SiCKO – Finally

Finally watched the #3 highest-grossing documentary of all time last night. Yeah, seems a bit of an arbitrary number really. Anyway, I finally tracked down a copy of Michael Moore’s SiCKO here in China and it’s well worth the watch.

Disclaimer: I really like Michael Moore’s films, and Sicko was no exception.

The need for a disclaimer? Because it’s tiring being lumped into one camp of a topic or another based solely on the expression of a few simple ideas. And I figure if I just get that out, and make it obvious that it’s no way to judge anything, maybe those out there that are waiting (or rushing) to get to the end of this post and throw out a bunch of comments and links on why Moore is a complete hypocrite and moron (Moore-on?), maybe this will cause them pause.

I’ve heard the argument that Moore is a poser getting rich playing the everyman while pitting the plebs against big corporation. That he’s a sensationalist. A showman. A non-fact-checking asshat (that’s for you Lon).

sickoAnd I -mostly- agree with all of the above. So, why do I still like Moore? Because he causes galvanization on important and relevant issues. It doesn’t matter if in the sixth scene after the woman cries he delivers his point for the emotional impact – it matters that he has points in the first place.

He causes people to talk. To argue. To protest. To think. So, whether or not he is in fact a Moore-on himself, if he’s causing your neurons to fire, you owe him thanks.

Now, I also happen to agree with him and his politics. I believe the Clinton will forever be known as the high tide mark for America, based completely on the actions of the puppet that followed him.

I believe that Moore’s central theme of “Americans live in a state of fear” is a valid one, and one that all the world’s citizens should heed as a warning. When he spells out in his films that Fear = Control, he’s not speaking out of his extra-large ass. Certainly the citizens of the country I now call home could testify to that.

I also believe that it is not only important, but essential, that people like Moore point a finger and put a face on big corporations. Big corporations don’t have faces. They aren’t people. They are machines for making money. That’s how they were designed, and that’s how they run. However, the people that helm the machine are people, and too often use the company and it’s limited liability as a shield to protect them from the reality of what their business does to people.

What people tend to brush over when pointing out all that’s wrong with Moore and his films is just how much is right about them. At some point he likely had to make the rather difficult decision to display these ideas just like every other “balanced” documentary, maintaining a tight reign on every minute detail and rarely being challenged due to the complete lack of audience, or go big and suffer the blowback.

Anyway, I digress. SiCKO, a good film, watch it if you haven’t. It made Maggie shudder (and she’s lived under the Chinese medical system her whole life), and it made me want to move to France – but who doesn’t want to move to France? Good cheese, great wine and the ability to wear berets.

16 Responses

  1. Haven’t seen it, want to.

    I just find it somewhat ironic that Moore, in his obese state, thinks he has the right to complain about the medical industry. There are several things wrong with health care in america, and he is an example of one of them. Obesity, in a free society, should be embarrassing. I’m all for health care reforms, I’m all for dialogue, but it will be a cold day in hell before I want my tax dollars to pay for the health care of people that have abused themselves.

    Here’s my plan: free healthcare for healthy people. Smokers and overweight people pay out of pocket. Fair? yes indeed.

  2. Chip: All overweight people are lazy, junk food scoffing slobs like all thin people are anorexic. Or, in the real world: There are a million different reasons why some people are fat and others thin. It’s easy to cry “personal responsibility” and blame the person, but reality isn’t always that simple.

    Now, if you want smokers and other unhealthy people to pay out of pocket for their healthcare, then I suggest we have them pay in advance through things like excise and higher VAT/GST-style taxes on such things as tobacco, alcohol and junk food. That way, everybody gets the health care they need, and the truly irresponsible people pay for the extra costs they bring on themselves.

  3. An age old argument that “personal responsibility” thing.

    I think that if you’re going to have a government that preaches “personal responsibility” as the current Bush (and Harper in Canada) administrations do, you need to also recognize that our society is organized in such a way that it puts undeniable temptations in front of us that we simply must have.

    By supporting rampant consumerism, and then washing your hands with accountability (putting it all on personal responsibility), it’s blatant hypocrisy.

    I agree that sin taxes are a good way to go. There are a lot of questionable taxes, but a well-managed sin tax is a fantastic solution to this problem.

  4. I’m relieved that there’s a documentary available now in China about the state of health care in the US. I hope lots of Chinese people watch it and stop insisting to me that the American system is so fabulous and the government takes such good care of its citizens.

    @Chip: Who defines what is healthy? What if they decide being dehydrated is unhealthy, or not having below a 15% body fat, or if you drink alcohol. Tons of seemingly healthy people would not pass these tests.

