Dystopia 11: Paje

I think it’s unfortunate that in this culture we have fallen so much into the habit of relying on refined, purified durative of plants, in highly concentrated form, both for recreational drugs and for medicine. And have formed the habit of thinking that this is somehow more scientific and effective, that botanical drugs are old-fashioned, unscientific, messy. In fact, they’re much safer, and sometimes the quality and effects are better.”

“But I think healing, like religious experience, is an innate potential of the body. It’s not something that comes in a drug. All a drug can do is give you a push in a certain direction, and I think that even there expectation plays a great role in that.”

“Why is it that the human brain and plants should have the same chemicals in them?”

Andrew Weil      

Dystopia 11:  Paje

“Ha upépe!”  The voice commanded again.

Jack managed to croak, “We’re unarmed!” past his parched throat.

He shook Laissi fiercely and called her name in his cracked voice.  She murmured a vague protest at being so roughly disturbed, but nothing more helpful.

Two men appeared in the moonlight. Both were armed with rifles. Jack desperately continued to try to rouse Laissi.

“We need help!”  he pleaded.  She moaned and raised her injured arm.  The pain caught her by surprise and she gasped and then cried out.

The lead man lowered his weapon an inch at the sight of Laissi and asked, “Reiko?”

Jack took the hint from the tone in his voice and said, “Yes.  Yes, that’s it, she’s hurt.  Can’t you see she’s hurt?”

Laissi murmured, “Aiko porãmínte.”

The guard cautiously climbed down the trail with his rifle raised to get a closer look.

“Mba’éichapa.” Laissi slurred with her eyes still closed.

Under the cover of the second guard the lead man dropped his weapon to his waist as he approached the pair.  Before Jack could react he had grabbed Laissi by her chin and tilted her face to his.  Then he turned to his companion.

“Ha Laissi!  Epifanino te’ÿi!”

The other man lowered his weapon and ran down the hill to see for himself.  The first man turned back to Laissi with open concern on his face.  Jack was all but forgotten at the moment  There was a brief but excited conversation and the two men maneuvered to take Jack’s burden from him.  Jack resisted for a moment until he realized what they were doing.  Then he allowed them to take her between them while he followed behind as they proceeded up the trail.

The trail crested a ridge and Jack could see a bowl shaped valley with the faint outline of buildings.  The men rapidly descended into the valley with Laissi’s head lolling between then with each step.  There was another short conversation between them and then they walk/ran to a hut near the center of the village.  They paused at the door to yell and then unbidden entered the hut.

In the hut a table occupied the center room.  Two chairs sat on either side of the table.  The men deposited Laissi on one of the chairs and began an excited conversation with the hut’s only occupant.

On a cot along one wall of the room a man clothed only in a pair of shorts sat up and lit a lamp while he listened to the men’s story.  As the room filled with light, Jack took a step back from this man.  This was not like any other human Jack had ever seen. The man’s face had the leathery appearance of age and exposure to the sun but his hair was still the jet black that the younger rebels sported.  He was clean shaven and a series of black lines were in geometric designs covered the man’s cheeks.  His eyes were wrinkled and held a calm intelligence as they gazed at the men, Laissi and finally Jack.  His nose was broader and his face longer than the other rebels Jack had seen. He wore no shirt and his chest was covered front and back with black strips that, like his face, were part of the man’s skin as far as Jack could tell.  He was decorated in an impressive number of bright blue beads that encircled his neck.  Around his upper arms were bands of  more beads in triangular yellow and blue patterns.

The man rose and barked orders.  The younger guard left in a hurry.  The older guard helped Laissi into the recently vacated cot.  The demonic apparition of a man began to move about room with the lamp.  As Jack pryed his eyes away from the frightening man he noticed that the hut was covered floor to ceiling with shelves of various strange items in every type of container.  The man moved about the room seeking this container and that.  Gathering 2 or 3 in his arms and placing them on the table and then gathering 2 or 3 more.  To Jack’s surprise the old man began to sing a strange syncopated song with some of the words more emphasized than others.

