Thursday, February 09, 2012

Science and Distortion

My friends, if any of you doubt climate science even a little, consider the moral implications. As Stephen Schneider (RIP) pointed out, tobacco companies showed us how to lie to and confuse the public for their own interests. Now an array of corporations are doing the same with climate science. But this time, it is not our own bodies we destroy but our children's healthy home ... for the preservation of our convenience and world view. How is this not a deeply moral issue?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Dysfunctional Health Care System Hits Home

I need to vent. I just found out this afternoon that United Health One has again denied my application for coverage. This is personally frustrating and expensive but also significant in that my case demonstrates just how pathetic the system has become. Why? Because, by all measures, I am in ideal health.

I am 46 year-old woman, have zero medical history, take zero medications and have excellent vitals and BMI. I've never smoked and work out at least 4 times a week. Nonetheless, United Health One denied my initial application for coverage because I take vitamin B-12. That's right, the need to take a vitamin constitutes a pre-existing condition worthy of denial.

Over the summer, my doctor here in the District noticed my B-12 levels were low based on a routine blood test. She explained that a low B-12 count is a common condition, especially for people like me who eat little or no meat, suggested that I take a B-12 vitamin everyday and we'd recheck the values in two months. United Health One (a.k.a., “Golden Rule,” how ironic is that?) decided this was sufficient to deny coverage and, after an appeal that included a strongly worded letter from this same doctor, denied the appeal.

I'm one of the healthiest people I know. But as an independent contractor, unaffiliated with a larger insurance buyer, I am being denied coverage for a brutal profit calculation. I'm not saying that the system would be okay as long as I and people like me can get coverage. Rather, my case demonstrates just how ridiculous the situation has become for all of us. Though Health Care Reform legislation may be flawed in some ways, it's also true that, come 2014, what happened to me today would be illegal. If the Republicans in Congress come through on their campaign promises to repeal reform, the system will continue to attend to the wallets of shareholders and CEO's, leaving our health and the health of our families in the dust.


At 6:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so ridiculous!! I'm not sure why their calculations even show you to be a risk. You would think that a person with your good health would actually BOOST their profit margin, so I am at a complete loss here. If you can't get insurance, who can? Arghghgh. - Sarah

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Joyce Patterson said...

Many those who oppose the current administration's health reform do so because they think it is just a handout to "those deadbeats." They don't see how many are in your position - working, self-reliant and yet unable to get coverage - and they aren't thinking how a devastating health problem could financially bankrupt a person and remove them from productive contribution to society. We need a system that keeps people working and productive. It's so backwards to force people out of the system because we think it is too expensive.

At 4:43 AM, Blogger jonwilson said...

You should just keep your options open, Kristin. With so many insurance companies out there, you're bound to find one that can give you coverage.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Yogi and Pepper, "Just Pets"

In the last month, two dear friends of mine were faced with the sad need to compassionately end the lives of their animal companions. While we as a society are increasingly value our "pets" (39% of US households have at least one dog and 33% have at least one cat), we're still shy and/or dismissive when it comes to honoring the loss of these friends.

So this post is dedicated to Pepper the cat and Yogi the dog, treasured companions and teachers. These creatures who literally don't speak our language, willingly entrust us with their (relatively simple!) care. This inter-species alliance brings us immeasurable gifts: the constancy of their presence, the sense of purpose their reliance creates, the way they surprise and tickle us with joy, their affection thoroughly clean of obligation. For me, the greatest gift is what they show us about ourselves: this heart, its effortless devotion and the beauty of its love.



Pepper and Yogi were surely lucky to have these friends of mine as guardians. As we gain and lose everything in this life that is dear to us, I celebrate the wonderful and mysterious lives of Pepper and Yogi, ended in the fall of 2010, ushered forward in love.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tea Party Activists, White Like Me

Contemplating the popularity of the Tea Party with a friend, I watched again this penetrating 2009 analysis from Tim Wise on how the economically elite divide and conquer the underclass, getting poor and middle class white folks to fight their battles. In so doing, the non-elite, directly harm themselves at least economically if not, well, spiritually.

