America, Land of the Free? Maybe for the 1%

This is related to the post I made yesterday, about highly conscientous people feel morally obliged to get involved in discussions when people are WRONG on the Internet.

The other day, on Facebook, an online friend posted pictures of one of those Occupy protests gone wrong. You know, where they've set fire to stuff and are behaving like assholes. Now, the person who posted the pictures didn't make comments that needed putting right, as such, but the people commenting on them, jaysus.

If I say, "This is the society the Democrats want to create", that's the gist of it. Someone else posted a link highlighting organisations and people who support the Occupy Movement, which was as wide and diverse as president Obama, Hillary Clinton, the "9/11 was a set-up" movement, the Iranian Ayatollah, communists, neo-Nazis and North Korea. If you're the slightest bit educated, you know that communists are as far left on the political scale you can get, and the Nazis are as far right as you can get. You'd also be well aware of the diverse political opinions of the leaders of Iran and the U.S.

While I'm not going to go as far as to claim the list is a load of bollocks, because it probably isn't - I don't really doubt those people and organisations have voiced their liking of the movement in one way or another, I will say that it's fundamentally flawed. Someone commented on it saying that a lot of unions aren't listed and the list creator replied saying yeah, well, the list would be updated at some point. Probably won't ever be, would be my guess, because that would make the list neutral and balanced. It's Republican scaremongering, and to make the list balanced would defeat the purpose.

My personal view of the Occupy Movement is that it's about time someone put their foot down about the state society's in, even if I don't think camping out is the right way to bring about a fundamental societal change. If you want society to change, you need to play the system, or it won't work. To do so, you need get into power, officially and legally, and try to work those changes from the inside. Putting up a tent in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London or Market Square here in Nottingham isn't going to change anything. Creating a political party, campaigning for it and getting voted into Parliament, on the other hand ... You might actually stand a chance.

But anyway, that's not the point.

Saying things like "This is how liberals want America to change!" shows how pathetically ill-informed you are, and puts my "OMG THESE PEOPLE NEED TO BE EDUCATED NOW!!" mode into overdrive. I really had to struggle to suppress the urge to comment, "THIS IS WHY THE REST OF THE WORLD THINK YOU AMERICANS ARE A BUNCH OF REDNECK IDIOTS".

(EDIT: The responses I got to the comment I actually did make were so ridiculous and inaccurate they made me laugh - hey, better laugh than cry, right? - and they confirmed the "Redneck Republican voter" stereotype in a BIG way and rendered me speechless. Were they for real?! Seriously, if they weren't dead serious, it would be classed as trolling; the responses were that crazy. Haven't replied (and won't reply) to the wild inaccuracies made in those comments because a) I'd be wasting my breath, b) stoopid hurts, c) I don't actually wish to offend the Facebook friend in question. Sure, this blog post does that anyway, technically, but chances anyone involved actually reading this is small, and also, I haven't mentioned names or anything readily identifiable, other than "they're American", and there are over 300 million of those, approximately 29% of which identify themselves as Republican. Still leaves a fuckload of options.)

And I'm not even American, so technically that makes me neutral in the Democrat vs Republican hoo-hah. I do feel very strongly about what's right and what's wrong and I genuinely worry about people digging their own holes, so to speak.

A good example is the healthcare reform. At the moment, if you don't have medical insurance (which a lot of people can't afford, which is another problem) and your child needs hospital treatment, you have to choose between getting treatment for your child or losing your house. You can only pay for one of those. Which is it going to be? In an industrialised society, this should not be a decision you need to make. If you, or a family member, need medical treatment, you get to a hospital and you get treatment, full stop. The ownership of your house should never factor into it, at all. If you gotta go, you gotta go.

A lot of Americans don't understand this, and I really can't see why this is so incredibly hard for them to fathom. In fact, I read about a woman, a run-of-the-mill middle class American, who was campaigning against the healthcare reform, because she didn't want to pay for a bunch of freeloaders, basically. I can't remember exactly why she had to give up her health insurance, but it was either that or losing the house. Guess what happened? She got cancer. Because she no longer had health insurance, she would've been left to die, pretty much ... if it wasn't for the healthcare reform, which meant that she could still get treatment. Afterwards, she has come out in public and apologised for her old, ill-informed ways. She had just never realised that people like her would also benefit from the reform. Duh?

And that's the thing. Why is the right to medical care a question of whether or not you have money? We're in so-called civilised societies, aren't we? And yet, while other countries in "the West" have free, or basically free, healthcare, the so-called "Land of the Free" don't. Those complaining about "the 99%" and saying they're not a part of it ... aren't getting the point of what's actually being protested against. Unless you're Bill Gates or Angelina Jolie or someone else, you're the 99%. Simples.

