16 June 2008

Sicko/Blows Against The TSOG

Boomtime, Confusion 21, Year of Our Lady of Discord 3174

I watched Michael Moore's latest film, Sicko, last weekend. It's Moore's follow-up to Farenheit 9/11 and this time he's taking on the 'health-care industry' in the U.S. The film starts with a man suturing a large wound on his own knee, then shows another man who had suffered a radial saw accident. He had cut the tops off of two of his fingers and was given the choice of which of the two to have re-attached. He couldn't afford to have both operated on.

Moore piles on the horror stories, involving "regular Joes" and their insurance woes. He then steers the film into the topic of socialized medicine. Old propaganda films from the 1950s and early 60s are shown, spotlighting the American trepidation toward socialization, which might lead the U.S. into..gasp..Communism! Hilary Clinton's campaign for health-care reform in the early 1990s is pored over--she is depicted as a near-saintly presence, defeated in her quest by the vast conspiracy of greed-heads. To be fair, Moore does show that later on, Hilary was just as much in the pocket of the HMOs as any Republican candidate.

He wonders aloud about socialized medicine - then a travelogue takes place: Canada, England and France. He interviews in-patients in hospital waiting rooms, doctors and even American ex-pats (in London and Paris). Moore tags along with a doctor who makes house calls in Paris, visits a splendidly clean NHS-run hospital in London and talks with a splendidly clean doctor who makes quite a bit of money keeping his patients healthy. He then interviews Tony Benn, a dyed-in-the-wool Labour MP, about the National Health Service and what it means to the British people.

The last section of the film shows Moore rounding up a group of September 11th volunteer rescue workers who are now suffering ill effects from their exposure to the conditions at Ground Zero. The films' funniest bit shows the medical facilities at Guantanamo Bay. They are state-of-the-art--presumably to keep the prisoners alive after all that torture (oop..did I just type that?). He hires a few boats, has the rescue workers climb aboard and prepares to take them to 'Gitmo' to receive proper medical treatment. Naturally, they are turned away before they can even get close. They all end up in Cuba, where they receive first-class medical check-ups...and for free! That seemed like the film's most staged moment..and Moore doesn't waste any effort to tug on the sympathies of the viewer. Still, I did find it heart-warming to see those people in states of disbelief over getting good medical care.

As with anything Moore presents, it seems necessary to take what you are watching with a large grain of salt. He'll sweep any viewpoints or some facts aside if they don't happen to fit with his reality-tunnel. I can't really speak about Canada or France--but I've seen stories in the UK about NHS hospitals where the morale seems pretty low and there are long long waits for treatment. There are also all those stories of patients dying due to unclean wards and that "superbug", MRSA. Moore didn't really touch on those topics while touring that spiffy hospital in London. He also didn't seem to want to dwell on Cuba's appalling human rights abuses--Fidel Castro may have kicked out the Yankee exploiters, but he then seemed to embrace a very Stalin-esque form of Communism, but hey, they've got free health care.

If all this makes you think that I'm completely tearing Michael Moore down, then you have an Aristotlean 'either/or' present in your mind. I essentially agree with Moore's basic point--that affordable health care (or hey, even free) should be available to all, regardless of salary or background. The big lug may paint in very very broad swathes--but I agree that the privatized system in the U.S. seems a far worse model than the socialized ones in the UK, France, etc. Are they perfect? Of course not, and nothing seems to be. Still, the NHS services I've used have been efficient and the doctors friendly and attentive. For all of it's faults--I think it still does what it set out to do, all those years ago, immediately after World War II. The U.S. health care system wasn't all that great in the 80s and 90s and since the TSOG came to power, it seems to have only got worse. One more reason to chuck the bastards out.

Speaking of the TSOG, it seems that Dennis Kucinich has called for the impeachment of "C+ Augustus" himself. Will it happen? Probably not. Kucinich's attempt to have "Slick" Dick Cheney impeached last year ended with a stonewall action in Congress and a non-investigation. Ah well, even if Bush doesn't do any time - I think he'll still be remembered as one of the worst leaders ever, in any nation. He arrived in Britain on his 'farewell tour' of Europe and was greeted by protests. For all that, though, he managed to convince Gordon 'Clown' Brown to commit even more UK troops to the Afghan quagmire. Do not adjust your mind, you're still living on The Planet Of The Apes.


Anonymous said...

To also avoid an 'either/or' position, having not seen the film but heard bits about it, I'd say that Moore is a talented propagandist for good causes. I think some of his 'stunts' can undermine is arguments (e.g. his hounding of Charlton Heston in 'Bowling For Columbine', which juts made me feel that Heston was a sad bastard but not a person to pillory). As for the NHS, I sometimes wonder if a better form of funding may be necessary. The money seems to just fall into a pit and the waiting lists can be ludicrous. Maybe if we all had to take out a reasonable insurance, deducted from our pay but could use it in a private or NHS hospital that might be better. The NHS used to be called 'the envy of the world' but I really don't think that can be true now. I'm sure many European countries do it better. For example, I think you have to wait about eight weeks for a hip-replacement in Germany...why did my mum have to wait about three years? Like Benn, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool socialist (of the peculiarly British variety) but the NHS is certainly on its knees.

Having said all that, through my recent health problems I have received very good care and all the professionals I've had contact with have been excellent. The problem is the system and it needs sorting out. Far too much government interference and too many managers but not enough doctors and nurses.

So, I'm split in feelings about Michael Moore. I really thought parts of 'Columbine' and the 9/11 film hit home well but there's always something that also puts me off. He may nit have made a good choice in trying to hold uo the NHS as a shining light of health care.

What is that bastard Bush doing over here? I heard him speaking and he can hardly string a sensible sentence together. I hope he will be despised for centuries to come.

The Purple Gooroo said...

I agree with your thoughts on Moore as well, Bear. He can seem like a blinkered idiot at times--a slave to his own leftist dogma. There are moments amid all the propagandizing where he makes a prescient point--as some of the moments in "Columbine" and even "Roger & Me".

Yeah, the NHS is looking pretty unwell itself at the moment--but contrasted with the privatised U.S. system--it still seems to be (to me) a better idea.

I think Bush was stopping in to visit Brown and cajole him into "staying the course" or whatever..part of his 'legacy' bullshit. Ugh!