Capitalistic Medicine Hits My Family Big Time

Question: What do you get when you cross the medical profession with capitalism?

Answer: You get a gigantic, money sucking monster called the Health Care Industry.

Question: What costs $102,000 per year, costs money day and night, and isn't covered by Medicare or health care insurance and hasn't been alleviated by recent attempts to reform the system?

Answer: 24/7 elder care.

Question: What nation is stupid enough to create such a system?

Answer: As if this weren't already widespread knowledge, the United States.

My wife and I visited my parents again yesterday. I say again, because we have begun to go to there house a couple times per week. Neither of my parents is driving anymore, and for the past few weeks, they have had a 24/7 health care staff at their house.

Let me give some background regarding the situation. My 84 year old father has had bad anxiety problems for several years. A couple of years ago, he spent over a month in a hospital with anxiety problems, and last year, he developed prostate problems. Before these past couple of years, my father had been relatively healthy. In fact, he retired a few years ago at the age of 78 from his full time job as a Medi-Cal Consultant (a doctor who determines Medi-Cal payments, ironically) for the State of California. One problem I had noticed with him over about the past 10 years was shakiness, something like Parkinson's Disease, which has gotten progressively worse. According to other, medically trained people such as my wife, however, this is not Parkinson's Disease. He was checked for hyperthyroidism recently, but that isn't it, either. Nobody seems to know what is making him shaky, except that he is physically weak. (My father never was very strong.)

My father is taking various kinds of medications. When we went over his medications last week, the number had been reduced from what it was previously, by 3 drugs, but he is still taking 3 types of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant pills, down from 4. Two of these are at normal dosages, but the other, Cymbalta, is at a very high dosage. Needless to say, as a psychologist who believes in very limited use of such drugs, I find my father to be disgustingly overdosed on these drugs. In fact, he has literally overdosed 3 times on them, most recently, on the first day of this semester, February 13. After that, he spent something like 2 months in a rehab center, where basically nothing was done for him. He was supposed to have prostate surgery, to allow him to remove the catheter that had been inserted into his bladder, but that never happened. Now, this surgery is scheduled for May 21, at last. Meanwhile, when my father was in the rehab center, my mother's condition went downhill. She was very upset about my father being in the rehab center, and being apart -- so upset, in fact, that she forgot to take her thyroid hormone for the entire 2 months. (My mother is severely hypothyroid.) She lay in bed without her thyroid medication, lost weight, became constipated and was in so much pain that she even had trouble sleeping, which is not like her. When my father finally came home about a month ago, part of the deal was that he would have 24/7 elder care. The person in charge of the health care operation is Mia, a nice but rather assertive woman from Greece originally. Mia had been helping my dad for several years, ever since he began to have anxiety issues. Mia was the person who drove my father to group therapy sessions, and helped him with medical decisions, etc. Sadly, but I think incorrectly, the overdoses my father has had, have been classified as suicide attempts. I think I know my father well enough to know that he wasn't attempting to kill himself, and probably never would. But, nobody asked me. In fact, his most recent overdose was the day one of his "psych. meds" was increased in dosage. Apparently, he thought it wasn't working, so he took more and overdosed. As shaky as my father is, I suspect that he sometimes puts more pills in his hands than he intends to, and swallows them, thus overdosing. I don't think it's a matter of intentionally doing so. The fact is, he has a wife and family who love him and look up to him, he has led a very successful life, and he is normally in a good mood as far as I can see -- certainly not a profile that would fit a suicidal person.

Some of the other drugs my father is taking, include Lipitor, which my wife and I think he no longer needs, and some drugs which are supposed to reduce his shaking, which don't seem to be working very well, along with some other drugs whose purposes I don't recall at this time. Both my father and 83 year old mother have lost a lot of weight in the past couple of years, something like 40 pounds each. After my mother went to her primary physician last week, who is the same as my father's, she came back with a bunch of new pills, including an anti-depressant, which I don't think she needs. Apparently, the doctor thought that she was depressed too, and so prescribed the antidepressant, even though he is not a psychiatrist. We see no signs that my mother is depressed. She always seems to be in a good mood, and physically isn't in bad condition. The main problems we see with her are that she has become forgetful about some things (but not others), and she seems to be weaker than before due to her weight loss. She is still very talkative though. She doesn't need the 24/7 health care, which comes out to something like $11-12 per hour around the clock; my father is the one who needs it. We like all of the health care workers, so they and how much they are charging us, isn't the issue. The issue is that we have a system which makes people pay their life savings for health care when they are unwell. Thus, I believe the inability to pay for health care is the most common reason for bankruptcy in the United States. (I have heard that several times, so I am pretty sure that is true without looking it up.)

