Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Touch, Affection, and Sex

With this post I am moving beyond our security needs to our needs for contact and connection with other people. I am going to start with the most basic, the physical connection that most people crave. I wrote a post about this last summer when I wrote about Love and Affection (7/28/09). In the post I discussed the work of James Prescott who documented the connections between violence and the lack of physical affection.

We all need touch/physical contact with others. My quote on last summer's post was Virginia Satir's statement that we need four hugs a day for survival and twelve hugs a day for growth. Which leads to the question of how many of us are lucky if we get any hugs?

We live in a touch phobic society. Touch is often used for violence, and this is a main reason for the social adversion to touch. Touching has to be done with care, communication, and permission in order to feel safe. As a result, it isn't done enough. I think most of us are starved for physical affection and real connection with others.

Advertisers prey on this lack of touch, affection, and connection to get us to buy stuff. I think that if we had more human contact we wouldn't need so many things in our lives.

There are many types of touching and physical affection and sex is one of them. We need nonsexual touch and we don't absolutely need sex (truly, if I had to choose I would take hugs over sex), but sex is a wonderful way of giving pleasure to another human being--one more creative way of touching someone else. Unfortunately, sex has too often been used with power rather than permission, leading to abuse of many kinds. Sex, as well as most other kinds of touching, needs to be approached with vulnerability--with asking permission and checking out what the other person needs. It needs to be combined with intimacy--but that is the subject of the next post.

Cuddle Parties--I have mixed feelings on this: on one hand it is a wonderful, nonsexual way to have physical contact with others and learn some skills around how to give caring, consensual touch, on the other hand I'm not happy that people charge for this since it seems another way to take advantage of the fact that pleasurable touch is such a scarce resource in this society; I only wish we could easily and freely give this to each other
George Downing, The Massage Book--Massage is a lovely way of using touch for healing and this book, first published in 1972, gives good advice on how to do it
Dottie Easton and Catherine Liszt, The Ethical Slut--While this book is a mainstay of the polyamory community, it has useful things to say to monogamous people as well; I think of it as a book on ethical sexuality that talks about how to be sexual in a way that treats others well
Linda Marks, Healing the War Between the Genders--While focusing on female/male relationships (and vice versa), the book has useful things to say about sexuality and touch in general; it includes a list of basic human needs that includes "nurturing, nonsexual touch and holding" as well as a mediation on this, as well as steps to work on a more "Integrated Sexuality"
Ashley Montagu, Touching:The Human Significance of the Skin--An anthropologist looks at the functions of skin and the necessity of our being touched; somewhat dry and academic, it also appears to be out of print, although available through libraries and used bookstores

Quote of the Day: "Sex really is a physical expression of a whole lot of stuff that has no physical existence: love and joy, deep emotion, intense closeness, profound connection, spiritual awareness, incredibly good feelings, sometimes even ecstasy." - Dottie Easton and Catherine Liszt

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Protection from Inequalities

While I can't (and wouldn't want to) imagine a world where everyone is exactly equal, we certainly could have a society with a lot more equality. Oppression (that's the enforcement of inequality) is something people need to be protected from; in fact, it's something I think we need to end. In order to feel secure, people need to feel that they will be treated equally and fairly.

Back in the segment on my own political theories, I wrote a post on Equality (9/30/08) noting there were many types of equality and also detailing the roots of oppression. We live in a society that seems to thrive on hierarchy and inequality--ranking everyone as to where they fit in the socially accepted scheme of things. To make people feel better, there is the notion that there's always someone below you. (I think of a cartoon I saw where the boss yells at a worker who goes home and yells at his wife who takes it out on her child who screams at the confused dog.)

The only way that I can think of to create a world of equality is to start acting like we are all equal--to respect everyone, listen to everyone, share with everyone, and love everyone. Real equality is going to demand that we live differently--that we give up what power and privilege we can and that we live with less so others can have more.

