Beware, major spoilers ahead.
The film pits wealthy but mean people who live in the sky against poor, downtrodden masses on Earth. The skydwellers have magic tanning booth-like beds that will heal any ailment. For free. And they won’t share this magic medicine with the crippled and ailing masses.
Because they’re mean.
But as I watched the ending of the film, I couldn’t help but think of how reality is the opposite story, one of which all Americans should be proud.
When Max (Matt Damon) succeeds, as you knew he would, the magic medical tanning booths of Elysium descend to the surface of the Earth. The crippled, injured, infirm, and elderly hobble joyfully toward them and ecstatically partake in the suddenly ubiquitous healing.
It’s a lovely scene, as those without hope suddenly are given hope. The dying are given life. The crippled are given wholeness. Parents of ill children watch their little ones play and celebrate.
What’s not to love about that?
In real life, of course, medicine costs. It is not magic and free. Doctors must be trained and paid, supplies cost money, and drugs costs a great deal to develop. It is not meanness that keeps the supply limited. It is reality. Rich people like Steve Jobs sometimes die of cancer, despite their resources, because medicine isn’t all powerful.
But there’s no denying that money helps and a large part of the world is desperately poor. The differences between Malibu and Compton shrink when compared to, say, rural Senegal.
Which is why when you give medicine away, it creates that beautiful scene in the movie in real life. I could not help thinking of Dubya when I saw the final scene.
Ten years ago, under the personal and passionate leadership of George W. Bush, America decided that we could not keep life-giving AIDS medicine to ourselves when the masses in Africa were dying from the terrible disease. The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS (PEPFAR) has spent millions* of American dollars and provided medication to millions of HIV positive Africans and citizens of other disadvantaged regions.
These were drugs that American capitalist countries developed because, frankly, it takes a capitalistic system to invest and develop new medications.
Given away simply because it was the right thing to do.
Because we’re not mean.
John Kerry celebrated the 10th Anniversary of PEPFAR in June and we can honestly say we can anticipate eradicating the disease. This was unthinkable ten years ago. It is nothing short of a miracle and would not have happened if the rich had not freely and bountifully given away our medical help.
Thanks, George W. Bush!
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Matt Damon, who told the Atlantic in 2012 ”I would kiss George W. Bush on the mouth for what he did on PEPFAR.”
This is, of course, just one shining example of the help the West sends to the world.
The movie promotes a false idea of capitalism as evil and universal health care as a solution. But reality is much richer and better.
Correction: The US has spent billions, not millions of dollars on PEPFAR.
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