Saturday, October 17, 2009

I have to write about health care reform. These are the tasks I set out for myself:

Task 1: Define social justice.
Task 2: Define current political/economic state of the U.S.
Task 3: Describe health care reform in this context.
Task 4: Argue the extent of justice within the current reforms.
Task 5: Suggest possibilities for achieving justice and the extent to which they would shake up 'things as they are.'

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! This paper is 5-7 pages, double-spaced, and I plan to tackle ALL OF THE ABOVE? Don't think so. But how does one write about something smaller. I mean, can I write about health care reform without writing about social justice?

What do I mean by social justice? I feel like what I mean is that everybody gets a fair chance and no one's treated like shit. I think about equal participation a lot. That everybody should have equal representation and have a fair say. I think about multiculturalism and how it should impact our nation's identity. I do not like this idea that the U.S. has this fixed sense of itself and you either fit in or you don't. I have a different image of the U.S., where new immigrants are co-creators and folks of color feel adequately represented. I don't want to have all the say in what goes down, and I sure as hell don't want the people that do have all the say to have all the say.

I want a country where everyone's treated well--hell: equally--and everybody feels a sense of ownership in this big national project we're all working on.

I want an economy that is moderated in its impact on the natural world so that we have a zero net decrease of Gross Natural Product. I want an economy that allows for people to develop and actualize their creative visions, realize self-sufficiency with enough left over to have some fun. I think people who have children should be able to spend some time with them. I think schools should be triply or quadrupely funded and not only about creating productive corporate participants. I think we should realize that these are the primary places that young people are socialized, and ask ourselves what we want people to be. I think we should ride bikes more and eat better food, but as people need medical treatment they should be able to get it. Doctors (and insurers) make shit-tons of money because people are willing to pay shit-tons of money to stay alive and functioning. People who don't have shit-tons of money shouldn't be left out in the cold. I'm sorry, but if the American Dream is that anybody willing to work for it can have a middle class standard of living, then punishing the poor, the sick, the dark-skinned (because yes, poverty is racialized), the under-18, I mean, it's wrong, right?

The only argument against it is denial that it's even the case. "Everyone is born with an equal chance at success." Bleh. Right.

The facts: We're born. I'm born into a white, well-educated family in a nice part of town. I grow up playing with the neighborhood kids and all of us have to do our homework before we go out to play. I learn how to talk smart early so I get moved into the 'gifted' class. Because I'm gifted. "Shoot, just smarter than the other kids for some reason." I get lots of praise. I grow up knowing, just knowing I'm gonna to be a scientist and a writer.

You, you're born into a newly immigrated family from some place in, say, East Africa, or Southeast Asia. Only one of your parents even speaks a little bit of English, and you live in really big apartment complex where kids get shot sometimes. Your parents can't help you much with your homework and often work evenings. You learn how to talk tough because it's a lot more useful than the pythagorean theorem. You get moved to the remedial class, which you feel more comfortable in anyway. "He's a bright kid, but he just doesn't try." You don't get a whole lot of praise. You grow up not really thinking about what you're gonna be when you grow up. You get by.

Every time I write something like this, I feel like I'm dealing in stereotypes, which is true. I also feel like pity, or sympathy, is not really what's needed. Some people do pull themselves up by the proverbial boot straps, or have strong family support even in a bad neighborhood, and do well. Some people probably do better for the adversity. BUT, the point remains: generally speaking, everyone is not born with an equal chance at success.

I guess I wonder how to remedy this. I can speak generally of "social provision and economic regulation," but what am I really talking about?

Universal Health Care: would help shrink the gap in health, longevity, and well-being. But we could still have a lot of healthier people with little new chance for success.

Re-envisioning America. That's the project I'm most interested in. People need to feel a sense of ownership. People need to feel on the inside. They need to have power. Power needs to be shared. Authority gets so used to being in charge that it forgets it's even in charge. It acts like that's how things are supposed to be. "We make the decisions for you, but don't worry, we'll make them in your best interest." Bleh. I feel nauseous when I think of it. The gross pride, power-taken-for-granted. Get out. Get off the throne. Give it up. Not to us. But can't we just give up this being in charge business?

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