Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Politics Of Ebola

Virus Series, Ebola marker, left center
A decade ago I started
a series based on virus', one of them, Ebola. I was trying to transform something ugly, into something beautiful. I guess I should have started out by saying I am an artist. Anyway, I tried but I failed.
Sometimes ugly is just ugly and you can't change that.
So it is with Ebola.
It seems that now New Guinea has closed it's borders. This week I saw a lot of panic, from a lot of people because we flew two Americans with the Ebola virus to Atlanta to save their lives, one of them a doctor, who probably saved a lot of lives, but no one I encountered considered that. The worst thing was the ignorance, people willing to give these Americans a death sentence and let them die in Africa. Pretty ugly. All because of two people in extremely contained conditions, were flown to Atlanta. These two people aren't who you should be worrying about.
Let's go Medieval on it.
When I heard about people in Liberia, throwing bodies into the street, it took me back, way back, to the Black Plague. A time when people who had a relative that succumbed to this disease, would do the same thing in order to avoid being locked into their house and left to die. True story.
Some things never change, the fear of contagion, is one of them.
One thing I thought was interesting is that the people who were willing to let others die of the Ebola virus, didn't even consider how they would like to be treated, if God forbid, they came down with Ebola. While they thought it was OK to deny others treatment, I am willing to bet they would want every medical treatment available to save their lives. This got me thinking about Pest Houses, the first attempt at some sort of public healthcare, back in those days and before, disease was thought to be spread by something called "elfshot", an encounter with an elf could send you on your way to the hereafter. Which makes me wonder about people at Christmas, willing to install an elf on a shelf, spying on their children's behavior, because, elves aren't nice. But I digress.
Let's just say, that someone flew into this country, who had Ebola and infected other people on his or her journey. With the millions of people in America who can't afford healthcare, even with Obamacare available, if any of these people contracted this deadly disease, how many of them would seek treatment they can't afford. Are you trackin' with me on this?
There is a damn good reason why people in Europe have a single payer national healthcare system, a history of plague outbreaks wiping out a third of their population might have something to do with it. Guess what they don't have in Liberia or Guinea? Adequate healthcare. While we do have excellent healthcare in America, it is only for those that can afford it. This is what we should really be concerned about.
The people I have encountered, who are really concerned about the people who were flown here, in order to get the healthcare they need to fight this virus, don't give a damn that plenty of Americans are at risk daily of  all manner of disease because they can't afford to go to the doctor. 
 If, God forbid, Ebola struck in this country, it's the people who go without healthcare that would spread this deadly virus. Yet in America we think that healthcare is some kind of special privilege and if you can't afford it you can go pound salt. Maybe another Spanish Flu epidemic, or some other plague is what it's going to take in order for America to give it's citizens what every civilized country gives it's people, a national healthcare system.
 People in Guinea and Liberia go with out, just like millions in America.
However, no one thinks about that. America is so "special." So many people I talk to everyday, think America is the greatest country in the world. It's not, because we are owned by insurance companies who pay politicians to withhold adequate healthcare to every citizen in America.
The reason why we aren't sending a serum to Africa to save thousands? Because there's not enough money in it for big pharma to produce it. We have known about Ebola for decades, doesn't anyone wonder why with all our technology we don't have a cure? Well, because of the free market of course, supply and demand..which sounds really stupid when thousands of people are dying and we could have saved them, but there wasn't enough profit to extract. Remember Smallpox? I still carry the scar from that vaccination. How about Polio? These were serious healthcare issues that were eradicated, because everyone was vaccinated. I don't know who got rich, back in the day when the smallpox vaccine was developed. I am sure there were a lot of ignorant people who didn't want any part of it. Just like the people who think we shouldn't try to save healthcare workers lives, because of their own selfishness and fear. We could have had a cure for Ebola, but America's politicians didn't think it was worth funding the research to do so. In this regard, we really could have been heroes and be a global example of how we take care of people. But no, we deny our own people healthcare and everyone else can literally die in the street. Which is what is happening in Liberia. Truly we are all connected and the Ebola virus could connect us in a very real way and show us that we need to take care of each other.