S.). My father used to complain like any good conservative when he was paying taxes in Italy, even though, for instance, I went to college for free and therefore didn't start my life burdened by tens of thousands of dollars of debt. But even my father eventually stopped complaining. First when my grandmother had to be hospitalized for almost two years toward the end of her life, and we paid one thousand lire (50 cents) of “co-pay.” Then when my father himself was hit by three different types of cancer, had to undergo several operations and treatments, and – again – the whole thing didn't cost us a dime. In the US, we would have gone bankrupt after the first bout.
Still, even if one just couldn't stomach the idea of a single-payer system, and wished instead to maintain some level of private bureaucracy because one just doesn't trust the government, then the crucial reform to implement should be obvious and simple: let doctors, not bureaucrats (private or public) make decisions about health care. Period. It is simply insane that someone who has not seen the patient is able to override a doctor's decision over the phone. Especially since these bureaucrats actually get bonuses and promotions based on the number of cases they deny. And make no mistake about it: this is by design, not accident, and it costs lives.
And at any rate, as Moore so clearly states at one point in the movie, what's up with this congenital knee-jerk reaction against government-run systems? We have public fire departments, police, schools, and military, and they all work remarkably well (not to mention that Medicare, the government-run health care system for the elderly and the disabled, actually works much better than the so-called efficient private systems in this country). So why not health care? Put simply, because Congress and the White House are in the pockets of the health care industry (the movie has a funny scene where several congressmen attend a health care industry-sponsored event, and each one is labeled with the amount it took to buy them off – the biggest prize went to George W.). Meanwhile, Americans are too scared of loosing their jobs and whatever little coverage they have to mount any significant protest. Remember that a study done at Harvard recently showed that the number one reason for personal bankruptcy is the inability to pay health care bills – and we are talking families who are insured!
Go, watch the movie, and see if you don't get pissed at the story of the guy who had to choose which severed finger to reattach because of the cost (tens of thousands of dollars) of doing the operation. See if you don't scream bloody hell when you find out what sort of medical coverage they have in Britain or France. And see if you can help being moved by the stories of our heroes of 9/11, who are being denied coverage because they volunteered their help without checking first what sort of insurance they might rely on if they got sick.
Moore may be over the top, and I'm sure his populism irritates even some progressives, but this country needs a hundred of him, urgently. More importantly, we need to start learning some simple lessons in democracy from, say, the French: let's march on Capitol Hill and kick the ass of a few corrupt politicians, beginning with all those who voted for Bush's bill on prescription drugs for the elderly. Now, that sounds like a good beginning!