Home » The Land of Burnt Faces » Goodbye to all that

Goodbye to all that

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Well, I’m outta here. It’s been fun. They say every academic’s secret desire is to write freelance magazine articles, and I figured this blog would be a good place to start. I don’t imagine J.K. Rowling is losing any sleep over me, but I’m gratified that every one of my posts has garnered hundreds of hits.

I chose overmedicalization as my main topic. It’s a huge issue. I teach biology, and so many of my students want to become physicians or other health professionals, and of course I want to see them do well, but I started looking into these matters a couple of years ago, and it’s been like finding out the emperor has no clothes. I think most people would be astounded if they knew how little good and how much harm is done by the medical profession.

Our Medical-Industrial Complex has swollen to engulf one sixth-of our entire economy, while killing 200,000-plus people a year. I say “200,000-plus” because nobody knows the true number, and nobody seems very interested in finding out.

It’s also an area in which so many big questions come into focus – questions about what kind of society we want to live in, and what it means to be a human being. My work here has even led to a gig as a medical journalist for another online publication. I do everything real reporters do, except get paid.

But, it’s time to move on.

I’m an adjunct professor, which means I do the work of two professors, for half the salary of one. I can handle that. I’ve handled that for my entire career. But I can no longer handle that and maintain a family on the other side of the planet.

I got married in Ghana on December 31, 2007, and after dicking us around for a year and a half, USCIS finally sent me a letter telling me they might not grant my wife’s visa for years. In shock, I called up the NGO that sponsored me in Ghana and asked me if I could have my old job back. They told me they didn’t have anything in Ghana for me, then asked me, “How would you like to go to Ethiopia?” I called my wife and asked her what she thought.

She said, “Let’s go.”

Remember, you heard it here first: this country is on the verge of a massive third-world style brain drain.

May I be permitted a personal anecdote? When I was in graduate school at the University of Arizona, we had several Chinese students in our department, who were funded by their government, not ours. I had a drinking chum who worked part-time in the department office, and he peeked at the disbursements, and he told me that the Chinese government was paying their students two-and-a-half times what we were getting paid.

Imagine that: while this country was mining its intellectual capital, they were investing in theirs.

And now we’re reaping the rewards. The days when we could cherry-pick the rest of the world’s best and brightest are rapidly drawing to a close. A story in the New York Times reported that growing numbers of educated Indian and Chinese professionals living in this country are returning to their home countries, because they can live better there. That would have been unthinkable thirty years ago.

If you’re anywhere near my age (I’m 48), then most likely your father, like mine, was born during the Great Depression, and came of age during the post-war economic boom, a time of wealth creation unparalleled in human history. I get the impression our fathers thought this was the natural order of things, something that would continue without any further intervention on anyone’s behalf. And while a generation of Rip van Winkles snored in front of their television sets, their elected representatives were busy shredding the social contract that made it possible for them to go from hardscrabble beginnings to comfortable affluence in half a generation.

The American Century is over. Almost exactly one hundred years after my mother’s father came to this country in search of a job, I’m leaving – for the exact same reason.

So, I’m off. I can’t say for sure I’ll never post here again, but if I do, I’m sure it will be less frequently. I don’t know what I’ll find, but don’t worry about me. At least I have somewhere to go. (I’ll even have health insurance!) I don’t know what the rest of you are going to do. Good luck to you all.


All photos by author


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