Sunday, 29 July 2012

Impossible people and Private Healthcare

There are moments that just let you know you’re not going to have a good day. Usually these moments involve impossible people.
A good example is gum in the hands of a mean spirited, disrespectful, self-indulgent boy. There are people who just can’t stop. They can’t honour the feelings of others, they won’t follow rules, and they mock anyone who tries to steer them right. They are bullies of a particular sort and teachers dread them. Here’s a perfect scenario to explain these “impossible people”:
Girl comes to teacher and says “Ms B, Johnny put gum in my hair”.
“What?!” teacher exclaims and marches over to Johnny. “Johnny, did you put gum in Sally’s hair?”
“No” he declares.
“Johnny, she said you did” queries Mrs B.
“I didn’t, I don’t even have gum” he says after a hard a deliberate swallow.
“Um, Johnny, you owe Sally an apology. That is disrespectful and it will take her a great deal of time to get it out, if she even can.”
“So?” says a now defiant Johnny.
“Johnny, make a choice. Apologize or pack up your things and go to the office”
“You can’t make me, I didn’t do it …… Eloise did it. Ask her.” Sneers Johnny.
“No she didn’t!” shouts a tearful Sally.
“Yeah she did, ya dumb b*tch!” spits Johnny.
“Whoa! John! Language!” Squeals Mrs B.
“It’s not my fault!! She made me! She’s lying! Sally always lies to get me in trouble. But you can’t make me go to the office! And besides, Eloise did it!!” shouts Johnny.
This, in case you have failed to recognize it, is an impossible situation. Johnny did it but no one actually saw. It wouldn’t matter if they did because Johnny’s Mother threatens legal action every time her son is sent to the office, and accuses the school constantly of lying about her son. (Because clearly Schools enjoy punching the Kindergarteners in the Bathroom and flushing their milk cards down the toilet just to “set up Johnny because they don’t like him” to use his Mother's words.) Meanwhile she lets Johnny stay up as late as he wants, gives him every piece of electronic gadgetry available, insists he needs to play Angry Birds in Math (because he’s too smart for Math and is bored ….. illustrated clearly by his solid D grade), and packs him Coke and a Snickers every day for lunch. (But yes, the problem is, clearly, the school.) Furthermore, Johnny has discovered Eloise. Johnny cruelly poking fun at and blaming Eloise for everything has become his new obsession. Eloise’s biological mom smoked crack her whole pregnancy and Eloise wears a helmet. Her response to everything, ever, is “Yes. Yes please. Weeeeeee.” Her Foster Mother, Roxanne, is a loving, frankly saint of a woman, who is devastated by Johnny’s constant scapegoating of Eloise. Johnny’s Mother has already called Roxanne a “stupid cow” twice, once at the Christmas concert (so clearly things are going well). This situation is impossible because of impossible people. Why do we accommodate them?

Children like Johnny feel completely entitled to do what they want. Always. Rules aren’t for them. Some outgrow it I’m sure (or at least I hope), but many don’t and they become those impossible people who refuse to follow even the most logical rules of society on principal. They are the “I’m a better driver when I’m drunk”, “If you’re only going to do 55 in a 50 zone then you deserve my Escalade up your rear bumper”, “And then that stupid Cop tried to tell me I couldn’t park in the Crosswalk” kind of folk. They seem to have no sense of fairness, and what’s worse is that they regard those who strive for equality and justice as weak. Where do you begin explaining such a concept to someone who has no goodness in them?

And so in walks ‘for profit’ Health care. There is no smooth or unbiased segue into this topic for me. 

By 1966 Canada had installed a clear program of Universal Healthcare to all the Provinces. And since then, governed by some set of rules or another, Canadians have had pretty good Universal Healthcare. It covers approximately 2/3 of what Canadians “spend” on Healthcare. The system is, at its purest level, a system of ensuring essential and basic Health services are delivered equitably. No one with more power or money can get better or timelier care than someone without. Simple. Good. And, I always thought, very Canadian. Enter the bullies. The impossible people. The ‘I won’t follow your rules’, ‘I can do what I please’, Healthcare marketeers. And rules weren’t meant for them. "There is money to be made and if you all are too stupid and weak-minded to see that then it’s your loss. They won’t let a little thing like ethics or justice get in their way. Ideals are for losers." …….. How do you talk to people like that? Where do you begin? How do we make this situation anything other than impossible.

In 2009 2 reputable polls were conducted showing strong preference for the Canadian Universal model of Healthcare or the American model of Healthcare at 82% and 92% respectively. “Strong preference”. In 2011 one of the same research pollsters reported that 53% of Canadians favoured and Mixed model of Public and Private Healthcare. Oh but in 2010, just 10% thought “finding out of pocket” solutions to fixing healthcare was agood option (as opposed to “finding efficiencies”, and “investing more health dollars”.
I don’t think the polls are congruous enough to make them meaningful. More importantly polls don’t interact, or talk about consequences. A poll does not teach, inform, explain, and I do not believe they reflect anything of importance at all. A poll does not analyse the outcome of opinions merely tries to capture them, but the questions are increasingly wildly leading and only allow for quantitative answers with no room for grey area or debate or “BUT what ifs?” ….. just press 5 if you strongly agree, press 4 if you somewhat agree. But the polls are affecting us …… we are letting them. 

Our leaders are taking action based on polls that don’t seem to accurately reflect what we actually feel, and we are not speaking up. We are so painfully Apathetic that I don’t think we could articulate an thoughtful informed opinion if our lives depended on it ……. And they just might. 

In India this week
A premature infant girl was removed from her incubator and allowed to die because her impoverished parents could not afford the corresponding 200 rupee (less than $4) electricity charge. The North  American For Profit Healthcare system  proudly insists they are not like that. They are superior in morality because that would not happen. Except sometimes it does. Sometimes timely care (or care at all)  is denied because patients can’t pay.
Homeless people are often loaded into ambulances or worse taxis and dumped at other Hospitals because they weren’t welcome at the first. People have died. “Oh! but not a little premature baby, we would never do that” …….. No, probably not. They just send a bill. And her big brothers have to drop out of their out of their school because Mom and Dad can’t afford the charter fees, and they stop eating meat or milk or fresh vegetables, and then the car payments slip, and then the house. By the time they have moved in with her grandparents, her Mom and Dad’s marriage is over. ……. But the HMO and Hospital didn’t take her off life support....

No. Canadian Healthcare is not perfect. But it won’t improve if we let the people with money and influence opt out. There is truth in that statement. I know you see it. We need to take a stand. Apathy is the new cancer, and it’s eating us alive. It is said we won’t know what we had until it’s gone. Truer words could not be spoken. We need to have this conversation now, and take a stand on what we want for Canada. It is important.

I found a great quote the other day. "The death of Democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment." ~ Robert Hutchins

Democracy only works if the people are informed. Who informs them? How do we turn people back on and engage them? Will we realize that once it’s gone, we can never get it back ……. We haven’t so far. Not with control and ownership over our utilities, forests, natural resources, water, …… is our Healthcare for sale too? This is a biggie. Do we just roll over and give it away?

We have become so grossly apathetic I am now almost embarrassed to call myself Canadian. Over 100 000 Canadians died in the World Wars for something. An ideal, really. They stood for what was right. Now you can’t rally Canadians to stand for anything. What a pathetic legacy; what a sad time. What will it take? Were those soldiers strong and decent and moral to care, or were they foolish and weak to give themselves to an ideal or a moral stance?

Do we really just let the Impossible people win?

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