It's important to note that giving up power and privilege actually makes our lives better. A world of equality can be a richer, more connected world. Having the security of equality can allow us to move to the level where we can get closer and more intimate with others (stuff I will be blogging on next). It's hard to build real intimacy if people aren't equals. And much of what we need to give up, is stuff we don't really need and isn't good for us.

The process won't be easy--but it will make a world of difference.

James Cone, Martin & Malcolm & America--A look at the way that the visions of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X intersect and point toward a society of greater equality; it also covers the places Martin and Malcolm missed, particularly how in their focus on racism they didn't see how it connects with struggles around gender and class
Betsy Leondar-Wright, Class Matters--How class issues get in the way of movement building and how we can build alliances accross class
Moraga and Anzaldúa, This Bridge Called My Back--A classic book where women of color confront, not only racism and sexism, but issues of class, culture, and sexuality; a good way to look at issues of equality from seldom heard angles

See also my post of 10/4/08 on Egalitarian Resources and my post of 11/25/08 (Equality Returns) on Lisa Duggan's book, The Twilight of Equality.

Quote of the Day: "The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life." - Jane Addams

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Protection from Pollution

It's easy to worry about air pollution, water pollution, toxic waste, and climate change. Pollution is something that it is hard to be protected from.

So what can we do? For starters, we can stop supporting businesses that produce this pollution. It's not easy to do. Everytime we buy some cheap thing from a big box store, everytime we buy something with plastic packaging, everytime we turn on our lights, we are buying into things that pollute our environment. A major source of pollution that people don't even think about are computers (like the one you are on now) and other electronic equipment (TVs, microwaves, etc). Where does it go when you are done with it? Does it become electronic waste?

Much of the pollution and toxic waste is dumped on third world countries or in communities of poor or working class people or people of color. This is sometimes called eco-racism--although poor white communities, such as Appalachia, are also often victims.

The environmental justice movement is challenging this. One of the best ways to protect everyone from pollution is to stand together and insist the polluters stop--not only polluting our neighborhood, but all pollution everywhere. In an interconnected world, pollution crosses all boundary lines eventually.

Greenpeace--An international organization dedicated to protecting the environment by direct action since 1971
Rising Tide--A radical, grassroots, anti-corporate movement to oppose climate change
The Sludge Safety Project--A West Virginia group fighting the ways the coal industry is poisoning their water
The 350 Network--An organization of organizations working to build a grassroots network to oppose climate change

Also see my posts on Air (5/3), Water (5/10), and Waste (5/25) for more resources dealing with pollution

Quote of the Day: "While the Earth is poisoned, everything it supports is poisoned. While the Earth is enslaved, none of us is free." - Alice Walker

Sunday, June 21, 2009

***A Year!***

I began this blog on the Summer Solstice of 2008. Blogger tells me this is my 146th post. I'm not sure how long I can keep this up but I am determined to get through this series of what our real needs are and how we can meet them. Following the timetable that I've set for myself, this part should wind up around the autumn equinox.

And, partly in celebration of a year of blogging, I am proud to announce:

Bodhisattva Revolutionaries and Social Alchemists

Bodhisattva Revolutionaries and Social Alchemists!

This is a 'zine' that consists of a collection of my posts from last summer. The cover art (that's Emma Goldman, Audre Lorde, and Malcolm X done up as superheroes--which, of course, they are) is by Cam Wilder, an artist that I know. Why would you want to send for this (and pay me $2.50) for something you could look at on the internet for free? Well, if you believe in peak oil there is the question of how long the internet will be around...

Seriously, this is my way of reaching out to a different audience. Some folks don't own computers--either because they can't afford them or because they don't like them--and other folks, who may use and even enjoy computers, prefer to read longer pieces on paper. I travel on public transportation and generally bring a book or periodical to read while I'm on the bus or train. I know that some people bring their laptops but I can't imagine doing that. I also know that some people bring their laptops to bed, but I'd rather curl up with something I can turn the pages of.

