I went to Honolulu to get my collarbone fragments bolted together last Wednesday. The surgery center at Kaiser's Moanalua hospital was furiously busy. I'm fortunate not to have a lot of contact with the medical community, so it's all completely fascinating when I do spend time in that world. The equipment is impressive but what gets me are the people: the medical professionals. These are very competent, caring, diligent people. To support highly specialized medical professionals is one of the main reasons we all, implicitly or explicitly, consent to our political and economic system.
My mother and I were there early so we waited quite a while in our curtained area of the prep center. Another patient came in on the other side of the curtain to my left. The nurses started prepping him for his procedure. He was going to get his stomach stapled to try to help him lose weight. He had that sweetness of a laid-back, gentle local boy. He was forty years old, and he was on dialysis. The list of medicines he took daily numbered in the double digits. The nurses had a terrible time getting an IV in him because his veins were so scarred up already. He was not OK. It was not OK. His was a hurt that went deep. Yes, his injuries were the result of his own choices to over-eat. And to choose to do so is his right. I don't know anything about him but what I heard in that half-hour. I don't know why he chooses to over-eat. But I would guess that it was because he was hungry and sad and frightened. That food was and is his joy and comfort in a world that is so furiously not OK. That would be my guess.
How far back do we need to retrace our steps in order to give him shelter in his world? So that he and all the others would not need to eat themselves to death, to drug themselves to death, to escape in all the ways our civilization is so eager to provide?
We are crushing humans in our great machines and we say that this is how it has to be. We say that the technology is the future, that we must have growing economies and we must compete against China and we must have more tourists and build more houses, and educate our kids in STEM subjects or we will be left behind.
What is a human? What is life? What do we get to at the end of our days?