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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Michael Moore: the world may be watching, but likely not listening 

Christ another year older. Might as well broadcast some thoughts:

I have this deep-down sentiment that Cuban healthcare has it right, and while they do everything that they can to offer assistance to the world’s most needy, I they could do wonders to teach the north how to run community-based, low-cost, highly efficient health services.

Saving lives in the developing world is easy. Clean water, food, medicines, and primary healthcare can do wonders. The Cuban, and Cuban-trained, physicians working in 101 countries around the world perform these minor miracles every day.

The bigger challenge is overcoming ignorance and indifference to the possibility that we could make healthcare more equitable, affordable and universal. I wish that it was enough to say that indifferences stem just from rich nations, but really it is a battle between the rich and poor of all nations. Maybe we can overcome indifference with stunts like Michael Moore’s forthcoming film Sicko. You might know that Michael Moore is set to release his attack against the inequity in the U.S. healthcare system at the end of June. Moore took rescue workers from the World Trade Centre to Havana for advanced treatment, and as a result he was handed a threatening letter from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Already reaction is mixed about this. Take letter writer J.R. Dubro in Today’s Globe and Mail, commenting about “The Cubans warmly receiving and treating the workers are clearly involved in a propaganda exercise.” He goes on: “While it is true that Cubans, like Canadians, get free health care they also get a go-directly-to-jail card for saying or printing anything critical of the Castro Government….It is sicko, indeed, to hold up totalitarian Cuba as a shining beacon of compassion.”

And here we go.

Dubro’s critique isn’t a unique one. In fact it’s one that I hear a lot. The idea being that since it is illegal to open up a newspaper in Cuba the success of healthcare should be discredited. Someone make this connection for me! Please! Because I don’t get it. Why does the right to publish op-Eds supersede the right to receive medical treatment? And why are these two things relational? I don’t see, or understand what sort of direct relation there is.

Besides, guys like Dubro give us the impressions that if you say anything fowl in Cuba, you’ll wind up in a North Korean-like prison. Not so. First off, what stands as being critical? In Cuba, if you have complaints about the inefficiencies of the infrastructure, the economy, political representation, let them rip. There are amazingly open forums in Cuban society to express discontent (community organizations, student organizations, women’s groups and others), and most institutions are very self-critical and consistently undergo restructuring to improve practices. And think about this, how likely would it be to start my own free press here in Canada? Sure the state might not shut me down, but the economy will. And in terms of the online culture in Cuba….It’s there baby. Hell there are even Cubans on Lavalife for god sakes.

But if you start dropping hints about overthrowing the government and removing the head of state, you bet there will be a backlash. In what society would there not be one? About a year ago we were told that 18 Muslim kids were going to behead Canadian Prime-Minister Stephen Harper, and they all went to jail, are still there, and have yet to be charged. If being critical calls for the forced removal of the head of state, then I would think in any society there would be a backlash.

The other thing I like to do with people like Dubro is push them on the details. Ask them how individuals are persecuted, what the police custody process is like, how does the trial operate, where are the detention centers, who works there? Not a single creditable human rights agency in the world is crazy enough charge Cuba with torture or institutional abuse.

Then ask the details about healthcare provision. Who gets treated, how do they get treated, how much time is spent with patients, what role do nurses play, and who becomes a doctor and why?

Michael Moore’s involvement in Cuba worries me a great deal. For two reasons. For one he has already said that those who believe that he is promoting the Cuban experience will be disappointed. I just wonder what he has up his sleeve and if his American nationalist politics will distort the image of Cuban healthcare from how it behaves on the ground. Second, I’m not sure that Michael Moore could go up against people like Dubro who believe that poor healthcare is acceptable as long as there is a free press.

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for god's sake i left it already....james dubro

basically cuba has great rents, great health care and lttle is a totalitarian country. period.
In my longer comment which got lost I mentioned five reporters arrested and imprisoned since RAul became Prez for meeting with foreign journalists...And 23 two years ago got 20 to 25 years for organizing a party or acting as journalists....Amnesty International has condemned this as has Havel ......this is simply not right...cheers..james dubro
James, thanks for the response. Sorry that we have to dialogue here on a New Zealand based blog when the Letters to the Editor in the Globe don't afford much exchange.

Now three questions for you:

1) Can you explain what you mean by totalitarianism? Tell me you have a richer understanding beyond the idea of Stalanism with Palm Trees.

2) Can you give us a definition of having "Little freedom"?

3) And as I already stated above, can you explain how individuals are persecuted, what the police custody process is like, how does the trial operate, where are the detention centers, who works there?

Really looking forward to your informed insight.


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