I’m not sure how many would contest your newfound wisdom of learning to appreciate life more with less, Mr. Graham Hill, Treehugger founder. As you pen in your New York Times self-congratulatory essay, it took you “fifteen years, a great love and a lot of travel to get rid of all of the inessential things” you had collected in your life. And now you live in a 420 square-foot studio with a bed that folds down from the wall. You’re content. But you’re also a tad obnoxious.
I don’t think you’re a role model for the 98% who struggle to pay bills, live paycheck to paycheck, and have never experienced a “windfall.” For some of us, our stuff is indeed what keeps us sane. Not that collecting stuff should be the goal. While you might be proud of increasing your level of happiness by getting rid of your stuff, I don’t see that as being the major problem for a shrinking middle class. While I do commend you for trying to shed light on the problem of American consumerism and our attachment to too much gadgetry, the ultimate bell weather of a “happy life” might also be reduced to the following essentials: access to affordable health insurance, a job that pays more than the minimum wage, the ability to afford all necessary living expenses, affording college and not graduate drowning in a sea of debt, etc…
A good deal of the “stuff” you describe is certainly not needed to live a happy life. But what about your 420 square foot-space? What specially priced furniture did you purchase in order to invite ten people over for dinner and dine in comfort, sans claustrophobia? With the money you saved getting rid of so much stuff, what prized possessions did you acquire to make your space so ideal? What normal people choose to live in such a limited confine anyway? I don’t disagree with the economization of space but what about less focus on stuff and simply more focus on outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, or visits to museums and art galleries, for example? Why not spend more time on getting by with less without needing to spend a fortune to get by on less?
I agree with you. Excess consumption is no salve for an unhappy existence. When stuff starts to own you than you know you are in trouble. But you’re also single, with no family of your own, and from what I can tell, no pet. For the 98%, in particular, those with families, you think it’s easy to get rid of stuff? What of us who have walls of CDs and books accumulated over many decades? I don’t consider it excessive. For me, it’s joy. I know the difference between necessity and luxury. And while I might have a few things that I have no real reason to own, there’s nothing I own I can’t live without. I still like owning these things.
Yes, enormous consumption has global, environmental and social consequences. The dreadful influence of corporations and even government tell us to consume more because if we don’t, our economy will collapse. It’s a message with little comfort for someone trying to disengage from all of the stuff they have collected and continue to collect in their life. “Living small” is easier if you have money to purchase those things on an as-needed basis. It’s more difficult if and when money is tight and you no longer can afford some those of the same things. Most of the stuff you describe, however, is junk. Junk made in some far off land (outside the United States) that is cheap to produce and is easily profitable. Thanks to globalization we have enough stuff flowing back and forth between East and West to last us for centuries. Yes, each one of us must make a decision on how much stuff we will allow into our lives but in the end, it’s going to take titanic changes in the way we live as a society, jettisoning the disposable minded culture we live in for one that thrives on doing more with less. We’re still at the starting gate.
Living a sustainable life is more important than wanting or having less. If my work and life revolved around the Internet, I can imagine all I would need or want would be my laptop and my phone. My life, like many others, has deeper roots and alas, it’s not going to be easy to simply get rid of my stuff.
Silver Linings Playbook received a ton of accolades. Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar. And for a film centering on an individual coping with Bipolar Disorder, it is no laughing matter. I know because someone close to me suffers from Bipolar Disorder 2 and I’ve witnessed manic episodes that to some degree mirror the behavior put on display by actor Bradley Cooper. Director and screenwriter David O. Russell adapted Silver Linings Playbook from Matthew Quick’s original novel, which is narrated through the eyes of former history teacher, Pat Peoples. Pat returns to his hometown of Collingswood, New Jersey, after having spent time at a mental hospital. No diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder 2 is actually specified in Quick’s novel, however.
