Final Paper: Healthcare as an Archive of Feelings

Matt Kasson

Final Paper

 

Medicine in the modern era has been defined by incredible discoveries and miraculous cures. Vaccinations, antibiotics, as well as new diagnostic technologies now allow physicians and other medical professionals to eradicate disease more easily than any other time in human history. We have new understandings of how diseases and viruses operate, from the common cold through complex cancers. However, as with many other aspects of our modern culture, medicine is not perfect. In the United States especially, costs have skyrocketed while results lag behind. In 2013, we spent $2.9 trillion on healthcare alone, and these costs increase every year. (1) Before long, it is quite possible that our economy will be literally bankrupted as a result of this wild spending, and arguments abound as to what the best solution to this problem may be. While the issues at hand may seem complex, and many people may claim to  have the correct answer, the truth of the matter is that there is no clear cut solution to our problem at hand. Medicine and healthcare are extremely personal, intimate topics. When political decisions literally affect people’s lives it is no wonder that tensions and emotions alike flare up at every debate. Undeniably a complex issue, I believe we have a duty to at the very least understand this archive and out relationship with it whether one agrees with it or not. In this paper, I will try to examine both the specific causes of our healthcare crisis, as well as the current state of healthcare itself. Finally, I will evaluate our culture’s relationship with this issue, and how the technologies it represents shape the world around us.

One major source of cost for healthcare is that of prescription drugs. Many people are shocked at the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a single pill, however this a very real aspect of modern healthcare. As a result, many are often quick to point to large pharmaceutical companies as major drivers for these ridiculous costs. This may be true to an extent, but not so much as people might assume. One of the major reasons that medicines often have such high costs is not their actual manufacturing, the the research and development (R and D) that must go into each medicine before it can be sold. This process often takes years, and after a drug has been successfully created it must still pass the regulations and testing of the FDA, which again can take years. Add all this time together and it is not unreasonable to expect a single drug to cost a company billions of dollars to create, while taking up to a decade to even go to market. Hospitals are another often blamed culprit for the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. We have all heard the stories of people going to the emergency room for a look at an annoying cough, only to be slapped with a bill in the thousands of dollars. this aspect comes down mostly to an administrative issue, as well as a centralization problem in all hospitals. On top of this, the emergency room has in itself become known as an almost “ground zero” for the issues plaguing American healthcare. The ER is supposed to be used, clearly, as a place to go when you are faced with a true medical emergency. They are required and regulated to maintain enough professional personnel, diagnostic equipment, and supplies to handle any and every health problem which it may encounter. As a result, in my example of the thousand dollar bill for an annoying cough, the reason was not the visit itself but the resources needed to make that visit possible. Truly, however, all parts of the American hospital cost exponential amounts of money simply because are system lacks the organization to manage it as efficiently as we need it to.

As a system in this country, many would argue that the healthcare system itself is inherently flawed. One of the main arguments behind this reasoning is that private insurance companies, which in the past dominated the healthcare market, have the ability to determine which hospitals and which physicians they are willing to pay. In addition to this, often times they will simply refuse to pay for certain procedures. For many people who never purchased health insurance, the situation was even worse for both the patient as well as the system as a whole. This relationship held between the individual and this system can be illustrated in the following example: if a pregnant woman in labor was to walk into a hospital uninsured, what would the hospital do? Of course, they would have to care for the woman. It is in fact a law that they MUST care for this woman. (2) However, because this woman has no insurance it is very likely as well that she doesn’t have nearly enough money to even come close to paying the thousands of dollars needed by the hospital and its staff to carry out the procedure, in which case Medicare covers the cost. However, Medicare will likely not come close to covering the full amount needed. So then, who is responsible? In this case and in most cases, it is the hospital which must “foot the bill” so to speak. The hospital must pay for everything involved with the procedure, and cover the cost elsewhere. But where else can money come from? In truth, it comes from those people who DO have insurance. In order to cover the costs of those people without quality insurance, or any insurance at all, they must hike up all prices across the board. This reasoning is one of the main driving forces behind the Affordable Care Act. There is a paradox in this country that people without insurance are driving up insurance prices, which in turn forces less people to be able to afford and purchase health insurance. By forcing people to purchase cheaper and more flexible insurance from the government, many hoped that this cycle could be broken. In some ways it has. For instance, as of mid-2015, 11 million Americans gained health insurance coverage under the ACA, and the percentage of uninsured Americans dropped from 18% in 2013 to 11.9%. (3,4) While this helps, people fear that it will not be enough. By tackling all of healthcare, the government risks the possibility of bankrupting itself. Unless enough people take advantage of the program it is likely to collapse, the results for the national economy being devastating.

