I wrote something to an acquittance of mine, Anna L Davis, in response to a post she wrote and it got me thinking. I thought about the degree to which being part of a church is not about Jesus. Anna spoke of a group of former prostitutes who know try to lead other prostitutes to Jesus. For whatever reason (My morals, of course, intrinsically compromised by my atheism) I don’t like prostitution and I think it is good for women to be lead out of it by people who have been there, regardless of motivation. She mentioned how she would like to see more of this sort of thing.
I don’t think she will. Christianity is dying in the west, at rate of about 1% per year. Do you know what the fastest growing religion is? Wicca. The number of people who identify as Wiccans is doubling every 30 months. (Ref) So, I offer to concerned Christians everywhere my little guide book to how to keep your church from going the way of the brontosaurus. You can get Wiccans and other Neopagans (people who believe a fairly arbitrary re-imagining of neolithic and bronze age paganism, only without the blood sacrifice.) to go your church and stay there.
Its profoundly simple, actually. White suburban does not equal Christian. Tell me which picture is a group of Christians….
I like how the photo of the Christian teens (it’s taken from the Youth for Christ web page) uses careful lens flash to make the token black guy the whitest one there. So tell, me what exactly have the goths done wrong here? They are dressed as modestly as the Christians. There is no more hair dye, and no more make up on the right then on the left. You can’t see any skin really, no naughty words, no pentagrams.
But you know, don’t you? You know instantly they aren’t Christians because they don’t look white bread enough. Wicca takes these people with open arms. Wicca says “Your uniqueness is blessed”. The Christians say, through a tyranny of frowns and subtle digs, that these people aren’t right, no matter how much they love Jesus. I know someone is reading this and saying “Oh NO! Not I! I would love these people into Christianity. How long could person come to your church dressed like this before someone felt the need to say something to them? If Christianity wants to exist in another 50 years, then it needs to stop acting like being a Christian means having a Christian image, and needs to start acting like the inside is more important then the image….
Or be content with young people leaving droves from the hypocrisy.
P.S. If you got this far without ever realizing that only God can see the heart and the group on the left could be Satan worshipers and the group on the right could be local Baptist teen group then you don’t need me to tell you what the problem is.
I will write my paradigm paper, really. I’m just busy.
A specialist will always beat a generalist in a specialized challenge. The only time a specialist losses to a generalist is in general challenge.
Specialized challenge: going really fast in a vehicle around a highly embanked well paved track. Winner: race car. Loser: tractor.
Specialized challenge: pulling 40 tons of grain over wet sod for 2 hours on 3 gallons of diesel. Winner: tractor. Loser: race car.
The only time a generalist has chance is when the challenge is general. This is why we use main battle tanks and not light, medium, and heavy battle tanks. Battle is a general challenge so a force of all general tanks beats a force of an equal number of special tanks, unless there are special circumstances. Same goes for airplanes. We are increasingly moving away from force of fighters, attack planes, ground support planes, and light bombers to a single multirole plane which isn’t quite as good of a specialist as any of those, but over all wins the general challenge.
A human, verses any animal specialist will always lose. Apes are better weight lifters, dolphins better swimmers, cheetahs better runners, fleas better jumpers. We don’t haves as good as hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, or seeing as a veritable zoo of various species. We have one specialty:
We make tools to make tools to make tools. Everything we make is a tool. No other species specializes does creation like us. This is one of the most important ideas in the world. This means we are at our most human when we are creating. The “best” human is not the one who knows the most facts, or has the most stuff, or can influence the most people. The most human human is the one that is the most creative. This is the human most useful to any society when the game changes, though also the most likely to change the game.
What does this mean? My thanks to Xenophanes for expounding on this back in 500 BC:
The Ethiops say that their gods are flat-nosed and black,
While the Thracians say that theirs have blue eyes and red hair.
Yet if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw,
And could sculpt like men, then the horses would draw their gods
Like horses, and cattle like cattle; and each they would shape
Bodies of gods in the likeness, each kind, of their own
And so the Gods of people are…always…creators.
Who is more audacious, the man who believes there is no God, or the man believes his god must be just like him?
Every year after my birthday, I try to reassess my life. I write down this reassessment so I can read it. I’ve found my memory slants things in my favor and only by writing down my thoughts can I later be sure of exactly what I was thinking at the time. So this post is primarily for me, put out publicly for anyone who might be interested. In essence, I’m reintroducing myself to myself. If you want to get to know me again, this would be a good thing for you to read, if you don’t there won’t be much you haven’t heard already.