I gave part of the history of my blog and zine in my second post (6/22/09) when I mentioned that I had the idea to write a book I would call Bodhisattva Revolutionaries and Social Alchemists. Although the ideas I wanted to write about are things I'd been thinking about for a long time (some of which I've covered in this blog), the title was relatively recent--and, in fact, partly came from a idea I had a couple of years ago to put up a website that would support activists and social change people that I was going to call SASS--the Social Alchemists Support Society. In some ways that website was what this blog became. I only hope that some of these last 146 posts have been useful to people. That is still what this blog is about: "Offering Some Tools for Creating a World that Works for Everyone".

Anyone who wants a copy of the zine, please send a check for $2.50 (US dollars) to MoonRaven, c/o Spirit Movers Enterprises, 50 Churchill Ave, #320, Cambridge, MA 02140 and I will send you the first issue. (Please note, this is not my address. Spirit Movers Enterprises has simply agreed to pick up my mail and help distribute the zine.) I am hoping to have a second issue out in time for the autumn equinox.

Quote of the Day: "There are no new ideas, just new ways of giving those ideas we cherish breath and power in our own living." - Audre Lorde

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Protection from Poverty

This is the big fear that corporate capitalism holds over our heads: if we don't follow the rules, we might become destitute. People actually talk about how many pay checks they are away from poverty.

Betsy Leondar-Wright (in her excellent book, Class Matters) defines people in poverty as: "A subset of working who chronically can't get income sufficient to cover all their basic needs."

She goes on to cite the following as 'signs' of poverty:
* Substandard housing or homelessness
* Long-time use of public benefits, such as welfare, or charity
* Chronic lack of health care, food, or other necessities
* Frequent involuntary moves, chaos, and disruption of life

I hope that this makes it very clear that simple living (see my post of 9/24/09) is not the same as poverty. You can live very simply and not be poor. Poverty is about not being able to meet your basic needs.

In a sense, this whole series is about protection from poverty--that is, being able to meet all our real needs. Money, contrary to what this society teaches, isn't one of those needs. If you are or can meet most or all of the needs I've been listing, you aren't poor.

Unsurprisingly, to anyone who has been following this blog, I think that community is a better protection against poverty than money. The more we share, the less each of us needs, and the more we can support each other.

In an early post (7/8/08) I talked about Participatory Economics, as well as Starhawk's overview of what we would need from a good economic system. As I've read more and participated in more things and surfed the further reaches of the internet, I've found other interesting economic systems. Two that stand out are Solidarity Economics and the 'Gift Economy'. Whatever you think of these approaches, they make it clear that our present economic system is far from the only game in town.

The important point is, that as we think about our needs (about everyone's needs) and how to meet them, we are thinking about how to create a world without poverty, a world where no one will have to worry about poverty.

Common Security Clubs--An attempt to create economic security through mutual aid and local action; they begin with facilitated study groups that then can go off on their own
Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin, Your Money Or Your Life--A program for achieving financial independence that deals with the way that consumerism ruins our lives and the earth and advocates nine steps to increase financial security; Vicki Robin is now involved with the transition movement (I blogged about Transition Towns on 10/16/08), I was just at a meeting where she was the guest speaker
Parecon--An extensive website for the Participatory Economics model; see my post of 7/8/08 for more details
Starhawk, Webs of Power--Contains a chapter on "What We Want: Economy and Strategy for the End Times" which has her views on how the economy could create security and abundance
Time Banks--An attempt to get beyond using money as people trade services with each other; this is a growing, world-wide movement

Quote of the Day: "Money was once a tool, not a commodity. We created money to facilitate the exchange of goods, an exchange that could be accomplished any number of ways. Gradually, though, money has become one of our main measures of worth. ...we have traded webs of relationships with communities, places, and the Earth for the transient search for the dollar. ... We have become commodities to be bought and sold. If we lose whatever money we have, we truly are destitute; we have nothing to fall back on.
"But ... if we can relearn our place and purpose, we can begin to assuage our fear and to see new possibilities." - Susan Meeker-Lowry

Monday, June 15, 2009

Protection from Violence

My last two posts on protection from war and crime bring up the issue of protection from violence in general. For those of us imagining living in a post-oil, post-industrial society, this is more than just a theoretical discussion. An issue as we try to figure out how to meet everyone's needs is how to cope with those people who will try to use power and violence to meet their needs.