I saw Silver Linings Playbook and having few expectations came away feeling that minus the good acting performances by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, this is a story with just a dose of too much Hollywood contrivance and not enough truth behind the ugly realities of manic depressive behavior.
Don’t read on if you haven’t seen the film yet. I take issue with David O. Russell’s screenplay on several fronts. In the film, Pat Peoples is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2. The trigger causing his fall from mental stability is finding his wife having an affair with a fellow instructor. What rang false in this cinematic adaptation is how it takes more than one incident for someone to receive such a diagnosis. Most people are in their teens or early 20s when symptoms of bipolar disorder first start, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Symptoms include severe mood swings and rapid cycling between states can be cause for great concern. Bradley Cooper’s character is in his thirties and it deigns all credulity to think he’d have his first full-blown manic episode because he found his wife cheating with another man. This is David O. Russell taking creative license and while he’s free to do so it does not make Cooper’s character more credible or believable as a sufferer from this mental affliction. I’m sure Catherina Zeta Jones could chime in here given her recent admission to suffering from Bipolar Disorder 2.
The ending of Silver Linings Playbook makes me cringe even more. Living with Bipolar Disorder 2 is a lifelong challenge. There is no cure. Most individuals diagnosed will find themselves taking medication for the rest of their lives. Triggers causing manic episodes can happen at any time. Silver Linings Playbook’s “happy ending” mocks the realities of those unlucky enough to receive such a diagnosis and who struggle trying to maintain healthy relationships. In many respects, David O. Russell’s screenplay does an injustice to those who are mentally ill. I can, however, recommend a very fine film that came out back in the 1970′s that focused on life in a mental health care facility. It is called One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest and won Jack Nicholson an Oscar. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and do so. It’s a far cry from Playbook’s superficial take on mental illness.
Some of the reviews I read about Silver Linings Playbook described it as “savagely funny” or “a rom-com that succeeds in revitalizing that discredited genre.” I’m not sure it’s either. Take away the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder 2 and this film wouldn’t resonate nearly as deeply. There are some funny moments in this film and I did laugh. But dysfunction is at the heart of just about every comedy storyline Hollywood churns out, both good and bad. While I laud the good acting performances by all who starred in Silver Linings Playbook, this is a case where the “entertainment media” and the general cinema loving audience has bestowed way too much praise on a film that actually lacks the gravitas to address what is surely one of the more debilitating illnesses in human history. For those wanting to learn more about how to cope being in a relationship with someone who is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, visit the DBSA
Obamacare, or the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act, is frequently debated and often poorly represented. It is important to understand the core facets of the act to appreciate its impact on American healthcare, as well as look at how it has been rolled out since 2010 and where it will go in the next year. First, let’s take a look at what some of the vernacular that is frequently tossed around actually means in practical terms.
For opponents of the bill, this is the insurance “tax.” Simply put, anyone who does not have insurance under the law, once it takes full effect in 2016, will be required to pay a penalty at a maximum of 2.5% of their income or $695 as an individual or $2085 as a family. This serves two primary purposes, reducing ER costs and buffering the overall cost of ObamaCare itself. ER visits are costly both to the medical providers and to those who pay for medical services, yet individuals without insurance still occasionally require care and often do not receive it until it becomes drastic and requires emergency service. This puts undo strain on the system that can be relieved by requiring that most individuals have access to inexpensive and quality preventative care. There are exceptions to the penalty if insurance would cost more than 8% of their income or who claim religious exemptions.
These simply make it easier to shop around, allowing you to easily compare and contrast various insurance policies to make a better decision which allows natural market forces to bear on the cost of insurance.
Previously, having a pre-existing condition prior to obtaining insurance may have resulted in you being deemed ineligible or having coverage offered at an insane rate. Premiums are based on age and geography, not on medical history.
What Exists Now
Currently, a number of changes have already been implemented. As of January 2010, small businesses have been eligible for tax credits worth up to 35% of the employer’s investment in employee insurance, states receive matching federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage, four million seniors found relief from the “donut hole”in 2010 alone, and people with pre-existing conditions have been covered.
