Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quotes for the New Year

The New Year is a common time to rethink, make resolutions, and in various ways commit to leading a better life. We can do this as individuals and as a society. As far as health is concerned, our individual decisions can and do make a big difference in our health outcomes, and it behooves us to learn as much as we can and to be able to distinguish what is information based in evidence from what is opinion, anecdote, or just plain wrong. As a society we can do a lot better in terms of improving health, only one component of which is improving health care. We can, and must, improve access (both financial and geographic) to health care, improve the quality of care and the use of evidence-based (rather than profit-influenced) practices, and the use of cost-benefit ratios to maximize the value per dollar. Maybe we are moving a little in that direction; I will continue to comment on a number of areas surrounding health reform and health care.

One thing that can help us in thinking about ourselves and our societies are the thoughts of others. Epigrams, quotations, can and often do, oversimplify complex ideas, but they can be powerful and pungent. I have frequently used them; on the left side of this blog is a quotation from FDR that I find particularly significant. So, for the New Year, I thought I would provide some of my “favorite” quotations, some more well-known than others. I will also supply the authors, although not attached to the quotations; you can know or guess or look them up, but it can make a difference; a statement by someone who knows about an area can be more powerful than when the same statement comes from one who does not.

My last entry addressed, in part, bigotry, and the attempts of some people to have their beliefs determine the actions of everyone. This is common and recurrent, and does not “get better with time”. Much of Texas’ Hill Country was settled by Germans, a high percentage of whom were Freethinkers. They stood, among other things, against slavery; Confederate troops raided towns like Comfort, TX, killing many and driving others to Mexico. Some years ago a monument commemorating the Freethinker settlers who established the town was proposed for Comfort, but it didn’t happen. The people, conventional “believers”, even descendants of those settlers, found Freethinking too much like “atheism” for them. Of course, people who emigrate, who move to new lands, are different from both those who stay behind. They are bolder, more adventuresome and more independent. They are also, sometimes disappointingly, different from their descendants who are more settled, themselves the “stay behinders”. Many of our “Founding Fathers” were people who were Freethinkers, Deists, and believers in less orthodox approaches to religion. Often they were condemned in their time, but that time was the Enlightenment, when it was believed (wrongly as it turns out) that time would bring increased knowledge of science and the world, and that would leader to broader, not more narrow, thinking. The thoughts of a few:

"I Have Sworn Upon the Altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

"Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good."

“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”

Not only FDR commented on the inequity of distribution; others also chose to identify what areas, including the determinants of health, might be a better place to spend our money.

"Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket that is fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed, from those who are cold and are not clothed."

In a specifically health-related vein,

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

And a few more about our society, government, shadow government and rights:

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”

"Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spiritand go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”

"Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days
governments had better get out of their way and let them have it."

And ones I will probably use soon:

"The war on privilege will never end. Its next great campaign will be against the privileges of the underprivileged."

“The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."

Happy New Year.

Quotes are from (alphabetically) Dwight D. Eisenhower (3), Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr. (2), Abraham Lincoln, HL Mencken, Tom Paine, George Washington

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