The Custom of Thinking

At Two–Four Billy Beck has this to say about my suggestion that he should consider getting health insurance:

I don’t know what any of you ever thought was going to happen to me. I had to explain something to Lynette the other night, which ought to be available to a moment’s consideration by anyone in the custom of thinking. I’m forty-nine years old now, Rich. When I come to face the first serious systemic medical crisis of the sort that commonly happens to human beings approaching that part of their lives, there is going to be no way in this world that I will be able to deal with it in the way that every blinking asshole on the street assumes that such things should be taken care of.

If Billy Beck gets a serious ailment he will need either to pay for his treatment, use insurance, or he may not get effective treatment – just like any blinking asshole on the street would have to deal with it. I’ve suggested just one of many workable solutions to his impending health dilemma. A 49-year-old male can buy a very decent health policy for less than $100/month in most states in this country. $1200 a year. Is it beyond the realm of possibility that Billy Beck could manage such a payment? Yet, he rejects the very idea of it below.

Beck III: Tell me something: what would you have me do when, say, a serious kidney ailment — like the one that my father had in his late-50’s — rolls up on me.
Beck III: Go ahead. Tell me.
Lynette: What did your dad do when he had his back in what, the 1980’s?
Beck III: The United States Air Force — according to their contract with the man for his service — shelled out about a half-million dollars to save his life.
Beck III: Do you undestand?
Beck III: Nothing remotely like that is going to happen in my life.
Lynette: http://www.ehealthinsurance.com/ehi/index.html
Beck III: And here is a fact: if I’d been left alone to produce…
Beck III: Of for Christ’s fucking sake: I’m ont even going to entertain that with a mouse click.
Beck III: I mean: this is just stoopid.
Lynette: You can get health coverage
Beck III: You’re delusional on that popint, Lynette.
Lynette: Far as I know you don’t have to be in good standing with the IRS to buy health insurance
Beck III: How the fuck do you think I’m going to pay for something like that?
Lynette: I don’t know
Lynette: You’d think of a way
Beck III: That’s right. You don’t.
Beck III: Like *how*?
Lynette: Landscaping
Lynette: You’re in good shape
Beck III: This is getting absurd.

29 thoughts on “The Custom of Thinking”

  1. I thought

    �if things hit the fan and I really needed a lot of expensive health care for some reason or another, I’d want all I could pay for and then more. And if I couldn’t guarantee that I could pay for it, I’d still want it and I’d probably swallow my pride and fall back on charity, or, , government programs. ¶ Which seems dishonest to me. If I know ahead of time that I’d probably behave this way, I should probably sign up for insurance so I know I could pay my way.

    a devil’s advocate asks me:

    How far are you willing to go with this logic? Should you get legal insurance because you might get sued and wouldn’t have the resources to hire a good lawyer or pay off a settlement? Do you feel obligated to insure your friends and family if you know that in the case that they were badly injured you would seek out medical care on their behalf even if you couldn’t guarantee compensation?

    Hmmm� That does seem to make things stickier. In the legal case, I think I’ve got an argument. For starters, if I do actually incur a debt, either through negligence or deliberately, then I consider myself morally obligated to pay it to the extent of my ability (and while continuing to respect other moral obligations) ‘ if I leave the debt unpaid then I’ve failed. So my intention is to live my life without incurring debts that I can’t pay. However, the best laid plans, et cetera, et cetera�

    In any case, I don’t see advice from the legal system as a particularly good way of determining my actual obligations. In some cases, extensive legal precedent is a good way of navigating the ethics of contracts and such, but the actual practice of legal decision-making is so clouded by bullshit and politics that in any particular case in which those precedents are applied it’s very hard to tell whether an actual moral obligation is being enforced, or if it is just the result of lawyers and politicians fighting over money.

    So in short, while I am concerned about inadvertently incurring an obligation that I might be unable to pay despite my best efforts, I am not as concerned as a moral matter about being unable to pay a debt that is imposed on me as the result of a legal decision.

    But aside from all that, as a practical matter, where would I go to get paying off any debts I accidentally incur but am unable to pay insurance?’ In the real world, I have to rely on luck and good intentions.

    Which begs the question of whether the same applies to health insurance, but I think there is a difference between the two.

