Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Care and Generosity?

Having been swamped in readings and conversations about the health care issue here in the U.S., one thing I have come to see is just how many reasons people have for not helping out their neighbors. This is across a wide spectrum of folks, from all political angles. Most people support zero help for undocumented immigrants, for example, and scream bloody murder at rallies whenever even the word "immigrant" is brought up. A sizable number of people in the U.S. continue to stand firm against any form of government plan, partly on the reasoning that they shouldn't be paying for "handouts" for their neighbors. Yet another group of people support the single payer government run plan, and yet have absolutely nothing but hatred for anyone that works in the insurance industry, never mind that these people, too, are our neighbors.

It's kind of amazing how so much of this boils down to the fact that generosity is slowly becoming a foreign concept in our nation. I'm sure I'll get more mail saying I'm advocating "forced generosity," "socialism," or whatever flavor of the week the boogyman is now. Sure, a lot of us volunteer and give money to charities and all that. It's not that we aren't generous; it's that on the whole, we push for a set of economic and social structures that promote greed and social injustice at every turn. And this under the guise of "individual freedom" and "liberty."

Well, I think it's kind of sad. You would think with something so basic as health care, something which no matter what does effect everyone of us - think of epidemics for one thing - that we as a nation could find a way to reach out and support everyone living here. It makes plenty of sense to debate options, and while I have my opinions, I'm willing to admit they are partial, and incomplete. However, I keep coming back how, in this extraordinarily wealthy nation, we have millions of people who are basically looking for ways to NOT help their fellow neighbors. It should really give us all pause, especially those of us who claim to be students of the Buddha way.

It pains me to think of the ways I have refused to help, withdrawn from easy ways to assist, or simply copped out over the years. I'm not talking about situations calling me to overextend myself, I'm talking about everyday turnings away. I cringe at the times I have reduced people's pain and suffering to dollars and cents, arguing that so and so should have been more responsible. And even if it is true that they should have been more responsible, what does it help to harp on that point? Have you ever responded to such criticism when you weren't responsible?

Generosity is really at the heart of Buddha's teachings. Over and over again, you hear people like Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama saying that generosity and openness are the basis of our way. It's seems so simple, but then you look around and see how muddled everything has become, how much in our society can push us so far away from being generous.

You know, maybe advocating for a single payer system isn't about generosity, but I would like to think that working in some way to help all people living here have the health care they need is. Maybe there are other ways to do this; I know that what I'm supporting is a bit of a gamble.

But I know one thing. A society that must reduce everything to dollars and cents isn't a healthy one. Without wide spread generosity, we're in trouble, grave trouble. So, no matter what your position or solution to this health care crisis we are in, maybe it would be a good idea to reflect on how much of it is driven by greed. And maybe fear while your at it. I'm willing to admit I have fears about continuing to be uninsured, and that partially drives me in the direction I am taking. What about you? Have you really reflected on why you've taken the position you have on this issue, or are you just sticking with your usual talking points, your usual party platform, that which feels most comfortable, but maybe in the end is completely against the values you claim to live by?


Aaron said...

Nathan, maybe you could morph this into a letter to the editor?


Leaf Dharma said...

Its crazy the spin the right media loves to put on how bad Canadian health care is. Trust me its way better than the system you guys have.

Nathan said...

Thanks for the idea Aaron. I'll see what I can do.

Algernon said...

I second Aaron's motion, in all seriousness. Not as a letter to the editor (which usually limits you to 200 or 300 words), but as a guest op-ed (700 words) and add some words about interbeing.

This is a very good topical issue for citizens who practice the Buddha way to offer some teaching about how our lives penetrate each other.

It isn't really generosity, when we understand that we are interrelated. It's simply doing the natural thing.

It's not about saying the "for profit" sector is bad at all -- I think competitive free enterprise is great for distributing video games and soda pop. It has not done an adequate job of caring for people's basic needs -- food, health care -- and so a different approach is appropriate.

Great. I'm a socialist, too.