Crisis v. Chronic

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I’ve been thinking about our different responses to crisis and chronic situations. Most of us will act to save another who is dying, so long as they are doing it quickly. Slow deaths from poverty and disease don’t move us to action in the same way.

Legally, emergency rooms are compelled to stabilize uninsured patients before releasing them. But no hospital is compelled to provide long term care or address non crisis health matters for such patients. Once the wound has been stitched and the heart attack has stopped, they’re done.

Most metropolitan cities have some form of homeless shelter and soup kitchen. These address immediate crisis needs of exposure to elements and imminent starvation. They don’t address the causes of homelessness and hunger, or provide long-term solutions. They respond to crisis only.

I think the number of people who would risk their lives to save a stranger from traffic or a burning building is a lot higher than the number who would take in a homeless stranger. I certainly would want to know more about someone before letting them live with me, and I’d want to retain the right to kick them out. But I wouldn’t need references to try to talk someone down from a ledge.

In recognition of this tendency in myself and other humans, I think it’s clear we need to do all we can to end chronic homelessness, poverty, and lack of medical care. Universal healthcare and basic income for all would eradicate most of the chronic problems. That would just leave us with the emergencies and crises we are already better at.

And we’re pretty good in a crisis.

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