The younger guard returned with several other men and a bucket of water.  He knelt at the bedside and cradled Laissi’s head.  He brought a ladle to her mouth and gently poured water on her lips.  This did have the effect of rousing her and she gripped the cup and drank deeply.  The owner of the hut barked a warning and the cup was withdrawn from her lips.  She struggled to sit and find the ladle again but the young man spoke in a soothing voice and exhausted she flopped back onto the cot.

Jack soon became aware that the people were referring to the demon-man as “Paje”.  Peje pulled a knife from a drawer near his cot and used it to chop some of the ingredients he had placed on the table.  The room filled with strange but not unpleasant aromas.  Jack realized for the first time that he was famished as well as thirsty.  As though the demon could read his thoughts he pointed to Jack with the knife and gave another order.

It was as if the other men in the room noticed Jack for the first time.  The young man with the bucket looked to Paje and then to Jack.  Paje had gone back to his preparations and ignored the younger men.  So the young man, who had given Laissi water, looked back to Jack.  He slowly and cautiously began to approach Jack as though Jack might have some hidden weapon.  When he was within arms length he offered Jack the ladle.  Jack tried to act civil but his body’s need won out and he snatched the ladle from the man and drank.  He did manage to force himself to stop drinking after the first ladle and let that water settle in his stomach before seeking a second.  He gave the ladle back to the youth with an embarrassed bow and a “Thank you.”

Paje was now spreading the mixture he had just created onto a clean piece of cloth.  He turned to the gathered men in the room and gave instructions as he cleaned his knife.  Three of the men looked briefly at Jack.  Jack shifted nervously under their gaze, not knowing what to expect next. Paje put the knife in the flame of the lantern and heated both sides slowly.  When he was satisfied he turned with the knife to face the cot.  He began to sing his strange song again as he approached the cot.

Jack watched this monstrous man approach Laissi with a knife.  His eyes grew wide in terror as he was suddenly aware of what this demon meant to do.  He was going to offer Laissi to what ever warped God appealed to him.  He was going to kill her!  He had brought this scorpion woman over a desert and up this mountain to be killed by this mad man.

Jack lunged but he was immediately tackled and pressed to the ground.  He struggled against the combined weight of the three men who had restrained him.  He sputtered and cried out but to to avail.

He heard Laissi cry out in pain.  He screamed his rage and renewed his struggles.  To his terror he saw blood dripping from the edge of the cot.  The room filled with an odor that was more foul than any he had ever experienced.  He gagged but even the water he had taken in moments ago appeared to have left his empty stomach.  One of the men holding him down left in a hurry and the others also fought with their stomachs briefly making gagging sounds.  Jack took advantage of their momentary incapacity and threw one of the men off and struggled to a sitting position.  The old man gave another order and the Jack’s final assailant left the room with his mouth and nose covered.

Jack crawled to the cot’s bedside.  He expected to see Laissi in a state of mayhem but she was unconscious and breathing still.  A bundle of rags under her arm were soaked in blood and foul smelling pus.  This was the blood Jack had seen dripping to the floor.  The poultice that Paje had created moments ago was on her arm and slowly soaking with her blood as well.  The old man stood calmly gazing at Jack with a smug expression and his hands working to clean the knife once more.

Jack pulled himself up to his knees at the bedside and placed a hand between Laissi’s breasts.  There he could feel her heart beat with reassuring if somewhat fast regularity.  He turned to see Paje place the knife on the table and begin to mix more ingredients into a bowl while he sang his syncopated song.  Jack pulled himself to standing and spied the water bucket.  He ladled out another cup for himself and then turned to Laissi.  He cradled her head in his hand and moistened her lips but this time she did not respond.  The old man was brewing a small portion of his concoction over the lamp flame and the foul air in the room began to fade to an almost floral scent.