The next phase in September 2010 saw young adults up to 26 covered their parents insurance, free preventative health care in all new plans, a prohibition on insurance companies using shady tactics to revoke coverage from suddenly sick individuals, a process to allow consumers to appeal claims decisions, the elimination of lifetime limits, better regulation of annual insurance limits, a prohibition on the denial of insurance coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, and guidelines to protect against unreasonable rate hikes. All that happened the first year after ObamaCare was signed into law.
In 2011 we saw grants being distributed to consumer assistance services designed to help individuals navigate the health insurance system. In addition, $15 billion went to a Prevention and Public Health Fund to help educate the American populace on ways they can prevent health problems.
A program was implemented to help increase payments to qualified medical professionals to draw them to typically underserved rural communities. Seniors are also receiving free preventative services as of January 2011, along with a new law that requires that insurance companies reinvest 80-85% of their premiums back into health care services and quality improvement. Medicare and Medicare Advantage were restructured to eliminate premium discrepancies and create a more cost-efficient system. As of October of 2011, a new board designed to encourage innovative cost-cutting solutions began work.
Most of the rollout in 2012 has focused on quality care through basic initiatives like encouraging integrated health systems which links doctors and other medical providers to improve access to knowledge and improve their ability to provide great care. One of the best moves of 2012 was the electronic health records (EHR) program which offers medical providers monetary incentive to establish an HER system.
These EHR systems can greatly reduce paper consumption, saving clinics both money and helping the environment, while vastly improving their ability to track patient medical history, communicate with their patients and other members of a person’s care team, and get near-instant access to lab results and provide vital checks to potential hazards in therapy interactions.
What’s Next in 2013
2013 is not as expansive as 2010 or 2011, but continues with the trend of 2012 in that it expands some basic services but doesn’t create any major waves. We will see an expansion of covered preventative care with boosted funding to Medicaid programs in starting in January, as well as increased payment to primary care doctors which will help ensure more doctors are able to take on Medicaid and Medicare patients. Another new law will allow hospitals and other care providers to “bundle” care events which can ensure more efficient payment systems. In October, states will receive additional funding for the next two years to cover children who are not eligible for Medicaid.
ObamaCare is already having a profound and important impact on the health of Americans every day. The next year will see a continued strengthening of the act but not create any major changes.
Nick Anderson is a writer for How2become; a leading career and recruitment specialist. For the last 8 years How2become.com has helped applicants prepare for and pass recruitment processes and assessment centres in order to secure their ideal job. You can also find How2become on Google Plus
Image Credit: MosaMuse
Check out the statistics learnstuff.com found out. What are your thoughts?
Was it just me? Or did any of you react with heavy disgust and disdain when you came across Republican presidential contender, Rick Santorum’s statement that “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” This was Santorum’s response to a speech he read that John F. Kennedy gave back on September 12, 1960 at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, where he made clear that the real issues of the day were not religious. Instead, Kennedy made clear that the issues that mattered in 1960 had to do with “old people who can no longer afford to pay their doctor bills, families who were forced to give up their farms, and an America with too many slums and too few schools.”
And now, here we are in 2012 and we have a candidate like Santorum, who brazenly panders to the religious right, openly castigates what should be an obvious truth in any democracy, and preys upon the obvious ignorance that afflicts so much of the American electorate. The separation of church and state is as pivotal to a functioning democracy as clean water is to the health of all animal and human life. Democratic government must operate free from the influence of any organized religion. But today’s republican party has devolved into a political institution that has integrated organized religion into its platform to such a degree that it no longer seems capable of championing the democratic values that are at the core of this country.
