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It's been almost five years since we left LA and moved to the South of France, but I still find reasons to be struck by the differences between our two countries, mostly be reading our local paper every morning while having a cup of tea.

This morning, I woke up to the headline, frontpage, bold, LES FRANCAIS PAS TOUS EGAUX FACE AU CANCER, meaning FRENCH PEOPLE NOT ALL EQUAL BEFORE CANCER.

It turns out that, yesterday, French President Sarkozy gave a press conference where he announced a second plan to fight inequalities of treatment for cancer. The newspaper article (in French) is here, but I'll translate some bits and comments below the fold....

FRENCH PEOPLE NOT EQUAL BEFORE CANCER....  My first reaction, as a jaded American, was, I confess, is this news?

I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but don't we take it for granted that all Americans are not equal before any illness? Isn't that the normal status quo, our baseline, as it were? Why is this news in France, I wondered.

My second reaction was, they obviously think this is deeply wrong, they see this as serious problem. Again, I'm a little ashamed to admit that I believe that a great number of our fellow Americans (present company excepted, hopefully), would not only see this inequality as normal, but also somehow "right".

By "right"  I don't mean that anyone wishes cancer upon anyone else, but they would consider that such inequality as part and parcel of life, one of life's basic injustices, not a societal problem.

Finally, my third thought was -- and the French takes steps to fix it. Now I have no idea if Mr. Sarkozy's plan is any good or not, but the will behind it is fascinating: people are unequal before cancer = problem = government intervention.

Right now, I can't help feel that the reaction in the US would be (again, present company excepted), "let the cancer folks take care of themselves -- why should I pay for them?"

In France, this is news, this is bad news, and they want to make it better, and everyone takes it for granted that this is the right thing to do.

What an amazing revelation.

Here is a translation of some of the article:


Nicolas Sarkozy presented Monday in Marseille the new government's Cancer Plan which will spend nearly 750 million euros in new spending to primarily reduce inequalities in health.

Couldn't put it better.

To reduce inequalities before that disease [cancer], which should strike 350,000 people in 2009 (+10% in four years), he promised the installation of 74 additional MRI scanners including 39 in the 10 regions with higher cancer rates.

Makes sense.

The risk of dying of cancer between ages 30 and 65 is twice higher among blue-collar workers than among white-collar professionals. "How can we accept that?", said the President. "Reducing inequalities will be taken into account in every aspect of the plan," he promised, announcing that 15% of the research budget will be devoted to the study of environmental risks.

The notion that a US politician, today, is going to champion the working class to the alleged detriment of our Overlords would make an excellent science fiction novel.

The 2009-2013 plan follows a previous 2003-2007 Cancer Plan launched by President Jacques Chirac, of which only a third of the 70 then-proposed measures was achieved.

Two thoughts here: obviously, this dreadful Good Samaritan ethic has been going on for a while (snark), and two, even if they don't succeed in everything, at least they have good intentions, which is more than we can say about a goodly 60% of Congress.

Then the article goes on about helping cancer patients with credit and insurance, fighting tobacco use, alcohol, and other causes of cancer, and encouraging healthier lifestyles.

But what struck me the most what that screaming headline, FRENCH PEOPLE UNEQUAL BEFORE CANCER, which spoke volumes about the attitudes towards health care in the two countries.

Originally posted to Lupin on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 12:22 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Merci, Lupin (7+ / 0-)

    Tipped and rec'd for the article, the translation and the information about French health care. The French are more concerned with who health care reaches and that everyone has the same treatment and access. The US should move to better regulate the insurance giants who have monopolies in states and deny life saving treatment becasue of costs.

    "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes" Wm. Shakespeare, "Macbeth"

    by TheMomCat on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 12:48:26 AM PST

  •  And Sarkozy is a Conservative (6+ / 0-)

    Sarko was reviled and feared among the French left for his "American-style" policies.  Anyone familiar with American conservatives knows how wrong the French left turned out to be.    

    I think the saddest part is the idea among our conservatives that we should preserve immoral inequality in health care because  that's the way it is.   This is the most un-American idea I've ever heard.  The driving force behind our country's greatness has always been the refusal to accept a crappy situation because "that's the way it is," from immigrants and revolutionaries to inventors and explorers.  We even invented a freakin' space pen instead of letting zero-gravity get the best of our astronauts' ink.

