Monday, June 06, 2016

Death, Not Life, is the Default Setting

Several memes and complaints have been going around, along with the usual suspects, that hint towards a rather damaging mindset.

Patients spend too much time taking care of chronic conditions, people shouldn't be going bankrupt just because they get cancer, health care is a human right, health care is too expensive, rent is too expensive, utilities are too expensive, EVERYTHING is too expensive, yadda yadda yadda.

The mindset at the center of all of these is the same: health, wellness, and life is the default setting.


If you think life is the default setting, go out in the woods in the middle of the winter (or the desert in the middle of the summer) and do NOTHING.

Don't find shelter, don't eat, don't drink, don't build a fire or shade, and just sit there. What will happen?

The same thing that happens to babies who don't have anyone taking care of them.

Death is the default setting, and we've become very isolated from that fact.

Imagine sitting down with someone from the 17th century. Imagine you're feeding your kids lunch and having coffee with this time traveler.

Them: What is this drink you're giving me?
Me: It's called coffee.
Them: Where does it come from?
Me: South America mostly.
Them: Must be very expensive to get it here.
Me: *Explains transcontinental shipping and their eyes go wide.*
Them: What is that you're feeding the children?
Me: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some milk.
Them: I didn't see wheat or peanut plants outside, much less a cow.
Me: Oh I buy it from the grocery store. *Explains stores, commercial farming*.
Them: Well you'd better use the jelly and milk up quick or else it will go bad.
Me: *Explains pasteurization and refrigeration.*
Them: And how much did all of this cost you?
Me: *Calculates quickly* About $2.
Them: Well that's a lot, how long did you have to work to pay for this?
Me: *Assumes minimum wage* About 15 minutes.
Them: *Falls out of chair.* *Recovers* So little work in order to eat?
Me: Well it's not perfect, for example for some kids the peanut butter would cause an allergic reaction.
Them: So they'd die?
Me: Well no, a lot of the time they have what's called an epi-pen that stops the allergic reaction.
Them: That's amazing. How many children do you have?
Me: 3.
Them: So few? How many did you lose?
Me: Um, none. There's this thing called birth control now...
Them: You didn't lose any? Not to smallpox or whooping cough?
Me: *Explains vaccines and germ theory.*
Them: And you didn't lose any infants? Obviously you yourself survived childbirth, but surely some women aren't as lucky.
Me: Well babies and mothers don't die in childbirth quite as often anymore. *Explains hospitals, sterilization, ultrasounds, and about a billions things.*
Them: So how many times have you been in a hospital?
Me: 4. 3 births, and one kidney biopsy to see if I could donate a kidney to my brother with kidney failure.
Them: You can do that?
Me: Yes, it's actually pretty simple. Now that I'm done having kids maybe the docs will clear me this time.
Them: Wait, your brother is still alive? How long has it been?
Me: 10 years. *Explains dialysis.*
Them: So people survive these things now?
Me: Oh yes. People can live decades with kidney failure or diabetes with the right treatment.
Them: So what do people complain about?
Me: Things like people who have cancer going bankrupt going through treatment.
Them: Well that's understandable, you don't want to spend unnecessary money dying after all...
Me: Actually, a lot of the time people don't die, they survive cancer, and some live for decades afterwards. My own husband will most likely survive his second round of cancer and cancer treatment.
Them: Isn't that worth all of the money you have?
Me: It is to me. But people who haven't gone through it think it shouldn't be as hard as it is, and think chronic health conditions should be easier to deal with, and cheap to deal with.
Them: So let me get this straight: more people live, more babies live, you spend less time feeding yourself and your family than any other point in history, people can survive many things that used to kill them, and people are complaining that it's too much work to do so, and that it should be less?
Me: Pretty much.

We've totally lost sight of the fact that without all of our modern methods of dealing with the world, we'd all be back to scraping out an existence and watching people die on a continuous basis.

I'm not saying there's not room for improvement, there clearly is, but for just one second could we just be grateful that there's work to do, because that means we're all still alive and needing to be kept alive?