The old man brought the tea over to where Jack struggled to get Laissi to drink.  Jack leaned away from the strange man but he only snorted his amusement at Jack’s apprehension.  The old man spoke soothingly and reached a hand out.  He took the ladle from Jack’s hand and let it drop back in the bucket. Then he brought the steaming cup close to Laissi’s face.  He dipped a scrap of cloth in the tea and parted Laissi’s lips.  He let a small amount of the fluid trickle into her mouth and waited as she swallowed.  He nodded and spoke in a reassuring voice again.  With infinite patience he dipped the rag and let more of the tea drain into her mouth.  When she had swallowed that, the old man grabbed Jack’s hand.  Jack reflexively jerked his hand back but the demon-man was remarkably strong.  He held Jack’s hand steady and then forced the cup of tea into Jack’s palm.  He brought the hand close to Laissi’s face and Jack relaxed. Paje dipped the rag in the tea and pushed it into Jack’s empty hand. He guided Jack’s hands so that Jack brought it to Laissi’s lips.  Jack nodded his understanding and began to work as Laissi’s nurse.

The old man went back to his table.  He picked up a bowl of dried leaf.  Then he lit it with the straw which he held in the lamp flame.  The room was filled with a cloying smoke that made Jack’s stomach clench.  Paje walked to the head of the cot and began to sing and chant over Laissi as he fanned the sweet smelling smoke over her body with a feather.

For hours the man chanted and sang.  When the other men reentered the hut Paje did not respond.  He seemed utterly unaware of their presence.  Or for that matter of Jack’s presence. Equally, the men made no move to disturb Paje . The young man who had offered Jack water took in the scene and left again.  He returned with a burrito which he offered to Jack.  Jack took it with gratitude and thanked the man with another bow.  For the first time a rebel, other than Laissi, smiled at him.

The Concepts behind the Fiction

1.  “Dis is a fight to da death.”

Probe: Insurers Force Consumers to Overpay Billions in Health Costs

A congressional probe has found private health insurers have forced consumers to pay billions of dollars in medical costs that the insurers should have paid. In a new report, the Senate Commerce Committee says insurers have relied on faulty databases that have led to underpaying on millions of valid claims for out-of-network medical care. Patients have been forced to make up the difference. The report says the databases’ errors were easily disguised because insurers have failed to properly inform consumers on how they calculate charges for out-of-network costs. The databases are owned by a company named Ingenix. The firm has a financial incentive to underpay consumers: it’s a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest private insurers. In addition to UnitedHealth, at least seventeen other leading insurance companies have relied on Ingenix’s data.


Ex-Cigna Exec: Insurance Companies “Dump the Sick”

The findings were released as the Senate Commerce Committee heard testimony from an insurance executive who’s now criticizing his former industry. The executive, Wendell Potter, was most recently a public relations executive for the insurer Cigna until last year. In his testimony, Potter said the industry has deliberately misled consumers with confusing paperwork to deter them from trying to recoup unwarranted payments. Potter said, “They confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.” Potter also said insurers are using what he called “fear tactics” to derail proposals for a public health plan out of fear of losing profits.  

Democracy Now!

Since 1999, employment-based health insurance premiums have increased 120 percent, compared to cumulative inflation of 44 percent and cumulative wage growth of 29 percent during the same period. Health insurance expenses are the fastest growing cost component for employers. Health insurance costs will exceed corporate profits in 2009.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in the United States have been rising four times faster on average than workers’ earnings since 1999.

About 1.5 million families lose their homes to foreclosure every year due to unaffordable medical costs.

Retiring elderly couples will need $250,000 in savings just to pay for the most basic medical coverage.13 Many experts believe that this figure is conservative and that $300,000 may be a more realistic number.

According to a recent report, the United States has $480 billion in excess spending each year in comparison to Western European nations that have universal health insurance coverage. The costs are mainly associated with excess administrative costs and poorer quality of care.

The United States spends six times more per capita on the administration of the health care system than its peer Western European nations.   National Coalition for Health Care

Still, I see no evidence that democracy will interfere with the profits of the insurance giants and big pharma in America.  The insurance giants argue that government run health care system will be horrible for the consumer.  Then they argue that they can not compete against a government run health care system because it would be to cheap and too good.

In the meantime they could argue that the world was flat with the amount of money they are giving our representatives in Congress, $2600 a day per member of Congress since the year started.  Half of that money goes to the members who are actually on the committees that are deciding what our health care future will be.  Over the last 4 years this industry has put more money into lobbying than any other industry, $1 million a day.  Imagine how many uninsured patients that would pay for.

Now even the White House is backing out on its major campaign promise by stating that it is more important to get a toothless health bill passed in a bipartisan manner than to give the people they serve the health care they need.

