Compassion Deficit : The Triumph of Materialism

Cartoon by Stiners / The Unheard.

Compassion deficit:
On the unpopularity of health care reform

By Sherman DeBrosse / The Rag Blog / April 6, 2010

David Broder recently wrote about interviewing people in Florida and Texas about health care reform. He learned they were strongly opposed because it involved helping other people.

He hastened to add that Americans are very generous and compassionate. It was just that in these tough times, people worried about adding to the debt.

Maybe, but I doubt it.

In the first place, those folks should know that health care reform does help them. Without it, the uninsured are still treated at our expense in hospitals. The cost of treating them is even higher because it is in the ER and occurs when something really bad happens. There is no preventive care. After the initial jump in usage of services, the plan will begin cutting costs.

The interesting thing is that so many people with benefits oppose health care even when their own children lack it. Given even the smallest amount of thought, they should know that the odds of some or even many of their grandchildren going without coverage are substantial.

That they cannot see that far is a tribute to the Cadillac of a Republican information machine and also an indication that our culture is very different from what it once was. Talk of Martin Luther King’s “beloved community” today is a cruel joke.

Broder lets Americans off the hook because they accepted Medicare Part D. In the first place, the Republicans passed it, so there weren’t wingnuts running around yelling about socialism. Moreover, most people expect to live to collect on Part D, so they are getting something. It is not just helping the other guy.

A reason why there is so much opposition to reform is that over the last three decades, we have become a very materialistic people. Years back, Christians warned about materialism.

My use of the term is more Hegelian. It refers to imperialism, Social Darwinism, militarism, materialism, globalism, and capitalist fundamentalism. I’ll get mine and let the devil take the other guy.

At the other extreme, we have compassion, social justice, respect for the rights of labor, a collaborationist foreign policy, and primacy of community.

What has been going on for a long time is that the “spiritual” forces in society have been overwhelmed, and it is hard to see how they will bounce back any time soon. The great German historian Friederick Meinecke wrote that when the material forces dominate the culture it sometimes happens that only a catastrophe can lead to restoring balance.

Materialism has completely overwhelmed our culture. No wonder the Republican information machine was so successful in generating opposition to health care reform. They are expert persuaders, but they also knew that their three decade effort to transform the culture had worked.

[Sherman DeBrosse is a regular contributor to The Rag Blog. A retired history professor, he also blogs at Sherm Says and on DailyKos.]

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