Now that I have given a background for the issue at hand, I’ll now attempt to evaluate the role of healthcare as both an archive of feelings in modern culture and a technology with which we as people have an ongoing and developing relationship. In “An Archive of Feelings,” Ann Cvetkovich related experiences of trauma to her own personal development. She writes that some of our most important personal and interpersonal growth comes as a result not of happiness but instead moments of intense stress or worry. She goes on to write that, “As a name for experiences of socially situated political violence, trauma forges overt connections between politics and emotions.” (5) For Cvetkovich, this trauma stemmed from the politics of lesbian and gay rights, and the toxic political discourse these things promoted. However, I believe and clear connection can be drawn between this topic and the topic of healthcare in America. For instance, both items detail the relationship of the government with our personal lives. In the case of Cvetkovich, the government attempted to strangle in many cases the feminist and gay rights movements, and in others it was often just the culture of the United States itself which attacked her. On the issue of healthcare the government and our culture alike also attempt to control what people can and cannot do; how we can and cannot live. We archive in hospitals, doctors, and nurses many emotions that we are unable to talk even to our own family’s about. Some of the most personal and emotional facets of our lives will take place in whitewashed rooms filled with men and women wearing lab coats. I think that for this reason, the healthcare system is one of the most unique in our current world. Few other places are concurrently so modern and open to the world while remaining secretive and silent for the people it serves. In “Alone Together” Turkle writes that, “We have to love our technology enough to describe it accurately. And we have to love ourselves enough to confront technology’s true effects on us.” (6) I feel that one of the greatest barriers most patients have in the world of medicine and healthcare is the inability to confront not only its abilities, but also its limits. We love the machines and pills that save us, but we hate the financial and emotional costs that they have.

Turkle wrote on technology as if it was a being separate from mankind, but one which we grow closer to each day. It was seen as a tool for our use, something apart yet integral to our daily lives. Medicine is very much similar to this, however I feel that in the near future this line of separation will grow thin. Healthcare as a whole is a monster in our modern world. It is a service which people need for their very survival, however it is something which can bankrupt entire families in the blink of an eye. Medical technology each year grows more and more advanced. Soon, much of modern medicine will become less a tool and more an extension of our own bodies. The consequences of these developments are some which humanity has never faced before, however there are facts on the table which cannot be denied: Our nation needs healthcare. We need it, and we need to change it before it is too late. It is something which impacts each and every person in our country and the world, and before we can reap its benefits we must come to learn how to control its consequences. Truly it is a problem which needs solving today, despite its true consequences not being felt until tomorrow.

 

Sources:

1) http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/downloads/highlights.pdf

2) 42 U.S. Code § 1395dd – Examination and treatment for emergency medical conditions and women in labor

3) Jenna Levy. “In U.S., Uninsured Rate Dips to 11.9% in First Quarter”. Gallup Polling.PMID 041815

4) Alonso-Zaldivar, Ricardo. “Number of Uninsured Fell by More Than 11 Million Since Passage of Obamacare, CDC Reports.” Huffington Post. 

5) Cvetkovich, Ann. “An Archive of Feelings.” 2003.

6) Turkle, Sherry, “Alone Together.” Basic Books 2011.

