Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Three routes to John Cusack and CS Lewis on lingerie and marriage, respectively

You know those times when the same topic keeps coming to your attention, demanding to be heard, often when you least expect it?   In the past 48 hours, I have been involved in three discussions on the modern state of marriage, all of which came from completely different routes, a 32 year old lesbian friend, my small group Bible study of married women, and a forty-something divorcee friend.

The 32 year old wanted to know why marriage mattered, why it wasn't just a piece of paper.  I gave her my standard bit about how sometimes it is only the fact that you are committed to the marriage holds the marriage in tact.  She answered, "Exactly!"  For her, the fact that the commitment of marriage might keep you beholden to the marriage was why marriage was bad.  Yasha came in at that point, poured himself a glass of wine, and helped me out with a discussion about the modern ideal of love and romance thinking about the self.  Moderns always ask, what will make me happy, what fulfills my life, and other assorted "what-about-me" questions.

The next morning, the same topic came up in my Bible study, though this time in the context of the Good Shepard.  One of the elements of the Good Shepard was that He, unlike the thieves and hired hands, looked to the good of His flock, not Himself.  When we got to the bit about applying the lesson to modern life, a young married made the marriage comparison.  I realized that what I said about commitment the previous night was true, but that Yasha explained why.  The commitment of marriage takes focus off of the self.  Once you aren't looking in the immediate vicinity, other pathways, other solutions can be found.

Then, came school pickup and a garden discussion with a recently divorced friend.  She has started dating again and, as one might expect, she is wary of commitment, but still longs for it.  She knows that marriage is in some ways a leap of faith, and having been burned, she is more afraid than she thought she would be.   (She has started a very interesting blog on returning to dating in your 40's, with children.) Yesterday, she made two interesting points about the man she has started seeing.  First, one of the reasons his marriage fell apart was the constant thrill seeking of his wife.  She was always looking for the excitement, parties and the like, while he wanted a more settled life; she went out and found the thrills.  That struck the same chord as the night before, about marriage being a dead weight when a compelling new thing comes along.  My divorced friend, however, knows the truth about "compelling" new things, that they are only compelling if you allow them to be.  She has this new man in her life, and once upon a time, at a younger and more innocent age, she would have "fallen" for him.  But for the moment, she is too scared to.  Her gut says he might be thinking the same thing.

Falling in love is not well understood.   Truly falling in love is a choice.  Yes, attraction and all that matter as such things bring another to your attention.  But the actual falling in love, that is a decision.  It just usually happens so quickly and/or carelessly, that we don't realize that we made it at all.

At that point, I realized that CS Lewis had said all of what I wanted to say, only much better than I ever could:
People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on ‘being in love’ for ever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change – not realising that, when they have changed, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one. In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not last. The sort of thrill a boy has at the first idea of flying will not go on when he has joined the R.A.F. and is really learning to fly. The thrill you feel on first seeing some delightful place dies away when you really go to live there. Does this mean it would be better not to learn to fly and not to live in the beautiful place? By no means. In both cases, if you go through with it, the dying away of the first thrill will be compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction. The man who has learned to fly and become a good pilot will suddenly discover music; the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening.
This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies.  It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go – let it die away – go on through that period of death into the interest and happiness that follow – and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them old man for the rest of your life. It is because so few people understand this that you find many middle-aged men and women maundering about their lost youth, at the very age when new horizons out to be appearing and new doors opening all around them. It is much better fun to learn to swim than to go on endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to get back the feeling you had when you first went paddling as a small boy.
Another notion we get from novels and plays is that 'falling in love' is something quite irresistible; something that just happens to one, like measles.  And because they believe this, some married people throw up the sponger and give in when they find themselves attracted by a new acquaintance.  But I am inclined to think that these irresistible passions are much rarer in real life than in books, at any rate when one is grown up.  When we meet someone beautiful and clever and sympathetic, of course we ought , in one sense, to admire and love theses good qualities.  But is it not very largely in our own choice whether this love shall, or shall not, turn into what we call 'being in love'? No doubt, if our minds are full of novels and plays and sentimental songs, and our bodies full of alcohol, we shall turn any love we feel into that kind of love; just as if yo have a rut in your path all the rainwater will run into that rut, and if you wear blue spectacles everything you see will turn blue.  But that will be our own fault.
(h/t to Meanders for most of the typing--looks like an interesting blog too)

In case CS Lewis is a little too heavy, the point was made almost as well in that John Cusack movie, High Fidelity. I give you the underwear speech:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tall Fences and Wide Gates

I originally posted the following last June, but I forgot to link to it in my recent immigration post.

