Health Care Reform Discussions–Leave Me Out Of Them, Thanks

Like many people I am sick and tired of political discussions. But not because of “partisanship.” Partisanship is the most important factor in effective use of a republican system like we have (no we are not a democracy). Without partisanship we have majority rule railroading the minority. Representative democracy is more than just two wolves and a sheep discussing what to have for dinner, as Ben Franklin said.

No, it is not partisanship.

Let me ask you a question: what are you thoughts on whether physics will ever develop a Unified Field Theory?

Too much? How about this: in biology, how can we stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and still protect our immune systems? Still don’t know enough to hazard a guess (neither do I by the way).

How about a critique of the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs? How much merit does it have?

Presumably most of us have no idea about how to answer these questions, and so would not consider ourselves competent to discuss them. And that is great, why should we feel qualified to discuss issues in which we have had no education and do not know much about, if anything? That is perfectly reasonable.

And yet, this rule does not apply to politics. In politics everyone not only has an opinion but is willing to discuss the most complicated issues as if they are teaching first-graders how to do arithmetic, and with every bit of condescension they can muster. They yell as loud as they can, they use CAPS in blogs and in Facebook comments and act as if clichéd truisms such as “don’t trust corporations” substitutes for actual analysis.

This is why I am done with most political discussions. 99% of us have nothing useful to add and nothing useful to say. But that doesn’t stop us. A lack of education on a topic and a basic lack of knowledge is no impediment to shouting your opinion from the highest mountain in the most obnoxious manner possible. People ruin it, as they do virtually everything else.

If you have basic knowledge of a topic then I am all for a rousing political discussion. If you can, for example, at least discuss intelligently some of these topics on some “hot-button” issues:

-recognize the effect of chaos theory on computer modeling of climate change;

–that a gamete is not entitled to the same protection as a three-month-old human in utero and that abortion has decimated minorities at the expense of whites; or

-that as a matter of history no tyrant has ever been put down by negotiation or diplomacy, and that war is a necessity to keep peace;

–that pharmaceutical companies spend billions developing new drugs and cannot simply give them away; or

-that you can show mathematically that nuclear proliferation has a deterrent effect.

Every issue of importance has great nuance to it like the above and cannot be simply discussed in clichés and time-worn slogans, but that is what most people do. We say how corporations are evil, or that there is a separation of church and state and a right to “privacy” when these things are not in the Constitution. You see, we don’t actually have to know anything. We just have to convince people that we do! And given how most people have an impenetrable barrier around their heads that is not too difficult.

I am not only happy to discuss political issues with people I know are up to the task and in that case we may both find it useful and interesting. Hell, you might think I don’t know about some of these issues. But when I don’t I will at least admit it. And I don’t go typing 800 word comments with capital letters when I don’t know much about this issue.

I don’t delude myself or kid myself into thinking I know when a human life begins, in the case of abortion, or whether we will still have OB/GYNs in 20 years or whether we will have to go south of the border for MRIs as many Canadians have to. But when I see others saying things like “France has the greatest health care” or “Canadians are healthier than Americans” I throw up in my mouth just a little.

You do not have to agree with me, but at least have an understanding of the nuances and not just taking your cues from Michael Moore or Glenn Beck and we can have a discussion. If you seriously think that you can spout the truth of any of the propositions in the above paragraph, well then you should have no problem getting rich.

But that is not the case. Most people cannot even spell chaos, much less understand what it says about global warming models, or economic growth models or Wall Street for that matter. And so their opinion is worthless to me and to society. Not that it makes them keep their mouths shut, mind you.

What is it about politics that makes people think they have something useful to say when they do not? I am not sure why someone who has no idea about quantum mechanics will recognize they have no basis to discuss the Unified Field Theory but the same person will discuss health care reform as if they are experts. But I have a theory, and like many theories, it comes down to people trying to make themselves seem more important and learned than they are.

Let’s go back to the famous quote that smart people discuss ideas, average people discuss events and dull minds discuss people. Politics allows the dull people to feel like they are average. You see, they too can talk about illegal immigration reform when the topic arises in current events when really they are spouting racism and xenophobia.

Average people have it even better. They can feel brilliant! They can discuss medical malpractice reform in the context of health care, or the role of pre-existing conditions etc without having the slightest idea how it will work in reality. They can convince themselves they are discussing an “idea” and not just an event.  They aren’t just discussing the passage of health care reform; no we are discussing the philosophy of it.

So do me and the world a favor and recognize that it is better to keep your mouth shut and be though of as a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. The world and I appreciate it.


3 Responses to “Health Care Reform Discussions–Leave Me Out Of Them, Thanks”

  1. I’m assuming the irony here is unintentional? 😉

    Seriously though, don’t you think there is a difference in a representational democracy or “Republic” or what have you between a person discussing or not discussing unified field theory, and the same person discussing matters of political import to be voted upon by themselves or their representatives? Or are the unwashed masses not to be allowed to have a positions or voices?

    There are several flavours all mixed in here. In a post complaining about why the ignorant don’t shut up, you comment about Canadians coming south for MRI’s, Are you familiar enough on the topic to say that? You may know plenty on Chaos theory, I know that Chaos theory is generally brought up in the context of climate change not to explicate, but instead to make the rhetorical (not scientific) point that these models can’t be trusted. This is generally followed up by a curmudgeonly admonition about lack of knowledge about Chaos theory.

    One of the uncomfortable things about our system of government here in the States (“democracy” “republic” whatever label you choose to put upon it), is that people do get to participate, directly or indirectly, in the political process. And as cliche ridden as it is, political discourse is part of the ‘tool-kit’ available to citizens. I humbly apologize for our ignorance. But might I suggest, to paraphrase another overused saying, that the best disinfectant for the empty cliche is to shed more light, not to withdraw the light from the room.

    Stay involved. Educate.

  2. I have to agree with Steve when he says “Stay involved. Educate.” If the prerequisite of engaging in a topic is to be an expert in that topic, then we’d have few conversations. You never know who may be listening or reading. If, by chance, you were able to spark one person’s interest in an important matter that led them to research and break-free of their ignorant silly world, then you’ve succeeded. You may lead one person out the cave. And that is something that moves me to the point that words cannot describe.

    I agree with you when it comes to drive-by comments like ‘don’t trust corporations’ without a single reason why that should be the case. It is ultimately frustrating to see that crap. What corporations? Are they all evil? Fools that employ this method of discussion are easily ignored. I should say their content is ignored, but their behavior and cowardice to include anything substantial is a sign of the times and should not be ignored whatsoever.

    As you know we’re dealing with a very ill-informed public with short attention spans. It’s folks like you that need to keep doing what you do. There’s an ignorant forcefield of sorts that needs to be broken down. There are just certain things that need to be tolerated in order to reach the people that do care even if they don’t know it yet.

  3. Chris Scales Says:

    Unfortunately “educate” has meant “indoctrination” and not “question”, “test”, “re-examine”.

    Beware those who claim to have all the answer and the moral high ground, they have neither.

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