I spent most of my life with what you might call a divided self. To some people, I was a good and serious Christian, to others I was a very liberal Christian, to myself I could be either of those two, but there was also a private life hidden from both my serious Christian friends and my nominally Christian friends. There were two parts to this private life as well: there was young man that desired nothing but the satiation of the flesh, and finally caught in the tension of all of this and man who truly hated his very life, and struggled constantly to avoid physical self harm and deep feelings of worthlessness. I was deeply ashamed that I, a Christian felt that way and struggled as much to keep people from finding out how I felt like trash as I did to overcome those feelings.
It made for a complicated life. I thought my parents were the greatest parents on earth and I loved them. At the same time, sometimes I hated them so much it was purely my fear of the punishment of God for disobeying them that kept me at home much past my 16th birthday. If I was going to choose one word to describe my young adult and adult years it would “confused”. I was never sure who was the real me: the serious Christian, the liberal Christian, the sex freak, or person who was prevented from suicide purely because whenever he put a gun to his head he saw his family around his hospital bed as he was in a vegetative state, clucking their tongues and saying “Couldn’t even get that right, could you?”
I was always on the look out for someone who had the answer of how to live the Christian life. I wanted to truly be a Christian more than anything on earth. Adolescent angst turned into adult depression. Frequently, I would wake up before my alarm went off and stare at the ceiling trying to will myself into facing another day of failing to be the man I was supposed to be. Usually I could. Sometimes I could not, and it cost me more then one job.
This would lead me to join a radical Pentecostal group who claimed to have a corner on knowing God. Some would call the group cult-like, and perhaps it was but, in the end it was good for me. For the first time in my life I was honest with people about the feelings I had about myself and others. There was an enormous rush to being that intimate with people emotionally. The feeling, though sexless, is not entirely unlike the feeling of being courted. (I’ve talked to a few cult survivors who say this remains a feature of their live that they now miss.) When the novelty of those wonderful feeling wore off however, I was largely the same person. This became an increasing source of frustration. Further, the church talked a very radical, revolutionary game, but when I started to ask hard questions about when this so called revolution would start, I was ostracized.
A pivotal moment in all of this, was falling in love with my wife’s best friend. Of course, being 24 and her being 22, part of these love feelings including an intense and acute desire to make love to her. Which at first, made me hate myself more then I knew was possible. It would hardly seem that this could work for good? But it did. Through long conversations with my wife about my feelings, we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t feelings that were wrong but the actions you took with them. That being the case, I just ignored the sex drive and enjoyed loving someone. Always I had seen my desire for sex with a woman I was not married to as sick and twisted, and myself as perverse for having such feelings. Now, I accepted those feelings and enjoyed them but chose not to act on them. This was the beginning of a life of much less self hatred.
This new life of believing that I was worthy of love changed what I expected from a church. I now wanted to be treated as a peer. This didn’t sit well with the somewhat cult-like church we went to. The last straw was when I quit my job (to avoid temptation, long story) and no one would help us. Further, I was reading the Bible as a whole document looking for the whole story rather then reading individual passages to see what I could make it say. Our church wasn’t even close.
We had moved to the inner city to be closer to the people we were supposed to be saving. I sat on the stoop listening to the gun fire and the sirens. I realized that every stupid thing I had ever done was because I thought someone besides me would take care of me, yet here I was unemployed in the projects of Kansas City. I had a high enough ACT score to get into MIT and I was waiting tables and living three doors down from a crack house.
I decided I would start taking care of myself, and that such a thing would glorify God. I also still wanted to help people in the inner city, and it looked to me (after 2 years of hearing about transformation that I never saw) that hard working people getting money into the crappy schools would go a lot farther then prayer meetings.
I joined the Air Force (same pay as the other branches but least chance of getting shot and most time at home). I joined a very sincere Christian who had reached one simple conclusion: If one was going to consistent with ALL of scripture instead of just the parts they liked, then God was a radically different person then most people thought.
It’s unfortunate in many ways that I deconverted after joining, because I think a lot of people have the idea the military experience is what made me an atheist. Not at all. I joined, as I said, primarily to make enough money to make a difference. I came into the military a Christian. It was not the Air Force life that deconverted me but careful study of Scripture and the history of the early church.
That study lead me to believe that one of three things must be true (1.) There is no God. (2.) There is a God but he actively hides from those who seek him (3.) There is a God and I personally can see no evidence because he doesn’t want me to. In any of those three cases, this life on earth is the highpoint of my existence as I am either bound toward nothing or hell.
