The above link indicates that in a recent vote, U.S. Republican Senators voted overwhelmingly against improving health benefits for veterans, and U.S. Democratic Senators overwhelmingly in favor. I wish this made me feel better about the Democratic Party’s commitment to the people’s health, mental and otherwise. But it certainly makes me feel even less hopeful about the Republican Party’s approach to healthcare. It is stunning, is it not?, how many southern and western states benefit financially from hosting large U.S. military installations, but don’t think they should invest in the well-being of the soldiers who live and work there
The message sent by such political gestures is a shaming one: if you can’t afford the (preposterously expensive) private medical care available in the U.S., then you deserve neither health nor life. In other words, the decisions this country makes about healthcare don’t simply neglect or aggravate our difficulties, they compound them psychologically.
As an educator, I try to communicate to my students that their minds matter. In a different way, I try to communicate the same feeling to the people who see me for psychotherapy/psychoanalysis. Since minds are embodied–the feedback loops between minds and bodies are innumerable, complexly organized and highly active–our bodies matter too. But the forces deciding our healthcare, while masquerading as considerations of scientific and statistical fact against speculation and sentimentality, have no regard whatsoever for the knowledge being produced today about the nervous system and its many needs for things that (according to the Gradgrinds of today) are neither “necessary” nor even obviously “useful.” (See my book STAYING ALIVE, which argues for the interdependence of thriving and surviving). After complexity theory, there is no such thing as a drop in the bucket, because there are no more buckets; we can never know what kinds of effects our actions will have–all we know is that they are likely to have multiple unforeseen reverberating effects throughout many different networks of force, power, and desire. So, despite the hopelessly naive (from a political standpoint) nature of the following suggestion, I suggest it nonetheless: we all have to do everything we can to believe in the importance of every creature’s life, because our assumptions about what does and does not affect us have been put all in doubt. Hierarchies of value are no longer supportable in the era of causal parity and strange attraction from a distance. That is to say: love where you can love, and where you can’t love, respect.