Can we as white people talk, really talk, with each other, those firmly advocating or even screaming to get rid of Medicare, privatize social security, etc under the conceptual ruse of "smaller government?" Let us not call anyone a racist, for that just plays into the divide. We can start by appealing to our own vastly overlapping economic self interest and build from there. Let me find a way to deeply listen and truly share regarding our common experiences and needs.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Oil as the American Body's Crystal Meth

BP's static kill of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in the appears to have worked. 107 days and 4.9 million barrels of oil later (almost 20 times the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill), Daddy may have indeed plugged the hole. But this family's got a deeper problem: we've got whole way of life built around a nasty drug habit, one that is making us very sick and will be hard to kick. No competent drug counselor would call an addiction to methamphetamine “unsustainable.” To call our use and abuse of the Earth's finite resources “unsustainable” is to miss the gravity of our situation. This habit is tearing us apart and we are paying for it in numerous ways.

As we have all been recently reminded, every US president since Nixon has called for the end of our dependency on "foreign oil," but George Bush was the first to call it an addiction. Although I deeply questioned his commitment to do anything about it other than naming, I admit that the metaphor was and remains spot on. How like a single individual's addition to meth-amphetamine is our national addition not just to oil, but to consumption itself? (See my most recent post on the modern day version of this disease.) Have we allowed oil and its enabling consumer culture to take over our lives, empty our bank accounts, destroy our families and home, and force us into a life of crime? Has this addiction become the insidious driving force in our culture, insisting that we sacrifice everything dear to us for a satisfaction that never satisfies?

We pay for this way of life, this addiction, and we pay dearly. We literally pay by financing the oil wars and military infrastructure that protect the illicit-substance supply chain. At $722 billion annually, US military spending dwarfs all other public expenditures, ballooning national debt while debilitating our economy and our ability to invest in heath, education and, not surprisingly, clean energy alternatives. We pay in global security. Since US tax payers are responsible for 41.5% of military spending world-wide (China is second at 5.8%), we in effect drive the market for global violence. We pay with the very lives of our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who systematically die, kill or are maimed in the gears of this war machine. We pay in the the corporate capture of our democracy where public officials increasingly answer to CEO’s not citizens, providing financing and legal cover to the richest and most powerful companies the world has ever seen. Of course, the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and the just-beginning effects of climate change illustrate how we pay in the wanton destruction of our environment. In the manner and scale of our harvesting and emissions, our use of oil is killing the bounty of life on this planet, our just-one Earth, the only planet so far as we know that hosts the astounding miracle of life. And, finally, we pay in our integrity, the sense of wholeness and justice in our hearts for the reality is that we transfer many of the costs of war and environmental degradation to those without the power to object.

Just how precious are we to ourselves? Do we have the eyes to see what lies right in front of us? Do we think we can change? Do we believe in a happiness that comes from harmony, proportion and justice? Can we help ourselves and each other to heal? Addicts who recover begin by admitting the problem, acknowledging the enormity of its costs and believing that another way, a clean life, is possible. With the loving support of community, they then get down to the practical and hard work of transformation, committed, unwavering, and one day at a time.



At 5:26 PM, Blogger La said...

Powerful piece, Kristin. Thank you for sharing. I don't know what it's going to take to overcome the deep conditioning of ignorance, greed, and delusion that literally and figuratively fuels unconscious consumption that is destroying us, other sentient beings, and this beautiful planet.

We've had so many wake up calls, and we keep hitting the snooze button. Until we, collectively, truly realize the this preciousness of being born human and the responsibilities we have to ourselves, each other and this earth, we are, in a word, doomed.

Are we willing to make sacrifices in order to get back on track in time for future generations to come? I hope so.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Cheri Maples said...

Excellent commentary, Kristin. May we one day be recovering addicts rather than practicing addicts. I agree with La that we keep hitting the snooze button, even in the face of this most recent disaster. The public is numb and we need to wake up the collective heart of compassion.

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous write my essay said...

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At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Paul Roland said...