Logic says to believe the idea which requires the least invention to work. I could invent a God that cannot be found with the scientific method, or say there is no God. I chose no God. I prayed a final prayer, “Lord if you are real, I came to this conclusion with the brain you gave me and the best facts I could get. If you are real and I am wrong, then please keep my daughter and don’t hold my sin against her. I’m going to be true to myself and admit I don’t see you.”
After this, everything got better. (A subject I have blogged on extensively.) I didn’t ache inside because I wasn’t failing anymore. I stopped pretending I was a Christian, so now I had one kind of friends: the kind that liked me for me. Three months later, I woke up and was getting ready for work. I felt strange and it took me some reflection to realize why: I couldn’t remember the last time I woke up so depressed that I couldn’t go to work.
I didn’t immediately “come out” as an atheist. In my life I have been many things and what I am really excited about today is not something that will necessarily have great meaning to me in 6 months or a year or 5 years. I quietly worked out things. One of the things I really struggled with was the meaning of life in the absence of God. Christianity is a pre-packaged world view, the paradigm equivalent of a Lunchable. Atheism is merely a theology. Eventually, two things would move me. The first was existentialism. Sadly, since most existentialists are big philosophy geeks, existentialism has a huge image problem. Existentialism does not say that life is meaningless (that would be nihilism), on the contrary existentialism says life can have great purpose: the purpose you give to it.
This helped me understand some of the great confusions of my life. What meaning did my relationships have? The meaning I chose to give them. Guilt I had carried over an ex-fiance for years melted away. But what of the indifferent universe that I now believed I lived in? Well, when I spoke of this to the very wise Doctor Karen Stollznow, she said, Israel, rocks and trees may be indifferent, but we as humans are generally surrounded by human beings who are as authentic parts of this universe as the sun or the earth. Because people can make the choice to care, the universe is not indifferent.
During this period (around this time last year) I began to really hate my parents. I was profoundly bitter with Christianity and I blamed my parents for raising me in it. That was stupid. We’ve talked since and worked it out largely. Though not bitter, I remain slightly miffed at Christianity. I’m 29 years old and it has only been the last few years that I have had a normal sexual relationship. I’ve been in a sexual relationship since I was 22, however it wasn’t normal or healthy until fairly recently as atheism and existentialism helped me come to healthy view about myself. Sex is not very important to some people and incredibly important to others. I am the latter, and it irritates me that I spent the first 25 years of my life when unhealthy, ineffective thoughts and actions regarding sex because of Christianity.
A note here, when I say “Christianity” I am not referring to a code of ethics based on the Gospels, but the unique expression of American, politically conservative protestantism as I understood it. I have talked to many people since deconverting that managed to believe psychologically healthy things as well as Christianity. They managed to believe everything I do, yet do so with a paradoxical belief largely at odds with scripture. More power to them, I’m not mad at them anymore either. (For awhile I was jealous of their ability to keep all the pleasant trapping of Christianity without the madness, but I’ve come to accept that they can do it and I can’t)
This is largely the complete story of how I got to where I am. Next post I will tell you myself (and you all) where here is.
The trip had begun like most of our church youth group trips had, with me working on the 1970-too old, Dodge Crap-O-Van. Was it a new water pump that time or a bad alternator? I can’t remember. I do remember the crunch of gravel under my feet and the singing of the cicadas from the church parking lot’s only tree, so I know it was in August. I remember praying to God for the strength to get through the whole repair without using sinful language, but I prayed that prayer frequently working on old vans.
I can’t remember what the trip was for, either. Were we going to some Bible college? A Christian rock concert? Or was it the trip to Denver where we spent two weeks doing vacation Bible school puppet shows? It’s been so long since then, but those youth groups trips were incredibly important to me, at the time. My father’s post traumatic stress and my mother’s agoraphobia created a home where friends weren’t very welcome. We lived deep in the cornfields, where dad could shoot paper targets until the fear went away and mom could drink in the sun and trees until the strain of normal life was lifted. I came of age not at school, not hanging out with my friends, but at Bible camp, in Sunday school, and on the sticky vinyl seats of our church’s 15 passenger van.
For whatever reason we’d gone, I will never forget the trip back. We were exhausted, and all of us were fading in and out of sleep. The engine was a continuous roar, drowning out conversation and the tires droned out a hypnotic hum down the interstate. I was in the first passenger seat, in the middle between several thousand dollars of sound equipment on the right, and Darcy Trigg was on my left. I laid my head against the cold, hard fiberglass of the roadie boxes, and closed my eyes.