No one can promise complete protection from violence--unfortunately,that kind of safety is an impossibility. Years ago, when I worked in a psychiatric hospital, I was trained in nonviolent ways of dealing with out of control patients. The trainer commented he often got questions about what if the patient comes at you in this violent way or that violent way, and while he often had answers, there comes a point where there's not much you can do. He joked that when someone pulls out machine guns and nuclear weapons, there isn't a manuever to deal with it.

A lot of what those trainings were about were how to deal with and de-escalate situations so they don't become violent in the first place. This is a good thing to know. One way to avoid violence is not to provoke it. If someone becomes threatening, back off.

A good way to have protection from violence is to have a good attitude. Buddhist scripture claims that if you do 'Loving Kindness' meditation (where you wish everyone--and that means absolutely everyone--well) "Devas will protect you" and "External dangers will not harm you". While I doubt that doing the meditation will make you invulnerable, I don't doubt that it changes your attitude so significantly that those around you will change their behavior toward you. A great example of how this works is the Frances Moore Lappé story I referenced in my last post (but I told the story in my post of 8/11/08). The kindness, generosity, and forgiveness that the reverend showed his attackers got them to save his life.

In line with this, learning things like nonviolent communication, 'verbal self-defense', and general nonviolence training may be very useful--especially when it comes to de-fusing a potentially violent situation. Having some type of martial arts training (particularly Aikido, which is a explicitly nonviolent art) may also be helpful to prevent violence. The training in self control, particularly in difficult and challenging situations, may be invaluable.

Ultimately, I believe that living simply, having an open, caring, generous attitude, and practicing loving-kindness toward all, may be the best protection from violence.

aikido.com--A place to start for information on aikido; includes links to other sites and ways to locate a 'dojo' near you
Suzette Haden Elgin's Verbal Self Defense Home Page--A web page devoted to the 'The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense', a model to deal with verbal violence developed by a linguist
Pam McAllister, Reweaving the Web of Life--A collection of articles by many writers exploring the intersection of Feminism and Nonviolence; it includes pieces on Assertiveness, Physical Resistance to Attack, and Nonviolent Self Defense
Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication--A communication model that focuses on getting everyone's needs met and responding honestly, even in hostile situations, without attacking the other person; there is a Center that offers trainings and resources in this method
Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness--An American Buddhist teacher lays out the practice of metta (loving-kindness meditation)

Quote of the Day: "Common sense as well as nonviolent principle dictate that an aggressive response to threat is the last choice for self-defense. Any physical response by the victim is likely to be perceived as violence by the attacker, and the defender should use the least amount of force necessary to stop the attack." - Pat James

Friday, June 12, 2009

Protection from Crime

Crime is the best example of how conservatives have highlighted and often manipulated fear around protection issues. Aside from attacking liberals for wanting taxes (playing into people's fear of falling into poverty), their biggest claim is that liberals are 'soft on crime'. I think that many progressives and even radicals are uncertain where to go with this issue.

Crime is first of all a social problem. The root causes are complex and there isn't a single, simple solution. A lot of this lies in a society that values money and property over connections between people. In a sense, the conservatives are correct that there are moral issues behind this. That doesn't, however, deal with the issue of how to prevent crime and how to respond to crimes when they are committed.

From a social point of view, I suspect that education, connection, and better access to resources would do a lot to prevent crime, but at this point I think we need to look to ourselves. A first thing to do is to develop some sense of street smarts. The National Crime Prevention Council has an information sheet on basic street smarts that begins with: "Wherever you are - on the street, in an office building or shopping mall, driving, waiting for a bus or subway - stay alert and tuned in to your surroundings. Send the message that you're calm, confident, and know where you're going. Trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or leave. Know the neighborhoods where you live and work. Check out the locations of police and fire stations, public telephones, hospitals, and restaurants, or stores that are open late." As far as I'm concerned, this is all good practice.