Yesterday, when we arrived at my parents' house, my father opened the door, surprising us. He then asked me to help him pay some bills, since writing is difficult for him with his shakiness. When I saw their checkbook, I noticed (coincidentally?) that the sum total of my parents' Social Security checks and my father's state pension was almost exactly what they pay for their elder care. However, they also have to spend money on other things, which means that more money is going out than coming in, just due to their health care. Personally, I would be thrilled to have as much income as they do, let alone be retired and have that much money coming in. However, the health care industry is sucking up all that money and more, and the Affordable Health Care Act seems to have done nothing to alleviate this problem. In fact, if anything, the problem has gotten worse, no fault of the Affordable Health Care Act. Insurance rates have continued to increase, at least for now. While at dinner, my father handed me a letter from Blue Cross insurance. It said that my health insurance was overdue. You see, my parents had been paying it, but now that they are spending all of their income and more on health care, they cannot afford to keep paying for health care insurance for my wife and me. Isn't that ironic? As it was, the health insurance that we had, had a huge deductible of $7,500, and we have been healthy, so we basically didn't use it. I told my parents that my plan is to stay healthy until I am at least 65 years old, when I (and my wife?) can use Medi-Care. I am on the "stay well or die program" -- that's what things are coming to in America. Actually, I plan to check the government website regarding health insurance options under the Affordable Health Care Act, but I am not optimistic, since I already checked once, and couldn't find anything that applied to us.

I am fortunate and blessed to have my parents both still alive and still together. I suppose we are fortunate that they can afford -- at least for now -- their 24/7 elder care, too, but I can't help thinking that being unable to afford health care is a sign of a society in decay. In fact, there was much talk about the far less expensive health care systems in Taiwan, my wife's home country, and even in Guatemala, where health care worker Maribel is from. So, even Guatemala is whooping the United State's behind, health-care wise. Think about that for a moment. My parents seemed envious of other nations, and I am starting to think more seriously about moving to Taiwan, in the unlikely event that Romney is elected President this November. The ironic thing about my parents' huge health care costs, is that money worries are the biggest source of my father's anxiety. It is a trap, a conundrum which makes my father's condition worse, and what, if anything, might make him suicidal, ironically. I believe that there are several very serious, inter-related dilemmas which humanity, not as individuals, but as a whole, need to work out; among these are human population, global warming, maintaining a good environment for life on earth, economic fairness (which is what my "Capital Ideas" is ultimately about), and health care. Of course, getting 7 billion people and counting, to agree on something, is far more complicated than making up one's own mind about something, and as we all know, even that can be difficult.

We left my parents' house around 8:40 p.m. My father was already in bed preparing to sleep, so Eunice, I and my mother all went to say goodnight to him. My father held my hand and thanked me for helping him pay the bills, relocating their financial documents, and putting some new information about their safe deposit boxes in one location. My wife and I said "happy Mother's Day" to my mother and my wife spoke from her heart to encourage my parents to get stronger and healthier. My mom held my father's hand and told him that she loves him, and my father seemed very appreciative. We held onto that image as we left.

Later, at home, my wife wondered out loud if perhaps she should go there to live and take the place of the night shift at my parent's house. My wife used to run a mental hospital and an old folks home in Taiwan, so she is accustomed to doing that. They don't live very far away from us, so I could go to visit her and them frequently. Nonetheless, neither of us is eager to take this step. Of course, this is how many people around the world handle elder care, and we are thinking maybe it's time for us to do that. In other nations, it's probably mostly an act of love and respect for one's parents and parents-in-law. Here, in the United States, it's also a matter of replacing a financial burden, with a personal one. Stay tuned for further developments.

And R.I.P. Shelley. This is the 25th anniversary of the day my 6 year old eldest niece, Shelley, drowned in a public pool.


Zenzoe 5 years 22 weeks ago

How absolutely wonderful of Eunice to offer to take care of your folks, NL; and how great of you to be there for them. In reading your post, I couldn't help wanting to offer my own ideas of what should happen, or my ideas about diet and drugs, etc., but I have to respect your good judgment and keep such thoughts to myself. All I can say is I completely concur with your dim opinion of our health care system. And, of course, I hope your folks begin to feel better soon.

In 2008 I became interested in the medical industrial complex, specifically how it related to the pharmaceutical industry, with breast cancer as my focus. So I did a bit of research and wrote about it back then. What follows is an excerpt of that essay, with apologies for the length of it. (I don't think I've posted it here on this forum before, but maybe parts of it...)

"According to the Million Women’s Study, for one (The Lancet):

• Estrogen-progestin use increased breast cancer by 19 per 1,000 women.

• Estrogen-alone use increased breast cancer by 5 per 1,000 women.

Regardless, in the year 2000, according to IMS Health, U.S. doctors wrote 23,454,000 prescriptions for Premarin.

