18 August 2009

Solidarity and Health Care Reform - Again

"The greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack
the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different."
~ Roberto Mangabeira Unger

People outside the arena raised their hands before dawn on
Tuesday after organizers asked those holding tickets with
numbers up to 100 to identify themselves. The group was
already overwhelmed on the first day after allowing 1,500
people through the door, nearly 500 of whom had still not
been served by day's end and had to return early Wednesday.
Photograph © Ruth Fremson/The New York Times.

A few weeks ago I posted on the spectacle of thousands of poor Appalachian residents queued up for a free medical clinic coordinated by Remote Area Medical (RAM) in Wise, Virginia. Last week RAM coordinated a similar clinic at The Los Angeles Forum. You can read the report in The New York Times.

As The Times reporter succinctly stated: "The enormous response to the free care was a stark corollary to the hundreds of Americans who have filled town-hall-style meetings throughout the country, angrily expressing their fear of the Obama administration’s proposed changes to the nation’s health care system." Just so. If this is what private medicine gets us, that should be lesson enough. The Democrats seem to be blind to this. But as the view from Europe makes clear: "Americans Want 'Freedom to Pay Too Much for Inferior Health Care." (Thanks JC!) That is what the nutters screaming and threatening at 'town meetings' are defending - their god given right to have health care rationed by the market and insurance company bureaucrats.

Roberto Unger is a good pragmatist. He places emphasis on the role of imagination in politics. Obama's Democrats lack imagination and they surely lack the ability or the desire (maybe both) to awaken the imagination of the folks who elected them. In my earlier post on RAM's remarkable efforts, I noted that solidarity is intimately dependent of imagination. It is, I suspect, impossible to evince solidarity among people if they cannot imagine the plight of others.

Photography is a useful technology for doing to things. First, as Patrick Maynard argues, it amplifies our imaginations. Second, it is (as Maynard also claims) an 'engine of visualization' - it helps us see. Part of what is valuable about the images that I've seen from the RAM clinics is that they show large numbers. These are the people without access to health care. And Obama's new talk of 'health insurance reform' instead of health care reform has simply distracted attention from these people.

Last week K.H. Bacon, an advocate for refugees died. In his obituary he is quoted to the effect that before his stint as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton Administration, he "had never seen refugees before, never fully appreciated the sheer magnitude of one million people leaving their homes and needing food, shelter and medical care." What we need, is to see the millions of people who are in dire need of health care. Those people - not gun-toting lunatics - are who we need to see.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Obama drops the public option, all the unions ought to sit out the wimp's next election.

18 August, 2009 21:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


18 August, 2009 23:21  
Blogger Tom White said...

Another sensible contribution to the debate. I was barely aware of the RAM clinics and certainly didn't know they were taking their efforts to the cities. Kudos to them, hopefully their work will come to the fore and be a powerful and persuasive argument for proper healthcare reform in the U.S.

19 August, 2009 09:50  

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