If you are confronted with someone who wants money from you, give it to them. Some people who have resisted robbery have succeeded, but many others have ended up injured or dead. (I also think that not having much money and stuff and not being attached to what we have is useful for a lot of reasons, but this is one.) Having a caring attitude toward those who attack you is difficult but at least will make you feel better and may even improve the situation. (See my post of 8/11/08 for Frances Moore Lappé's story of the African clergyman who not only forgave those trying to attack him but tried to give them his possessions.)

Recently, President Obama said that a quality he was looking for in a supreme court justice was 'empathy'. Empathy is something I admire but conservatives hit the roof. From their point of view, empathy is the last thing they want to see in a judge. Why? Because they fear that an empathic judge would side with the criminal rather than the victim. They want to see the criminal punished and the victim receive justice.

I want to see the victim receive justice as well--but I'm not sure that punishment is the way to do it. Here is some of what I found after searching the internet:

Behaviorists have long pointed out that while punishment works, to some degree, positive reinforcement works better, and punishment often results in responses such as anger and resentment. Because of this, it can actually provoke increased aggression. Not exactly the response we are looking for.

There is lots of research to indicate 'deterrence' (the threat of punishment) doesn't work--there was a study that showed 83% of men convicted of bank robbery and street mugging didn't believe they would be caught. Another study showed 63% of those with felony convictions returning after being released from prison. In fact, lots of research studies show that imprisonment actually increases the likelihood of increased tendencies toward criminal behavior. While rounding up and imprisoning anyone caught committing a crime often stops a crime wave temporarily, when they are released there is often a rebound crime wave. (We are seeing this in Boston now.) Unless we are willing to lock up people indefinitely, there has to be another way.

Research supports the idea the most effective way to cut this circle is education. In a study, 35% of people on probation that had literacy training were rearrested whereas 46% without such training were rearrested. Further, those who got the equivalent of a high school diploma only had a rearrest rate of 24%. Inmates who got college degrees had a 10-15% rearrest rate (depending on the study) and in at least one study no one who got a master's degree returned to prison.

Other types of rehabilitation programs also work, if they teach problem-solving skills, help build interpersonal relationships and empathy, teach respect, provide models of ordinary folks who do well without turning to crime, build connections with community resources, and offer ongoing support services. Some conservatives point to a paper from the seventies that looked at all the research studies at that point to date and couldn't reach a conclusion on whether rehabilitation worked. The conservatives interpreted that to mean 'nothing works'. Further research has shown that the problem is that not all rehabilitation programs work. The ones that work have most, if not all, of the components indicated above.

One way of dealing with both offenders and victims is what is called Victim Offender Reconciliation Programs. These provide an opportunity for people who are victims of crimes to face those who wronged them. This is part of a broader model known as restorative justice which is quite different from our present 'justice' system. The Wikipedia article on restorative justice highlights the differences: "Our present system of justice asks, '1. What laws have been broken?, 2. Who did it?, 3. What do they deserve?', whereas restorative justice asks, '1. Who has been hurt?, 2. What are their needs?, 3. Whose obligations are these?'"

Finally, I believe that forgiveness is an important part of healing the pain of a crime. (See my post of 8/7/08 for some good examples.)

We need to deal with crime in order for people to feel safe, but I think we need to find new ways of dealing with crime.