We hit bump and I awoke, conscious only of scratchiness across my face. I moved my hand up to the scratchiness, and confusingly found something soft and warm. The fog of sleep clearing, I realized that in my sleep I had turned away from the hard case, and turned instead to Darcy. My eyes fluttered open, and I froze. The scratchiness was the collar of Darcy’s sweater, stretching across my face from chin to widows peak. Not only had I turned to her in my sleep, I had laid my head on her chest and slid down. One eye looked down the front of her sweater, but the other was on the inside, her ample breasts and white satin bra, cast a warm pink by the sunlight shinning through her top.
She must be asleep, I thought, and there is no way, that if she wakes up she is going to believe this is an accident. She’s going to to know what a disgusting pervert I am, and no girl will ever talk to me again…I will be “that guy.” I closed my eyes, and very carefully and very slowly moved away, sitting perfectly straight, and not opening my eyes until I was in a position to stare straight ahead. Then, and only then, did I slowly turn my head to Darcy.
Her chin was in her left hand, her elbow on the window sill, watching the cornfields shoot by. She’d been awake the whole time! Clearly she hadn’t pushed me off or woken me because she was mortified with embarrassment. I was so ashamed, and yet I didn’t want Darcy to think that I thought she was ugly. I wanted to say that I thought she was beautiful but at the same time I was terrible sorry for violating her. My mouth was dry and I felt shaky.
“Darcy..” I whispered loud enough for her to hear, but too quiet to carry over the road noise to any other listening ears, and leaned towards her for greater privacy.
“I…I was asleep…I…didn’t…” I stammered.
She turned to me slowly, her eyes big and kind, bashful from underneath her brow, a slight smile upon her lips. She leaned toward me, closing the space between us I’d made by sitting up straight, and laid her hand on my knee.
“I didn’t mind,” she said softly. She searched my eyes, her serenity and kindness pitying my confusion and fear. Squeezing my knee, she sighed contentedly and returned to watching the landscape out the window, giving me a last over-the-shoulder smile.
I sat in total confusion. Darcy was the kindest, most gentle soul I knew at the time. Growing up in a world that divided women into nice girls and sluts, Darcy’s credentials as a nice girl were impeccable. She was quiet, demure, modest, and serious. She knew the Word, and walked the walk…and she told me that I had done nothing wrong and she enjoyed me having my face down her shirt. I realized then that maybe good girls did want to be kissed, held, and touched. Maybe, just maybe, good girls might have sex drive, and maybe a girl could want me, the geeky guy with the thick glasses, because I was OK, and not because she was screwed up.
I’ve been meaning to write a blog about open marriage for a while. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post it on this blog or an anonymous blog I maintain, and I decided I wanted to share this openly. (If you read both, please don’t reveal that here.) It’s a sensitive topic, and I’ve waited so long to write about it to make sure I said exactly what I wanted to say. I want to say why this topic matters to me, even though as anyone who knows me is aware, my wife and I are now, as we have been through out our marriage, sexually monogamous. We have every plan of being so for the rest of my military career (to do otherwise would be a violation of the military code of justice, Article 134).
To understand why open marriage matters me, you have to know a little bit about me. A man is the alloy of his past. I am not just an atheist. I am an atheist who used to be a Christian. It is doubtful to Christians, I’m sure, that a man who can look at a sunset and say honestly, he sees no fingerprint of the Almighty, once believed that in the same God they do, and did so with all his heart.
I was never good at it, but I sought Christ and to be his follower with all my heart. Despite my later de-conversion, I was as sincerely a Christian as I could be. God ways were at the core of everything I thought, and when what I wanted overpowered want I knew I should do I felt an agonizing guilt. Thus at the advanced age of 12 I decided I needed to start looking for a wife!
It was only logical. The Apostle Paul said in First Corinthians 7:9 it is better to marry then be consumed with desire for sex, and around puberty I was consumed. The fact I was 12, unemployed, and hadn’t even started (let alone finished) highschool wasn’t import. God said it was better to marry then to burn, so I needed to marry. This was especially important since I looked lustfully at women and masturbated. To obey God fully, I needed to poke my eyes out and cut my hands off. (Mathew 5:27-30). I felt terrible for so lacking in faith that I couldn’t make myself obey God with regards to mutilation. By seeking marriage, I was able to obey God, yet not hurt myself.
