Hawking Up Hairballs

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Take The Purgative

Last week I had a colonoscopy at Grady Hospital, which takes the Medicaid cases here in Atlanta. The most difficult thing about the colonscopy is the purgative that you have to take the night before to clean out the colon. It's no fun at all. So anyway, there I was first thing Wednesday morning, daydreaming about alien visitations as I awaited my turn for the anal probe. During that time, I saw three people get rescheduled because they had failed to take the purgative. Now, I'm a social democrat. I'd like to see true radical democracy, but that doesn't seem possible. Social democracy seems to be the only practical left-wing alternative, at least at this particular point in history. That being the case, I'm all for universal, single-payer health care. However, the conservatives are right about one thing. The individual has to take responsibility for his own life.

Those people who failed to follow instructions regarding the purgative were getting virtually free healthcare. One would think that they would appreciate that fact and come prepared for the procedure. One might object that they were poor and uneducated. Perhaps they were illiterate or mentally impaired, since two of them were elderly. That's no excuse. One can always ask someone to explain the instructions, a family member, a neighbor, or even a fellow member of one's church congregation. The fact is that people like that are adding to the cost of affordable healthcare for the poor at a time when it is under attack by right-wing and corporate interests, and they should hold themselves responsible.

Some might say that I'm blaming the victim. Bullshit. That's one problem with political positions. They tend to drift to the extremes. Those on the left tend to view matters social and economic through the lens of historicism. For example, they might say that poverty causes crime, which is a sociological fact. But then some of them argue that individuals who are guilty of committing crimes shouldn't be punished because they come from impoverished backgrounds. That's patent nonsense. The language of the sociological is not the same as the language of personal responsibility. One cannot say anything specific about one from an impoverished background who commits a crime just because one knows that poverty causes crime. Take the Somali pirates for example. It's been said that they turned to piracy because the Europeans have fished out the waters along their shore so that they don't have a way to make a living. I don't doubt that, and I don't doubt that a lot, perhaps a majority, of those who turned to piracy might not have done it had they a way to make an honest living. However, I'm certain that there are individuals who are involved in that piracy who are stone-cold criminals, and would have become criminals under any conditions. Life isn't as simple as our ideologies.

On a related matter, the local PBS station is showing a series based on the secret relationships between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. They portray Stalin as a tyrant who was responsible for the deaths of millions. Now that is true. It's a simple historical fact. However, I can't watch shows about Stalin because they all seem to use his atrocities as a way to smear the very notion or a workers' or peoples' state. Maybe such a state is possible, and maybe it isn't, but neither Stalin's Russia nor Mao's China are particularly relevant in the discussion. They were both Leninist states and Lenin's conception of Marxism was a gross distortion. For one thing, Marx claimed that true socialism wasn't possible until all of the countries of the world had become fully developed capitalist states. The reason for that is that true socialism requires an economic base where it is possible to produce all that is needed without finding it necessary to turn anyone into a wage slave. As Marx put it, from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. It's a nice dream. Perhaps it will be true in the future.

Well, here I am, babbling on like a professor with incipient Alzheimer's who's forgotten the subject of his lecture. The students are getting restless and muttering among themselves. The blonde in the front row who likes to show me her legs in the hope of getting a better grade is talking on her cellphone. It's time to go, so I'll toddle off and go stare at a wall for a while.


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