Okay, correct me if I'm wrong: 23,454,000 @ 5 per 1000 women = 117,270 extra cases, among the prescription holders who will get breast cancer, assuming the group stays on Premarin more than five years—this, from the use of Premarin alone.

But physicians and gynecologists are still prescribing it, still advertising it in their offices, and still lamely defending its use, as if they don’t look like ethical morons to claim that stopping hot flashes is worth the risk of developing breast cancer.

The FDA still has not banned this horrible drug, nor limited its use.

Let’s face it: we live in a culture where greed is good and the profit motive is sacrosanct. As patients we like to think the pharmaceutical industry that instructs and assists our hapless doctors in treating us are good people who would love to rid us of our diseases. But the reality is that breast cancer is an industry, a cash cow for the entire medical industrial complex; and, whether those who profit from our sickness admit it or not, they don’t want to find a cure for cancer— think of the profit losses, were a cure to be found!

Paranoia? Conspiracy theory?

Consider this example: DCA, dichloroacetate, is a drug that shows real promise as a cure for many kinds of cancers, including breast cancer. Dr. Evangelos Michelakis, a professor at the University of Alberta Department of Medicine in Canada, is currently researching this 'inexpensive, relatively harmless,' drug. Has the pharmaceutical industry rushed to fund this research, or to do the research itself? Gosh O golly, NO! Don’t you know DCA is not patented—there’s no profit to be made off the drug? Did you think the industry would be interested in finding a cure anyway, for the sake of humanity, for the sake of you and me? Are you dreaming? As reality has it, Dr. Michelakis will just have to scrape up the funds for his research from independent donors. The big guys just don’t care.

Consider another example, as a clue to the moral character and motives of the corporate owners and managers who bring our world of chemicals and pharmaceuticals to us:

• In 2000, Novartis —insecticides, the herbicide, atrazine— and AstraZeneca —agro-chemicals and pharmaceuticals— formed Syngenta through the merger of their agricultural divisions.

• Syngenta makes and sells both aromatase promoters and inhibitors, both atrazine and Arimidex, for example.

• Atrazine, a widely used weed killer, is an aromatase promoter, an endocrine disrupter. Atrazine was denied regulatory approval in the European Union—it’s banned in Europe. It CAUSES breast cancer.

• The United States uses about 80 million pounds of atrazine every year. It is in the water, folks.

How tidy is that vicious cycle? With one hand, they cause breast cancer, by contaminating the environment with atrazine; with the other hand, they treat the breast cancer they caused in the first place, with aromatase inhibitors, to the tune of billions: 'Worldwide sales of aromatase inhibitors have increased from approximately $340 million in 2001 to more than $1.2 billion in 2004, representing an annual growth rate of 52%.'

Of course, Syngenta denies that its product causes breast cancer and has bribed researchers and quashed the findings of honest researchers, using the full force of its power to attack the truth about atrazine. You would think, if the CEO’s and managers at Syngesta cared about the health and safety of people and the environment, they would listen to bad news about the dangers posed by their product and remove it from the market. You would think...but that would be in a world where people come before profits. This, clearly, is not that world.

You would also like to hope that Syngenta, and companies like it, would not want be responsible for contributing to an epidemic of breast cancer. But that would be a world where corporations were peopled by folks with consciences, where corporations are not peopled by sociopaths. This is not that world. Instead, this is a world where killing people for profit isn’t personal— it’s business, so that, if people die, well, “everyone dies”. Why not make a profit, while the gettin’s good?

Just between you and me, it seems to me that if corporations insist on being legal “persons,” with all the rights afforded to persons in the Constitution, then they ought to be judged as persons in the criminal justice system—that is, if they kill people for profit, then try to suppress the evidence, they should be prosecuted for murder. The CEO’s, managers and boards of directors of these criminal entities need to go to prison. Enough of this lawsuit crap; they just count those losses as part of the cost of doing business. (Although verdicts can serve to validate the common sense finding of damage done.) No. They need pay a real price for first contaminating the environment, then, when we get sick, profiting again from our sickness.

'The profit motive corrupts all things.' —Ralph Nader.

'A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.' —Albert Einstein"

Eastern Washington's picture
Eastern Washington 5 years 22 weeks ago

I attended a workshop about migraine headaches that was conducted by a physician and a pharmaceutical company. The doctor talked about his own headaches and the medicines that are available for migraine sufferers. When I said that I was able to stop my migraines if I was in a place where I could lie down, put my forehead on the floor, close my eyes, and relax. The doctor said that that action was biofeedback which is not a medical procedure. He made it clear that he was a medical doctor, not someone who practices naturopathy. I took that to mean that he was only willing to use drugs in the treatment of migraines. This must have made the pharmaceutical rep who was there handing out the free soda, chips, and sandwiches happy.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 5 years 22 weeks ago

Yep, Eastern Washington, and my dad, as a physician, and mom, a doctor's wife, likewise put their faith in medicine and medical procedures, whereas their social psychologist youngest son typically puts his faith in lifestyle, reason and the power of the mind for promoting good health. Maybe that's why I wasn't upset about not having health insurance anymore. It's pretty much a scam anyway, the way it exists in the U.S. Oh, and the rest of my family basically doesn't listen to me, as the "baby of the family," even though I am just as educated as the rest of them and know far more about psychology than other family members. It's good to know about your migraine treatment too, although I don't get migraines personally.