    The question of whether I should insure my friends and family is more troublesome, because the logic is really very similar to what I used yesterday. Let’s say that my best friend is driving with me somewhere and we get in a wreck. I come out with a broken nose that my insurance can deal with, but my friend is comatose and in real trouble and is uninsured. The doctors ask me if he can pay for the life-saving medical treatment he needs. I say I’m not sure. They ask me if I will � I say I’m not sure if I’ll be able to. They ask if they should go ahead anyway. Of course, I say yes.

    By [some] logic, if I know I would do this, I should insure everyone I care about (or at least everyone who is insufficiently insured) so that I know now that I will be able to compensate those whom I may call upon to provide them life-saving care. Of course, I can’t afford to insure all of them � not on my tax-free low-income � which seems to be a possibly effective ethics attack on my [tax resistance] strategy.

    I’m suspicious, though, of any ethics attack that seems to say that I’m ethically obligated to try to earn enough money to buy enough health insurance to compensate everyone who may be called upon to deliver needed medical care to anyone I care about. That sounds pretty out-there. But I’m also reluctant to say it’s a reductio ad absurdum

  2. Beck’s right. I’m exactly the same way, and for, as far as I can tell, very similar reasons. Only difference is, I’m having to deal with a chronic medical condition that has slowly gotten worse and needs attention.

    When one pays for medical care entirely out of one’s pocket, it brings a very different perspective to the entire interaction. The best medical specialists are often the priciest, but they also tend to be the ones who have no fucking clue what their suggested remedies will cost. And, invariably, when I ask, they look at me as if I’m asking some horribly offensive question. After all, the vast majority of their patients likely don’t care, because their insurance will cover it. Ha.

  3. Moorlock:
    I’m suspicious, though, of any ethics attack that seems to say that I’m ethically obligated to try to earn enough money to buy enough health insurance to compensate everyone who may be called upon to deliver needed medical care to anyone I care about.

    You’re not ethically obligated to buy health insurance. I’m saying that if you’re concerned about not being able to get treatment for a serious ailment, then buying health insurance is a reasonable option for you to take.

  4. Lynette,

    You say, “You’re not ethically obligated to buy health insurance.”

    Since you have provided no qualifier to that statement I think you’re wrong.

    I think you are ethically obligated to buy your own health insurance or take some other steps to ensure you are not a burden on others. It could take the form of tattooing a statement on your forehead saying you would not help others in such a situation and that therefore you reject all such help from others. Otherwise you are acting as a parasite on the reasonable behavior of others. It is also reasonable for them to expect you to advertise your unreasonable position in such a way that they will know in an instant exactly how to behave in an emergency situation. The inner workings of your mind are not apparent when you are laying bleeding on the street.

    Under a reasonable man test you are ethically obligated to help other people in need if they are in a situation in which you might find yourself and it would be reasonable to expect help from them in such a situation.

    There are issues of the human condition such as fallibility, ignorance of others, inaccessibility of knowledge, rational ignorance, unintentional freeriding, that mitigate against what seem to be logical conclusions on what we should be allowed to do.

    You know, I think certain things should be legal like recreational drug use, suicide, abortion, etc. However I don’t think it should just be a matter of “It’s legal, go ahead and kill yourself, or your fetus”. I find it perfectly reasonable to require certain limits on such behavior. Not merely limits like saying it’s illegal to shoot your brains out and leave your blood splattered remains on someone elses property either. I think it reasonable to require you to prove that you are being responsible in your behavior when you do these things.

    I think the fact that others do have an interest in you is a no brainer. Under certain circumstances self destructive behavior does become the business of others. A person who has children, for instance, does not have the same latitude of freedom of someone who does not. If married that person has a moral and legal responsiblity to live up to the conditions that they agreed to in bringing that child into the world. It is perfectly reasonable for the spouse to go to the others to help force, yes force, the suicidal or drug abusing partner to get help. That is no initiation of force either.

    On such grounds I would also argue that a married woman does not have an unlimited right to an abortion.

    Moving to a different topic.

    The opinion I have of Beck based on the little I know of him is that he has painted himself into a philosophic corner. For some strange reason he thinks he has to come up with a complete and fully consistent moral system then live by it in order to live a full life. Not only that he seems to think that he also has to get everybody else on board, or at least enough to make a difference, in order to be happy.