The industry wants Congress to pass a bill that would make health insurance mandatory and then guarantee lower income people tax subsidies to pay for the insurance.  This would do nothing to reduce costs and would give the health insurance industry a tax payer gift.

If this bothers you as much as it bothers me here are a few things you can do.

Tell you Representative that you will accept no less than what was promised during Obama’s campaign.    Campaign Silo at Firedog Lake lets you see where your representative in congress is as far as allowing a watered down version of a public health care option.  Remember a “No” vote means they will not accept anything less than the HCAN definition of a robust public option to the health care plan:

  1. National and available everywhere: A strong public health insurance option will be a national public health insurance program, available in all areas of the country. The insurance industry is made of of conglomerates that have national reach. In order to have the clout to compete with the insurance industry and keep them honest, the public health insurance option must be national as well.
  2. Government appointed and accountable: The entire problem with private health insurance is that they aren’t accountable to you or me. A public health insurance option must have a different incentive. A public health insurance option doesn’t have to be a government entity necessarily, but its decision makers must be appointed by government and must be accountable to government.
  3. Bargaining clout: The whole point of health reform is to lower health care costs. Clearly, the insurance industry has failed to lower costs when left to their own devices. As the President says, we need a strong public health insurance option to lower rates, change the incentives in our health care system, and keep the industry honest.
  4. Ready on day one: The private health insurance industry has utterly failed to control health care costs or provide their customers the quality they’ve paid through the nose for. With one person going bankrupt every 30 seconds due to health care costs, we cannot afford to wait any longer for a real fix. We need the public health insurance option to start lowering prices now. That means no trigger.

You can find your representative’s phone number here.  Get Help writing a letter to your representative here.

Single Payer Action

2.  Complimentary Medicine (CAM)

It was clear during my training, which was more years ago than I care to tell you, that there was “real medicine” and snake oil.  The real medicine was what I was being trained in.

Now so many years later, I see the error in that thinking.  I work with a massage therapist and a Chinese medicine specialist in my office.  I give patients prescriptions for drugs, which they can barely afford as well as nutritional advice and over the counter herbs that work just as well as the prescriptions at a tenth of the cost in some cases.  I send people to our Chinese medicine specialist who cures illnesses that I can not with medicines I can not pronounce.  I am a traitor to my training.

Now I understand why the two forms of medicine work so complimentary.  Western medicine’s advances were made in wartime.  Western medicine excels in acute care.  Heart attack, car accident, bleeding…Western medicine likely holds the key.  But if your disease is a slow indolent type that sneaks up on you over the decades, Western medicine may fail you.  Chinese medicine on the other hand made most of its advances with Milena of trial and error in peace time.  Its strength is the chronic disorder: hypertension, hot flashes, chronic pain syndromes.

Drug companies in America can not make any money on nutritional advice, herbs you can grow in your back yard or Chinese medicines that are imported (and mostly grown in China’s back yard).  They can charge two to ten times as much for their medications in America than any where else in the world.  They have fought hard to keep the idea that Western medicine alone is “real medicine”.  And it is a lie.  They fight to keep insurance carriers from insuring alternative medicines even when the evidence is strong that they work as well or better than the pharmaceuticals.  (Remember the magnesium discussion?)    They also work to undermine CAM in the legislature.  It is a lie that has causes many people in this and other countries to suffer despite a readily available cure.

Right now there is a battle in the legislature to recognize these forms of medicine.  HR 646 would include these services in Medicare.  I urge you to call your Congressman and ask them to sponsor this bill and to include proven complimentary health care in any new health care bill purposed.

Arizona Center of Integrative Medicine

3. Just Six Dollars

The common denominator in much of this blog is the loss of our democracy to corporate funding of political campaigns.  Here is the rub.  It would take just 6 dollars a person in America to completely publicly fund political campaigns; freeing our government from the clutches of big business.  If we paid that $6 we could save money on so many other things, like health care.  You can find out more about this issue at “You Street”.  They are trying to get the Fair Elections Now Act (HR 1826 and S 752) passed.  While you are on the phone to you Congressman…

You Street

HR 1826

S 752

Fair Elections Now Act