Bryan Zepp Jamieson
SiCKO: Michael Moore’s most important work
Thu Jun 21, 2007 01:40

SiCKO: Michael Moore’s most important work

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

I got to see an advance copy of Michael Moore’s latest documentary, “SiCKO” tonight, and it’s an utterly extraordinary film.

We all knew the American medical system was broken. But how did Americans, who boasted just a generation ago of being the freest and strongest people on earth, fall into the clutches of vicious, depraved sociopaths, the moral and emotional cripples who run our insurance companies, our HMOs, the pharmaceutical companies, and our hospitals. How did we let them turn the Congress and White House into puppets, willing to endlessly sell out the American people so outfits like Kaiser Permenante and GlaxoSmithKline could augment already huge profits?

Moore doesn’t have a simple answer, but notes that debt is the instrument used to make Americans docile, cowed, and dependent. And what better way to make sure they are permanent debt serfs than by putting their most basic needs at the mercy of for-profit enterprises, and then telling those enterprises to feast, and the government would protect them from any objections by their victims.

Moore travels to Canada, to the UK, to France, and to Cuba, seeking to discover why Americans are so afraid of what the insurance companies call “socialized medicine” and if the horror stories are true. They aren’t. Of the four countries, only Cuba has a lower rating for health services from the World Health Organizations (39th, compared to America’s 37th) and that is due to the fact that Cuba, largely due to American actions, is an impoverished third world nation. And despite that, infant mortality is lower, and life expectancy slightly higher. In the developed nations of Canada, the UK and France, the differences are astronomical. He cites a study that I wrote an essay upon last year, in which a study of middle-aged white males in America and the UK showed that there was a shocking difference in the number and severity of health problems between the two groups, with British males showing rates of diabetes, heart problems, cancer and other diseases as low as one third that of their American counterparts. And as I noted at the time, one in four of the British subjects lived in London in the 1950s, with a poisonous atmosphere loaded with particulates, and survived that to engage in the legendary British fondness for ale and fags. And they are still healthier and live longer than their American counterparts.

After examining the incredibly good medical care France provides its citizens (the doctors make house calls, and home health assistants will even come to the house and do a new mother’s laundry!), Moore asked rhetorically why Americans were told they should hate the French. The answer, he suggested, was that in France, the government fears the people, and not the other way around.

The movie has more than its share of startling moments, and Moore, maturing as a documentarian, has learned to step back and let events speak for themselves. One such startling moment is the exact moment (to the second) when the nightmarish medical system that burdens Americans was born, when Erlichman is caught on one of the secret tapes briefing Nixon on HMOs. “I’m not too keen on these medical plans” a dubious Nixon says. “Well, these are private. For profit.”, Erlichmann replies. “I like that.” says Nixon, and the next day gives a major policy speech in which he promises, blinking rapidly, that America is on the verge of a fair and generous plan and that everyone will get the best medical care in the world.

One of the most affecting moments comes when 9/11 rescue workers, suffering a variety of ailments caught after that murderous son of a bitch Guiliani told them it was safe, were ferried by Moore to Guantanamo Bay for “the same medical care they give the evil-doers of al Qaida.” Chased away from the American gulag, they go to Cuba itself, where they are given batteries of tests, and receive diagnoses and treatments. (One woman with pulmonary fibrosis is stunned to learn that the inhaler she pays $120 for in the US in Cuba costs – a nickel.) After, they are invited to visit a Cuban fire station, where the local firefighters want to honor the heroes of 9/11. As with Katrina, Cuba was ready to help as needed for 9/11, and both times, the wizened, cowardly little gnomes of the GOP turned them back, fearing that Cuban generosity and kindness might make them look bad. Far better that thousand of Americans die than that they suffer mild embarrassment.

The political climate has changed. When Fahrenheit 911 came out, our local movie theater was afraid to show it, and we perforce had to drive some seventy miles to Ashland to see it. And even there, in an enlightened college town, home to America’s greatest Shakespearean festival, the movie theater saw fit to put up a disclaimer stating that the movie was being shown by wide public demand, and that they had the right to show it.

This time, the local theater will be showing “SiCKO”, albeit a week after everyone else. And I suspect that a lot of the people who objected to “F911" will be going to see it, because they have suffered just as much under the present bankrupt and corrupt system as everyone else.

Mike, if you’re reading this, I still plan to got to the movie theater and plunk down my $8 and watch it. Only now, I’ll be able to listen to see how the audience reacts, and talk to people afterward and get their reactions.

That is going to be far more important than anything I could possibly write here. I think I know what reaction the movie will provoke, I think I know what reaction you wanted to provoke. I just hope you succeeded.

In France, the government fears the people. In England, Thatcher backed away from privatizing health care, noting it would cause a revolution. Even in Canada, a country noted for its comparatively temperate politics, we were taught as kids to shout questions and cat calls at elected officials, and call them to account in any way we could. My small “l” liberal family taught me that I should hold the feet of the NDP candidate just as firmly to the fire as the Progressive Conservative.

I think you want people to be outraged and demand reform, Mike.

But more then that, I think you want them to stop being afraid, to throw off the shackles of economic slavery that insurers, employers, and politicians have placed on everyone in America, and over turn this vile, vicious, greedy system and give Americans the self-reliance and self-respect that is their birthright.

And most important, you think Americans are ready to do that.

I think you’re right.

Thank you, Mike, and I hope everyone goes to see your film.

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