    The problem with this, I don’t know what to call it, “moral philosophy” is that it is impossible. It’s impossible because of the nature of morality, and it is impossible because of human nature. Holding people up to impossible goals is itself immoral since it is not right to expect of someone something they cannot attain. So on a meta-level his philosophy is immoral.

    I don’t have a problem with him using whatever reasonable methods he wants to try to deduce a consistent system. However, It’s clear to me that after long study that every existing moral system has flaws and in particular libertarianism and anarchy do. Although I think libertarianism is better than most I find it a little bit more than irritating when the “true believers” rant about their ideological lessers. In fact I am of the opinion that it is probably impossible to come up with the kind of system he seems to strive for in the way he does.

    It’s not ethically appealing to me to read about how stupid his uncle is for instance. He acts like it is some kind of moral crime. It is a rare person who can come even close to working out a ethical philosophy for themselves. Even when one has the capacity it is not clear that the effort is worth it. Look at the many very sharp people who disagree on various fringe issues of Libertarianism.

    Some people have less brains if Beck wants to help them out morally he needs to come up with “rules” to follow that are simple to understand and do not obviously get you in a bad situation. It just doesn’t help to get mad at them.

    The point I have hit with Libertarianism is that I have politicaly and moral issues it does not and cannot address properly. It was intended mainly as a political philosophy anyway and not a moral one. I think it even fails in politics because it has become so dogmatic. It is striving in the right direction however Libertarian evangelists who think we have reached an end point are not doing anybody a service. It seems that it has become filled with politically correct crowd that resists any inquiry outside the realm of dogma. It has become about “integrity” which is just a code word for a sort of political religious intolerance and pecking order.

    I really don’t see how a smart fellow can dedicate himself to a path of behavior so obviously reckless. How does one not see that there must be something wrong in your philosophy if it gets you to this point?

  5. Sunni wrote:
    When one pays for medical care entirely out of one’s pocket, it brings a very different perspective to the entire interaction. The best medical specialists are often the priciest, but they also tend to be the ones who have no fucking clue what their suggested remedies will cost.

    I agree. A good health insurance policy gives you a much greater choice in your course of treatment. That’s a good reason not to reject the idea of looking to the insurance market for an individual policy.

    Millions in this country don’t have the benefit of being offered group plans. However, even factoring for the negative effect of government regulations in the industry, affordable policies are available in the existing market. An individual who’s on a tight budget may not get as good a policy as someone who can pay more, but $1200 a year buys a pretty good policy in the case we’re talking about now.

  6. You know… it’s funny. Billy occasionally talks about his interest in Native culture. And I noticed in the text of his remarks to Lynette that evening, that he spoke about something that the Lakota believe in. The “Today is as good a day as any to die”.

    He and I, were talking about it later..

    Somebody who squeezes every drop of enjoyment and pleasure out of life, is somebody who can say, firmly and with conviction “Today is as good as any day to die”. If you are living your life as a free human being… and you “suck the marrow” out of every experience you can… (like Billy talked about… having to *steal* these moments from assholes who claim ownership of him) then… that’s what that phrase *means*. )

    Only somebody who really and truly *loves* their life, could be as disgusted as Billy is, with the state of affairs that we all find ourselves in these days. It takes a kind of special passion to love something enough, to be aroused to that kind of intensity in defence of it.

    And that’s part of why I find the remarks by yourself, and Kennedy, and even Swann to be so very strange.

    I have absolutley *no* doubt in my mind, that there are things in Billy’s life that he enjoys, and deeply cares about. He talked about his lawn, and sitting on his porch drinking a cup of coffee in the morning.

    This was dismissed as unimportant.
    However, There is nothing *banal* in what he is talking about.

    I can see it.

    I have this image in my head of it…Early morning in Daisy Hollow: The skinny guy in the Hawaiian T-Shirt, Cowboy boots… paging thru a copy of some excellent novel or text, scribbling in the margins…. savouring every second of the solitude, the view… watching the little bird that he blogged about trying to rescue a few months back… smoking a cigarette, enjoying a good strong cup of coffee.

    Billy has blogged about *his* lawn. The time he has put into it. The enjoyment has has gotten from tending to it. He’s posted pictures of that.