I thought I would never be able to wait till I got married. When as a young man, I was in my first serious relationship (that is to say one where the woman was in as big-a-hurry to get married as I was) I was able to refuse her. Later, when I would meet the woman I would later marry, I found a new dimension to desire that I hadn’t known before. We were both interested in the institution of marriage to get sex, so desire was obviously a component, but there was something else. There was this feeling that I was incomplete and I wouldn’t be complete until I was with her. You’d think that would have made us hop in the sack, but actually it made it easier to wait, because it was something special and we didn’t want to wreck it.
Like all good Christians, waited till we were married. It was (and is) groovy and I don’t regret it waiting for it. The thing is, both of us approaching marriage as God’s blessed vehicle for sex, we didn’t really get the intimacy aspect of it. We’d wanted sex so much, but we’d wanted it as novelty, the way person wants to drive car they’ve only read about. It took us years to understand the intimacy aspect, the way you could love someone so much that you needed to be part of them in the most intimate way possible. When I’d first met my wife, as a product of my Christian upbringing, I didn’t understand how you could feel love and lust for the same person at the same time. Eventually, I would understand the line between merely hungering for sexual release with someone I cared about and needing to drown in her soul.
What of open marriage? Well, my story begins, as I’m sure many men’s do, with my wife’s best friend. She wasn’t just that though. She was one of my best friends too. She was an aunt to our child. She called me brother and I called her sister. She was family, by choice and not by chance. She was part of our life, we all loved one another. I’d been terrified at first, when I realized I loved her, but how could I not? My wife loved her, she loved my wife, she loved my daughter, my daughter loved her. What was I so scared off? Scared of getting hurt? Of disappointing God or myself?
I turned to the Bible, seeking to understand God’s heart about love. What I found was that what made the church different was love. The Bible never says “don’t have close relationships with people of the opposite sex you aren’t married to” that’s a decision the church has made because often such relationships often end badly. Being who I am, that wasn’t enough for me. Morality means doing whats right, regardless of the personal cost. Doing whats right only when its costless is the morality of a sociopath. God commands us to love on another. So…I did.
It was beautiful. I hurt when she hurt. I was happy when she was happy. She was a little ray of sunshine in our lives. A source of continual surprise to me was that I had no desire to have sex with her. It turned out I could love a woman and not be consumed with a desire to screw her! I was ecstatic to learn that. It was wonderful to learn that I wasn’t as broken inside as I thought.
She was a very physical person. She hugged a lot, play fought a lot, flopped onto one of us on the couch a lot, and all the normal things that people who love each other do. It was all just good, clean love. When I finally realized I did want to sleep with her, it was such I totally different feeling then I had expected that I didn’t know when it had started.
I didn’t want to screw her. I didn’t want to ruin what we had or even just have a sexual release with her. I just wanted all of her. As a young man I wanted sex with a woman I loved as a guilt free upgrade from Rosie Palm. As a man who had been married for several years, I wanted sex with a woman I loved because of the incredible power that sex has to bond people who love each other together.
I knew such an act would be a sin, of course. Though the Bible does not forbid polygamy, the Bible does say you must follow the law of your land (Romans 13:1-4) excepting when it tells you to sin (Acts 5:29). Polygamy is illegal in the US, so it would be a sin to do it. What I also knew was the desiring her was not a sin. I didn’t want anything wrong. I wanted to be more deeply bonded to a woman I deeply loved. As I had felt that for my wife, I felt it for our friend. My wife and I talked about it, frequently. When guilt snuck up on me, she would remind me there is no such thing as a bad feeling. Feelings are good, it’s the actions we take that are good or bad.
Eventually, this feeling became so strong that I had to tell her about it, not because I expected her to be comfortable with it, but because there comes a point where if something is on your heart, you have to share it with the people you love. To do otherwise becomes a sort lie by lifestyle. Though I didn’t want tell her, I told her. Knowing it made her horribly uncomfortable which was fair and reasonable.
What wasn’t fair and reasonable we her insisting the desire was wrong. I didn’t mind being told “no” or “Ew gross”. I minded very much being told that I was somehow broken for wanting to be deeply connected to a woman I was in love with. We worked things out but, not perfectly. At some level, she thought I was a pervert for desiring her. When the person you love looks at your insides ands sees damage in the places that make you love them, well that hurts a lot. We drifted apart over the years and my atheism (when I de-converted) broke her heart and scared her. As an atheist, I wasn’t just a man who desired her, I was a man who desired her and no longer had the holy spirit to help control his lusts. Again we tried to keep going…but in the end it just hurt too much. We got sick of hurting each other, and parted ways (mutually and peacefully) each hopping the other person would change.