I still wonder in amazement at how the “Grand ‘Ol Party” seems to reflect more the times of 1912 over those of 2012. Not one of the current crop of republican candidates comes across as moderate in any sense of the word. You either have someone like Romney, who embodies the venture capitalist ethic of “build or destroy in order to maximize profit” or you have Newt Gingrich, the party’s favorite “masterdebator” who’s making the case that if Obama wins a 2nd term, he would pose a serious threat to the country’s national security. And last but not least, Ron Paul, the only consistent libertarian of the bunch who champions a return to pre-world war one isolationism and a government that no longer has departments of education or environmental protection (to name but a few).
Then you have Santorum, who recently called Obama a “snob” because he wants every American to get the opportunity of attending college, if they so choose. A college degree may not be the solution for every American but to insult a president who’s merely trying to advocate the benefits of higher learning is sheer nonsense and serves only to inflame the discord between the halves and the have-nots.
The Republican Party’s agenda does not fit the realities of living in the 21st century. It has quickly proven itself to be irrelevant. And the fact that it features voices that are contemptuous of the role government plays, putting organized religion first, should embarrass those of us who still cling to the founding father’s experiment in democratic governance itself. All of American society is inextricably bound with both the realities and idealized concepts of government. But one thing remains true. You make an enemy out of government and you make an enemy out of people. We must repair our relationship with government and those who wish to remain hostile to it, add nothing to the national conversation on how to achieve proximate solutions to insoluble problems.
The surest way to losing our democracy is by ignoring the appalling level of corruption that now grips it. After listening to a talk given by Laurence Lessig, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University, I found myself too livid to even begin writing this post but finally came to terms with the reality of our disappearing democracy.
You see corporations are allowed to donate unlimited cash to the campaigns of legislators, who in turn tend to vote in favor of the interests of those corporations. Lessig cited the non-profit, MapLight, which can graph the evidence that a representative voting in favor of a particular corporate-friendly law will receive up to 13 times the funding than someone who opposes the law. Lessig cited as example the issues tackled by Congress 2011. In a year when the country was still waging two wars and still dealing with the effects of a near catastrophic economic recession, Congress spent most of its time on the bank swipe fee. Remember this? It was a relatively minor issue having to do with who was going to make more money, the banks or the merchants. But why did it dominate the attention span of Congress? Because corporations on both sides were promising sufficient campaign funds which in turn drove the attention span of legislators. Lessig made it clear, citing studies that the return on investment of lobbying is 1000% and is the surest expense a corporation can take to maintain its power and influence over citizen representative democracy.
Not to depress all of you who are reading this now but is there a plan to stop this corporate corruption of congress? Yes, and according to Lessig, it begins with the establishing of publicly funded campaigns. Lessig’s approach would be to give voters a $50 campaign voucher. The taxpayer pays for the voucher and it’s up to the politician to gain your voucher for funding of his/her campaign. Lessig says the amount of money that could be raised through the voucher system could easily surpass the amount currently raised by private means today. This would in turn force politicians to focus on a citizen-driven agenda as opposed to a corporate-driven agenda. Lessig also stressed that a new constitutional amendment would need to be passed, limiting additional private contributions to small dollar amounts (say $50 or $100) and preventing corporations from dominating the congressional agenda. Lessig also cited the need for a constitutional convention, which could only happen if two-thirds of the states—34 out of 50 state legislatures—passed an application calling for a Convention.
I interviewed Lessig back in 2008 on the problems and shortcomings of current copyright laws and he was correct in how we must stop criminalizing the human inclination to share and focus on the new hybrid economy which encourages such sharing, like Wikipedia, for example. Lessig is now championing the need to save our democracy from corporate theft and we, the citizenry, are only to blame for it if we lose it entirely.
Remember what Gordon Gekko said in the movie Wall Street? “You’re not naïve enough to believe you live in a democracy?”
After hearing Lessig speak, I’m reminded of Gekko’s prescient words and wonder if the great American experiment in democracy is coming to an end. Do you have reason to be optimistic about the fate of American democracy?
The Descendants proves George Clooney can act and express sincere emotion without a trace of contrivance.