    Then there are the other pictures that he’s posted… as well as the various experiences he’s blogged about running around the world with Rock Bands, and hanging out with people whom he genuinely values and cares for…

    You ask him about what he enjoys…
    I silently ask myself as I am reading this little text exchange..and subsequently now “Haven’t you been paying attention?”

    For now, Billy has his lawn, and the robins, and the coffee in the morning, and a few drags on his cigarette. He sometimes gets the chance to do what he *loves* most in life doing, putting together these amazing light shows for Rock Bands… and he savours every goddamn second of it with an intensity.

    For now.

    Anybody who has read his blog for the past few years, or knows him from the last decade on usenet has been given by proxy a “sense of life” from his writing.

    It’s funny when I think about it. I was considering zipping him off a copy of Hanta yo, after I saw that statement from him. But then I realized, upon further reflection that there was nothing in that book that he hasn’t already integrated.

    My native culture is a little different from the Lakotah. We had warriors, but we did not practice the SunDance. Nor did we practice The Ghost Dance. In our culture, somebody generally has to be a grandparent many times over, and lead a rather exemplary life, before they are considered a “respected elder”.

    What I realized as I thought more and more about this, is that Billy is a Sulqaueen (elder): Never had children… never had grandchildren… but he has lived a very rich and exemplary life. He is one my *Tsitlah*s (grampas) by choice.

    I started to remember things about my grandfather as I sat today, outside having a cigarette and a cup of coffee and watching the kids on the block play…

    I thought about this discussion came up about medical costs.
    And the ethics of this whole situation.

    6 months before he died… my grandfather’s liver and kidneys were shutting down. Diabetes had finally taken it’s toll on him. He had an infection, that he got from going out into the bush and chopping wood for his brother and stumbling in the bush.

    The doctors called us into the room to break the news to his son, his step-son, his wife and myself… that his number was up. That it was time to make provisions, set his affairs in order.

    We of course were all very upset. But he was very strong and stoic about it. I asked “Isn’t there something that can be done? A transplant? Or something like that?”

    The doctor explained that yes… that was possibly an option… but that my grandfather had told him that he did not want invasive and painful procedures if it was just going to prolong something that was going to end badly anyways. Ditto going onto dialysis. It was an option for him.. but it would not have really done much for him, and it would have meant just slightly more time, but much of that time sitting in a hospital room going thru dialysis 3 times a week, to say nothing about the invasiveness of the operation of putting the dialysis receptical thing on his arm

    The doctor left the room to let us discuss things in private.

    My grandfather, who had been driven by Ambulance to Victoria from Duncan, sat in the gurney bed… and he stared straight ahead.

    I said “Grampa.. do you want my kidney? If it’s a match.. It’s yours.”

    He grabbed my hand…. He would not speak. He just clenched his jaw and shook his head slowly once.

    That was the end of the discussion of *that* option. The ambulance attendants showed up awhile later to drive him back to the pallative care in Duncan hospital. My grandfather told them to let him go home. He wanted to die at home.

    A couple of weeks later, I tried to bring it up again. Donating a kidney.

    His final words on it, again trying to keep his emotions firmly in check. “I won’t have it”.

    It’s funny. Because when Billy says what he says… because of that experience of mine… I understand what he’s talking about.

    So long as their is life in his body, and breath in his lungs, he will continue to live the very best life that he can… and he will continue to enjoy every ounce of pleasure that he can squeeze from it.

    All he has said is… When my number is up… it’s up. And I’m going out with Dignity and *style*. I’ve lived my life on *my terms* and that’s how I’m going to carry on, right to the glorious or bitter end!

    Look… there were all sorts of things that my Grandfather, who was only 65 when he died, could have done to prolong his life a little more… but some of them would have required a surrendering to dignity that he simply could not bear.

    To see such a strong, big and powerful man like that.. reduced to having his grand-daughter help him with basic toilet functions at the end, christ…it was terrible for him… He bore it. But it was painfully hard for him for his strength to keep going, and for the pain that he kept experiencing more and more, as the toxins which his live and kidneys could no longer flush out of his system built up in his joints.

    At the end, he wasn’t fighting to keep living. He was fighting to keep his dignity. Anybody who has helped somebody thru the process of dying knows about what I am talking about here.