Bear in mind I'm not saying the healthcare systems of Britain or Sweden are perfect. The NHS is on its knees, but that's a separate issue altogether. I think they could learn a few things from Sweden, to be honest, but even Sweden's isn't perfect. It's just a lot better than the private healthcare insurance malarky going on in America.

In countries like Sweden and Britain, you can still get private healthcare insurance, and I don't disagree with it because it's optional. You can get it if you think it's worth it, want it and can afford it, but if you can't, it's fine; you can still get medical help without having to bankrupt yourself, and you don't become uninsurable because you are prone to end up in hospital a lot through no fault of your own.

Yes, the US is a nation built on individualistic values, but there's a big difference being individualistic and "screw you, you're on your own". The private healthcare insurance situation is a "screw you, you're on your own" thing. You're working three jobs just to earn enough to have a roof over your head and something to eat every day, and you don't have any money left over to pay for an expensive insurance plan? Sucks to be you! WTF kind of an attitude is that, anyway? It's not individualistic, it's selfish.

"But there are freeloaders! I'm not letting my hard-earned tax money go to a bunch of freeloaders!" First of all, reality check, what tax money? The way Americans complain about the price of petrol going up has us Europeans in stitches, because Americans are still paying about half of what we do. If anyone has a right to complain about taxes, it's us.

Sweden has a VAT rate of 25%, Britain's is currently 20%, and while we might complain about paying too much in tax, most of us would rather keep paying and know that if we lose our jobs, or get critically ill, the government has our backs and we won't have to downsize to Chateau Cardboard and live off what we can find in dumpsters and freeze to death in winter.

In a way, we're a community, and as such, we look after one another. If that means my tax money has to go to a bunch of freeloading chavs, well, okay, I'm not happy about that, but I'd rather support the support system with its flaws (some of which I'm sure can be ironed out, even if I don't agree with exactly how the current government are going about it) than one day being in need an operation to save my life and having to choose between paying for that operation or paying for a house to live in.

Pet insurance, that can be an expensive affair, but I'd rather pay the hefty £16/month that I'm currently paying for a cat that has - touch wood - never needed any more vet treatment than a vaccination. If I didn't pay for insurance, if she ever needed surgery, the option would be paying thousands of pounds for it ... or having to put "my baby" down, because we couldn't just cough up that kind of money at the drop of a hat.

There's no public health system for animals, and I'm not saying there should be, and £16/month is not exactly a world-ending sum of money, but we're talking about a cat - the insurance premium for a human would be considerably more. If you can't afford the insurance and surgery is needed, there is no option of having a loved one put down if you can't pay for the surgery.

In fact, if anyone ever dared to propose a euthanasia option for people who can't afford to pay for medical help, they'd be branded a heartless lunatic and it would never be allowed. Still, isn't that exactly what's currently going on right now, in a sense? You don't have insurance, need life-saving surgery and can't pay for it? How's about you go on home and die all by yourself? It's money or death. Sure, there's no actual euthanasia option, just that without the surgery, you'll die. Whether you're euthanised or die of something easily preventable doesn't really matter when you're dead.

So when is human bloody decency going to be worth more than little pieces of coloured paper?

And when will this post get back on track?

To get back to the original point, about getting upset over what people I don't even know are saying ... well, that's just it. They can't see that something that would be of incredible benefit to themselves and everyone that they love and care about, because they can't see beyond who the idea came from. It's a Liberal thing, boo hiss. They want social anarchy, boo hiss. (No, they don't, you moron!) Or worse, they want SOCIALISM, BOO HISS!

Actually, the Democrats are liberals and not socialists, as far as I know? And also, why the flying fuck is socialism such a bad word in America? Communism threatens "the American way", allegedly, but socialism and communism are two different things. Communism only works on paper, not in real life. Socialism, on the other hand, builds a society where everyone gets a fair chance in life, regardless of if their parents are millionaires or paupers. It's what modern-day Sweden's foundations are built on, and Sweden today keeps ranking in the top ten for things like average life expectancy, and quality of life. It doesn't come cheap, but what working society does?

And as a highly conscientous person, it hurts me to see that there are people out there who doesn't understand that they can have a better life and a better society, because in America, money talks. The one who provides the money is the one who calls the shots, because their propaganda machine is the loudest. In America, politics is not about democracy or fair play, it's about who has the biggest corporate sponsorship. (Just look at SOPA/PIPA - that's money calling the shots, not common sense.) And that's why I'm eternally grateful I don't have to live there, and feel sorry for those that do.

My sympathies to those Americans (and there are truckloads, thank goodness) who realise the propaganda machine is at work and seek to inform themselves of the truth. You're fighting a hard battle, and you might not win, but the rest of the world respect you for it.

To the uninformed masses who prefer to keep doing what they're told because it's so much easier that way ... well, I pity you, and hope that one day, you'll wake up and smell the coffee.

Let the flame war commence? (Not that there's going to be one, this blog doesn't exactly get much traffic. Also, all comments are pre-moderated. Go me.)