Zenzoe, my wife wrote a Mother's Day card for my mom, so we are planning to go over there again pretty soon.

I am not sure where to start in response to your long post, but your post is definitely appreciated. I didn't express much emotion in this post, but this is a difficult time for myself and my brothers. My wife Zunliang (Eunice) mentioned this morning that after spending a few months in Taiwan (last August until her return February 2) she returned to all of a sudden see my parents in a huge decline. Actually, the worst of it has happened since my wife's return in February, starting with my father's overdose on the first day of this semester.

There is hope that they will improve soon, with my father's scheduled surgery, and my mom eating and feeling better now. Perhaps my father will improve to the point that he won't need 24/7 care, but I wouldn't bet on that after witnessing what has happened to him over these past few years.

One general observation I can link to your breast cancer essay, is that I have noticed a moral dilemma with anything involving "keeping people safe" or healthy, one that the profit motive creates. The breast cancer situation is a good example of what I am talking about, which is that, those in charge with "protecting us," are simultaneously motivated to make us feel insecure, unsafe, or unhealthy, even if that means sabotaging the system and actually making people less secure, less safe or less healthy. It reminds me of Mafia "protection" actually, only it is done legally. The gist of my Capital Ideas is that there are ways to move away from a profit motive based system. Although we probably cannot totally replace money and live in a money-free society, we can place controls on the accumulation of money and create more economically fair policies. We can also punish those who rig the system or take advantage of the system to the detriment of the public good, if not make it impossible for that to happen. Of course, we need a "sea change" in the way economic rules and policy are done in order for these reforms to take place, but I think the current discontent among the public with big business and politics, as exemplified by the OWS movement, shows that there is the public will for such change to take place.

A couple of other examples of business banning substances because their use would not be profitable, include the banning of marijuana for all uses, and the banning of importation of Stevia, a plant which has sweet tasting leaves but no sugar, good for diabetics.

Why is it that DCA cannot be patented? Is it just too easy to make?

Finally, regarding your calculations: 117,270 extra cases of breast cancer per year, in the U.S. alone. Wow! That is truly disgusting that the medical industry does that. I guess my mom has been lucky to have avoided breast cancer. I think she took hormone replacement pills for a long time, since she had a hysterectomy (another overused medical procedure) a few years after I was born.

Zenzoe 5 years 22 weeks ago

For some reason, nobody can own the DCA molecule. I don’t know enough about the law on patents to be able to say why DCA is not patentable, only that it’s a simple molecule, widely and easily available, and so I guess that has something to do with it.

I'm glad your mother avoided breast cancer despite having had HRT; but I wouldn't have expected her to have a problem with estrogen prescribed to replace estrogen lost via hysterectomy. It seems that would merely put her back to normal levels of estrogen. HRT given to a woman who still has a uterus, which still produces estrogen (even if less than "normal" after menapause), would mean a double whammy of estrogen, above the normal levels. Estrogen, as I'm sure you know, feeds cancer cells.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 5 years 22 weeks ago

No, I didn't know that estrogen feeds cancer cells, Zenzoe. It seems to be a carcinogen, though, at high levels, or promotes cancer somehow. I guess it feeds the cancer cells.

I think that there is a limit to what kind of molecules can be patented. The simpler ones cannot be, but it's bizarre that any molecule can be patented, really. They are all inventions of nature, and made by the same processes, although they might be manufactured in a laboratory. It might also have something to do with DCA being naturally occuring.

I seem to have seen on television, something about the moral issues involved in patenting biological molecules at some point. It seems the biochemical businesses are skating on really thin ice with their attempts to patent things.

doh1304's picture
doh1304 5 years 22 weeks ago

You mentioned dropping health insurance. I've spoken on the wisdom of that choice many times, but if you should be forced to change your mind : Though this is the page for California I assume you will be able to backtrack to wherever you are. All things considered this doesn't look that bad - in 1/1/2014 I will at least consider it.

In the last few years I have been dealing with this issue far more than I'd like. As a taxi driver I have seen far too many podiatrists with offices on third floor walkups and elderly patients having to go to 5 minute appointments every other Wednesday. I have lost friends to heart disease, smoking, and medical malpractice. A friend lost his father to suicide, and then his mother to alzheimer's - the connection is obvious. I have rented my roommate's parking space to his mother so that she would run out of money faster and the nursing home could start price gouging MediCal instead of her estate.