  5. @Chriswaugh, in reality there a select few that are overweight for reasons beyond their control. But it’s an incredible minority. The fact remains that 2/3 americans are overweight. Are you insisting that all 200,000,000 of them are overweight for reasons beyond their control? If it is genetic (which I’ve heard people try to argue), why aren’t previous generations having the same problem. I agree with sin taxes, absolutely.


    Nobody, I mean NOBODY has forced anyone to eat hamburgers. “simply MUST have”??? Hogwash. I support blatant comsumerism, and yet, somehow, I’ve managed to maintain a relatively non-fried non-meat diet? Apparantly I must have an incredible will. I can’t sympathise with people who try to blame others for their own choices.


    It’s true, many people would not pass the test. That’s my point.

  6. chinkerfly,

    I need to change that. I think there needs to be a standard, probably something better than BMI (though that would be a nice start). My point is, no matter what the standard would be, there would be plenty of people angry by it, people who would fit the standard if they stopped smoking and eating junk food. And such people who have destroyed their health by their own choice should pay for health by their own choice. Also, where is this concept of universal health care come from? It’s not in the constitution, and so I don’t think it’s the governments responsibility.

  7. @Chip: Largely I agree with personal responsibility.

    However, I think it’s important to recognize the external factors that lead to an obese society.

    You’re right that no one is “forcing” the burger down the fat guy’s throat. But the error is in the term.

    “Force” implies some overt action, and that’s very much not the case. But when you consider that maintaining a well-balanced diet and getting enough exercise are much easier for people with time and money, it complicates things.

    You then further add to this that convenience food (fast food, junk food, whatever) companies spend billions of dollars marketing this crap to people who suffer from a lack of time and money, you start to paint a clearer picture of the reality.

    I don’t have stats on this, so am talking somewhat out of my ass, but I am fairly certain if we look at numbers we’ll find that the majority of obesity in the US is in low- and middle-income families that are working three jobs and end up eating overly-refined foods and saturated fats most meals because they are the cheapest “meals” they can afford, and they’re prepared quickly.

    Now, of course, there’s a level of personal responsibility in all this, and people all have a choice. However, if it was all personal responsibility, wouldn’t obesity numbers be pretty consistent throughout all nations? I mean, we’re all humans, we all have equal will power, right?

    But it’s not. A lot of it comes from cultural/regional and environmental aspects.

    It’s not an excuse. But in better understanding the “whys” I think it’d be easier to fix the system. Holding hard and fast to the “just don’t stick it in your mouth fatty” mentality isn’t going to work any better than telling an alcoholic just not to drink or a junkie to stop using.

    Having incentives to be healthier is a good idea. Limiting the amount of marketing (and the target audience) of products that are deemed unhealthy by an independent health agency is also a good start.

  8. Chip…while I can appreciate your frustration with personal irresponsibility, I none the less find your argument specious, diversionary, and utterly impractical. Were we to follow your simplistic logic, it might likewise be necessary for us to exclude and subjugate the tens of millions of misguided fools (half the voting population) who irresponsibly elected a fascist regime into office…and twice! This monumental lapse in judgment has undermined the physical security of our country, rolled-back uncountable health, environmental, and product quality advancements, obliterated our budget surplus thus destroying a multitude of valuable social programs (including welfare initiatives for children and the elderly), and emboldened economic terrorists in the form of medical insurance firms, drug companies, and the treasonous FDA and AMA–two “embarrassing” and corrupt regulatory gangs that repeatedly side with the laissez-faire agendas of corporate, health industry robber barons.

    So… lay off the fatties, Chip! It’s far more complex that your post allows.

    FYI: It has been shown, time and time again, that the vast majority of overweight individuals in the United States tend to fall near or below the poverty line. This sociological correlation between economic viability and body health is statistically undeniable, and it has become a key concern for a variety of non-profit and NON-governmental organizations throughout our country. The disparity between the rich and the poor, moreover, is greater now than it has been since World War II, and with the expansion of neo-liberal economic policies into the global community the gap seems likely to widen. Rest assured, this continuing inequality of wealth has real-world effects on our future. Preventable conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even asthma are through the roof (primarily among low-income children), and now we learn that my entire generation, those young folks somewhere between X and Y, will be the inauspicious first to actually turn back life expectancy rates.

    In summary, we are poorer, fatter, sicker, and quicker to die than are our parents. The American dream is dying, Chip… quite literally.