 

 

 

Final Paper: Nuclear Weapons Leading to Apocalypse

After gaining insight from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and hearing recent class discussions, I was intrigued to research more about Nuclear weapons and their potential to leading to human apocalypse. I have come up with the thesis that nuclear weapons are a technology of high power and have a strong potential in today’s society and have a likely potential to lead to the downfall of human civilization. Through analysis of the history of the making of nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons in today’s society, the impact of such weaponry, and the relation to class sources, I will explore how nuclear weapons could lead to an apocalyptic event in the future.

According to Oxford Dictionary, a nuclear weapon is defined as a bomb or missile that uses nuclear energy to cause an explosion. Nuclear weapons made their impact on society starting in the early 1940s. The United States turned a page in technology in 1942 with the beginnings of the invention of Nuclear Weaponry. August of 1942 was the start of the Manhattan Project in the US employed 130,000 individuals and spent billions of dollars creating the first nuclear weapon. This development would soon be used in July and August of 1945 when the US tested and implemented their Atomic Bomb. Equivalent to over 20,000 tons of TNT, the United States shook the world physically and mentally with their bold move of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

When considering the technology behind nuclear weapons, it’s important to explore the science behind it. According to Arms Control Association, “The first design of a nuclear weapon in the United States was a gun-barrel assembly, in which two sub-critical masses of very highly enriched uranium (HEU), were brought together by normal artillery propellant in a short gun barrel into a single over-critical configuration.” The world had to start somewhere in the creation of such a powerful weapon that it makes sense that they used a set up similar to weapons popular at the time, guns. The advancements in the technology moved rapidly and according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Most nuclear weapons today are two-stage thermonuclear weapons that derive their explosive energy from the combined power of nuclear fission and fusion. An initial fission reaction generates the high temperatures needed to trigger a secondary—and much more powerful—fusion reaction.” This starts to show how advanced the technology has become and all of the small details that goes in to such a large piece of machinery. Since the start of construction of nuclear weapons, there have been over 67,500 nuclear missiles built and over 4,680 nuclear bombers built all over the world. Nuclear weapons not only pose a threat of immediate explosion and wide-spread radiation, but there are also many secondary effects such as the contamination of all food and water supply, the pollution of air, and the destruction of power grids. This is not to mention the threat of a nuclear winter, a period of abnormal cold and darkness predicted to follow a nuclear war, caused by a layer of smoke and dust in the atmosphere blocking the sun’s rays. An article from Mother Nature Network states, “In 2007, scientists Brian Toon and Alan Robock concluded that if India and Pakistan were to launch 50 nuclear weapons at each other, the entire planet could experience 10 years of smoke clouds and a three-year temperature drop” (11 ways).
The reactions to this bold and hazardous weapon were dependent on the nation. In 1946, the UN attempted to create an anti-nuclear weapon act banning the use of such weapons. Their plan failed as the Soviet Union became the second nation to successfully create and test a nuclear device in August of 1949. As of 2014, a total of 9 countries are armed with nuclear weapons that can be launched within a minutes notice. Since the creation of the first atomic bomb, nuclear warfare has only been used as a form of attack twice in our world history. This was the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Although not used in harm, there have been over 2,000 nuclear tests conducted as more and more countries began to create their own weapons. . If we base numbers off of the amount of deaths caused from the bombing on Hiroshima, the United States alone has built enough nuclear warheads to kill 25,000,000,000 people between initial, immediate deaths and the effects of radiation. This makes nuclear weapons the most powerful and detrimental technology there is.

Nuclear weapons were viewed as a large threat in 1962 during the Cubin Missile Crisis. In October of 1963, it was brought to President John F. Kennedy’s attention that the US had obtained aerial footage of what seemed to b e a nuclear plant in Cuba. This lead to nuclear weapons being the largest threat of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Professor Ernest May writes an atrial about John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis and states, “Dwight Eisenhower (Kennedy’s successor), had calculated in 1960 that, if a crisis led either side to fire nuclear weapons, all humans in the northern hemisphere could perish. ‘Gravest issues’ indeed.”

Such rapid production of mass killing devices is a topic easily related to recent discussions and readings of Crisis and Apocalyptic events we’ve experienced in class.