So, in the end, loving two woman (even though I was only sleeping with the one I married) didn’t work out. Nor do I think it works out for most people. Why, oh why, would want to talk about this? Because I loved. Most relationships don’t “work out”. Very few of the people we are friends with are going to be there forever. People move. People change. People grow. People live and people die. That’s life, and life is better when we love.
I feel for her because I let myself love her. There is an easy solution: I would have never wanted to make love to her if I hadn’t let myself love her first. I could have had safe, empty, riskless, shallow “friendship”. Instead I let myself love, and that love and my honesty about it ultimately cost me the friend. But I would have never had that friend in the first place if I had never loved. The three of us had a great three years together. I wouldn’t trade that for three years of nothing with no heartbreak at the end.
I loved courageously. It was beautiful. I won’t do it the same again, and I highly, highly doubt there will ever be another like her again. I will probably die having never made love to any woman but my wife, and I am totally OK with that. It’s just, I understand now how two people could love someone else so much, that they want that person to part of their marriage. It was so great, even in the little, chaste way we experienced it, I would love to meet a person like that, even as I am at peace with the fact the chance of it is nigh impossible.
So, one of the things I thought about as I was siting in my car seat, either watching barriers shoot (by far to close) or stuck in traffic, was the American health care system.
In post five, I said health care is a real problem in the US and needs a solution. A gave a solution, but it was so cursory as to be nearly comic. (Like a three step process to getting the moon: 1. Build rocket, 2. Load up and launch. 3. Land on moon.) I wanted to go into detail, but I simply don’t have the time it would take to write a book about it. Here is my less summarized than before, but still highly summarized problem. (The solution in the next blog.)
I’ve come to think, after much reflection, that problem is not health care. The problem is Americans. We have the 2nd most expensive socialized health-care per capita GDP on earth, yet it covers only a 1/3 of our citizens. We have the 1st most expensive private care per capita GDP on earth, yet have the lowest age of mortality and highest infant mortality in the western world. We have highest medical costs, bar none, on earth, yet the leading cause of death cancer caused by tobacco and heart disease due to diet and inactivity. We have all of this…and yet at least half of Americans don’t think there isn’t a problem.
Most Americans are stupid. We have only two possible causes for any undesirable behavior: internal and external. I find the idea that Americans are genetically inferior to people of other nations ridiculous, so that just leaves external. What could be acting from the outside in of whole nation to make Americans so politically stupid?
Let me pause for a moment, to say that I love my country. It’s not a perfect place, but I love it worts and all. I’m not so naive to believe that the election of single black man to the highest office in the land eliminates racism. I see private, quietly expressed racism nearly everyday I am work. The fact remains however, only three generations from one of the most homicidal racial slave systems on earth, a black man as president is a good step. It doesn’t solve inner city poverty. It doesn’t change the fact that schools with mostly black kids get a fraction the funding as schools with mostly white kids, but you will not see an outcast on the Diet of Japan, or Jew as the president of Egypt in three generations. America, ultimately, does many thing better then any other nation on earth.
But in the American democracy, there is a corrosive element that eats away at the will of the people constantly. It’s called the two party system.. In turn, the two party system is what causes this uniquely American stupidity.
I could go on about how two party systems prevent any real change (which they do), or why the left and right of the Communist party in China represent more choice of ideals then the Democrat and Republican party (which they do) but thats not the important part. No matter how bad the collusion between our politically parties, or between those in power and those with money is, democracy has an amazing power to right such wrongs, and in a way the people support. While the US does have systemic problems, the existing system has the capacity for self correction…but it’s only as good as the people voting.
The two party system putrefies the minds of the people. It reduces every discussion of shade and color of meaning into single binary choice of black or white. It turns every attempt at discussion into a cosmic battle of good and evil, characterized by a double false dichotomy. “False dichotomy” in argument refers to painting a bleak picture of you opponent’s viewpoint to make yours look better by comparison. In the two party system, both the viewpoints provided are absurd. One side is the bastion of all freedom, happiness, and light, the other a hotbed of evil, conspiratorial lies, and ill will. One side is God, the other side is Satan. 100% or 0%, with no in betweens.
In that environment, there can be no discussion, no debate, only people screaming slogans. The two party system is often defended with the statement “Well, it’s a good system, because it tells both sides of the story.” That single statement shows the mental atrophy that a two party system exacerbates: the idea that all meaningful thoughts on a subject can reduced to two viewpoints. Obviously it’s better then a single party system, but thats damning with faint praise. (Two steps removed from anarchy! Go team!)
