Sarah’s last post — “You Are NOT my Mother” — was one of the most compassionate arguments I have seen in favor of leaving people alone.
Whatever became of true compassion? Sometimes I think that in the name of compassion, compassion is being destroyed. Those who want to rule us forget that compassion does not merely mean “helping” people by any means necessary (including forcing them literally at gunpoint to do what their rulers deem best).
Compassion also includes leaving people alone. Letting them have their right to do what they want with their lives, including take risks, so long as they don’t endanger others. You know, that “pursuit of happiness” thing that has been relegated to a point of minor historical interest?
It is one thing to ensure that people do not starve to death; it is quite another to force-feed them what you think they should eat! And it is one thing to make some form of medical care available, and quite another to make people go to the doctor.
In that respect, I found myself disturbed by a Wall Street Journal piece about a condescending campaign to “Shock Men Into Going to See the Doctor.” In an accompanying online video, author Laura Landro explains that the problem stems from a “macho culture not willing to ask for directions,” and an ad is run which features a female realtor ridiculing an obviously clueless male homebuyer in front of his family because he will die soon (from a preventable disease) while they get to enjoy the new house. Males, you see, need to get screened for all sorts of diseases — “especially depression” which “hurts everybody” — but they don’t. And the culprit?
“Macho culture”:

While there is no scientific evidence as to why men avoid doctors, many physicians attribute it to a macho culture which equates doctor visits with weakness, reluctance to undergo tests such as rectal and prostate exams and fear of finding out that something might be wrong.

Yes, many men (including yours truly) are not in a hurry to bend over and get that lubed gloved hand shoved where the sun don’t shine. And the colonoscopy procedure requires anesthesia and costs between five and ten thousand dollars. Maybe some men just instinctively don’t like spending that sort of money (or other people’s money) on themselves.
Do those who want to be left alone have a right to refuse these things? Or does society’s growing interest in preventive healthcare outweigh their concerns? What worries me is that with socialization of health care, a “right” to care might very well turn into a positive obligation to see a doctor.
This is not as much of a problem for women, because apparently they have less of an instinctive objection to being taken care of by other people than do men. But let’s assume that “macho culture” is somehow the culprit. Why is it more “wrong” to not want to be taken care of than it is to want to be taken care of? Can anyone please explain? I think a good argument can be made that wanting to be taken care of reflects a state of dependency. Isn’t dependency something feminism is against? So why single out men as “macho” morons for not wanting to be dependent?
And why isn’t there a similarly sexist term for women who want others to take care of their needs?
Instead, the idea is being promoted that women are better and smarter because of this tendency:

Women tend to be more engaged in their health care from puberty as they visit gynecologists and, later, obstetricians for childbearing. But even excluding reproductive needs, women are more likely to seek care than men, says Carolyn Clancy, director of the AHRQ, which worked with the Ad Council on the public-service campaign. The gender differences are obvious early, she says: In one study of 8- and 9-year-old campers with headaches, girls were more likely than boys to see the camp nurse.

Well, no kidding! When I was a kid, the last thing on earth I would have wanted to do at summer camp was to go see the nurse!
Boys want to be left alone. To take care of things themselves. You can call it “macho culture” if you want; I’d call it individual dignity.
What kind of society raises boys who want to go see the nurse for every ache and pain?
This “make them go see a doctor” theme ties in with an HBO special I watched recently which also made me uneasy. The topic was addiction (including drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol), and the relentless message was that “denial is part of the disease,” which no doubt it is. Similarly, men’s denial of depression is said to be part of that disease. But is it that simple? Might there be an additional reason for the denial? (What about the reality that admitting to something is like confessing, and that confessions have consequences? Might the addictionologists be in a bit of denial over that reality?)
Watching the various addictionologists and treatment specialists echo the theme, I was then hit by an additional theme — that “the family” is also part of “the disease” and must be treated too! There was something about the relentless enthusiasm on their faces, a positively evangelical insistence that everyone needs “treatment” — that I found impossible to ignore. Now, I recognize that addicts are messed up, just as depressed people are messed up, but what really hadn’t dawned on me until then was that these people that we call “addictionologists” are not merely treating illness. They are in the business of telling people what to do, how to live their lives.
In simple lay terms, they are control freaks. (How a psychiatrist might analyze their motivations, I do not know.) But I found it horrifying that such people might try to claim the right to enter my life and tell me what to do. Sorry, but I would rather die. If that’s “macho culture,” then label me a victim of it; I don’t care. Just don’t take away my freedom, and my right to be left alone.
Seriously, I worry that there is an entire community of people out there who can’t wait to cross the line from helping people to forcing them into getting help — and getting paid with tax dollars to do it.
Where does it end?
Back to the Wall Street Journal:

All men should have their body-mass index assessed to screen for obesity; starting at 35, they should have their cholesterol checked regularly, and a blood-pressure check is recommended every two years. Men with high blood pressure or high cholesterol should also be screened for diabetes. Men aged 65 to 75 need a test for an abdominal aortic aneurysm if they have ever smoked. At 50, they should get a colorectal-cancer screening test, unless there is a family history of the disease, in which case patients may need to be screened earlier.
Men are also urged to talk to their doctor about being screened for depression if they have felt “down, hopeless or sad” over a two-week period or have felt “little pleasure or interest in doing things.” And depending on their sexual habits—a list of risk factors is available on the website—men should be screened for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.

There are a lot of “shoulds” there, and I am not arguing with them. There are a lot of things men should do. (In addition to bending over for that gloved, government-paid hand….)
Macho my ass!
(Did I really need to say that?)
Seriously, my concern is that when the government takes over health care, the word “should” can easily become “must.”
Whenever we must do something, to that extent we are not free.
Sheesh. Next they’ll be saying that freedom is a macho thing — if they aren’t already….