Thursday, May 7, 2009

Is health care a right?

In the 21st century, Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory is king.

“[Darwin] concluded 150 years ago that living organisms are perpetually embroiled in a “struggle for existence.” For Darwin, struggle and violence are not only a part of animal (human) nature, but the principal “forces” behind evolutionary advancement. In the final chapter of The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, Or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, Darwin wrote of an inevitable “struggle for life” and that evolution was driven by “the war of nature, from famine and death.” Couple that with Darwin’s notion that evolution is random and you have a world, as poetically described by Tennyson that can be characterized as “red in tooth and claw,” a series of meaningless, bloody battles for survival.” Bruce Lipton, The Biology of Belief

Darwin characterizes survival as a struggle, a competition. What if Darwin’s theory was wrong (or incomplete)? The first time I encountered this point of view was when I first discovered Waldorf education. I had been so indoctrinated in Darwin’s theory that I literally felt struck that Waldorf does not teach it in the elementary grades. It almost seemed heretical! But as I learned more about it, I found that Waldorf had a completely different approach to science—a phenomenological approach. The child becomes the scientist and observes phenomena with his or her own senses. Waldorf education opened the door to how I think about things and made me realize how I accept things that I have not truly thought about.

In the past few years, I’ve also encountered a few great scientists who point out how species work in cooperation—one scratching the back of the other, so to speak. It began with Darwin’s predecessor, Jean-Babtiste Lamarck. He developed the first cohesive theory of evolution in 1800. Unlike Darwin, Lamarck’s theory included the idea that organisms survive through cooperation with their environment and other organisms therein.

“But today’s understanding of cooperation in nature goes much deeper than the easily observable ones. “Biologists are becoming increasingly aware that animals have coevolved, and continue to coexist, with diverse assemblages of microorganisms that are required for normal health and development,” according to a recent article in Science called “We Get By With A Little Help From Our (Little) Friends.” [Ruby, et al, 2004] The study of these relationships is now a rapidly growing field called “Systems Biology.”” Bruce Lipton, The Biology of Belief

“These brief descriptions can lead us from a traditional notion of separate biological organisms to the conception of an ecological organism, of which the biological organisms are a part. Each species -- bloodroot, giraffe or bison -- appears as a unique member of a habitat or landscape, like tissues or organs within an organism. In turn, we can study habitats and landscapes as dynamic members of larger ecosystems and bioregions. Finally, we are led to the concept of the whole earth as an organism.” Craig Holdrege, Where do organisms end?

This may seem like a tangent, but bear with my wild mind.

A couple months ago, my sister and I got into a heated debate about whether or not universal health care is a good idea. My sister thinks it is wrong that some people cannot afford health insurance and may even die for lack of care. I, true to my nature, was being provocative and playing the devil’s advocate. Wu-ah-ah-ah-aah!!! It helps me think through both sides of an issue. Considering my new relationship with theories (as such), you might think it funny that I started thinking about Darwin’s survival of the fittest again. It got all entwined with destiny and whether or not we are all meant to live. It was all tangled and messy and came out sounding callous.

Industrialized nations oppose the survival of the fittest theory with health care systems that take care of the masses, not just the strongest. We take the doctors’ prescriptions while continuing with our unhealthy behaviors. People have to want to live and heal and be healthy. It’s not something a doctor can prescribe. So, the masses survive, but not necessarily well. Does entitlement to health care breed apathy? Do we abnegate responsibility, giving it away to “the specialists”? Should we be working towards universal health care? Does this form of health care truly help people to survive—and well?

The words "health care" started tap dancing in my head. Health. Care. Indigenous people had a medicine man or woman who cared for and tended their people, because it was best for the survival of the species. When we are born, life is our birthright. Everything wants to live and be well, and we need the loving care of our families and medicine men and women to do that. We work in cooperation. As we grow, however, the fruit of our birthright is responsibility. Each person must refine their intuition, listen to their body and connect with their vitality. By all means, go to the health specialist when necessary. Learn to communicate with your doctor. Know your rights. Take the steps to prevent illness. But, most importantly find out what it means to you to live well. Become a specialist of you.

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