Here is a good explanation of the spectrum of current immigration solutions.  But this one is my favorite.   I now use "tall fences and wide gates" all the time.

The Myth of Free Healthcare, the Southern Cross Healthcare Crisis

Southern Cross Healthcare, the UK's largest provider of elderly care is on the brink of collapse.  The bulk of reports and comments base their ire on the fact that Southern Cross Healthcare is a private company and that privatization is the root of the problem.  This is yet another example of a partially privatized or deregulated market appearing to the public as a problem of a free market.

Yes, Southern Cross is a private company, but the market is controlled.  The government is the only buyer. This was not a market where individuals could judge the properties, negotiate prices, choose the facility of their liking.  The way the NHS works, the elderly person applies for care and gets put where ever the NHS wants to put them.  There is no choice.  The NHS has many people to place.  They want to find the old person a bed so they can move onto the next application.  Southern Cross was able to do these lease/purchase schemes with inadequate focus on patient care because the government was obligated to keep sending pensioners to them.   They had the most beds.  That is, Southern Cross gamed the government.  It is easier to game an institution than it is a whole lot of individuals.

To be clear, I am not contending that Southern Cross is an angel of a private company.  On the contrary, they sound like a nasty lot.  I am contending that nasty lots can do more damage in a regulated market than a free one.  Contrast Enron's collapse, in which a private company's pyramid scheme destroys itself, another company, sees its officers in jail, and damages the energy sector and regional economies, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's subprime mortgage collapse, in which a public company's bad debt scheme brings down the world economy and yet leaves the naughty company and its officer still in power.   In a free market, Southern Cross might have been able to pull off this scheme a couple of times.  In a regulated market, Southern Cross has jeopardized 31,000 residents in 750 homes.  From today's news: [emphasis mine]

Care was privatised over the past two decades with the State becoming a purchaser rather than a provider. Instead of town halls running old people’s homes, they buy accommodation from businesses or the voluntary sector.
The Government is proposing to increase the purchaser/provider split within the NHS and opponents are warning that the same problems will ensue in healthcare.
Without doubt, investors see growing demand for some type of care arrangements. Politically, it has proved difficult for the State to foist costs on to residents and their families. This is good news for investors who can look forward to reliable income streams rather than having to attract private custom.
One financier involved in the market said: “The way that investors describe these businesses based on the elderly can sound very cynical to outsiders.
“The classic care home business will be created by someone involved in nursing and someone involved in property. They come together seeing a mutual way to make money. What people are becoming interested in is what they call the ‘dementia market’. The biggest nuisance to care home businesses are the relatives. When some complain, the perception is that this is because they feel guilty for leaving the elderly relative in strange hands.”

One comment somewhere in the articles listed below cried that the NHS needs to jump in and grab Southern Cross by the scruff of the neck and fix the problem.  With what?  The UK budget is in crisis.  This problem came to light due to budget cuts for elderly care.  There is no solution that doesn't involve private funds, either through higher taxes or personal funding of elderly care.  Free health care is a myth.

Further reading:

"Many old people live alone in houses that are too big for them. I know: I’m one of them. Across the country, this amounts to great unused wealth. The myth persists that we have the right to hold on to those assets even in our hour of need, in order to pass them on untouched to the next generation. Yet at the same time, the next generation is going to have to pay for our social care from their own income. We are going to have to find a way of resolving this paradox."
Finally, many of the reports and comments also allude to individual families needing to take more responsibility for elderly care.  Yeah, well, that was a lot easier to do back in the one income family Then, there was an adult member who could take on the extra task of care because or who could find a job to supplement the family budget for some hired care.  In today's two income families, the budget base is two incomes so savings and assets are the only ways to get extra funds and the adults are too busy to provide the care themselves.  The changes required to fix this problem involve far more than budget wrangling.