I am half--Canadian and half--American. I grew up mostly in Canada and thus have always had public--run health care in my life. I knew nothing about health insurance companies and all of their fine--print and evil until recently. Since coming to the US, I have not yet come into close contact with the American system since I have been mostly healthy aside from a baseball--related injury here and there.
All of the above are heinous and insidiously intertwined manifestations of a dominant culture constructed on the foundation of privilege and hierarchy… but only one of them is directly responsible for the murder of 53 billion land animals per year. Only one of them is directly responsible for deforestation, topsoil depletion, overfishing, water pollution, corporate control of the food chain, unspeakable animal cruelty, and so much more.
This is a glimpse into a process of investigation into ourselves and each other. It’s neither the beginning nor the end and so it’s open to change. It’s never static. For now, at least, it’s the culmination of a year of conversations around what it might look like to be part of a movement that cultivates an environment of collective and self-care, support, revolutionary love and self-determination. The opinions that will follow are my own but i will use the word ‘we’ throughout this piece to reflect that these ideas were inspired by others and created through conversation and dialogue. I take responsibility for them but am open to suggestions and the possibility that they will change where better versions replace them.
I was born in 1953, the year that Guy Debord wrote “NEVER WORK!” on the walls of Paris and the dictator Stalin died, leaving some people with the illusion that the so-called socialist paradise really existed.
There’s been an exhibition dedicated to Guy Debord at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) ever since 27 March and, from the distance of sixty years, I can see how Debord and his art of war (Carl von Clausewitz) have influenced me as a dermatologist in my battles against skin disease.
Forty years ago today, March 1, 1973 I became a vegetarian. I was 16. There was no glorious last supper before my truce-ifixion with non-human beings – my farewell to flesh was a leftover bologna sandwich.
Most cultures at one point or another had sports and other martial disciplines that developed the physical, psychological, and spiritual faculties of individuals toward a cohesive warrior that could operate on an individual as well as team based level. Should this be any different for activists in conflict? Constantly there are situations where activists are under high stress and tension; this in the end could erode not just the activist's health over time but add to a degradation to cultures and communities of resistance. I feel it is of the utmost importance to take time aside to assess intentions about how and why a person who takes on the task of an activist and how not to burn out. In fact, what I am proposing is an entirely new paradigm of activist health.
Conflict invades our inner selves. It is the single most prevalent thing in activist circles. From worrying about when the authoritarian forces will attack, to attacking other groups, in what has been labeled as “horizontal hostility”, or attacking their own communities, activist groups are plagued with an hyper-tense anxiety of what may be or what has been. Then at the same time, the activist lies within the now, the ever present moment of fluidity. The moment is something that the activist may use as a stable base for building up whatever future visions they may conceive for their communities.
On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as “Obamacare”. The bill has been lauded by supporters and pilloried by detractors, but the majority of Americans don’t really understand what the new health care law does. The 974 page monument to government mediocrity is not a clear and decisive overhaul of the wretched and corrupt American “health care system”, but rather it represents what remains when government bureaucrats leave behind any noble ideals and principals in favor of temporary political mojo. We are left to hope that the few crumbs that fall from the master’s table will ease our healthcare burden.
Mothers in Fukushima, Japan, worry that the food and milk that they must feed daily to their infants and children may one day kill them. Is that a fear that an American parent can even begin to fathom? That because of the secrecy, the intransigence and, ultimately, the criminality of your own government, you might be unwillingly killing your own children by feeding them produce contaminated with radioactive fallout? And yet, that is life in Fukushima Prefecture today.