A Larger View

a commentary on how current events reflect— or not—our search for higher values

  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

The pieces are reposted from some of the entries in InnerLifeDirections.com

in this issue:

Airlines Seats and Safety

It’s well known that airplane seats are getting smaller and are projected to get smaller still—that is if airlines have their way. But consumers are at last beginning to speak up. Earlier this year American airlines was planning to redesign its cabin where a few seats would have a 29 inch pitch.  After what a New York Times’ article called a “rash of complaints” they dropped their plans.  There are now several plans to shorten knee space and add seats. The airlines say it’s not only profits, but also to lighten the load carried by an aircraft. Seats are now thinner, materials are different, back pouches and arm rests are redesigned, all measures that benefit the airlines, not consumers.  A spokesman for Spirit airlines said that to think of comfort in terms of inches is inaccurate and old fashioned because seats today are re-engineered.  Of course anyone who has flown in one of those seats quickly realizes that the re-engineering for comfort is elusive at best and perhaps sheer fantasy.  Flyers Rights, a non-profit began in 2006 has been very active in pursuing what’s best for consumers. They think they now have found the issue that will resonate, that the need for seat regulation is a flight safety issue. People are according to Flyers Rights statistics getting taller and heavier. When people are cramped in a smaller space, it takes them longer to move out of their seats. Safety regulations demand that during an emergency an aircraft has to be evacuated in a minute and a half. The extra time it takes for people to move out of their seats makes that not possible. Flyers Rights has won the first round in their battle with the FAA and of course the airlines still contend there is no need for seat regulations. So there is now hope that success will come not around the issue of passenger comfort, but around that of passenger safety. Regardless of which, it means that consumers may have more power with the airlines than we may be willing to acknowledge, a power we all ought to use.

Age Friendly Cities

Imagine a city that offers the elderly opportunities where physical and mental disabilities are not an obstacle, where you can live your final years with grace and dignity? That is what is being proposed in Valdivia, in southern Chile. And if it works they hope to expend it to the rest of the country. Chile not only has a problem with the percentage of its population which is elderly, it is a percentage which is usually poor. The allowance from the government is too small to enable people to pay rent, food, heating fuel, medical care and other necessities. The article in the Guardian quoted an elderly person saying they stayed in bed during the winter because it was too cold and he had no money to pay for gas to heat his place. Chile has millionaires and even billionaires, but most people earn little, and their pension if they have any is small. They tried a kind of nursing home but it was ill or badly managed, and with little or no government resources, people there were not able to fare well.  Other countries are trying to make adjustments for their older citizens. Singapore is making it easier for older people to be hired and work. The Netherlands offers the elderly an app so they can essentially hack into traffic lights to adjust them to their speed.  Many elderly have mobility problems and could be harmed were the timing of traffic lights remain what they are for motorists. In London several communities have been declared dementia friendly by the Alzheimer’s association. Local residents are taught to help the elderly particularly those with dementia who may forget or not recognize where they are. Businesses are dementia friendly too and assist those in need. There are now 220 such communities in England and Wales. Such efforts point to the fact the US has a lot of catching up to do. 15% of its population is currently 65 or over and by 2060 it’s slated to grow to 24%. The needs of those 65 and over are and keep changing, yet given the values underneath a youth oriented culture, those needs can’t be addressed without a change of attitudes about aging and end of life.  It may be that to do that a reassessment of what life is about may have to be part of it.  And those of us who believe this is the direction for us to take need not wait. We We can begin this process now.

Midwifery and Racial Implications

People who do not belong to minorities often have difficulties understanding why people of color see discrimination when they see none. Here is an example that I hope can be helpful in bridging that gap. It used to be that midwives in the US delivered all babies. During slavery they were black or Native American women. Around the turn of the 19th century as the medical profession changed with what is called the medicalization of childbirth—partly because it saw in births a source of revenue—they discredited the use of these women, saying they were witches and their deliveries were not safe. These doctors as it’s easy to deduce were white males.

In the UK half the babies are delivered by midwives. In Scandinavia it’s three fourth. In France it’s almost the same. In the US it’s 10%.  And some believe it may have some relationship with the fact that maternal mortality in the US is higher than it is for other developed countries. The percentage is slowly changing in the US, and midwives are used more and more and they are now often used as an adjunct to medical births.  As it currently stands the US is still anchored into the idea of medical birth, even though about half the counties in the country do not have proper medical birthing services. They are usually in rural areas and poor women as well as women of color are of course most affected.

