reede, august 07, 2009


Plastic utensils, plastic drink containers, paper napkins sealed in plastic; every meal is disposable, you can only hope that someone somewhere sorts this junk, because there is no other place where to put it other than in the trash.

Not that I am angry about those vanilla frappuccinos or falafel salads or spinach-feta wraps I consumed en masse upon arrival to the United States this week; they were all quite tasty, a welcome respite from the ubiquitous saiakesed of Eestimaa. But my revulsion to clinical plastic ware confirms the diagnosis: I've become a filthy European.

I had the misfortune of catching a glimpse of FOX News' Sean Hannity on TV while I was in search of child-friendly cartoons at the hotel. All it took was that brief exposure and the poison of the cable news channels consumed me, a rush of shit to the head.

To balance a nanosecond of FOX's Hannity, I had to watch 10 minutes of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. Hannity's casus belli is liberal hypocrisy. Olbermann's is conservatives – the worst people in the world. My brain's gone soft on Estonian political discourse. America's cable news blood sport is too much. I hold the cool plastic of an iced frappuccino to my temples to soothe the pain.

Today's shouting match is about health care reform. For me, the idea that we still don't insure all our people is a stain on our American nationality, nay, our Westernness. Most other Western democracies do it. We don't. Why? Is it because we are exceptional? Just like we don't buy into the metric system or learn second languages, we don't guarantee you the right to a bed if you get sick?

Maybe we're still Anglos deep down. In the same way that our British cousins can extricate themselves from being Europeans, Americans can convince themselves that everything is fine with a system where a sizable chunk of the population isn't covered. It's your own damn fault is a resilient strain of American thought. Maybe we have not yet come to see ourselves as a country because there's always more where we came from. If we run out of healthy people, there are always more over the border. We're disposable. Use us once. Throw us away.

15 kommentaari:

Lingüista ütles ...

Americans have always distrusted European systems -- from King James to welfare states. The current argument is framed in terms of 'will the government be between me and my doctor?' 'Will they let my grandma die?'. Of course, people are not thinking in terms of there being uninsured people. It's always 'big government' vs. 'small government', since American independentism/individualism has always been a strong element in political discourse...

A lot of lies are being thrown around in the discussion, and those who try to reason with arguments end up sounding less compelling than those who come up with tasty soundbites.

But then again, it has always been like that in American political history, hasn't it? My history books suggest that American political discourse has always been very strong and full of invective and vehemence. And yet America has survived; in fact, it has a surprising power to reinvent itself and go past old dichotomies. We just have to look at the screams and exaggerations as part of the game... not to be taken more seriously than, say, MAD magazine...

Vello ütles ...

There's a great piece ("Home Run") in Talk of the Town in the August 3rd New Yorker where some home-schooled kids are profiled. One of them described "regular school" this way: "[it] can be a kind of dirty pleasure. It's like watching 'America's Next Top Model.'" Which I thought also described American politics, to some extent.

If Obama can fix healthcare, I'll be pleased for him to take on America's educational system. Its university system may be second to none, but its secondary system could learn something from Europe. Not to mention its own home schooling system.

LPR ütles ...

America has been fucked over by its unbridled optimism and can-do attitude. Think of all the calamities past and present and what led up to them. It's the stupid disregard for reality. Bubble mentality, we are so good nothing bad can happen to us attitude. Hence no support for health care. Until everybody, and I mean everybody gets a swineflu, nobody's going to demand universal health care.

I must admit, I do somewhat admire this american carelessness. It is charming as it is horrendeous. I work on multimillion dollar project that I know are deemed for failure and I cannot say it. I cannot tell my colleagues that this is all effed up. So I carry on too. Have me another serving of this supersized latte, garcon!

ESeufert ütles ...

I attended a talk by Anthony Giddens at UCL last year in which he blamed American liberals for Republican resistance to environmental reform by way of "claiming" the issue as a component of their political platform. I agree with that, and I think the same logic can be applied to healthcare reform. Until American healthcare inadequacy can be portrayed as a problem that affects everyone -- and some prominent economists have made that point -- then Republicans will feel that they have no choice but to oppose universal healthcare as an outgrowth of the political dichotomy.

That said, I do think Obama has bungled this reform movement from an operational point of view.

Jim Hass ütles ...

Take a look at Peggy Noonen's view of the political situation:

Giustino ütles ...

I would say that by now, there is no current domestic debate on healthcare reform. There are TV clips of angry people shouting at politicians, and response spin that they are being organized by lobbyists. Again, health care reform isn't really being discussed -- who would bother doing that when there's so much circus to broadcast on the 24-hour news networks? It's now just another self-perpetuating media event, like the Gates arrest or the Jackson funeral.

Jim Hass ütles ...

Maybe this counts Justin::::

stockholm slender ütles ...