Such simplicity is seductive. You don’t need to worry about how or why. You don’t need to think. You just need to know which of a pathetic two options you choose. This brain rot affects other things besides politics. Auto accident policy is the same. Pretend you are going down a road and the person in front of you slams on the breaks to turn right. You hit their car. It is 100% your fault. Why? Yes you were following to close, but couldn’t it be even a few per cent the other drivers fault breaking irresponsibly? (Which is how most traffic law is set up in Europe.)
The first step in my little “How to fix health-care” post was “Tort reform”. The 0%/100% fault system rears it’s ugly head hear as well. If you have a pool in your back yard, it must have fence of certain opacity and height, because it is an “attractive nuisance”. You must do this, because if someone gets into your pool without it, you are 100% at fault and they are 0%. That’s stupid. At the same time, the law was put into place to right the wrong of people putting things very dangerous to children in their yards with no protection whatsoever, an environment where the pool owner had 0% fault and small child was 100% at fault.
The real answer to tort reform is a society that recognizes partial fault. I think a two party system trains peoples minds to be incapable of functioning in the gray areas that make up real life. The real cause of the American health-care failure, is Americans incapacity for rational thought, followed by an inability to turn rational thought into rational policy.
Ok, so I am almost done with my Health Care V post. It’s a honking 2k words and I need to edit the crap out of it. I’ve actually found some false conclusions and mis-facts that I hadn’t caught the first time, but I will probably leave those in because the concepts are right, and the type of polishing I need to do will probably be part of larger project where I rewrite the whole US system. It probably doesn’t have a chance of getting published but I would like to do the kind of editing that published work gets, so you all get the 2nd draft instead, in a couple more days.
Being a full time student has changed the way I view the passage of time. My life is broken down into 8 week blocks, and I can keep alot better track of when I feel good and when I feel like crap. I am nearing the end of pretty pleasant 3 weeks. This Monday I just couldn’t get excited about going to work. The day drags on, I seem to get head aches easier, and I am tired all day, but then can’t sleep when I get to bed. The petty irritations of social interaction with strangers weighs on me.
Times like this…
are when porn seems like a great idea. Porn is a substitute but not a very good one. The way I feel after hitting up porn because I am sad is the same I way I feel when I haven’t eaten all day and late in the night eat a bag of Dorittos. Satiated, but still empty.
are when I wish I could go home. I’m not sure why, but I checked out when I was around 15. My parents did their best to make a home, but from about 15 all I could think about was leaving. I’ve been on the run from myself every since. It’s only been very recently I decided that when my enlistment is up I am going back to Iowa and I am going to build a real life there.
are when I wish I could still pour my soul into a six string the way I used to.
are when I wish I could be as broken on the outside as I feel on the inside and be taken home by a well meaning woman to sleep pathetically beside her. Me feeling blessed by her presence, and her by my tears. It’s a primal feeling that I can never entirely shake. It’s not about sex, just acceptance. (The strength of that feeling is why I don’t get drunk, and why I don’t frequent bars, btw.)
are when I wish I could still go the community art class I took in highschool, and turn out delightful abstract nonsense on the potters wheel.
are when I wish the claims of religion had evidence, so I could believe them.
Some of these things have consequences I will not risk. Once upon a time, these feelings made it hard for me to hold down a job, but I’ve learned to live with them. It is rare, this early in my blue swing that I will wake up tomorrow and feel better. Once this starts it takes about two weeks to work out. But, it will get better. There will be moments of dark clarity, moments of where melancholy poetry is possible, moments where, because of frailness a single kind word will carry me up to the sky.
It’s not bad to be me. Sometimes it’s just harder than others. I will not say there is something wrong with me because this happens to me. I’m not damaged, just different. Sometimes I look at sunrise and I see the glory of a new day. Sometimes I look at sunrise and I try and find those happy hopeful thoughts, but all I can feel is the pressing blackness of another day of struggle. Regardless of whether I see darkness or light, I’d rather be the me I am then try to be someone else.
Maybe that someone else, that perfect Christian self who didn’t feel those ways was the person I was running away from for all those years, and “home” was wherever I didn’t think I had to keep up the masquerade.