But I've also had a friend who was given 5 years to live and lived 40 because he had a loving and supportive family. Good luck to you and yours, Natural Lefty, you are making a big difference.

nimblecivet's picture
nimblecivet 5 years 22 weeks ago

You are fortunate to have such a good spouse, like Zenzoe said. I worked at a convalescent hospital once, and let me tell you those people earn every dollar they make. Of course I say that while recognizing that you do not resent the workers' being paid what they are being paid even though it is such a high portion of your parents' income.

Zenzoe 5 years 22 weeks ago

On estrogen "feeds" cancer cells (It's a metaphor. I wouldn't say estrogen is a "carcinogen" per se, as far as I know.):

It is weird about patents and what can be patented and what cannot. Monsanto has patented seeds! Crazy! Then it makes "terminator seeds," so that farmers have to be dependent on Monsanto for seeds every year, rather than saving seeds each year for a new crop. Now that's an evil company—farmers in India are committing suicide because of it.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 5 years 22 weeks ago

I went to my step-daughter's house with my wife yesterday, so I wasn't using the computer much. Isabella gave my wife a mother's day card on which she had drawn a likeness of my wife -- very cute, like Zunliang. I may load it onto the computer. She had free tickets to a movie, so we went to a movie for the first time in a long time, The Avengers. I am thinking of writing a movie review about it, but "The Avengers" might need to take their vengeance out on my after seeing it. On the way home, we heard on the radio how successful and great this movie was -- barff. The only reason we saw it was because it started at about the time we arrived at the theatre, and I was in a hurry. It was showing far more often than any other movie in the theatre, so no wonder more people are seeing it. The movie did have one good thing from my standpoint, but don't tell my wife -- (obviously left-handed) Scarlett Johansson (wink wink guys). So this is how they get pacifists to see dumbass violent movies...

Well, there was some interesting macho superhero banter as well: "Captain America, you act like you are still living in the 1950s." Well Mr. Stark with your fancy dancy high tech gadget suit, I think yoiu are a smarty pants" -- something along those lines. Those superheroes are so witty, not to mention clever and smart. Gosh, am I being redundant here (kind of like the movie)?

I heard about the "terminator seeds" but I am not sure exactly how that works. Their offspring don't breed true, or what? I think this is part of how Monsanto gets its seeds patented. Yes, this is evil, and a product of the profit motive, no doubt.

Doh, I do live in Moreno Valley, CA. Thanks for the compliment. I think that is the website I mentioned wanting to check again. A friend lost his father to suicide and his mother to Alzheimer's -- I guess you mean the connection to my parents. That is pretty much the danger we seem to be facing, although I don't think my dad is really trying to commit suicide, and I don't think my mom has Alzheimer's. Nonetheless, my dad keeps overdosing and my mom keeps forgetting things, like peoples' birthdays and how to write checks, for instance. Perhaps I am being in denial here, but it seems those interpretations don't really fit my mom and dad. Price gouging Medi-Cal -- didn't I mention in the post that my father worked as Medi-Cal Consultant 2 for the state? That means he was the top doctor in charge of deterimining Medi-Cal payments in this region, which includes Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern, Inyo and Mono Counties, as I recall. The field office for this region is in San Bernardino, so that is where my dad went to work. The fact that he gave people free health care for a living, is why I say that this situation draining their money, is very ironic.

The family support factor, or any social support, is vastly underrated as a determinant of health. Research has consistently found such factors to be very important, along with lifestyle, as your friend's example illustrates.

Thanks Nimblecivet and Zenzoe. I am fortunate to have a good spouse, indeed. As I indicated, I like the people who are doing the health care work at my parents' home. Three of them, Maribel, Shelley and Johnathan, actually have very low incomes, less than they probably should be paid, and I am sure that they earn it. Their boss, Mia, has a much bigger income, I think, but she is very good at what she does, is busy doing it, and I don't think her income is all that high, either.

By the way, I have noticed an international flavor to this business. My parents' primary physician is from Egypt, Mia is from Greece, Maribel is from Guatelmala, and Shelley .is from the U.S. but her parents were born in Mexico. She is Maribel's daughter-in-law and has a little 4 year old daughter with one of Maribel's sons. Only Johnathan is an American-born "white guy" from among this group.

Zenzoe 5 years 22 weeks ago

I checked out the trailer for The Avengers, plus read a bit more about it. I'm sure it would be a barff for me too, but I have to say the thought of your having to sit through it is pretty funny, Scarlett Johansson not withstanding. Mark Ruffalo would be my reason to stay, if that doesn't strain credulity too much. Just proves I ain't dead yet. ;-)

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 5 years 22 weeks ago

Which one was Mark Ruffalo? The only guys I recognized (I think) were Robert Downey, Jr. and that black guy whose name I think is Rhames or something like that. By the way, I did notice that some of the superhero guys were good looking, at least when they weren't wearing their strange costumes.

