Every so often, we at Occupy Healthcare receive an email asking us for a guest post spot. Sometimes these posts are great, but all too often they see the Occupy movement as an opportunity to hawk their wares, promote their services, or engage in other marketing schemes. The objective is to extract whatever value they can from publicity and leadership generated from social unrest, but ensures that the leadership of these movements doesn’t push for radical changes that could threaten the social order they depend on.
We are about change. We are about radical change. We are about continuing a tradition of struggle, learning from past mistakes, and synthesizing new forms of transformation and resistance.
We are here to Occupy Healthcare.
We shouldn’t seek to merely improve the current healthcare system. In our jobs, this is a noble goal, but when discussing a movement to transform healthcare, we should look beyond current paradigms to see how things could be. It is easy to get distracted from this goal, from those who would say that they don’t have a point of view, who say that they’re apolitical and just want to help people navigate the broken system.
These people do some of the worst damage, because they do have a point of view- a point of view which hegemonizes the status quo. They don’t want change. Not structural change. Not change that doesn’t fit into the national debate on healthcare(and forget about a global discussion on healthcare). These people do some of the worst damage because they appear to be allies of social justice movements, but when push comes to shove they abandon the movement to join reactionary forces. Martin Luther King identified this problem as it related to the civil rights movement in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
How do you spot these wolves in sheep’s clothing when it comes to healthcare? Here’s some phrases to watch out for-
Patient-Centered: The idea of patient centered has been covered well here, but it’s a phrase that in healthcare tends to mean, well, whatever marketers want to it mean. It usually means high-deductibles.
Disruptive Innovation: You can’t turn a corner at a health IT convention without hearing some variation of this phrase. However, disruptive technology without corresponding structural and social change has another name: an update. Don’t fall for the hype. Disruptive technology should respond to and support systemic change caused by social action, not the other way around.
Collaborative: This is a term near and dear to my heart, so it’s difficult for me to put it here. However, I am always weary when I see it because of a simple truth. Collaboration, without restructuring power dynamics, tends to recreate existing systems. Collaboration requires horizontal organizational structures to remain inclusive and collaborative, and this isn’t something I see often.
These terms are not inherently good or bad. They’re just… words. It’s how they’re used, and by whom, and for what ultimate purpose that matters to those struggling for health equity. We should claim these words for our own, and call out those who use them to “hegemonize” the status quo in healthcare.