First off, I apologize for never getting around to correcting the spelling of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s name in the last blog I posted. The summer got busy and I lost track.
Second, I have pretty much concluded that I have nothing useful to say about race in this abstract space of the blogosphere, so I’ll keep my conversations on the subject to my classroom, my friends, and to sharing positive informational memes on FB. Otherwise, I will make a point of being aware of the extent of my privilege and doing whatever work comes my way.
I don’t know how much more I have to say about being fat. I’m still fat. It still sort of sucks. The world is still an ass on the subject–though there’s some hope in more and more fat people standing up for themselves and their bodies. I’ve just said a great deal of what I had to say on the subject and am not willing keep repeating myself in a loop. Especially since I feel a great upwelling of interest in myself in making peace with my body instead of treating it and its longings like my ugly-intentioned cousins. When I have something new to say, you’ll surely hear it. I’ll know it’s time to truly shut up on the subject when Kim Davis being fat isn’t seen as an indicator of her being an undereducated narcissist with a martyr complex.
But the body, oh the body, that there is endless material still to comment on, think about, weep for, fight for. From the death penalty to Eritrea, from the constant commodification of beauty standards to gun laws, to the treatment of border-crossing human bodies as disposable–the body and how we humans treat it is a tragically endless conversation.
So for today I want to talk about the medicated body. And Martin Shkreli, who unfortunately for him has a face that seems, as nearly as I can tell, that was made for sneering and smugness. I wonder whether folks would be attacking him with such fervor if he “looked” like a “nice guy?” I can conceive of his doppelganger not looking like a smug, over-privileged graduate of schools that taught him to be smug, seek endless privilege, and that no profit is sufficient. But Mr. Shkreli, a hedge fund manager (i.e. someone who makes massive amounts of money without making or serving any other purpose but that money) who has been buying up rights to older, but immensely useful drugs and raising the prices by dizzying factors while evincing not the least shred of understanding about why it might not be ethical raise a drug that helps AIDS patients avoid catastrophic fungal infections from $13.50 a pill to $750. a pill. That’s a 5,000% increase. Shkreli hasn’t even offered a cogent defense–probably because there isn’t one, but also because he’s pretty much the amublatory definition of everything that’s wrong with a profit-driven medical system in the US, with the model of corporate capitalism that is rapidly turning the US into a Russian-style oligarchy, and with an education system that operates on a nothing-is-enough model and that treats students as “tuition units” (really, folks, that’s what they’re called by the administration here at Pretty Good U).
But really, ya’ll, as much as Shkreli deserves being called out and maybe even being the “Most Hated Man in America” (though one is moved to suspect that he’s happy to be called “Most” anything…), can we please stop a moment and remember that the universe is full of Shkrelis–hedge-fund managers and investment bankers and Koch brothers and congressional Republicans who couldn’t care less about the fact that their uselessly large bank accounts are made up, like Soylent Green, of human bodies. Bodies that die in car accidents caused by carefully ignored flaws in reputedly reliable vehicles, bodies poisoned by carcinogens in pretty much everything because they facilitate profit margins and replacing or eliminating them would require the corporate equivalent of turning around an aircraft carrier, bodies that are packed into boats or trucks like cordwood for extortionate prices and then allowed to drown or suffocate because money is more important than human bodies. I could go on. Martin Shkreli deserves his infamy, and the outcry has extracted from him a reluctant promise to lower the price to a “reasonable” leveI (I wouldn’t trust him and his ilk to understand the word “reasonable” ever). But he’s not unique. He’s not even unusual.
Studies indicate that there is an unusually high percentage of sociopaths among CEOs. I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Except not. I haven’t spoken to Shkreli personally and don’t have a degree in psychology, but I feel pretty confident in making a guess that he’s one of those statistics. His parents must be so proud.
But this is about the body. About the bodies of factory workers in Bangladeshi factories, about the bodies of Americans whose drug companies have forced them to take generics (“they’re chemically identical, really…”) made in factories in India without critical components so that for-profit insurers can pay their CEOS tens of millions of dollars each year, and about the bodies of refugees being water-cannoned by European governments and ignored in Libyan hell-hole camps while they await the chance to pay everything they have to risk death by drowning to get to Europe. Bodies. Which, not at all by the way, are the homes to souls, which every religion on the planet claims to care for.
So could we please stop acting surprised by Shkreli? He’s the norm. He’s what we’ve loosed upon the world. He’s our fault precisely because we haven’t been paying enough attention. The Occupy Wall Street folks are right, even though they were too wrapped up in their own not-so-competent understanding of anarchy to run a truly effective movement. But at least they were willing to put their bodies on the streets to fight for the rest of us. Even Shkreli and Kim Davis, one of whom mistakes his bank account for his soul and the other of whom mistakes her ego for her soul, but both of whom have bodies that deserve equal and humane care. Cripes, I am tired of there being so many people to hate or be repulsed by.