Sunday Morning ~ Knowing Persons
Cosadziwa ndi nkhondo, adausa nkhondo pa dziwe. ~ The “unknowing person” is trouble, he sought shelter from the war by hiding (drowning) in a pool of water.
~ Chewa proverb
September 26, 2021
I used to tell women in labor, “You can waste your energy complaining that it hurts, or you can accept that this is how it is and save your strength to push the baby out.” I feel like this is where we are. We need to stop wasting our energy with complaints about fighting the same battle over and over, accept the situation as it is, and push the patriarchy out.
In 1981 I was just back from Peace Corps. I had a one year old baby and a husband starting undergraduate school. We found a rental house we could barely afford in a rural town in western Massachusetts: uninsulated, drafty, and so cold during the winter the pipes froze regularly and the dog’s water froze on the kitchen floor. I got a job as a visiting nurse in Holyoke, about a thirty-five minute drive. We bought a used Volkswagon with our readjustment allowance and moved into our home. I was making six dollars and twelve cents per hour, pregnant with our second child, and supporting our family. Because we were poor, Joe’s tuition at the state school was covered with grants and a couple of small loans. We had hoped to buy an unfinished house selling for thirty thousand dollars on a nice piece of property as the mortgage payment would have been less than our rent, but we had little for a down payment and with my tiny salary we couldn’t get a mortgage. I managed to arrange to work the evening shift so we could minimize babysitting costs. I’d drive our son to the college campus and wait outside Joe’s classroom, hand our son to him and run back to the car to get to work. Other days he’d take the car to school, get home and leave it running in the driveway as I waited on the doorstep to jump in.
It was the beginning of the Reagan raping of the disadvantaged and we missed the financial boat. We had friends buying houses with family help and turning them over for a huge profit a year or two later. Health care was turning into what felt like the Walmart of the times: anything for profit. At the Visiting Nurse Association we kept people on our caseload long after they should have been discharged as long as their insurance would continue to pay. Others in need went without care if they had no insurance. We had to be creative with the charting to make the patient seem dependent on us. I’d argue at staff meetings that one patient or another could change his own dressings; that he was completely competent and could reach his leg. After several of these meetings my supervisor pulled me aside and said in a low voice, “Linda, I am a conservative republican and I agree with all the budget cuts being made in this country. But this is a business and we rely on the income.” This was my nursing supervisor milking the system she accused welfare mothers of milking. It was the beginning of my disillusionment and disgust with our system and the people who run it. Many conservative health care executives and practitioners rail against the uninsured because it makes their lives difficult. Yet, without a hint of shame, they milk the system for their own profit. I worked in that system for another forty years and witnessed sexual harassment that would land people in prison now, downright sanctioned fraud, and overprescription of unnecessary (and dangerous) medication. All for profit. Sickening. It’s worse now. I quit when I financially could and when my self-respect demanded. I felt I was being complicit by staying but conflicted not offering care to the vulnerable women going without. Dangerous people were practicing medicine and they were knowingly tolerated. Women suffered and it’s worse now. The greed machine can’t get enough. And yes, I’ve heard the arguments that not all doctors or CEOs are like this, blah blah blah. This is true, but they knowingly tolerate the ones who are. It’s just like the argument for the police going on now. We need to face this.
So what to do? As rural hospitals eliminate maternity care because it is “too expensive”, women are put at higher and higher risk. And now they cleverly send out bounty hunters instead of funding health care. I believe the perpetrator is stronger but also women’s wisdom wider. As scary as the machine against women is right now, the tactics are stale, transparent, and they don’t know their enemy. We owe a lot to women who have stood up to this machine. They have raised strong daughters who are smart, powerful, and refuse to be controlled. I think of the scene from Ghandi when the British governor asked incredulously, “You don’t expect Britain to just hand over independence do you?” And Ghandi replies “That’s exactly what I expect, because you cannot control a population who refuses to be controlled.” I see women right there, facing a patriarchy that cannot control a population who refuses to be controlled. Let them drown themselves. They cannot win this.
From The Art of War by Sun Tzu:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
We know the enemy and we know ourselves, they know neither.
In contemplating where to donate, I’ve decided on Powered by the People because Texas is capable of electing legislators and a governor who actually represents the majority.
And Maine Healthcare Action because we need health care for everyone in this country and Maine is capable of setting that example for other states to follow.
Love to all,