    Understanding the relationship between money and health is paramount to the process of making changes and trying to improving the condition of our citizenry. Your passé attempt to dismiss the overweight and obese is an almost offensive smokescreen. One needs only look at the anti-health policies of the Bush administration to realize the intricate web of pathology that encircles us all. In the past month alone, the neo-cons have pushed a pro-torture attorney general through the senate, refused increased funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and vetoed a bill that would provide much-needed health care to the poorest of American children. OMG.

    Your Horatio Alger mythos is played out, homie. Time to wake up.

  9. @Ryan, Rynsa,

    Your economic examples are true, and statistically the majority of obese tend to be poor. That is a fact. But I think the economic situation that causes that needs to be fixed, rather than using tax dollars to subsidize it. Obesity rates are lower in countries like France, Japan, Taiwan, etc. because of diet (i.e., culture), and yet they have just as much chance at stuffing themselves as we. And as much blame as we can try to lay on McDonalds’ (which I find laughable), in the end the choice is ours. Maybe I’m pulling this out of my butt too, but it seems that statistically, asian americans in poverty have lower obesity rates than the general populace, and it’s because of diet.

    In the end, I agree with what you’re saying, but I’d still lay 90% of the blame on individuals themselves. Until people are willing to treat themselves well, regardless of how tempting it is to eat crappy, I really don’t want to spend my tax dollars on them.

    And trying to limit advertising of unhealthy foods? I find that comes a bit too close to taking away freedom of speech to me.


    I don’t like Bush either. But do you REALLY think his administration is to blame for america’s obesity? That’s a stretch

  10. Wait, wait wait, Ryan,

    I don’t want to move back to France. I am French and I can agree we have the best wine, the best cheese, the most beautiful and diverse country and the most efficient healthcare system but we have the biggest strikes in the world, the laziest people and the most-self centered people. How about that? Ask Chris Waugh what he thinks!

  11. Chip: I won’t waste my breath on commenting on everything you’ve said, I think Ryan and Rynsa did a great job, but I’m confused about something you said…

    “Also, where is this concept of universal health care come from? It’s not in the constitution, and so I don’t think it’s the governments responsibility.”

    This actually made me laugh out loud. I’ve heard this gibberish spewed so many times I just laugh now. The constitution is a living document and our forefathers intended it to evolve as necessary. Government provided education isn’t in the constitution, but somewhere along the way we determined it was in our best interest to educate ourselves. We have come to expect that a very basic education is a right. Can’t the same be said for basic healthcare?

    Oh, and the fatties of America pay taxes too. Considering there are more fatties then not, I’m thinking the fatties would be paying more then the skinnys like yourself. Just a thought….

  12. Well, I guess because my view is a bit politically incorrect. I just think that the concept of universal health care, while seemingly a valient effort, needs to be payed for. And based on the overall health situation of america, it would be a burden that I personally don’t want to pay for. I’m not a politician, and I’m not an economist, so I don’t know how to pull off a health care system that would improve people’s health while minimizing the unfairness of taxing everyody for a public service that only some would use. As cold as that sounds, when it comes down to it, I just don’t want to pay for it. What about taxpayer’s rights? As oversimplistic as my view may seem, the concept of universal health care is oversimplistic as well.

    This is all said before I’ve seen the movie, I hope to see it soon.

  13. Hey Ryan, yes, I still lurk. Sometimes it’s more interesting then others. Politics is a passion so, this sucked me in. Our healthcare system is atrocious and Sicko just reinforced my views. Glad you saw it!

  14. This is a fantastic discussion… the movie was quite saddening, really.

    The argument that you shouldn’t have to pay for others health care costs if they don’t take care of themselves ignores some basic precepts the movie tries to emphasize – that it is precisely b/c healthcare is not nationalized that it is so damn expensive, and that preventative care is not emphasized like in almost all other developed countries.

    To put it another way, if the system was nationalized and set up in a semi-efficient way, society as a whole would be richer. Sure, some companies would go out of business and jobs lost, but if all the costs and benefits were added up in dollar terms, much less would be wasted.

    How is this possible? The shift to the right incentives (saving money on health care instead of ‘making’ it) would bring about much better preventative care, and eliminate the incentive for expensive treatments and operations (many of which preventative care could permit).

    In the movie one of the doctors in France was compensated based on how healthy his patients were, not how many operations he performed. Doesn’t this seem like a better incentive?

    Basically what I am saying (and what the movie shows or at least strongly implies) is that by paying for the fatties along with everyone else, overall costs go down – probably enough to make your (you being the healthy one) effective costs drop as well. Pretty sobering thoughts, really.

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