Regardless of current trends, the history of midwifery in the US and its implications are part of our reality. I can’t help but wonder how birth delivery and the health of women in general would have unfolded had racial discrimination not played a role.

Lack of Palliative Care

In many poor and middle income countries untold millions are in pain due to illnesses like cancer and are not able to receive needed relief.  A chief reason is the opioid epidemic in the US. These countries are afraid that if the opioids needed to alleviate pain were made available more freely, that they too would end up with an epidemic.  While the US has 31 times the amount of drugs it needs, the result of this fear and avoidance is that Haiti has about 0.2% of what it requires and Nigeria even less. India and Indonesia each supply about 4% of their need, Russia 8% and China 16%, just a little bit less than what Uganda has. Uganda has actually innovated palliative care delivery. They provide diluted liquid morphine in pint sizes free through the government but funded by a charity. Even if it fares better than many other countries, that is obviously not nearly enough. Pharmaceutical companies could produce cheap morphine, but there is not enough profit in it for them to do that. What strikes one’s conscience is how little it would take to supply the needs of those in pain, those dying of cancer or other painful diseases. A Lancet report found that it would take $145 million (not billion) a year to supply enough morphine for all those in the world who are in pain, need it and can’t have it. And if one wanted to take away the pain of the word’s children under 15 suffering from severe burns, surgery, car accidents, cancerous tumors, pain from sickle cell and the like it would be one million dollar a year—a paltry sum to an increasing number.

There are any number of billionaires trying to make a name for themselves in philanthropy, perhaps following in Bill Gates footsteps. Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world still has no known philanthropy to his name. Would alleviating the pain of children and the dying qualify? — I would think it ought to at least tug at the heart of anyone with a developed social conscience and the means to do it. For the rest of us perhaps it suffices to know about this inequality and remember how easy it is for us to alleviate our own pain when we experience it.

Dog Foster Care

We need to notice small and unexpected good things sometimes. It feeds the heart. In this case it’s dog foster care. I began by learning about the Dog Trust Freedom Project in the UK. They are volunteers who foster the dogs of people who have been abused and can’t take care of their pet for a while. I am sure there are other reasons such as a hospital stays but the podcast featured a domestic abuse victim. Surely, I thought this wasn’t a practice unique to the UK so I googled and found some groups in the US. We’re a different culture, so it was harder to find the equivalent, but it exists if not in every state, in states like Connecticut and Texas. We’re more likely to emphasize rescue. And rescuing efforts encompass many situations from abandoned pets to those stranded in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. Another difference which may be cultural is that in the US the goal of fostering is more often than not adoption. In the UK the fostering particularly when it deals with domestic abuse victims is to reunite the pet with its owner. With Dog Trust Freedom Project the idea is for the person not to lose their pet and for the foster caregiver to take care of it until they can regain custody.

I am glad such services exist and that people volunteer to be dog foster parents. It makes me feel that when we talk about dogs as being “man’s” best friend, we are, to a degree at least, living up to our responsibility.

Anyone interested in volunteering to be a dog foster parent?

Web Pricing Differences

When Rafi Mohammed used his Orbitz iPhone app to book a vacation package he found one rate. When he looked up the very same thing on the Orbitz website from his laptop, he received another, one that was about %6.5 more. He’s a pricing strategy consultant and wrote about his experience for the Harvard Business Review. Dynamic pricing which already affects things like theater tickets seems to be coming to the web. Apparently the reason is due to what retailers may already know about us, to the data they have learned or accumulated about who we are. Amazon, he says, has been on the record as having the same prices for all customers. But that may not be so for other retailers. Reminding his readers of the old saying caveat emptor, Mohamed feels that it is up to the consumer to discover for themselves. In the end he surmises it is up to consumers whether this kind of price difference takes hold or not. If customers go along, then it will. If consumers rebel or find ways around it, then it will not be found part of a viable business model.  We are now duly warned. If online retailers are going to price according to the data they have in store about us, then we must definitely be aware this is happening, and loudly speak through our buying power.

To Ponder On

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.










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