My dear wife Zunliang said she didn't like the movie either. By the way, it was so loud that they must have thought we all needed hearing aids. My wife complained about the noise, she couldn't see the screen very well over her chair, since she is rather short, and the "action" mostly consisted of superheroes pummelling each other, when they weren't pummeling caricatures of pure evil. Of course, there were lots of crowd-pleasing moments such as when "the Incredible Hulk" (I think) was insulted by Loci, the head bad guy from "the other side of the universe" (wherever that is), who happened to look just like Homo Sapiens which evolved on our cozy little planet. That big green guy whipped Loci around like a rag doll in response. That was quite the load of macho, superhero fun. That was supposed to kill Loci, but I am sure he will find a way to be resuscitated in time for the sequel. Another thing I didn't get was why The Incredible Hulk seemed to automatically try to kill Starlet Scarlet, who was otherwise one of his pals, when he turned all big and green. It's not as though he really was angry at her about anything. I think they were just trying to evoke some extra sympathy and worry over Starlet Scarlett among the movie-goers. I wasn't the only person who thought the plot was ludicrous; my wife also complained about its ludicrosity. Superheroes just showed up out of nowhere at the right place and time; don't you love how they do that? I guess that's just par for the course in the fantasyland where movies are made.

The problem is that real people have mothers (after all, this was Mothers' Day) fathers, families and feelings, and I doubt anybody in real life fits the caricature of pure evil that is required of bad guys, or for that matter, fits the caricature of invincibility required of superheroes.

Well, that's part 2 of my review of "The Avengers."

Zenzoe 5 years 22 weeks ago

Well, not having seen the movie, I didn't realize that Mark Ruffalo plays the hulk. Ha ha on me, though maybe he appears in normal form as Dr. Bruce Banner? Anyway, here's Mark Ruffalo:   He's a lefty too, btw.

I think of superhero films as therapeutic. All you have to do is tell yourself the bad guys in the movie represent your pet villain —corporate personhood, Monsanto, the current right-wingers on the Supreme Court, etc.— then take it from there. Having injustice avenged in fantasy doesn't change anything, but it makes you feel better for awhile.

I didn't know ludicrosity was a word. That's a new one on me. And I have a pretty big vocabulary— I never came across that one, even though I know hundreds of words... ;-)

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 5 years 22 weeks ago

Yeah, I know hunderds of words too, but I didn't knowed ludicrosity was one of them. I jist maked it up.

Yep, Mark Ruffalo (rhymes with Buffalo?) is the incredible hunk in this here movie.

I had the impression that Ving Rhames or whatever his name is, and the guy who played Barton (not Banner) who kept shooting arrows left-handed were also lefties. I think Robert Downey, the guy who played Thor, the guy who played Captain America, and the guy who played Loci are right-handed. That makes the lefties in this movie tied with the righties at 4 each among the main characters if I am correct. Interesting, huh?

Of course, there is something to be said for flights of fantasy and therapeutic escapes from reality, but there are adaptive escapes from reality, and maladaptive ones, and people are not always effective at preventing fantasy from creeping into reality, especially children. When we are taught in our shared cinematic fantasies that violence is needed to solve our problems, that we are invulnerable, that our opponents in life are sheer evil, and that things work out for the best as if by magic, that certainly carries a serious threat of turning out to be a maladaptive flight of fantasy. I think that there are lots of more prosocial flights of fantasy out there, which we can share.

Of course, the fact that punishing ones enemies vicarioiusly doesn't change the reality also suggests that perhaps we should be using our imaginations to make creative plans to do something about these situations in reality, rather than depending upon movies which do not really address the problem.

Zenzoe 5 years 22 weeks ago
Quote Natural Lefty:

Yeah, I know hunderds of words too, but I didn't knowed ludicrosity was one of them. I jist maked it up.

Spoken like a true Mucky Mudskipper who makes up most of his words, literally hundreds of them, and goes around noticing who's left-handed and who's right-handed, probably because he has ambifinstrous guilt and tends toward over-compensation...

Back to the real world...I sure do like your summation of reality escapism. It's perfect as far as I can tell, and I'd really like to comment further on it, but right now I have two Netflix videos waiting for me, both escapist crime dramas from the BBC. Or would that be an escape toward reality; they can be pretty gritty and real. Ah well, I love it. And I have a feeling there's no cure for it.

Tah tah for now...

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 5 years 22 weeks ago

Yip, I love them British, too, but I jist read theys got themselfs a big drinkin problem over thar.

But then, I am starting to write as though I have a drinking problem.

