A tale of commodity and remedy

Posted by on 02.18.09 | 5 Comments
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Joe Bageant is a prophet, anarchist, flame-eating die-hard Vietnam era veteran–angry, hard-bitten almost-curmudgeon, with a lot of hard-won wisdom, just like I like ‘em. According to his website, Joe died in 2000 when W. was elected but hopes to rise again after W’s back in Texas or where ever. I trust when Joe Resurrects he will update his bio, now that it’s 2009 and all. No problem if he doesn’t, because the stuff he sends home from the Bardo or Purgatory is excellent. Must be some good fodder there for cud-chewing.

Joe’s recently published book, ‘Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War’ and blog by the same name spare no punches but also take no prisoners. Joe is likened to the ilks of Hunter S. Thompson, but without all the guns (maybe).

Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War

Here is a link to a recent post on his blog. It is a poignant editorial on the depth and breadth of the American dis-ease, the misery of alienation from self and others. Joe Bageant: A Commodity Called Misery

Just to get you over there to Joe’s blog, here are some excerpts from the mentioned post. I was particularly moved by his comparison of his American physician friend and his Mexican medical provider friends. Stunning.

Americans who can afford to be, are obsessed with health of any kind. The rest of us chain smoke in despair. All of which tosses fresh red meat to the politicians, who offer “plans,” all of which come down to the same thing — we pay for corporate expansion of both the insurance and “medical industry,” but through insignificantly different methods. Interestingly, despite our pursuit of constant medical attention and the construction of the planet’s largest, and most profitable health machinery, treatment factories for every real and imagined or industry manufactured ailment, surveys show, Americans do not trust doctors. They feel physicians are primarily businessmen and businesswomen who happen to practice medicine because that’s where the real grease, the big bucks are. This may or may not be true, but we see little evidence to counter the suspicions. Even the closest physician friend I have in the States insists on a $125 office visit — cash at the front desk on the way out, please — before he will refill a blood pressure prescription I’ve been taking for 15 years. He knows I do not have health insurance, but hey, what’s a bill and a quarter between friends? Well, it’s a month’s grub for some of us, or dinner and drinks for two at the country club for others.

By comparison, my doctor in Jalisco, Mexico, Jim Jaramillo, who practiced in Albuquerque for 30 years, invites me to ride into the surrounding ranch country and have a dawn drink with the Mexican cowboys, simply because he regards all his patients as friends. And “Nurse Judy,” who runs the main clinic here in Hopkins, whoops it up with the rest of her patients on Friday oldies night down by the beach. The village’s Dr. Anya, a Mayan-mestizo lady trained in Mister Castro’s famous Cuban institution, dropped by my cabana to examine the local kids on my front porch. For free. Then we played guitar together. I asked her if she could teach me any local folk songs. “No,” she said, “I’m into Iris Dementh.” Go figure. Anyway, none of these doctors require appointments.

And what I see, based upon my own experience and watching that of others, is that alienation and the pain of utter aloneness, is in the rootstock of nearly all psychic malady, excepting the clearly organic. If when we look around us in the world, we do not see ourselves in society, nor does society see itself in us, we eventually come to feel the sustained, unutterable pain of aloneness. This would seem the appropriate response for a member of our highly social species of flesh, and does not necessarily deem us ill, but often rather more human.


While I do not have any national answers for the questions Joe so brilliantly poses, I can say that my heart and mind are ever-more taken up with the call to develop the communities of which I am a part. Even as the world as we know it is ending, a lot of me is very glad about it, notwithstanding the necessary losses-suffering involved for so many in that collapse. It is forcing us towards understanding that we are inter-dependent beings.

As Joe says, we’re herd animals. We need each other, not just to survive, but to thrive, to know honest laughter that is not at each other, but with delight at the conundrums and mysteries of the world in which we exist. And to know what it means to care for and be cared for by an extended family that includes lovers, bio family, friends, friends of friends, and folks off the street and out of the market.

I want to play guitar and go for dawn rides to drink tequilla on the mesa tops and watch the sun come up, not just with my medical caregivers, but with anyone who stops by for dinner. Maybe they’ll just stay for a spell. Put down some roots and laugh and smoke a cigar with us. And tell us what their lives are about.

So here in Bend, Oregon we hold several community fires a month. We have community cooking groups, gardening projects. We eat a lot of chocolate and drink a fair amount of red wine. We laugh a lot. We cry just as easily. We visit doctors’ offices with each other so we won’t feel so alienated by the Machine. We show up. We hold each other able.

Community takes hard work. But it also takes the edge off our alienated misery. That’s a fair trade.

Thanks, Joe, for this rendering of our malady. And for hinting at its remedy.




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