The Downside of Up
I find myself at something of a moral crossroads. It just so happens that I’ve been watching documentary films of late; no specific reason for this, other than that they were available on Netflix. But they’ve made me re-examine certain things I do and foods I eat – you know, trying to live a little better and be a better global citizen.
But one film specifically has me simultaneously worried and disgusted: Michael Moore’s Sicko, which deals with the American health care system. Now, I’m not going to discuss the validity of certain points made in the documentary, or get sucked into any political debates of “this system of government vs. that system of government”. There’s enough of that out there already. What I’d like to focus on here is the underlying theme of the movie, which is that health care is insufficient, and we (in the States) need a better system to help us live healthier and longer.
While I enjoyed the movie, I’m almost opposed to the idea of extending life spans and decreasing mortality rates worldwide through medicine. I’m not against it on principle, or because I’m a morally depraved person. But, at roughly around the same time as watching this movie, I’ve also been exposed to another idea entirely. You see, I’ve also been reading Dan Brown’s Inferno, which addresses the issue – global pandemic, if you will – of overpopulation and how it’s draining resources and putting a cap on how much time our species can still sustain its existence on Earth. Bleak bleak stuff!
(This article is also not intended as a review of Inferno; more on that coming soon.)
So here I am: rallying against the shortfalls of the American (or any) health care system, and at the same time fearful of what will happen if modern medicine continues to let the human population expand unchecked. Not just in some distant past, but soon. I have a son, and I’m worried for what will arise from this in his, if not my, lifetime. Add ‘conflicted’ to ‘worried’ and ‘concerned’. And I’m by no means a naturally paranoid person.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like this. A college professor of mine had us read (and periodically discuss the various chapters) of Ernest Zebrowski’s spectacularly written book, Perils of a Restless Planet. Focusing primarily on natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, etc, and their effect on society, it’s interesting to note that Zebrowski devoted an entire chapter to a disaster of a different kind, yet possibly more destructive than nature’s own, overpopulation. Even back then, this chapter – this message – hit me harder than anything else I read. And I fully believe Dan Brown’s claims in Inferno that the people who should be dealing with the problem – like the World Health Organization, prominently featured in the book – simply choose to ignore or downplay it. They ignore it because they don’t know how to deal with it. Where else is there to go but madness, looking at an inevitable oncoming end? I 100% believe they ignore it because that’s the only option I saw when I was first exposed to this topic in college: ponder it some, then choose not to think about it anymore because there’s nothing you can do.
One thing I’ve learned from watching the various documentaries, as I mentioned earlier: I’m growing sick and tired of feeling that “there’s nothing I can do”. I can’t do anything about global pollution. I can’t do anything about sub-par health care. I can’t do anything about a corrupt political system. I can’t do anything about inhumane CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), hormone and antibiotic-filled meat products, declining family values, cyber-bullying, and what seems like a fruitless struggle to educate a youth who’s entitled, coddled, and self-serving.
Man, it’s all pretty grim.
I know that not everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph might be as dire as it seems to me right now. I also know that there are some small things I can do; I’ve stopped ordering meat when I go out, and have tried to reduce my meat consumption in general. I’m looking at ways I can be greener and at the same time eat better. I’ve started researching places I could see myself living that offer me better options in terms of health care, education, and government. I know I won’t feel like this forever, but boy it sure does have a way of piling on…