Illusions in America Today #6

In the past day, I read two articles that characterize the state of health in our country today. One was an opinion letter from a doctor decrying schemes of socialized medicine that guarantee health care only by destroying the rights of physicians, hospitals and insurance companies. Another was a blog posting from discontinuous permafrost about toxic chemicals in common plastic bottles. If you are like me, you are so thoroughly sick of hearing about how everything in our lives causes some debilitating disease, that you do not even pay attention anymore. Unfortunately, that is exactly the reaction people who crave wealth at your expense hope for.

In America today, there are dedicated people who genuinely care about making your world healthier and safer for you and future generations. But, for every one of them, there is someone else who could not care less about your well being and whose number one priority is reporting the maximum possible quarterly profits for his or her corporation. And, for every one of them, there are hundreds of investors (including you and me if we have money in stock-based retirement plans) who want to get the biggest bang from their hard-earned investment dollar. Who wins? I think it is easy to see that the driving force of the American economy will win out over inconvenience, environmental degradation, and potential health risks most of the time.

You may be thinking, but what can I do? I am one person, and I do not have the time or energy to keep up with this mountain of threats. I am one person, so my little boycott or letter to a company cannot possibly make a difference. I am one person, so what can my $100 donation to the Sierra Club accomplish up against billion dollar corporations. And, you would be right. By yourself, there is little you can do. American citizens, lacking a comprehensive and purpose-driven structure, can do little but ride the waves of special interests who wield the power in this country.

But, as intentional communities, there is much that people can do. If we organize ourselves into neighborhoods that share the burden and act collectively, we could make a difference. At first, we would merely set an example for others to emulate. But, in time, hundreds of such communities, working together to make ethical choices, investing only in products that meet stringent codes of health and safety, and ensuring that everyone has fair access to health care, could make a difference.

Perhaps I am innocent…even naive about the way the world works. But, it seems to me that if even one child dies today because health care was not available to help them, then as a society we have failed. If one person develops cancer because of a toxin in plastic bottles who only purpose was to shave 1/10 of a cent off the cost of production, then as a society we have failed. The rights of doctors and the rights of patients are not mutually exclusive. The earning of fair profits and maintaining the health of our citizens are not mutually exclusive goals. But, it will take a new American Revolution if we the people are to reclaim this nation from those who do not share our goals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.