    There were lots of people who had never spent more than 10 minutes with my grandfather in the past few years before he died who suddenly showed up with advice on how he could maybe live a little longer by making changes in his diet… and then there were others who showed up in these final days who said things like “Who let him go out into the woods and cut firewood, all by himself, anyways”. They did not understand that even if somebody had wanted to prevent somebody like my grandfather from going up into the bush to cut wood… there was no way they would ever stop him. And if he wanted to be alone when he did it… nobody would be able to go with him. He was just that kind of a person. There was no changing his mind about something, once he’d made it up.

    I remember the exact moment that a *shift* occured in my grandfather’s attitude. It was not “giving up”. It was where he stopped being afraid of dying. Continuing to live in the condition he was in, was simply was worse than that.

    In Coast Salish traditions, the funeral dirge that we sing when somebody *leaves* for the final time… we say something that translates into “My life is better for having known you”

    Now… if people really respect another human being, the way I respected my grandfather, then you have to respect their freedom of action, their freedom of choice, their freedom to accept the consequences.

    I don’t see the *shift* yet, in Billy where it looks like the things he does enjoy, have ceased to outweigh the costs and the pain, and the pain of struggle.

    Furthermore… if I did see that shift… I don’t know what I could do about it. I really don’t. If somebody is really going to do something like that… there isn’t a fucking thing that somebody can do to prevent it.

    One of my adopted family’s cousin’s killed himself by jumping off the Burrard Street bridge last year. He was 32. He was good looking enough that he had been a model before. He was a journalist and a teacher. He had just been dumped by his girlfriend. His mother… bless her soul… is fucking devestated. I honestly do not know how she survived.

    My mother killed herself, by hanging herself with a babyswing from the rafters of her basement in 1975. She did it, very close to the anniversary of my final relinquishment from her, before I was adopted out. She left 2 children without any parents to provide for them, in my sister and my brother.

    I don’t need people “lecturing” me on the sensibilities of how ridiculous suicide can be or how actions like that can be motivated poorly.

    But I tend to suspect, that Billy’s contemplation of this matter is far more like my grandfather’s than my mother or my cousin.

    In the end… your life belongs only to you, and you are the only one should get to make that choice.

  7. Meaghan,

    “My mother killed herself, by hanging herself with a babyswing from the rafters of her basement in 1975.”

    Is that your final answer? Your mother seems to be whatever your tragic sense of life requires at the moment:

    “The police report says ‘suicide’. But I saw the house that she hung herself in, I talked to the witnesses. My uncle had taken a photgraph of the house the day before she was murderd, and the day after. There was blood all over the floor. Going from the cellar to where she was found hanging to the kitchen. It looked as if she had been dragged. She had bruises all over her face, and she was cut up pretty bad. A white yahoo who was in partying with the indians was let off. My family has tried for years just to get the case reopened.”

  8. Again, Meaghan, you manufacture your own reality to fit your position here to claim I haven’t been paying attention. You do that so often and with such obliviousness to impulse control that I wonder if you don’t actually believe the fantasies you create.

    mww wrote:
    You ask him about what he enjoys…I silently ask myself as I am reading this little text exchange..and subsequently now “Haven’t you been paying attention?”

    The real conversation is here for anyone who wants to look at it.

  9. “I’m satisfied he’s not complaining about it”

    Talk about “manufacturing reality.”

    When are you two going to take his stuff off your site?

  10. You asked: What are you so attached to in the homeland?

    Billy responded by talking about his lawn.

    Lynette Warr3n: The Americans you admire are gone
    Lynette Warr3n: lawn? A piece of dirt?

    Billy says: I grew up here. That might not be important to anyone else. But it is to me.

    Lynette Warr3n: Sounds positively Palestinian to me

    Billy continues Talking about the way the sun hits Daisy Hollow in the morning.. and his father’s work on the place, and his own investment in blood and sweat with the place

    Lynette Warr3n: I’d ditch my lawn in a heartbeat. Wait… I don’t have a lawn.

    Billy remarks about how he’s been all around the world and he loves to come home and sit on the back porch and drink a cup of coffee

    This just goes on and on.. Lynette.