Nuclear weaponry can relate to our reading of Oreskes’ “Collapse of Western Civilization” when stated, “In the prehistory of “civilization,” many societies rose and fell…” Although differing in the main topic, this reading can strongly relate to the effect nuclear weapons had on civilizations and society as a whole. This reading goes on to refer to actions being predictable and accurate which was very untrue of the consequences of nuclear weaponry in its beginning stages. When first brought about, nuclear weapons were seemingly unpredictable and risky. At the turn of the century, society is able to much more accurately predict what the consequences of nuclear weapons would be based on past experience. The world can assume the destruction brought about by such intense weaponry and can envision the world at its collapse with such technology, but no man can fully foresee what the world would look like amidst such chaos. After our discussion in class, it was brought to my mind about apocalyptic events and how the production and use of nuclear weapons could, in fact, lead to a self-induced apocalypse. The world has become a dangerous place with power put into the hands of people who are thought to be trusted. No matter what level of trust we have in those superior to us, there is always room for conflict. Today’s world is a dangerous place and seems to never have peace. I truly believe that World War III will happen within the next 100 years and that very little will survive of it. I also believe that World War IV will be fought the way original battles were hundreds of years ago and our world will begin anew. I truly do believe that the real ending to the world as we know it will be when Jesus comes to rescue all that is left of the world but I plan on further exploring how nuclear weapons could bring about an apocalypse of their own.

Early in the semester we read An Archive of Feelings by Ann Cvetkovich. This book describes the struggles and trauma of women as an archive. Oxford Dictionary defines an archive as a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people. If we analyze nuclear weapons as an archive, we can see more about their history and the effect they have on society. Nuclear weapons were created practically incidentally when splitting the smallest of subatomic particles and developed into a world-wide phenomenon of both safety and danger. In further analysis of this archive, we can see the potential ending, that being, an apocalypse. This potential for destruction is similar to the trauma being experience in Cvetkovich’s, “An Archive of Feelings.”

Apocalypse Never is a book written by Tad Daley that describes the reasoning behind why nuclear weapons should be abolished or our world will perish. Valerie Plame Wilson of firdoglake.com states, “Apocalypse Never is a frightening book to read but impossible to put down. In clear, accessible prose, Tad Daley unblinkingly lays out the case, point by point, for why we must ultimately rid the world of nuclear weapons or else suffer the inevitable consequences of the end of civilization as we know it. Daley then takes on the task of showing how this seemingly Herculean task can be accomplished, even within our lifetimes. It is compelling and accurate in its assessments and one of the absolute best out there on why we simply cannot continue along the way it has been.”

The topic of nuclear weapons is one that seems very “hush hush” and is not confronted head on as it should be. Many people know the possibility of their use exits but are too naïve to believe it will ever happen. Since there are not bombs being launched left and right, it seems as though it will never actually happen in our lifetime. On March 15, 2015, it was released in articles from The Independent (UK News) that Vladimir Putin of Russia was prepared to release nuclear missiles on the United States of America saying, “They (USA) helped training the nationalists, their armed groups, in Western Ukraine, in Poland and to some extent in Lithuania. They facilitated the armed coup” when speaking on the annexation of the Black Sea and Ukraine Crisis (Vladimir Putin).

Our world has become a very advanced and powerful place to live and it is not crazy to believe that one small instance could put civilization up in flames, literally and figuratively.

Works Cited

“Apocalypse Never – Rutgers University Press.” Apocalypse Never – Rutgers University Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Arms Control Today.” The Technology of Nuclear Weapons. N.p., 1 Nov. 1997. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

May, Ernest R. “John F Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” BBC News. BBC, 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

“Nuclear Weapons: How They Work (2010).” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

“Nuclear Weapons Timeline.” ICAN. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

“Vladimir Putin Says Russia Was Preparing to Use Nuclear Weapons ‘if Necessary’ and Blames US for Ukraine Crisis.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 15 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“11 Ways the World Could End: Nuclear War.” MNN. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

An Archive of our class Archive

For the final blog post I will look back and analyze what I see in our archive of essays/blog posts.  Rather than focus on going through and finding a trend in posts or dive into one aspect of our blog posts I want to focus on the entire archive.  Just scrolling down the New Writings, Technogenesis page you can see the plethora of topics we have created in our class archive by simply reading the titles of these posts.  You will find everything from ‘Horses and Farming’ to ‘Nuclear Weapons’ in our archive of discussions.