I was thinking of writing a blog post on reality escapism and the world of "magic" that our media creates, but it will have to wait awhile as the reality of sick old parents and upcoming final exams is upon me. At least I have a good starting point here in this thread.

My wife and I went to my parents' house this afternoon, and my unpredictable mom was angry that we just popped in close to dinnertime, when it's so hard to change plans and fix dinner. The strange thing is that Maribel is the one who cooks dinner nowadays, not my mom. Eunice's feelings were hurt, so we just declined to stay for dinner, then my mother felt badly and tried to get us to stay, but Eunice wanted to go home. My brothers, father and I had agreed that I should visit them at least twice per week, and my mom had been very happy to see us every time until this time, so I didn't bother to tell her about the agreement with my brothers.and father. Apparently, nobody had told my mom about that before, which apparently was a mistake.

Mucky T. Mudskipper is trying to think of something clever to say about ambifinstrousness, but its not working for him at this time. Of course, ambifinstrous and left-finned are 2 of his favorite words. I think its actually a psychology-minded hypersensitivity that makes him go around noticing who uses what fin to do what -- oops, I mean hand. Actually, being that way makes him feel self-conscious at times, but he remains convinced that this issue of handedness (or finnedness) is of much greater psychological importance than it is generally given credit for, both brain-function wise and effects-wise.

Zenzoe 5 years 22 weeks ago

Well, Mucky's probably right. And he's not alone in being "hypersensitive" to features he possesses, features he thinks might have some special significance. I have mine too— remember my theory about large head size (large in proportion to shoulder width) as being a primary element of charisma and personal power? Or it's opposite, pin heads (small head, broad shoulders) having less charisma and personal power? But I've never been able to find substantiating studies on the subject.

Frankly, as far as your arriving unannounced just before dinnertime is concerned, I'm with your mother. I would probably have the same reaction. I expect people to call first, even the day before, because I'm not always prepared for company. In contrast, my Thai daughter-in-law doesn't seem to care if she's ready for company or not— just come on over! Their place could be a total mess, with no food in the house, everybody still in PJ's, and it's still okay. Just be sure to remove your shoes when you come in! Still, I even let them know way ahead of time, if I want to visit. I see it as a courtesy. Not that they couldn't come over here in an emergency on the spur of the moment, but it would have to be a real emergency.

Do you ever wonder if, or how much, you should divulge about personal matters here? I tend to be less open than you about such things on this forum, feeling [hyper] protective of my privacy. I think about this and wonder why I feel so protective, or why you feel free to be open. I have another relative (notice I don't say which one) who has a blog, where she divulges deeply personal thoughts and feelings about her closest family members. I find it uncomfortable and tend to cringe on behalf of the family members who get exposed in this way. I wonder if this is a generational thing.

I also would tend to hesitate to write about such things, because there's no way to tell the whole truth of what you feel, because the writing still has to conform to some sense of civility. Thus, just how true to the art of writing can a blog post be? Is it an art form, if you have to "make nice" about your subject? My problem is that I can't write about difficult personal subjects, without saying what I really think of all the people involved, which isn't always generous and loving. I suppose some people, even in the throes of personal conflicts, remain generous and loving, and so writing about the subject could be in their best interest, as a demonstration of their greatness. In my case, I feel I'd be betraying my commitment to honesty, unless I told the ugly parts too, which wouldn't be the whole truth, so then I'd have to tell the rest of it, which would have to include the love, and blah blah blah; but that's why I stop myself in the first place, before I even go to the subject. It's a lot of work! And it's none of anybody's business anyway.

You seem to be able to write about personal things without all that complicated jazz going on in your head. So, where, and how, do you draw the line?

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 5 years 22 weeks ago

I think popping in on family members is a cultural thing. Asian cultures include the idea that when family members pop in, its caring and good practice. Thus, Eunice keeps telling me that we should be able to do that with no problem, and it's sort of strange of my mother to be so sensitive about it. Nonetheless, she knows this about my mother from past experience. I think it would be more of an issue if mother had to cook dinner or clean the house, etc., but that is not the case at this time. I have been telling Eunice "Why don't we call first?" but she has been saying that is uneccessary these past few weeks until now.

Mucky, who likes to talk about himself in the third person, has a really big head for a Mudskipper, too. Also, 90% of Mudskippers are left-finned or ambifinstrous, which is why it really puzzles him that 90% of humans are right-handed. Okay, I made up that part about 90% of Mudskippers being left-finned or ambifinstrous. I have a fishing friend who is also left-handed, who says we have an advantage because we lefties catch all the left-finned fish while the righties are all competing for the same right-finned fish.

