An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Embrace commitment and responsibility! No doubt. If I may add: I hear a great deal of bellyaching about how little the government is doing to help the poor, the homeless, etc...how about people stop bitching and moaning and thinking that all they need to do is cast and vote and rest easy and INSTEAD get off their butts and actually DO something. In my mind the Indie consumerism this blogger complains about is quite similar to "Indie" voting.
My theory is, if we took our concerns beyond the voting machine and actually donated time or money we wouldn't have to ask the government to do so much charity work (often conveniently with other people's money). And, as a side, the government typically does a piss poor job of everything they put their hands on.
That being said...there's words I need to hear in there as well. Difficult to imagine a society in which people actually embrace commitment and responsibility. I've also been thinking a great deal about a couple of words we never hear anymore: duty and honor.
I actually know people who reject the very notion of honor and duty and decry their presence ever being in humankind's history. How sad. How much of what they enjoy today would not be so were it not for past generations' appreciation of these terms. More on this later I expect.
Living in a country with free health care and free education I have a different perspective. The way Italians look at government money is that IT IS OUR MONEY. The government IS OURS. The government exists FOR THE PEOPLE. Italians simply can not understand how the United States could be a) the richest country in the world, b) a democracy, and c) have no free health care. As you know I have lived in Italy for quite a while now and I have NEVER heard anybody complain about their health care system or their educational system. (To be fair, I only have lived in the Maremma and perhaps in Milan they have another perspective, but I doubt it.) I have spent lots of time in American hospitals (when I was a drug rep) and in Italian hospitals (due to my oldest son loving dangerous behavior). I can tell you that it simply amazed me the first time I walked into an Italian hospital. You can simply FEEL it. The hospital is of the people and for the people. The facilities and the services received are simply superior to those in the USA . . . and it's all FREE. Also, when NOBODY is worrying about money there is much less stress involved. Less stress for the doctors and less stress for the patients. An Italian hospital feels like a place of healing instead of a money making enterprise. When my son injured himself this last time the doctors ordered up all these tests (MRI, ultrasound, etc.) which helped the doctors make an informed decision about how to proceed. Italian physicians do more diagnostic testing because they do not have to fight with insurance companies over payment. They only think about what is best for the patient. Another side of this debate that people are not often aware of is the fact that when the government is the only purchaser of medicines they have HUGE bargaining power with the pharmaceutical companies. Where I (as an uninsured American) will pay $200 for a pill, the Italian government will pay $2 (this is no exaggeration). I can't bargain with pharmaceutical companies about their price, but the Italian government can (aka "you won't take $2 for these pills, fine we will buy your competitor’s product). This and a hundred other examples is why the Italian health care system can be both better and less expensive than ours. (I can hear what you are thinking, this is the USA, we MUST have the best health care system in the world! Sorry, it's just not true.)
Also, with free education (yes, you can get a Ph.D. in Italy without ever dropping a dime, room and board included) you end up with a population that is more educated and healthier than we are. Their philosophy is that healthy and educated people make better citizens, and make the country wealthy . . . and it works!
The only way I can figure out how they do all this is that they don't waste their money on the military; they spend it on the people. When I tell Italians how much of our national budget goes to the military they are simply speechless (and it takes a lot to make an Italian speechless). The reason they don't need a big military is that they don't go around the globe starting wars or stirring up hatred. They usually sit back and enjoy la bella vita and let other countries worry about their own problems (unless they are pressured into joining a "coalition" when the US wants to start another war).
Sorry, I am sure this is not a very well written post. But I don't know what else to do except cry. I have honestly cried at times when I think about how good Italians have it and how hard I have seen my own parents work to have HALF of what these Italians have GIVEN to them. And we have MORE money than them! Why do Americans accept this! On top of all this I know that American's are closed minded on the subject. To borrow an analogy from Kierkegaard I feel like a clown up on stage trying to warn people about a fire. No matter how hard I try, people just laugh. They simply can't believe that Europeans live the way they do, "there must be a catch" they think to themselves, or "there are no free lunches", or simply "this is the best damn country in the world and those damn European commies can do what they want but free health care is just not the American way!", or "we just need to wait longer for individual Christians to wake up and live the message of the Good Samaritan" While we are waiting good Americans are dying of treatable diseases and the Italian government is BEING the Good Samaritan (thanks in great part to the influence of the Catholic Church who wholeheartedly supports government involvement in improving the lives of the people).
If you lived in a country with free health care and free education you would not be so quick to complain about taxes, and that is the truth.
I think Imran would have to explain the failure of, for example, our Medicare and Medicaid systems, which are almost completely FREE, funded by tax-payer dollars, and yet they're not performing well, either.
Also, Imran notest that we spend most of our budget on the military, or perhaps too much. But we spend an enormous amount of money on the above medical programs. And does Italy really want to live in a world where one of the superpowers isn't the cop on the beat? We can debate that here in America, but it seems obvious that Italy can't police the world.
So I don't doubt the enthusiasm, but Imran, you're not dealing with how govt-run healthcare is performing here, already.
Imran...not sure where to begin. I think I've made clear my lack of interest in having the government be our caretaker.
I would suggest you might be painting a rosier picture than it really is in Italy, but I cannot say with certainty - you surely make it sound like utopia. Is anything actually wrong in Italy? Regardless, governments are different and perhaps things work well in Italy.