A majority I have seen deal with the technology aspect of our class as opposed to science in the biological and medical sense of the word.  I feel like this is an accurate representation of our class coverings as well.  A majority of the readings such as the machine stops, artifact politics and writing machines focused on the technology aspect of our class.  These had really interesting thoughts of what the impact is of how these technologies affect our perception and interaction with reality.  Which, after thinking about this, makes me question what the impact of the interaction we have created among each others creating this archive of blogs and now reflecting on this digital archive and summarizing it is?  I think it’s fantastic that our class has been so fascinated with technology like the blog on electronic asprin.  That really intrigued me because I enjoy technology as well as the medical side of electronic asprin and this would be a great technology for people who suffer severe migranes and headaches.  Another blog I found great was an evolution of the cell phone that showed how far we really have come with mobile phones and the implications each has had on society.

I find it interesting that we as a class used the tag Archive of Feelings more than any other tag to describe what we were writing about and that we are all ending our archives of our experience in science and technology in society with a final archive.  Was it the correlation of contributing our thoughts into an archive and therefore creating an archive of feelings or the reading archive of feelings was so profound that it related to so much of our class.  Or am I just reading into this too much, I don’t know if there’s a wrong answer because all three are plausible.

I am glad that we created our class blog to share freely our “archive of feelings” and opinions of technologies and science right now in our lifes.  It’s great that technology gives us this great opportunity to to archive our life at periods like these for eternity really.  Thinking back, what if our great, great, great ancestors had this opportunity, wouldn’t it be interesting to see their views of issues held up through time.  Well now anyone can see our classes views and topics from this semester forever, we can show our next generation and the next this is what my views were and how I felt at this moment and these were the technologies we were talking about at this time.

Collective Class Archive

We have created a rather extensive archive this semester on our word press blog.  This archive continues to grow every day with more and more post about a very wide range of incredibly interesting topics.  As a class we have most definitely answered the core questions of this course by analyzing so many different types of technology and there vast range of impacts on the society we all live in.  One thing I find very interesting about our collective archive of a blog is the way every single student brings their own personality, emotions, and writing styles to every one of their blog posts.  This allows the blog to create not only an archive of different ideas but an archive of different emotions and feelings like Ann Cvetkovich refers to in her Archive of Feelings passage.  This is archive of feelings is created due to the fact that the blog posts are very open-ended and this allows everyone to choose topics they feel passionate towards to write about.  When someone writes about a topic that they are passionate about or at least interested in learning more about emotion is very present in the writing unlike in a boring paper where one is forced to write about a topic they don’t care about.  Reading some the latest posts especially the ones relating to peoples final paper topics is very obvious how passionate and driven some students are to write about their certain topics.

In the remaining half of this post I would like to elaborate a little further on a one of the topics that stood out to me as I reflected on the blog as an archive.  The first topic that really stood out to me was the topic of bees.  First off just the fact that someone is analyzing bees and the whole system around using them as a type of technology is awesome and just goes to show how many things most people would consider technology actually can be considered technology.  Before very recently when I stumbled across some information about the serious declination of the bee population I was not aware that this was a problem at all.  Bees seem like such an insignificant creature and even a pest to many people.  There are so many different technologies in our society that are solely used to kill bees.  It seems that too many people are so worried about the bees invading their lives and are failing to see just how large of an impact bees have on our comfortable lifestyles.  There are many people that aren’t even aware that without any bees to help pollinate plants many of the fruits and vegetables we eat everyday would be much harder to find in stores, much more expensive if you could find them, and some may even be complete nonexistent in stores.  This topic is very interesting to me and truly makes me wonder why more is not being done to protect and replenish the bee population.  I am definitely looking forward to reading the final paper on this topic when it is posted to our collective class archive.