I too have reflected on the "addiction model" of our social-environmental crisis. I think it's important to look not only at ourselves individually as "addicted" to both substances (oil, unhealthy foods, stimulants, etc.) and processes (unhealthy relationships, work, diversions, etc.), but to see the underlying dynamics of an addictive society (power relations, delegation of decisions to others as a form of dependence/co-dependence, institutional reinforcement of false needs and desires, habituation to technological conditioning, etc., etc.). It runs deep and is so omnipresent as to seem "natural." We are both addicts ourselves and in "co-dependent" relationship with those who are addicted to power and control in positions of decision-making authority in the addictive and addiction-producing social system. Those of us who are working on our own personal issues towards mindful awareness and healing have the added work of needing to "intervene" in the addictive processes and distorted power dynamics themselves, as it seems those most addicted simply cannot stop themselves. We need both more mindfulness and more courage (and mutual support) in confronting the epidemic abuse of power and con games of the un-mindful. In my experience, collective direct action is a very powerful modality, in the tradition of Gandhi, the U.S. civil rights movement, anti-nuclear movement, Greenpeace, Earth First!, and others.

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Dan Shoutis said...

Hiya Kristin! For some reason all your posts rolled through google reader today, instead of when you actually put them up. :)

This one made me think of Vonnegut: "Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum."

At 4:51 PM, Blogger Dan Shoutis said...

Hiya Kristin! For some reason all your posts rolled through google reader today, instead of when you actually put them up. :)

This one made me think of Vonnegut: "Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum."

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Today's Consumption Disease: How All of this Stuff Makes Us Unethical, Unhealthy and Deeply Unhappy

People, we have to change the way we live. In 20 min, this little cartoon tells the story better than I ever could.

We can be happier, much happier. But we have to first see the system for what it is, then want true happiness for ourselves and each other and finally, with the courage of our convictions, resolve to stop this madness.


At 4:35 PM, Blogger Joyce Patterson said...

I had seen this video earlier this year - maybe about the same time as this post. While you are hopeful I was more pessimistic and expressed that pessimismin a post on my own blog:

It isn't apparent in what I wrote but the phrase "an inequity of the economic equation" in my post was inspired by this video's representation of how we do not truly pay for what we consume and we make the third world bear much of the cost.

Our standard of living is going to slide until some sort of global parity is reached. If we do not grasp the hope that we can voluntarily reverse our consuming behavior, then world economics will enforce it as more of our jobs go overseas and the environment deteriorates.

My fear is that, if we do not step up to the task voluntarily, Americans will succumb to playing the victim as the standard of living declines and then lash out at those they perceive as taking away their way of life. I fear that we will find a scapegoat.

It is good to read here about a hope to reverse our trends and to take responsibility for our actions and for our own salvation. I needed to see this more positive side. Maybe if we commit and work we can avoid the route of blaming others for our misery. Maybe we can avoid the next war.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ego's Relationship to Privilege

I was reading a bit of Cheri Huber last night (Zen buddhist teacher in the Bay Area) and in coming across the following mention of "privilege", I thought instantly of white privilege which in turn brought an interesting dimension to her wisdom:

It is difficult to own our freedom.

We are so privileged that we have to ignore vast areas of our lives in order to pick out just those that aren't the way we want them to be. This process of ignoring and selective perception lets us continue to see ourselves as victims of life circumstances.

We are addicted to being victims.

It is only by remaining victims ourselves that we can continue to justify victimizing others.

She then goes on to say that "in order to remain a victim, you can't know how to be a master" and discusses how ego systematically thwarts mastery in order to keep itself in tact. Much of her book (That Which You Are Seeking is Causing You to Seek) discusses how much we want to have problems (even though we say we don't) so that the world remains a dualistic place of good and bad and we can remain small.

The implication here is that ego has a vested interest in denying privilege. If I admit privilege, I can't play my victim role, which means I have to acknowledge enormous injustice (racial and otherwise) and my role in the systemic perpetuation of injustice. It also means mastery is available. Suddenly excuses drop away, there's a lot more freedom and responsibility and being a grown-up person (which who wants that?). I hadn't thought about how my ego might have an existential fear of seeing privilege.

In a certain way, it seems obvious but nonetheless, I was so struck (stopped dead in my tracks, actually), that I felt compelled to share. Does this grab anyone else?



At 11:27 AM, Blogger Spiritual gifts said...

Ego for me should be taken into consideration since privilege is not always an opportunity.-spiritual gifts