I have spoken with many Canadians about their healthcare and have come to the conclusion that it TOTALLY depends on who you ask and what their experiences have been...TOTALLY. Everytime I hear someone say: "Ask any Canadian: they love their healthcare!" I immediately tune them out...it is simply NOT true. I know many who say: "Everything is fine until you REALLY need SERIOUS help, second opinions, or government determined 'elective' surgery."
Your experience thus far has been...well...experiential. My experience with US healthcare has been fantastic, but I will not use that as a benchmark for its overall perfection or lack thereof.
However, I do make my living on the wealth of the US and her massive amount of investment in research and development in scientific medicine which I guarantee you Italians benefit more from than from any of their own research and development dollars. The care you get in Italy very likely was derived and born of the capitalistic healthcare system of the United States.
From my perspective: The more you ask of the government, the more they will ask of you. Given the way things are here in the states I have ZERO interest in the government having a vested concern in what I eat, what I smoke, how much I exercise, or how much I drink. Here in Washington they teeter on the brink of this ALREADY, I do not want them to have a real cause for doing so.
Education? Government education is government education. In my mind...'nuff said. But to be a little more specific: given the secular disposition and bias of the government, it is heavily in need of augmentation and appendages from parents - at least as such for those who either choose not to or cannot home school or afford private school. I will be critical though and say that I want vouchers - but to some degree I DO get my money back via certain homeschool programs that are arising these days...we are presently enrolling our kids in such a co-op program, so maybe I can be less critical now.
Nothing is free. Again I say: nothing is free. Italians are paying for it somewhere and somehow.
Everyone gets college tuition for free in Italy? Wow. That's impressive. Wanna know what is LESS impressive however? The quantity of published scientific papers that come from Italian colleges or universities. Fact is the VAST VAST majority come from here - the horrible old USA. Rather disproportionately I should imagine given that EVERY Italian can go to college for free. And as I said, the whole world benefits from our horrible healthcare system. Flawed as it is, Africans are NOT looking to Italy to develop the newest Anti-Viral medication. France maybe...but everyone knows where most of the research is being done and where most of the money is to be found.
Being free is nice, but it doesn't speak to quality. Again...nothing is free. That being said...I have a great many criticisms on the quality of expensive US college educations as well, but that is neither here nor there.
Additionally, I wholly reject the simplistic notion that the US is running about starting wars and stirring up hatred. Might I suggest the Italians can well afford not to spend on the military because we did it for them throughout the cold war? Not to mention that bit of fascism they experimented with in the mid 20th century and after we fixed that for them we turned around and helped them rebuild for good measure. I suppose that too was more of American war mongering? Anyway, Italians should not be so astonished by our spending habits, rather they ought to be thankful.
Ah we could go round in circles about history and such, but suffice to say I reject the characterization that America could be a socialist utopia if they didn't spend so much on the military. I've no wish to paint as rosy a picture of America as you have done with Italy...we are no more a capitalist utopia than Italy is a socialist one.
Socialization of education and medicine may work for Italians...good for them...but it will not work for Americans - if for no other reason than the majority do not wish it. Count me among them, for good cause I believe...but of course your mileage may vary.
I used to believe like you do, before I lived in Italy. If you lived here I strongly suspect that your views would change as well. According to the World Health Organization, Italy has the second best health care system in the world . . . the USA is ranked 37. Like I said before this is due in large part to the massive efforts of the Roman Catholic Church. Many of the best health care systems in the world are in Roman Catholic countries (many of the worst health care systems in the world are in Orthodox countries). I can understand if these Orthodox countries want to improve their health care systems (but can't), but I don't understand a theology or worldview that would not WANT to improve the lives of millions of people (based on the fact that the more sick and desparate people there are the more chances there are for private citizens to act like Good Samaritans, or something like that).
Is Italy a utopia? No, of course not, don't patronize me. I never said Italy is a utopia. In fact, I am a great critic of Italy and of Italian society in particular. However, this does not vitiate the fact that they have a GREAT health care and educational system that the USA would be wise to imitate.
The devil is in the details with WHO stats...but we could argue stats till the cows come home.
There is no particular theology associated with my beliefs with regard to the role of government in our lives. On the flip side I WOULD argue that one also cannot put forth religious reasonings for socializing things like medical care - forcing others to give charity is not something I see in the teachings of our Lord.
I don't understand a theology or worldview that would not WANT to improve the lives of millions of people
You assume that socializing medicine is the best way to do this...I do not think we have established this as fact. History, I would argue, has not demonstrated this. In fact, as I said, if we wish to argue which works best I would begin by suggesting that it has been capitalism and the astonishing money it creates accompanied by a capitalistic system of pharmaceuticals and associated research that has brought by far the largest spectrum of medicines and treatment methods throughout the world.
As I recall, most countries that are predominantly Orthodox are still in a state of recovery after a rather brutal and failed experiment in the realm of socialism...give them some time. But even if not, one ought not to -I think- choose their religious affiliation based on the quality of healthcare provided by the secular governments in which said faith is a majority. Instead, we should consider the quality and fealty to the Gospel of our Lord who in fact did remind us that the poor we will have with us always.