Michelle Maiese, "Restorative Justice"--A good introduction to the concepts of restorative justice.
Murder Victims' Families For Human Rights--Opposition to the death penalty from the group hardest to argue with.
Street Smarts--The clearest version of the list I could find, courtesy of the Elk Grove, CA, Police Department. They don't list the source, but the identical list on another site says: "source: National Crime Prevention Counil" (sic)
VORP--A page full of information on Victim Offender Reconciliation Programs and restorative justice with links to even more information

Quote of the day: "Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution of today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime." - Emma Goldman

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Protection from War

At this point I'm moving from creating security by having things, to creating security by protecting us from things. This is territory often claimed by conservatives who mine fear for votes: 'We need a strong defense or we'll be invaded', 'We need a strong police force or we'll all be crime victims', 'The only thing that keeps you from being taxed into poverty is...', etc. But we can't leave these issues to the conservatives. Protection is a legitmate concern and we need to deal with it.

I'm going to start with protection from war, familiar territory to those on the left (and the right). But it's not enough to declare that war is wrong; we need alternatives.

The first and most basic way is to look at the causes of war. One of these is often economic inequities (and sometimes just plain greed). If we reduce what we need and there is more to go around, this reduces the inequalities that can lead to war. Also, if we have less, there is less for others to want and less incentive for others to attack to get what we have.

A second step is to listen and negotiate. Posturing and threatening is more likely to lead to war than careful diplomacy. 'I'm right, you're wrong' positions are often preludes to conflict. I'm not suggesting total appeasement, just that some wars, ironically, are fought to save face when bluster fails. At least, we need to figure out if there is a way that both sides can get what they want.

When all else fails, there is Civilian Based Defense (also known as Transarmament or Nonviolent Warfare). While it sounds idealistic and unrealistic, CBD theorist Gene Sharp has documented 198 methods of nonviolent action, each of which has been actually used--and Sharp gives examples.

It may hard to believe that any government would take this seriously but authoritarian regimes around the world fear it and military instructors in Taiwan teach it. And opposition activists in many countries have used the information to topple dictatorships.

Like many other things, it takes two to fight a war and a major way to protect against one is not to oblige.

Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall, A Force More Powerful--Companion book to the PBS documentary, it documents the use of nonviolence as a weapon in the 20th century. Besides the book and film, there is also a computer game
The Albert Einstein Institution--Gene Sharp's homebase, filled with useful information and a source for his books, including Civilian-Based Defense, his classic The Politics of Nonviolent Action (Three volumes and volume 2 is devoted to detailing the use of those 198 methods of resistance), and his latest, Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential. You can also download lots of his work from this site
Robert A. Irwin, Building a Peace System--The requirements of what it would take to create an international peace system
NoAdversary--an independent alternative media experiment trying to create a 'Culture of Peace'; affiliated with Canada's 'Peace Cafés'

Quote of the Day: "Peace is a resistance to the terrible satisfactions of war." - Judith Butler

Saturday, June 6, 2009

People Who Need People

One of the greatest securities we can have is knowing that there will be others there for us when we need it. Conversely, we fear that we won't have the help we need when we need it. Building a world that works for everyone means building a world where we all take care of each other.

I'm not talking yet about connection and compassion and community. I'm talking about the simple, basic security of knowing someone is there. 'People who need people' are only lucky people if someone is there for them. For this to work, we need to be able to be there for others. The more of us that are out there trying to help others, the more chance that there will be someone there to help.

But helping people has its drawbacks. I'm all for soup kitchens and homeless shelters and other ways to help people in need, but there still seems to be a hierarchy at work with institutions like these. 'Us' helping 'them'. I liked the homeless veteran's idea of tent cities where the homeless could grow their own vegetables. I like the Food Project's work on helping to create inner city gardens. We all need help sometimes but we don't want to create unnecessary dependencies. Sometimes people are in a place where they can only be dependent, but usually there is something they can do as well and they will feel better (and more secure) if they think they are doing their share. We could be helping each other; there is a balancing act here.

It's also a balancing act in making sure that 'helpers' don't neglect their own needs. While there are many ways in which helping others can be a part of our own learning and growth, burning out and co-dependent enabling can also be pitfalls for those helping. It's another good reason for creating egalitarian helping relationships. Taking care of each other can be a complex, multi-layered process.

