SPOILERS again… Consider yourself warned…


They’re coming!…


Look out!

Sicko: After all of that, I’m not going to say much about this movie, because, you know, the entire world has. And I’m not simply anti Mike Moore. He’s not simply right, but he’s very far from being George Bush and, y’know, that kinda appeals! But there’s something interesting that seems to characterise the whole thing: and that’s a sense of competition. Yeah. Competition. I understand why he continually, throughout the movie, pointed out the mismatch between the richness of America and the healthcare and mortality rates etc, but doing it with reference to those supposedly terrible and terribly poor countries—Cuba, El Salvador and Serbia come to mind—in there alongside richer but still terrible in some way (according to the US) countries including France and England, feels to me like an entrenching of nationalism. “We’re not measuring up,” could have been the catch-cry of this movie. It might be to a ‘good’ end, but I can’t help but be a little bit horrified by his willingness to reinstate what is already problematic about America (and American foreign policy more particularly, perhaps) in order to achieve his ends. In the end, it felt a little too much about what America and Americans ‘deserved’ (as if there really might be people out there who didn’t deserve health care!).

This was particularly bile-inducing when ‘the best’ of America—ill 9/11 rescue workers—were set up against Guantanamo Bay ‘detainees’. The overt astonishment-bordering-on-disapproval that Moore expressed about the medical facilities at Gitmo was pretty awful, and the rhetoric of ‘look what we’ll do for terrorists and murderers!’ made me a little sick, along with the shots of an orange-clad detainee apparently cheerfully kicking a ball around contrasted with the depressed sick American citizens. As my companion pointed out, there was no reference to the fact that part of the reason that such high level medical facilities are required might be because torture’s on the cards. And the implication, whether or not Moore intended it, was that when resources are spread so thin, we need to decide who deserves it… and we all know how America would make such decisions, given a choice between terrorists and citizens. As if it were ever quite so simple.

I think this was what bothered me the most, in the end: instead of just saying ‘we have the resources, let’s universalise health care!’ his comparisons wound up implying that ‘oh my god, the rest of the world and even the baddies who try to kill us, and the people we disapprove of, get a better deal than we do!’ And that, I humbly submit, attempts to use capitalist market competition to motivate universalising health care. If this is the premise upon which the USA were to actually ‘universalise’ it, how long do you think it could maintain actual ‘universality’? Perhaps for as long as the competition lasts?

And one last point: I’ve seen a lot of people expressing disgust at the American single mother who traveled to Canada to attempt to get free health care. Wow, the vitriol really surprised me; I can’t help thinking it was partly because she didn’t demonstrate her poverty in nice, obvious ways. Yeah, she doesn’t pay taxes in Canada, that’s true. But I’m not sure that I’d be happy to argue that the only people who deserve health care are those who pay for it… hmm, coz hang on, that seemed to be the problem in the first place! Besides, the richness of Western countries, for example, is guaranteed by the poverty of poorer countries, and I wouldn’t want to suggest, therefore, that health care should be only a national responsibility; if exploitation gets to be trans-national, why not justice? (:-)) I get that that’s how the system works now, and that an argument could be made that the nation’s first responsibility is to its own folks , but to me it feels like disapproving of a woman making decisions like these only reinforces the way the system works: that you need to be, or potentially be, a contributing citizen (read tax-payer). Health care on the basis of exchange for money/contribution to society? Hm. Would we want to deny all comers from other countries access to health care, especially given that their ill health may not be as unbound from the richness of Western countries as we might like?! If not, then I’m not sure why we would be so very grumpy at a single mother whose vulnerable situation might send her across the border. I guess in some sense I think that hiding behind the idea/l of a nation-state is just a bit disingenuous, given that the West cheerfully crosses all kinds of borders in seeking, say, cheap labour. I’m not positive about my stance on this, so forgive the rant-y-ness, but I was taken aback by the willingness of so many to attack her. Consider this my knight-in-shining-armour-leap-to-defense!