This link also gives a flavour of both the current conditions of health care in the US and the level of the rhetoric of the insurance industry backers:

It's Evil, Alright

Justin ütles ...

If you're poor, you have healthcare (in the form of Medicaid). If you're old, you have healthcare (in the form of Medicare). If you have a proper job, you usually have healthcare. The uninsured generally choose not to insure (for example, young people who rarely get sick).

I agree there is a segment of the population that wants healthcare, but it is not provided by their employer or they claim they cannot afford it. These are not the people in poverty (they have Medicaid) but those just above the line.

The simple solution is probably to extend the eligibility for Medicaid, or allow people to buy into it at a discounted rate if they choose.

I think you're slamming America too much, and I'm not sure what you're offering as a better example.

For example, you slam health care, yet life expectancy in the US is quite high: (#47, but the difference in years between #47 and the top 10 is slim). Meanwhile Estonia with its nationalized health care system is #118.

Many people I know in Estonia use private doctors since the waiting time with the national health system is way too long. One of my friends needs an ear operation to restore her hearing in one ear, and they can't do it until the end of December -- nearly a year after she was diagnosed. I've never heard of year-long wait times under the US healthcare system.

Next, you go off about plastic forks, dishes, etc. Yet look at the poor efforts in Estonia at recycling. Where my parents live, every house in the entire county has 3 recycling bins: one for yard trimmings, one for paper (of any type), and one for plastic, metal, and glass. There's no need for sorting plastic and glass separately -- they have machines that do this automatically. This service is provided and managed by the county, and everyone receives it.

Here's how good America is at the environment:

And slamming the cable news networks? C'mon, as a writer surely you believe in free speech and differing opinions. I detest Fox News as well, but I have nothing against it being on TV. If people want to watch it, then let them.

Giustino ütles ...

I think you're slamming America too much, and I'm not sure what you're offering as a better example.

Every country can be "slammed." But I am not "slamming America," I am describing my response to America. My own little culture shock. I am describing what it feels like to be left with a pile of plastic rubbish after you eat. It doesn't feel pleasant. Nor does turning on a TV set to watch people scream at each other for hours on end. Of course people can watch them. I don't have to. After these quick jolts of American life, I quickly relearned not to watch those TV channels and not to try buying food from certain stores. I was just a bit rusty, that's all. It's all in the mind.

Giustino ütles ...

As for healthcare, that's just a principle -- one of the few I have, I think. I think it's morally wrong to deny someone care, or extort money from them for care. The mentality that it's somehow ok not to insure people is foreign to me. I see a population as a resource. If a country wishes to be more productive, they would take care of that resource. That goes for all countries, not just ones who have made healthcare a right.

Lingüista ütles ...

Giustino, I agree with you that it is morally wrong to leave people without health care, or without being able to afford the health care that there is. But I'm not sure about what the best system is -- as Justin said above, year-long waiting lists are not common in America, but apparently in Estonia they are (and also here in the Netherlands, depending on the kind of operation you need).

Now, I'm not running down state-driven healthcare systems -- hell, the standard of life and the level of health here in the Netherlands are quite high. But such systems, because they often become huge and are harder to even understand in all detail for those bureaucrats who have to run it, may end up becoming onerous and/or inefficient.

So I'm not sure that, for America for instance, a big, Dutch-style healthcare system is the best answer.

But anyway--I agree with you, in America you simply learn there are some channels you don't watch if you don't want to end up fuming and angrily walking around the house. (Maybe it's better to watch The Daily Show poking fun at Fox News -- that usually makes it more palatable...)

Kristopher ütles ...

"I've never heard of year-long wait times under the US healthcare system."

Our child was bitten in the eye area by a dog and we took him to an ER in the US on a Monday night in a town of 40,000. We just left after a couple hours. But it felt like a year.

Sure, eye injuries often look worse than they are. But it was odd to see how a guy talking about how his low blood sugar was acting up got to go in ahead. I don't know how triage works, but it was odd.

As to why waiting times for Estonian doctors are long, aren't the reasons related to the underlying problem -- globalization, a vital service being subjected to rules of capitalism, etc. If Estonia wasn't so whipped by the need to meet international criteria, there would be money to pay local doctors.

Justin ütles ...

Kristopher: Did the few hours make a difference in terms of your child's outcome? In other words, is he fully healed or was that wait detrimental to his long-term health?

My guess is, the few hours didn't make a difference in his outcome. If it did, you could have sued for damages and likely won.

I can certainly understand it's agonizing to watch your child in pain for even a minute, but overall it seems the system worked if you look at outcomes.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Justin ütles...

For just one hopeful moment I thought that this very realistic overview of our country was written by my son.
I thought you were him writing from the prospective of all he was brought up and enducated to be.
Could you be the real Justin?

Whoever you are this was a terrific comment, one that gives me hope that there are other clear thinkers out there in Eestimaa

Thanks, Justin

1:16 PM