Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

I Saw Sicko

Posted by Gerald on July 18, 2007

Rather than my usual Wednesday evening at home, I joined some good friends for dinner and a movie.  The film was Sicko.  I liked the movie.  Being one of the godless, America-hating, treasonous liberal hordes I’ve enjoyed Michael Moore’s films, although I do feel that at times he lets himself get in the way of the message.  I didn’t see so much of that here.  The themes have been well-explored elsewhere – this is an examination of the problems with the American health care system.  Like Moore’s other efforts, though, there is also an examination of what America is.

Two themes really emerged.  The first, and the one that is really still echoing inside me, is disillusionment.  The people he looked at in this film were folks that worked hard, played by the rules, payed for insurance because they were told that was how you protect yourself and your family, and were well and truly screwed by HMOs and the medical industry.  It is easy to criticize these people for being naive when they talk about how they thought “insurance companies were there to help people.”  Then again, that is exactly what the companies say, and that is the only option any of us are given to deal with health crises.  The disillusionment grows as Moore compares our system with those in Canada, Britain, France, and – ultimately – Cuba.  It is true that Moore tend to gloss over some of the difficulties associated with those systems, but still one cannot but feel disappointed in our country by comparison.

The other theme is the glory and the poison of this society – individualism.  Moore keeps asking how we can have a system where people are denied life-saving treatments, where inadequate effort is given to preventing people from getting sick to begin with, and where hospitals send indigent patients in cabs to “skid row” medical clinics because they cannot pay.  The answers point at corporations and government, but ultimately they point at us.  We have swallowed the American Delusion of individual success.  We have rejected the idea that we have any duties to other people just because they are in our community.  We ask “why should I have to pay for her problems.”  The Conservatives have sold most of this country on the idea that no one should have to do anything for anyone else as a matter of duty – only of choice.  They did so by playing on the core values of Americans – individual rights, freedom, and success (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.)

Moore’s final conclusion isn’t original but it is no less true for that – we won’t solve the health care problem, or any other of our problems, until we start thinking of “us” rather than “me.”


2 Responses to “I Saw Sicko”

  1. Steve said

    Between the tears (pull those heart-strings Mikey!), I kept thinking about that and our recent conversations about the individual vs. the community. What was probably most intriguing for me was the montage of Frenchies protesting– and the idea that the government was afraid of the people and not the other way around (like us ‘merikins). For all our “activism” and talk about being involved in this here democracy, we don’t really understand, appreciate, or invoke our right to make the gov’mnt do what we want it to do. (I’m also thinking about your comments last night about the new 70% French majority. To which I respond: Well, Moore may gloss over the problems with the French system, but at least the people are speaking… When’s the last time this country could post a 70% response to anything?).

    And so, here we are, talking about health care, and for that matter, desegregation, and what we’re really onto is that damn individualism. Have we Americans gotten so full of ourselves that we’re beyond the point of no return?


  2. Gerald said

    A couple of our psychology colleagues are of the opinion that our entire culture has become pathologically narcissistic. I don’t know that I disagree.

    I keep thinking this is about culture. Why do French and English working class voters support widespread social welfare programs while American working class voters don’t? I think it is culture that provides some answers. I keep coming back to the American Dream. Most Americans seem to vote as if they were wealthy because they hope they will be one day – when that internet business starts bringing in six figures, or they buy real estate for nothing down, or they win the lottery. It is all California in 1848 – there’s gold in them thar hills!

    And then there is the Daffy Duck factor – “Mine! Mine! Mine! I’m rich! I’m wealthy! I’m comfortably well-off!”

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