  11. “The police report says ‘suicide’. But I saw the house that she hung herself in, I talked to the witnesses. My uncle had taken a photgraph of the house the day before she was murderd, and the day after. There was blood all over the floor. Going from the cellar to where she was found hanging to the kitchen. It looked as if she had been dragged. She had bruises all over her face, and she was cut up pretty bad. A white yahoo who was in partying with the indians was let off. My family has tried for years just to get the case reopened.”

    Let me emphasize this

    *my family has tried for years just to get the case re-opened”

    Having now seen the actual autopsy report from the Coroners Office in Nanaimo, including the picture of her hanging from the damn babyswing…I know better John.

    The description given by certain individuals on the reserve was simply not accurate. It seems that over a period of 20 years… people just passed on one rumor about the woman’s death… after another.. till there was a whole mythology around it.

    I *knew* when I bothered to post about something like this… what a HOWLING fucking evil spider monkey you were.

    But I did it anyways.

    Keep dancing John.

  12. A whole mythology?

    You mean like when you were peddling the idea that your mother died of activism

    “And… YES – I figure in talking to my Aunts and Uncles and Relations who have been involved in this kind of political work for the past 30 years… once you step out into the spot-light in Indian Politics.. Your life IS at risk.

    My mother and 12 members of my family died back in 1975. If you were Indian you would understand the signifigance of that year and also understand – that there is a difference between LIVING with very real and very legitimate *threats* to ones life, and security..

    …four years later?

    Yeah, you have a mythology going on there for sure.

  13. “And… YES – I figure in talking to my Aunts and Uncles and Relations who have been involved in this kind of political work for the past 30 years… once you step out into the spot-light in Indian Politics.. Your life IS at risk.
    My mother and 12 members of my family died back in 1975. If you were Indian you would understand the signifigance of that year and also understand – that there is a difference between LIVING with very real and very legitimate *threats* to ones life, and security.. ”

    You tell me when we got the coroner’s report John. Saw the photos from the offices in Nanamio.

  14. In 1996 it was suicide or murder as needed. In 1998 it was suicide. In 2000 you darkly hint as if it’s part of the Reign of Terror following Wounded Knee II. Now we’re talking about suicide and it’s suicide again.

    It’s always whatever you need to make your point.

  15. You asked: What are you so attached to in the homeland?

    I didn’t ask him what he enjoys. (We touched on that point earlier in the conversation and it didn’t require my asking.) In your cite, I’m asking him why he is so attached to a piece of dirt.

    If one has to leave a particular plot of real estate in order to make a living – that is, if the choice is to leave or die – then anyone, given the fact that he can still pursue his values and enjoyments in another place, would choose to leave. He would choose to live, not die.

    Billy responded with reasons that he loves his lawn, but he doesn’t give a sufficient reason accounting for why he must die for that particular piece of sod.

  16. “In 1996 it was suicide or murder as needed. In 1998 it was suicide. In 2000 you darkly hint as if it’s part of the Reign of Terror following Wounded Knee II. Now we’re talking about suicide and it’s suicide again. It’s always whatever you need to make your point. ”

    When did I get the Coroners Report from the Offices in Nanaimo John?

  17. Let me re-emphasize this point… in case it was missed:

    “My family has tried for years just to get the case reopened.”

    When did we get the case re-opened?

  18. I ask the question again, John.

    Considering all the questions about my mother’s death in 1975… and all the years that our family tried to get the authorities to re-examine what had happened… would speculating about what happened to her be wrong? Trying to figure it out? Trying to understand?

    When did my family get the Coroner’s Office to let us see what had happened? Since you are such an expert on this matter… you tell me.

    When did it happen John?

  19. I have absolutley *no* doubt in my mind, that there are things in Billy’s life that he enjoys, and deeply cares about. He talked about his lawn, and sitting on his porch drinking a cup of coffee in the morning. This was dismissed as unimportant.

    What he enjoys was central to our discussion (Did you even read it?) In fact, I initiated that part of it. When he asked me what I wanted (in regards to him)

    I answered:
    It seems to me you lead a pretty decent life. You write well. You communicate. You have as good a family as most. You enjoy beauty. You love music. I’d like for you to enjoy it more and be less dejected by weasels and chimps.

    Billy responded that he cannot live, however, it’s clear that there are many ways in which he can live without violating the principles he says he must keep. That’s where he’s got it wrong and the flaw in his ordering of values is outlined in that conversation.

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