I don't have such strong privacy constraints, but I have some. I probably wouldn't write a post about how my wife jokes that I am a "minuteman" in the bedroom, for instance, or how I drool all over her, to give a hypothetical example, I mean. I do think it's difficult to write about very personal things accurately and honestly. It's difficult enough to really express oneself well even without privacy constraints, as you point out. It can be self-serving when we sugar coat the truth, but what form of expression doesn't contain that risk? I suppose the only times we can be confident that a person is being totally forthright is when somebody is admitting fault and dredging up painful truths. Even then, some people are overly contrite and take too much blame, especially Asian women (research informs us). It's called a self-deprecating bias. Most people have a self-serving bias, however. That doesn't mean that people are generally not being honest, but there is a tendency for people to bias there communications, either intentionally or inadvertantly. I try to maintain a standard of integrity and what Carl Rogers would call "genuineness" which means something like openness and honesty. That means sometimes confessing one's weaknesses and faults, and also being forthright about one's assets which is so often mistaken for egotism. I try to draw the line, sometimes unsuccessfully, when writing something would be invading someone else's privacy, or psychologically or physically endangering somebody including myself.

Since I am writing about the health care system in this post, this is as good a place as any to mention my theory on health care in the United States, that about 1/3 of the population is overtreated medically (yes, the "cure" is often worse than the disease), another 1/3 treated about the right amount, and the final 1/3, undertreated medically. The first 2/3 also overpay for their treatment, while the final 1/3 who are undertreated, avoid medical treatment because they cannot afford it. I think this variable has more to do with health outcomes than whatever fancy dancy gadgets and procedures are available. Also, I believe that lifestyle and social support are both more important to health, than medical treatment. Nations which have better health outcomes, do a much better job of getting a higher percentage of the population than the 1/3 that the U.S. has, who get about the right amount of medical treatment. Much of this has to do with having cheaper medical care in other nations, which allows more people to seek treatment when needed, while the negation of the profit motive in socialized medicine, alleviates the problem of overmedication and medical overtreatment.

Zenzoe 5 years 22 weeks ago

So, we have two Asians with the same attitude about just "popping in"—your wife and my daughter-in-law. Is that a large enough sample? Or do you know of this cultural difference from some study? I know that when I ask Julie about why it's okay that I come over when the house is a mess, her answer is, "You're family! You're welcome anytime!"

I appreciate your take on openness. Seems reasonable. However, I can't help feeling bad for people who get talked about "behind their backs." My relative wrote about her mother, for example, not in flattering terms, and revealed highly sensitive stuff about her medical situation. (If she reads this now, she'll recognize herself, but I doubt she reads this forum.) I don't know, but what if her mother does read her blog? Wouldn't that be a wounding thing?

Speaking of our medical system, as you might expect, my take on it is consistent with my take on most problems with our Western society; that is, it's an out-of-balance, hypermasculinist system, one where the Feminine Principle has little influence. (We've been discussing this over at "Women's Issues.") For example, cancer treatment. The way we treat cancer patients is nothing less than shock and awe, an approach that corresponds to war—attack, kill, destroy, even to the point of practically killing the patient in the process. And the approach to cancer as a societal disease gets the masculine approach as well, so that every industry making profits with products that cause cancer get the go-ahead —profits ahead of human health— and, rather than taking precautions and creating healthy environments, that is, care, every sort of hideous chemical, chemical process, pesticide, toxin, death-based agricultural systems, etc., can thrive, while the population and environment dies. In Europe, they have the precautionary principle; not so here. It's wait and see; then it's, "Oh well, everyone dies..."

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 5 years 22 weeks ago

Actually, I have not seen any studies on cultural attitudes about relatives "popping in," but my wife says pretty much the same thing as Julie -- namely, that it's normal for family members to "pop in" on each other, so I take it that this is true.

I sometimes say derogatory things about certain people, too. There is a danger of "talking behind people's backs" when we say critical things. Well, I guess sometimes there is no way around that, but people have a right to know what people are saying about them. The people who are doing the talking may be seeing things from a biased and invalid perspective I suppose. As Thom says, it's not fair to talk critically about guests on his show after they are off the air. But how else can listeners add their input?

Western medicine has always taken an invasive approach to curing people's ills. Doctors perform surgeries to remove "bad" parts of the body, or blast them with toxic radiation or chemicals. It's an attack and destroy approach. Short of that, they make their patients ingest expensive pills containing unnatural substances, on a regular basis. On the other hand, I avoid invasive procedures, and largely avoid unnatural substances, and so do many people I know such as my wife. There are many natural cures for various diseases and ways to help peoples' bodies heal. I agree that the Western medicine approach is the hypermasculine way of doing things. There are some uses for this approach, but I agree that we should use them with caution and use the most undamaging possible approach to medical treatment that is feasible.

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The America I Knew Has Almost Disappeared

Like an alcoholic family that won't discuss alcoholism (and proving Don Quixote's warning to never mention rope in the home of a man who's been hanged), far too many Americans are unwilling to acknowledge or even discuss the ongoing collapse of democracy in the United States.