Ready for bed (and the political-orientation rant).

March 16th, 2006 by MrLuxuryFashionGuru

It’s just about 5.30pm, and I’m finally done with my endless Thursday.  Since signing out from work at 2am last night, I wrote a response paper (which got my first check plus, despite being based on only 1/30th of the assigned reading), completed a close-reading exercise, slept for five hours, and attended four classes and two sections back-to-back from 10am to 5pm.  Plus I took a midterm in one of those classes.

Embarrassing moments of the day:
First, when I fell asleep in the front row of my history class.  This isn’t exactly the first time, of course, but usually Devon pokes at me every now and then.  He told me after class that I was left snoozing for about twenty minutes (which I think is an exaggeration) because the lecture material didn’t appear very important in his estimation.
Second, during section for my English class, when I very uncoordinatedly took a swig of my warm, milky tea and managed to spill a fair amount of it down the front of my pale blue pullover.  Fortunately, everyone’s attention was focused on someone talking at the other end of the table (or at least people discreetly pretended to be looking that way), which allowed me time to use my scarf to hide the sloppy stain.

I can’t wait to go to bed, after Dins rehearsal, that is.  *tired*

And now it’s 9pm.

Oh, and I just wanted to get this off my chest after having been accused (you know who you two are!) of being a crazy-immoral-heartless-utilitarian-Republicanesque monster because the conclusion of the 30-page literature review paper I wrote for my economics class last semester was that “African governments should not fund general-access, universal Antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment programs”.  ARV treatments are of course the only existing pharmacological treatment for HIV-positive individuals, but universal ARV treatment programs are just one out of a slew of policy responses that African governments have to face the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  At some point I’ll post the paper here, but in the meantime, a bare summary of my argument must suffice.  I think that given the many (often unknown or ignored) complications and subtleties related to universal ARV programs (including dosage-adherence, infrastructure, and personnel requirements as well as resistance, monitoring and drug-effectiveness issues), combined with the breathtaking scale, scope and urgency of healthcare and other social needs in these critically resource-constrained countries, it simply makes no sense to spend any time, effort on money on these universal, state-funded ARV treatment programs.  These resources would simply be wasted because existing evidence says these programs do not and can not work (however defined), are far beyond the financial means of even the richest African governments, in fact make things worse and suck money away from more hopeful strategies and policies.

So for pointing out the glaringly obvious facts and suggesting that what little money, infrastructure and skills available should be spent on more targeted, higher impact policies being proposed (whether dealing with HIV/AIDS, some other healthcare goal or social goals more broadly), I get pilloried from the perspective I shall refer to (for lack of a more accurate phrase) as the “bleeding heart liberal”.

I have not often encountered this perspective so obnoxiously put, something I attribute to the general atmosphere of low-grade fluffy liberality that floats around campus and amongst my friends, preempting most significant conflict.  In fact, I have most often encountered the very opposite attitude, which I shall very crudely term the “right-wing reactionary”.  This is no doubt because of the interaction between the many Conservatives/Republicans in my life and the aforementioned atmosphere of low-grade liberality.

So here’s what I came to realize yesterday.  Firstly, I know I don’t like the “right-wing reactionary” attitude because it is often thoughtless, devoid of nuance, ahistorical, without context and displaying a willful refusal to consider, value or respect any perspective categorized summarily as “other”.  When phrases like “traditional family values” are declared as if their meaning is intuitive, universal and immemorial, there is never the thought of asking: “whose traditions? how old are they? why do we have them? what is a family? whose idea of a ‘family’? when did this view gain popularity? what values do we mean? are they actually ‘values’ rather than prejudices, habits or superstition? what do they actually achieve? etc. etc.”  In this context, “traditional family values” often simply refer to “idealized 1950s white, upper-middle-class, suburban, Christian New England family stereotypes”.  (Never mind that “Christian” is another term that’s similarly treated as monolithic and ahistorical.)  This combination of blissfully ignorant hubris and a defiantly one-dimensional world-view can be incredibly grating to identify.

Secondly, and in sharp contrast, the “bleeding heart liberal” is often so committed to completely assuming the perspective of the most relevant “other” that all other perspectives shrink, forgotten, into the background and are stripped of their ability to legitimately comment on and challenge the perspective deemed to be primary by the “bleeding heart liberal” discourse.  In this case, the perspective of the young African man with HIV becomes the only one that matters, and his voice is (momentarily) granted monopoly-rights in the discussion at hand, so that the voices of the old woman with TB or the young boy with childhood diarrhea cannot be heard.  And of course it is assumed that the economist, the epidemiologist and the social scientist, since they are not young African men with HIV, have nothing of worth to inform the conversation and are properly excluded.  Any attempt to try and consider all these perspectives holistically, coherently and in relation to one another is considered “utilitarian” (read: evil) and “heartless”. In fact, even if you had a young, male, African economist living with HIV, he would still not automatically be allowed to speak for the weakest, poorest and most hopeless of young HIV-positive African males.  Unless the young economist was the absolute and unqualified advocate of the most disadvantaged.  Ultimately, I find that the elaborate and absurd ventriloquism, mimesis and fetishizing of the singular “other”, coupled with a reckless refusal to consider hard choices under real constraints can be equally grating to deal with.


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