    Accepting a bad situation as it is... that's the Old World attitude.  If you have it, you need to shake it.  We cannot accept our failure of a health care system just because it's there.  

    •  The Russian's (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raboof, Mnemosyne, devtob, JesseCW

      had a really great space pen..a pencil

      "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes" Wm. Shakespeare, "Macbeth"

      by TheMomCat on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 12:56:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes he is (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lupin, devtob, TheMomCat, blueness

      and he is probably the most conservative president we had.

      Our socialist party (yes, you read it right, that's the name of our middle ground left wing party) is in desarray right now, this is why he was elected, and probably why he will be elected again.

      Be not discouraged. There is a future for you. The resistance encountered now predicates hope. Frederick Douglass

      by French Guy on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 12:59:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not the most conservative... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lupin, devtob

        Not even in the Fifth Republic.  

        I wouldn't overestimate the appeal of the modern Parti Socialiste... Royal did a great job rising above the party's internal confusion, which would presumably have hampered any post-election governing. But she still couldn't pull off the win, even though Sarkozy was very polarizing and even though everyone knew that the man he was replacing belongs in jail.

        The Socialists' problem is that their message and rhetoric is just old.  About 20 years past its sell-by date.  Deep down, their message has resonance, but the language they use and the way they frame their approach is out of date, and doesn't connect with a lot of French people.   The Democrats here have the same problem--- except for Obama, hence his grand success.

        In France, the popular impression is that the country is stuck in a rut.  Royal was proposing the same measures (like the 35-hour workweek) that failed miserably, while Sarkozy was proposing something promising, well, hope and change.  So people voted for it.  Just like they voted for the right in the legislative elections.  

    •  it's a nice story (6+ / 0-)

      but the america i have grown up in is an utterly can't-do society, and explains damn near everything the free market doesn't magically solve as the natural order of things that one can't do anything about. our levels of entrepreneurship and start-up companies are far below that of most developed economies, and our infrastructure and social service institutions are decaying legacies established in earlier generations. we pat ourselves on the back for social mobility, and yet have some of the lowest levels of actual mobility of the developed world.

      we love to talk smack about the old world, but we're far more sclerotic. we might not like it, but america today is in large part the consequence of decades of bipartisan conservative consensus. any departure from that will be a novel departure from our present country and the past several decades of history.

      surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

      by wu ming on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 02:23:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The republicans don't accept it because they (6+ / 0-)

      think that's just the way it is. It's worse than that. Many of them will actually admit that they think uninsured people deserve not to have health care. Basically, they think not having it is a punishment for irresponsible and/or lazy people.

      •  Co-signed! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lupin, devtob, ppl can fly

        I expanded on your comments in my post below.

        I really believe it has something to do with how the brain is hardwired -- whether or not it's capable of handling cognitive dissonance.

      •  I agree (6+ / 0-)

        I think many republicans think it GOOD that some people are uninsured.  Most of them won't come out and say it although some of the comments on Michele Malkin's blog were pretty cruel.  She had written a nasty piece on an ad that supported universal health care.  The ad featured uninsured children... and one of the comments was "Well what did that child ever do to earn health care?"  

        There are no words for how mean some of these people are.  I think if somehow universal health coverage could be totally free, and accomplished by the flick of a magic wand - many republicans would hide the wand.  They want people to suffer, because that "proves" to them others are inferior.

        explain how letting gays marry will directly affect your own heterosexual relationship?

        by bluestatesam on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 04:20:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This seems like a good initiative (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mnemosyne, devtob

    albeit somewhat misguided - because if you stay away from reports from the manufacturers, MRI is not all that (or maybe at all) cost effective wrt cancer.

    For example, here's one study.

    The French seem to be falling into the same trap that has besought US health care - namely, to throw money at technology that does not really improve outcomes . . .

  •  Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (6+ / 0-)

    The French take their motto very seriously, especially the equality bit. and

    by chloris creator on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 03:10:16 AM PST

  •  Maybe this will help (6+ / 0-)
    It all depends on your perspective -- if you believe that everyone is equal and has the same right to healthcare as anyone else, then yes, the French approach makes sense . . . but, if you believe in social Darwinism and the concept of only the strongest and fittest survive, then you're pretty much walking around in the head of conservatives -- and people born and raised in the South (I was).