The purpose of market is to provide a place for the producer and consumer to form voluntary contracts. The market has no intrinsic morals and only one rule: the best deal. The producer makes supply, the consumer makes demand. Between them, and the competition of various producers to provide for various consumers, this constant desire for the best deal drives price ever downward. It rewards the most efficient producer and the most efficient consumer alike. It’s almost a kind of magic.
Market failure doesn’t refer to a total break down of the buying and selling but a break down of the magic, of the automatic best deal for everyone. It’s not discrete point, but direction the market can go. The opposite direction leads to the perfect market. It too is not a destination but a direction, the ideal by which markets are judged.
A perfect market consists of a few key principals, describing the market as a game it looks like this: (1.) Rationality of all players in the game. (2.) No hidden costs to any move. (3.) Enough players that no single one can steer the game by their behavior. (4.) something all the players want to play with [demand] (5.) Freedom to play or not play at any point (6.) No barriers to entering or leaving the game (7.) No barriers to any player about information on any other player.
How does the medical industry fail these criteria?
Rationality of all players in the game
(1.)Well, first of all, the medical consumers are highly irrational. Short term fun at the expense of long term health is not rational, yet 80% of heat disease alone is preventable. Throw in smoking, obesity, diabetes, etc, and the single greatest killer is short sightedness. In a perfect world, doctors would serve as check on this irrationality, but the fact is, doctors are over-treating (which gets people killed) because of their fear of litigation. The consumer is crazy and so is the producer.
No hidden costs to any move
(2.)The whole field is full of hidden costs. From regulations you never heard of to taxes you can’t imagine, the medical field is a minefield of hidden costs.
Enough players that no single one can steer the game by their behavior
(3.) Well, about half of the cost is payed for by one player (gov-care), and up to 70% of the remaining half is payed for by one company per area. Normally, this would be called oligopoly, but honestly, its worse than that. Because the first half is the government, its more like a oligopoly on the second half and monopoly on the first. Under normal circumstances, even if a player owns 50% of the total market, that player can rarely take away your organization’s legal right to exist, or place members of your organization under arrest. The government has what is known as a monopoly on force. Monopoly represents a market distortion. Force, on the other hand, represents the nonexistence of market. The foundation of market is people forming contracts of their free will, ie, without threat of force.
Something all the players want to play with [demand]
(4.) Demand, we’ve got. Sort of. The fact is, while doctors may not be the paragons of reason we hope, the producer side (as is typical in other industries) is better at being rational then the consumer side. If nothing else, it’s better organized. The consumer demand is health, not care. But doctors have no economic incentive to pursue health. They have need to produce care. So there is break down between the needs of the consumer and the ability of the producer to meet that need. Note, I am not saying there is a conspiracy by doctors to keep people sick. Doctors are like most people: there’s a few true saints, a few evil bastards, and lot of pretty ethical folk. But the fact is, we must relay on doctors’ moral incentive and not their economic incentive to provide us with health. Systems work better when the two incentives are the same.
Freedom to play or not play at any point
(5.) This one absolutely does not apply. Playing in this case means the freedom to form or not form voluntary contracts. If the consumer doesn’t enter the market he suffers or dies. At the same time, if the producers do not enter the market many suffer or die. Further, hospitals must provide emergency care to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. On the insurance side, insurers must provide insurance to at a loss to certain high risk people. They must by law.
No barriers to entering or leaving the game
(6.) Well, the barriers to entering the game are enormous. Lets say we want to start a tiny private practice, with very limited services. First, the price of becoming a MD is between $175K and $200K. Then, the first year cost for 1600 square foot commercial space, a receptionist and tech who makes no benefits is about $250K. So, minimum startup cost is right around half a million dollars. Nor can hospitals simply exit the market, they provide a community service and without them people will suffer and die. Insurance is the most heavily regulated industry in the US, so even if cash on hand was not a problem the regulations would be, but in any case, and insurance company must have the cash on hand to pay out all claims if they were all called at once. The startup costs for an insurance company are in the tens of millions.
No barriers to any player about information on any other player
(7.) This is the worst. Insurance companies use hundred page contracts written legalese on purpose, to hide the information the consumer needs to know. At the same time, insurance fraud is a huge expense, because people aren’t honest with the companies either. If people are totally honest with doctors, their premium could go up. Conversely, if doctors are honest about risks with patients, the patients will simply go to another doctor who paints a rosier picture. Again, the moral incentive is diametrically opposed to the economic one.
All in all, it’s a wonder health care is as cheap as it is. Again, I’ve hit over 1000 words, so I will post my solution(?) later. Thanks for reading all, feel free to weigh in on any of this.