Of course, any helping is better when compassion, connection, and community are involved, but I will get to those things soon.

Catholic Worker Movement and Food Not Bombs--Two groups that few people would lump together, but both are anarchist movements that combine a radical analysis of what's wrong with this society with a dedication to service, especially feeding the hungry
Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, How Can I Help?--A book of "Stories and Reflections on Service", full of challenging and sometimes helpful guidance; a very condensed, 'digested' version is available online and though I think it may be out of print, the book is available from used book stores as well as Ram Dass Tapes
The Food Project--Works to makes sure that everyone gets food (locally grown food) and can grow it if they want and at the same time supports young people in taking leadership around creating sustainable food systems
Two blogs of note by people who truly give service are Michaelann Land from an advocate and activist for the homeless who once was homeless herself and Robyn Coffman who lives and works with troubled young folks and gives enormously of herself. Each of them is an inspiration.

Quote of the Day: "...helping to relieve the suffering of our fellow beings (including our planet) is not only of benefit to others but is deeply satisfying, good for us, and fun." - Ram Dass

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Regular Medical Care

Like land and affordable housing, regular medical care should be a given--but in this country it seems like we have to fight for decent healthcare. And with peak oil and/or economic downturns, decent healthcare may turn out to be something quite different from the high tech industry that dominates healthcare now.

I need to say that my background is in conventional medicine. I've worked for over 20 years in hospital settings. While I appreciate alternative health approaches, I am firmly grounded in the 'western, allopathic' medical model. Still, I think most people have little understanding of its main message. A lot of it is common sense. While pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures get the attention (because this is a profit oriented culture), what I've learned from the world of medicine and nursing is that the most important things you can do to stay healthy are to eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, limit stress, rest and sleep as needed, and enjoy life. Like I said, common sense--but how many people in this society do it--or can do it?

The medical treatment of the common cold is still to simply drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. With all the antibiotics on the market, the infection control nurses I have known just repeat: "Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands." In fact, scientific medical studies point out that widespread overuse of antibiotics is actually creating a worsening disease situation. The antibiotics wipe out all but the most resistant germs--thus breeding drug resistant germs. Medical authorities (for this reason) advise washing your hands with plain soap (which just sends the germs down the drain) and not with antibiotic soaps.

So a healthy society is going to be one where we take care of ourselves--and take care of each other. Personal and physical connections actually enhance health. And the healthier we are, the less we need expensive medical care.

It may be in the future that regular healthcare will consist of taking care of ourselves and having general practitioners around to help us when we need it--as specialists and high tech medicine become luxury items that will fade away.

Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves--The classic book on women's health and sexuality information
Brian Clement, Living Foods for Optimum Health and Hippocrates Health Program--My raw food friends recommend this approach for maintaining your health
The Hesperian Foundation, Where There Is No Doctor--A classic book with a 2009 edition (and some of it is available online through their website) that's filled with useful information, including chapters on 'Healing without Medicines', 'Right and Wrong Use of Modern Medicine', 'How to Take Care of a Sick Person', and much, much more
Wynn Kapit and Lawrence M. Elson, The Anatomy Coloring Book--A great way to learn more about your body
Merck Manual--One of the best known medical reference books, it's expensive but it can be gotten from libraries or buy a used, out of date edition; the company (a major drug manufacturer that has been turning out these manuals since 1899) also publishes a fairly inexpensive Manual of Medical Information that is meant for the general public and written "in everyday language"--but I'm not sure the quality of the information is as good
Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz, You:The Owner's Manual--An irreverent guide to your body with the authors' ideas of health advice added
Mike Samuels and Hal Bennett, The Well Body Book--Out of print 1973 classic on how to take care of yourself; another more recent version (Mike Samuels and Nancy Samuels, The Well Adult, 1988) is also out of print--but these books may be available in libraries or used bookstores

Quote of the Day: "The best six doctors anywhere, And no one can deny it, Are sunshine, water, rest, and air, Exercise and diet." - Nursery rhyme