News flash: “Education” is not the solution to all things.
President Obama, pretty much ever since he started his health care finance reform kick, has repeatedly stated that he simply needs to communicate the details of his plan more and more clearly, and people will eventually come to support it. He is absolutely convinced that if he just keeps talking and talking, eventually he will win.
The theory behind it is that the opposition to his plan is based on ignorance, and once he properly teaches everyone what it is really all about, then he will win.
That is wrong. And if we’re lucky, fatally so.
The details of his plan are quite well known. Hell, at last week’s summit, one of his opponents brought the actual plan with him — and was denounced for pulling a “stunt.” And by saying that his critics are based on “ignorance,” it lets him ignore the very serious, very profound, very principled opposition that exists. And while Obama fights the “education” fight, he is not answering those concerns presented by his opponents.
Ignorance is not the root of all political disagreements, and education is no panacea.
For example, one of the arguments put forth in favor of health care finance reform is the general health of the average American. Many of the problems suffered by Americans do not come from lack of health care or lack of health education, and will not be cured by increased access and education. Let me cite two examples.
First up, myself. I’ve mentioned before that I have health issues. I don’t discuss them too openly, but I will say this: I have a genetic disease that is incurable and will eventually kill me (if something doesn’t get me first, and that’s also a distinct possibility), but not before making my life a living hell. I can control it, I can regulate it, I can delay or possibly even prevent the nastiest complications by certain preventive measures and taking care of myself.
Which I don’t do very well at all.
My failings are not ones I can attribute to ignorance. I know full well when I’m doing things bad for me, I know what I should be doing to help myself, but I generally don’t do them.
Nor are my failings because of a lack of access to medical care. I have halfway decent insurance, and have had some pretty good doctors and medical care.
No, my failings are entirely a result of lack of willpower and resolve and other personal flaws. And no change in the law will affect that. My own fate is in my hands, and the failings are entirely my responsibility.
For my second example, let’s look at President Obama. The results of his recent physical exam were released, and if you read between the lines, it’s clear that he’s still occasionally smoking.
Now, does anyone think for an instant that Obama is ignorant of the harm done by his smoking? Does anyone think that he needs more education on the dangers of tobacco?
Further, does anyone think that Obama does not have access to the best medical care in the world?
All this, and yet he smokes.
For god’s sake, DOESN’T HE KNOW BETTER? Won’t someone tell him that smoking’s bad for him?
Then there’s sex education. Sex is not that complicated a matter — Tab A goes into Slot B, and quite often Fetus C develops in Slot B. The overriding principle behind responsible sexuality is making certain that certain bodily fluids do not go from one partner to the other unless you really want them to — and the ways of taking care of that are multiple and nigh-omnipresent.
When you look at the general health of the American people, the problems Obama and I have (obesity and smoking) are predominant in causes of ill health. Both are exceptionally simple to address — diet, exercise, and cessation of smoking. In other words, get off our butts and off the butts. And it’s clear that “education” is not going to fix either of those.
I’m overweight and unhealthy because I have yet to find a reason to change that that exceeds the all-too-transient pleasures involved in not taking care of myself. (Curse you, Reese’s!) Obama smokes because the pleasures of it overpower his knowledge of what the consequences will be. And unplanned pregnancies and STDs continue largely not because people are unaware of the risks or the ways to minimize them, but because they choose not to avail themselves of the safer approaches.
In a sense, Obama’s push for the reconciliation process (an ironic name; by pushing for it, Obama is admitting that he cannot reconcile what he wants with what his opponents want) is an admission that education is not the cure-all. It’s recognizing that the opposition simply can’t be talked into submission, that their reasons for standing against him are based on something far more substantive than “ignorance,” and that if he wants to win, he has to use not words, but force majeure.
Will it work? Does he have the numbers in Congress to push this through?
We’ll see, Mr. President. We’ll see.