Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Where's Tom Lehrer When You Need Him?

Geek alert: references to Eddie Izzard, 1950s science fiction, the New York Times and Star Trek. But you’ll get the gist even if you don’t get all the references.
Okay, I’m beginning to think that the human race is overdue for another big fuck-off flood.

Oh, that’s right! We’re going to get one! Because the Antarctic ice sheet is melting! I just saw a picture on Google maps – there’s this great inspirational app you can get that shows you what your street will look like once the sea levels rise ten feet, which is pretty much inevitable now, probably within my children and grandchildren’s lifetimes and maybe even mine if I succeed in my wild-assed vegan/vigorous-exercise-scheme to live to be 105. I live a hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean and the water will be up to the floorboards of my house. I did always want to move to Venice and now Venice will move to me, sweet!

Anyway. What’s got Brenda’s knickers in a twist now. 

Let’s start with Harvard professors. You just knew this was coming, didn’t you? Because you undoubtedly saw the NYT article about how Harvard economics professors are now upset about the ACA, known in many circles as “Obamacare.” 

Seems that some Harvard professors, many of whom championed the ACA, are now upset because their very own health plan is changing to require them to pay a deductible ($250 for an individual, $750 for a family) and a co-payment of $20 for a doctor’s visit. Bar the door Nellie! It’s the end of civilization!

To quote from the article, “… the university said it ‘must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by…the Affordable Care Act.'” Because gee! “Harvard faces added costs because of provisions that extend coverage for children up to age 26 [and] offer(s) free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies…”

Coverage for children?! Including college students, hum. Now there’s a thought. Tired of that oppressive teaching load of ten to twelve hours a week? (I used to teach public school and find this laughable.) Just make it harder for them to afford health insurance and maybe some of them will go away!

Preventative health care? Nah. Just wait until folks are really sick and they’ll go away too, especially if they’re one of the millions who live in a state where their Republican governor said no thanks to federal subsidies for the ACA just to make the President look bad.

And it’s not just Harvard professors that have it in for kids and anybody who might get cancer. The USA Today’s “liberal” article de jour (the jour in question being January 6, 2015) worried about why wages aren’t increasing. Sure, “Stunning technological advances have eliminated millions of jobs.” And, “…at the same time, rising global competition is pressing wages downward even as it adds new markets for American products.” But the biggest concern is this!

 “This year, Washington will raise roughly $3.3 trillion in taxes, mostly from the young, productive and healthy. And it will spend roughly $3.9 trillion, mostly on benefits for the retired, the unproductive and the unhealthy."

Oh my God! Say it’s not so! Taking care of people who are sick, unemployed, or elderly? Or all three? Jeez!  

So that’s just my little outburst about our societal response to taking care of people who aren’t so good at taking care of themselves, like people who are young, old, poor, or sick. If you are one of those people who agree with the sentiments expressed above, then don’t bother leaving a comment because I don’t want to know you.

But my OTHER crab for the day, and the main reason why I think we might need a big fuck-off flood (watch the first fifteen minutes of Eddie Izzard’s video Glorious if you don’t get this reference, and if you don’t have time, it’s about Noah saying to the ducks to get in the ark because there’s going to be a big fuck-off flood and the ducks say, “What’s the big problem?”), is...

Sorry. I got distracted. What I wanted to express is my deep sorrow about the planetary disaster we are facing. Yes, back to the topic I introduced in the first paragraph. I’m talking about global warming. (You can read my op-ed piece, “Bubble Bubble,” that was kindly aired by about this, if you want all the links to back up my assertion that the reason the back of our seed packets got changed to reflect the WARMING of my very own little GROWING ZONE was…global warming. Or you can go on to the next paragraph where I get a little discouraged and sad.)

According to NASA, ninety-seven percent of the scientists on the planet think that global warming is a fact and is caused by human activities. These really smart, educated, thoughtful people are observing, documenting, and worrying about the catastrophic rate at which our planetary ecology is heating up. I say “catastrophic” because it’s all happening too fast for us to respond to it, as a global society and indeed, as a species. If human beings don’t even seem to know how to deal with taking care of the health needs of the sick, young, old and poor, they certainly don’t know how to deal with a sick planet, except to say, “It’s not my fault!” Which brilliant response didn’t help Han Solo, and it’s not gonna help us.

One of my favorite science fiction stories is Zenna Henderson’s The People: No Different Flesh, about people who must flee their failing planet. Lytha, a teenager who witnesses the destruction of her favorite lake, says, “My poor Home! It’s dying!” That’s how I feel, several days a month. And there’s no Jean-Luc Picard and Geordi and Data orbiting in the Enterprise, folks, sent by a benevolent Federation to save us from our folly. There’s just us, frackin’ and grabbin’ and building pipelines and putting our fingers in our ears going “la la la” or at least “Bill Nye the Science Guy, what a joke! Global warming is all a liberal conspiracy to take away my SUV!”

So I’m feeling a bit like a disappointed Mom today. I want the human race, as a whole, to be smarter. More compassionate. More observant and capable of long-term planning. If the human race were my classroom, I’d be teaching them all critical thinking skills and how to work well in groups right now.

Maybe you’re saying, “That’s not me.” Okay, good for you and good for me. Let’s make sure we’re doing all we can do to make our home a nicer place…reasonably, because hey, we wouldn’t want to be too inconvenienced by our opinions. But maybe we could speak up once in awhile or drive a little less or not complain about how our health insurance premiums went up because some kid now has access to medical care?

Change the attitude a little? Be a little nicer to ourselves as a group? Nicer to our home planet, which if you haven’t noticed is the only one we’ve got?

And that’s my wail for the day. I’m trying to laugh, because I suspect that humor is going to be a survival mechanism for me. Where’s Tom Lehrer when you need him? Now there was a Harvard professor.