Open season for medical insurance has come and gone. This year, I participated in the hopes of finding what I want in a medical practice – options other than or in addition to routine test results, computer-assisted diagnosis, pharmaceutical prescriptions (and their side effects), surgery and procedures. I wanted to find a way of establishing wellness with diet and lifestyle changes, herbology as an addition to pharmacology, supplemental nutritional information, and alternative therapies such as music or aromatherapy, hands on treatments or mind-body practice. I was not interested in discounting the traditional approaches, just supplementing them with other, also valuable, ideas. What I found is that unless I have a great deal of discretionary money to spend on those things, they are not available to me. I did not find any insurance plan willing to cover anything other than the traditional allopathic practices. The rest is available, but only for those who can pay out of pocket.
What I gleaned from this experience is that what matters in our society is money. People may also matter, but only secondarily. It is money that moves everything, especially in our health care systems. I am not speaking of individual practitioners – health care providers need to earn a living, too – but of healthcare systems that creates a monopoly which monetarily excludes a majority of people who may wish to make other choices; it even precludes the least affluent citizens from any healthcare choices at all.
Perhaps the situation is not completely the fault of health care systems; perhaps those systems are just part and parcel of a macrocosm that assumes that money speaks the loudest, and that without money, meaningful life ceases, and troubles proliferate. A quick look around can verify that this may indeed be so. Do we not worship in the temples of Amazon.com and the Mall? Do we not “develop” our open spaces with ever increasing shopping centers? Does not the command to spend and buy keep dogging us on all our media? Does not the dream of a more remunerative job claim the time and attention of many?
The holidays are finished. What is it that defines the holidays, whether one celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, other religious observances, or simply a secular Solstice? Private approaches by the few excluded, it is a mass orgy of consumption. It is a race to buy for as many as possible the most expensive gifts possible, and also, for those who can, to host the most sumptuous parties that means allow. Retailers depend on this surge of spending. Without it, businesses fail, and retailers suffer. Yet, much of what is purchased is not only not needed by the recipients, but is also wasted, stored in closets out of sight or discarded after awhile. It adds to the hoard of “stuff” many of us accumulate. Who has not noticed the child who, initially delighted on Christmas morning with all the toys, abandon them a week or two later?
Where is the need to receive gifts of substance? Are there not the homeless, the underemployed, the refugees, people who are sick or incapacitated because their world has been decimated by natural or manmade disasters? Surely, they do not need toys, the latest devices, the latest fashion, a new luggage set or fancy gadgets. Valuable as art can be in an increasingly left-brained culture, are there not people who are not asking for mandalas to color in order to center themselves or for wall décor – they simply want food, medicine, warmth, basic clothing, shelter, dignity and respect. They are the forgotten of our society. They neither produce many goods nor consume many goods. They are tucked away out of sight as proficiently as possible.
Our natural world also suffers the consequences of a money driven society dependent on continued and increased consumption. We are, in a sense, consuming the world that we inhabit; we are consuming it at a faster rate than it can nurture us. Often, the first solution offered is to decrease the human population. Of the ones to save, the dispossessed, the indigent and the unborn are not the ones considered. It costs too much to save them; it is inconvenient. They are not formally condemned, of course, just ignored. In the meantime, we continue to drill, develop, pollute and otherwise destroy our world, ostensibly for our digestion.
Who profits from all this? Ultimately, no one. If our planet disappears, so will we all, equally. In the meantime, it is not difficult to see the imbalance of income in the world. Generally, the very rich continue to grow richer, the very poor continue to grow poorer, and more of those in the middle sink than rise. Clearly, unless this is a desired situation, something is amiss. Is this what we all want? Does this benefit all of us? Does it, ultimately, destroy all of us?
There is a solution, if we have the will to implement it. We need first to be aware that no Life based tradition requires that we destroy each other and our world. Then, we need to simplify. For starters, that means individual simplification, keeping what we need and recycling the “stuff” to other productive uses. It also means reversing a divisive trend within our social structures, one that over time has broken the extended family to the nuclear family to the single parent family or the uncommitted family, to the non family of temporary sequential relationships, perhaps eventually to simply single individuals. Smaller units are good for business and for consumption; more units buy more things. Each has to have its own. However, that is not good for sustainability, or for reducing consumption. We must enlarge our basic units to about the size of an extended family or a tribe. Each unit needs to be encouraged to be as self sustaining in basic needs as possible. The process of this transformation also needs to ensure that the forgotten have the means to sustain themselves, even if that means less profit for the already wealthy. Plenty of books and resource materials exist on this subject. These groups would not be isolated. They would trade, exchange knowledge, cooperate with each other within a larger network. However, no group would be parasitic on the resources of another. That is a good beginning. It is within our collective consciousness if we are willing to access it.
We are all One. The prosperity of some ultimately depends on the prosperity of all. In this sense, may there be a prosperous New Year for us all.