I’m pretty pissed off. So pissed off that on Saturday I marched through London with 150,000 other folk who are angry at the way this country is being treated by the government. And now I’m even more pissed off that we were completely ignored by both the media and those in charge. Is because we didn’t smash shit up? Because there was a football match that day? Or is it because 150,000 people closing roads in central London and marching past Downing Street just isn’t a big deal? After all, back in 2003 approximately one million people marched through London to protest the Iraq war, and that still happened.
The facts are fairly clear: the NHS is being privatised, but apparently, not that many people care. In 2007 the American Filmmaker, Michael Moore, made a documentary investigating the state of insurance-led healthcare in the USA, and comparing it to the socialised medicine available in France, Canada, Cuba, and the UK. While the film isn’t exactly unbiased, as a Briton I find the concepts covered in it as alien as Alien. Concepts such as: people with unrelated pre-existing conditions (such as thrush) being denied health insurance cover for cancer; patients being bundled into taxis mid treatment and abandoned outside charitable hospitals miles away, confused, disorientated, and still wearing gowns and ID wristbands; patients with severe respiratory illnesses contracted whilst volunteering in the clear-up post-911 having to pay hundreds of dollars for an inhaler; insured patients having to pay for ambulance expenses because the emergency response hadn’t been pre-approved by their insurer.
Nah, scratch all that, those examples are disgusting, but they’re also quite extreme. Personally, I find it abhorrent that in a developed country, with such national pride and a history of incredible achievements its citizens are treated with such contempt. Michael Moore seemed shocked that our prescription costs were so cheap and could cover so much. He was surprised to find that the only thing stopping a patient from leaving the hospital was the state of their health, rather than their bank balance. He was confounded by the idea that the cashier’s desk in an NHS hospital serves to reimburse travel costs to poorer patients rather than to collect payment. I am shocked that this is not the case over the pond, and I am even more disturbed that we’re starting to copy them.
Moore spoke to Tony Benn to ask about the history of the NHS, talking about the motivation behind it, and the love that the British people have for it. There was, however, one part which was especially poignant today, where he compared the NHS with democracy, saying that taking away our healthcare would be as ridiculous and incomprehensible as removing the vote:Benn: “They wouldn’t accept the deterioration or destruction of the NHS.” Moore: “If Thatcher or Blair had said ‘I’m going to dismantle National Healthcare’-“ Benn: “There’d have been a revolution.”
Well where’s our bloody revolution? Seriously? The public reaction to the current dismantling of the NHS by the Conservatives has been, quite frankly, pathetic. Some people blame the media for the lack of coverage, but honestly I don’t buy that anymore. If there was a media blackout on the FA Cup, people would still find out the football results if they were interested; how can football be more interesting than your own health? There are even people working for the NHS who either don’t know or don’t care about the current threat to their employer; I know because I’ve spoken to them. I’ve had plenty of people ask me why I get so upset about this, and why I bother reading and writing about it. Well, I don’t know about you, but if I broke my arm tomorrow I couldn’t afford the bus fare to hospital, let alone the treatment.
People came up to us on Saturday’s march and (genuinely) asked what it was all in aid of (maybe they were illiterate, I dunno, we had plenty of banners). Back in March there were nationwide vigils and I went to one in Southampton and was disgusted with how few people turned up; I even grabbed the megaphone to express my disbelief.
But honestly, what can we do? It seems that the only way to get media coverage is to destroy property, and that would be a wholly inappropriate response. I’ve tried telling people myself; I’ve blogged, tweeted, facebooked, accosted people in the street, written to my MP, attended events and rallies… what else can we do?
Answers on a postcard…