    I was raised in Texass and Lousy-ana during the 50s & 60s and we were taught that the "unfortunate" circumstances that blacks had to endure were their own fault -- mainly b/c the laws of nature favored those who deserved to be elevated in status and power over those who were condemned to lead a life of misery, and no, I'm not making that up or exaggerating.  And all that civil rights "crap" was just that -- delusional mockery of the natural order and trying to change something that shouldn't be changed.

    It wasn't until I left the South that I discovered how warped the thinking (if you can call it that) and culture really was.  There was a whole other world out there where people dared to challenge the accepted order of things and could try to be whatever they wanted to be -- just like in the Dec. of Independence -- wow, how radical, huh? . . . which gives you an idea of how backwards the South was and still is (they believe the South won the Civil War, not the North).

    Southerners will never acceed to the idea that healthcare should be universal b/c it would mean that A-As are equal to whites when it comes to being allowed the same chance to life as they are.

    It's the inculcation -- but the younger generation is thankgod! leaving that idea behind, slowly but surely.

  •  Excellent diary. Thanks. n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lupin, Mnemosyne, Miniaussiefan
  •  The French understand (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lupin, hazey, Mnemosyne, devtob, Cassandra77, ybruti

    that for any group of people to be effective in reaching desirable goals, whether economic, national security or environmental, they need to work together.  And, people work best together when they feel they are getting fair treatment.  The Republican way of life, pitting various subgroups against each other, is the WORST way to achieve any goal.  

  •  I had a horrible conversation with a rich guy... (6+ / 0-)

    about just this issue. We were talking about health care reform, and as a rural family doctor I was asked my opinion on the subject. I of course strongly endorsed an openly available public option and universal care to ensure access for all.

    I was depressed by the angry resistance to this notion among a group of very affluent retirees. One was an extremely wealthy fellow who still owned a large company. He launched into a rant about how he had no responsibility to pay a nickel for care "for people who don't take responsibility for their own health. Just look at all those fat poor people smoking cigarettes, eating fast food and not exercising. It's not my fault they get sick. I shouldn't have to pay for their negligence". This from a former smoker who's had bypass surgery and countless medical procedures.

    I tried to gently explain to this fellow that a) the working poor can't afford to eat the asparagus and salmon he thinks they should, b) you're on Medicare, right? So those poor folks are subsidizing your health care through their taxes, m'kay?; c) They also subsidized your commercial health insurance because of the tax breaks for it you recieved through your corporate structure; d) and wouldn't it be great if your company's employees got health care through a universal government program, rather than through costly commericial insurance you have to partly pay for?

    He thought for about five could see the wheels turning...and he promptly returned to his 'blame the victim' diatrible against the poor.


  •  Merci, Lupin (0+ / 0-)

    and bonjour.

    Thank you for this informative diary.

    Sitting here, in the midst of all the screaming and yelling and hyperventilating over what will likely prove to be tiny incremental changes at best in the U.S. system, sometimes I just despair--some of our politicians, and citizens, don't seem to have the common sense that god gave a goose.

    The destiny of nations depends upon the manner in which they feed themselves.--Brillat-Savarin

    by Mnemosyne on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 07:40:10 AM PST

    •  Can you imsagine such a news headline.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mnemosyne a regional/rural paper anywhere in the US?

      I can't.

      And there's the rub I think.

      OVER HERE: AN AMERICAN EXPAT IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE, is now available on Amazon US

      by Lupin on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 07:50:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, I absolutely cannot (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        imagine such a headline here. Of course, I also can't imagine anywhere else some of the verbal garbage that's been spewed on this topic lately. Some of these people have extreme moral myopia and apparently are unable to see past the ends of their pampered and very lucky noses.

        The unedifying spectacle of a congress full of millionaires conspiring to deny to the nation's citizens the same quality and quantity of health care that they receive on the public purse, and that they authorize for Afghanistan and Iraq, quite blows my mind.

        The destiny of nations depends upon the manner in which they feed themselves.--Brillat-Savarin

        by Mnemosyne on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 10:25:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Also, an O/T question (0+ / 0-)

        re French law. Can you email me, in profile?


        The destiny of nations depends upon the manner in which they feed themselves.--Brillat-Savarin

        by Mnemosyne on Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 10:29:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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