Friday, April 30, 2010

Suffering in America

I think anyone would agree that there is more wealth per capita in America than any other nation. That's why Americans and outsiders are both surprised by the gross degree of suffering that exists in America compared to any other nation.

Even in terribly poor and dysfunctional nations like Iraq, the idea that there are "homeless" people in the USA is literally unbelievable*. Not because Iraqis assume that the USA treats everyone better than they're treated in Iraq, but because there aren't homeless people in Iraq. For homeless people in the United States, almost any nation in the world would be preferable.

The other obvious comparison is in healthcare. First world nations around the world all provide comprehensive healthcare to all of their citizens. The budgeting for this varies in effectiveness, and methods vary, but in all of those nations, (including places that we look down on, like Mexico), a person can get even the most drastic medical care without needing to engage some incomprehensible insurance system. That's not to say that it's free; a relative of mine likes to talk about the time they received a dramatic surgery in Europe, and was charged less than 100$.

I'm not insisting that we take any particular course of action, but we have to contextualize our decisions in the light that we have failed to provide even the most basic humanitarian care to American citizens, while trying to "Americanize" other nations by force.

*If you want to hear more about it, listen to the recent episode of This American Life "True Urban Legends"

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