Archive for the 'class divisions' Category

Whose brother or sister?

February 23, 2014

“’This isn’t the drug user of the 1970s. It’s your brother, your sister. It crosses all socioeconomic strata.’”

This is a quotation from “Max Sandusky, prevention and screening director for the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod” and it comes from an article in The Boston Globe called “Opiates taking heavy toll on Cape,” by Brian MacQuarrie, dated February 22, 2014.

Years ago when a child in one of our sons’ nursery school class died from strep, and a few months later our son came down with scarlet fever, just two days after having been examined by his pediatrician, someone important in the public health sector in the state government told my husband that nothing would likely be done about what was going on in the nursery school until the child of somebody important died.

It was pretty clear that someone in the school was a carrier — there were many strep cases at the school in addition to Jillian’s and our son’s — but no testing could be undertaken, nor could the staff member who seemed to be the carrier be asked to take steps to protect the children.  As I recall it, she had a connection to the health sector, perhaps through a second job, and the hypothesis was that she picked up bacteria at the facility but didn’t become ill from them.  And if it wasn’t she, then some sort of testing of everybody might have revealed a different pathway through which there was such an on-going and severe presence of strep in the school, even after vacation breaks.

In other words, it wasn’t just a single event during which children passed strep germs to each other;  and the public health official knew that.

We withdrew our child and found a new school for the fall.

There’s that set of lines from Richard Shindell’s song “Transit” about how “car thieves and crack dealers, mobsters and murderers [are someone’s] husbands and sons, fathers and brothers.”

When we are still picking and choosing whose lives are more and less important, we cannot yet congratulate ourselves on being “superior.”  It’s a paradox, resolved, it seems to me, by withdrawing the ego and no longer seeing the world in terms of competing groups.  We become “superior” (in the sense of “more elevated,” not in the sense of comparative elevation to others) by realizing that we are not.

We may pay more attention to an important public health problem now that more “important” people’s lives are involved, but we will not be resolving a more fundamental problem, and its manifestations in our society, until we stop with this “four legs good, two legs better” (Animal Farm, by George Orwell) attitude.

Will technology become a budget-buster like health care?

August 17, 2011

I will admit at the outset that I am not a technophile.  I was married to one, and I don’t consider myself actively hostile to technology, but I’m not comfortable with it myself.  So, that’s where I’m coming from, discount my concerns below accordingly.

My question is whether we are creating another budgetary drain through technology, similar in dynamic to how we became increasingly accustomed to getting the best health care available and have been caught up short by what that means to personal and public budgets.

Computers and cell phones used to be discretionary items, even luxury items.  Now we are all expected to have them, and possibly more.  Parents are supposed to available to schools, for instance, by cell phone, tax payers are supposed to access necessary tax preparation materials on line, bank depositors are supposed to review their bank statements on line — the list goes on, and I would suspect, will continue to grow.  I can understand some of these requirements, for example Connecticut’s insistence that attorneys undertake certain transactions on line (requiring even a particular brand of browser for at least some of the required transactions) — it may be reasonable to require certain equipment and expertise of all attorneys, as a kind of cost-of-being-licensed and in order to make sure the playing field is more level for clients.  But what about for people on low and fixed incomes, especially older people, even just people whose salaries are not going up or may even have been frozen or reduced through cuts in hours or furloughs?  Having to replace machines, having to do business with an internet provider even when their charges go up — these are becoming required household expenses in addition to food, clothing, shelter, utilities, and other “necessities.”

Have we really thought this through, this growing insisted dependence on electronic communication?  If there is a (growing?) subset of our society that will not be able to afford the internet access demanded in order to be a full-fledged member of the mainstream, it seems to me that we will be creating yet another kind of underclass.  If we demand that people use their finite incomes for certain electronics and supporting services, it seems to me that we will be fostering more indebtedness and making it more difficult to pay other necessary bills (like rent, mortgages,fuel for heat, etc.).  It doesn’t seem to me that people’s expendable incomes are rising in sync with the costs of keeping up with the technology mainstream society seems to be requiring.

I hope there is more discussion of this issue than I am aware of.