One of the more vivid images from the Phillipine "People Power Revolution" which brought down the dictator Marcos and was supposed to bring democracy, representation, peace, justice, and economic development to the Phillipines forever was Imelda Marcos' shoe closet which had an unimaginable number of bespoke shoes in it, all of them of course outrageous impractical fashion items with spike heels. It would be difficult to tell most of them apart, and they all cost ridiculous amounts of money. Of course the news out of the Phillipines is continously terrible, but you knew that would happen, didn't you? You can remove the dictator, but if you leave the colonial relationships in place you have not liberated the people.
But it's shoes I want to talk about. Lately my feet have been bruised around the edges. I've finally had to conclude that my once-perfectly fitting shoes have grown too small for me. Of course it is not the shoes that have changed size: they are not made of shrinkable fabric and I have not washed them in hot water and heat-dried them. Nope, my feet have grown again. Of course, ingeneral, adults do have size creep on their feet. They might get a bit wider or a bit longer or both over the years, so that they graduate high school a size 7B and in old age they're wearing a size 8C--I'm using US women's sizes here.
I graduated high school with a size 6EEEE. I'm going to go downtown and try to pick up an equivalent to a size 9D today. I say equivalent because lately only Keen shoes work for me, and they don't come in widths, but they do, somehow, go on my feet, which measure a D. In addition to having wide feet, I also have tall feet--high instep and low arch means a lot of foot. So I also have to buy shoes with removable insoles, and remove those insoles, before I can walk around in them. Fortunately I have strong feet that don't need arch supports at all (arch supports bother my feet, actually).
Shoes being rather expensive, my budget is usually one pair of any type per year. I think I've mentioned that I have one each pair of hiking sandals, hiking sneakers, hiking boots, hiking babydoll flats, and hiking velveteen slipons. By "hiking" I mean "has fancypants hiking soles of hard rubber or vibram." I don't prefer these soles: in an ideal world, I would have lighter shoes, though these are all very light considering. Also in an ideal world I would have knee boots in red suede with soft flat bottoms and maybe folkart embroidered flowers on them, for dancing. But nobody asked me when they drew up the standards for footwear.
What this brings me to is yet another cancer metaphor, only it starts out as a metaphor for social revolution. One of my favorite childhood books is called "The Land of Shvambrania" and it was written by Lev Kassil, who was a Soviet children's author (and probably, from my reading of one of his other books, the execrable Early Dawn,
a terrible party hack, but this one book was really wonderful). I know I've talked about it before. It is a kind of memoir of the way he and his brother used their fantasy play to deal with their experiences before, during, and directly after the 1917 revolution. The first parts of the book are a bit comic, and sometimes they read like a portal fantasy (which was my first attraction to the book as a kid). Later, it gets more serious as the kids attempt to adjust to the radical changes in their lives. In one scene, tyheir family is visited by representatives of the local evolutionary council. They've lost a lot, not only from the privations of civil war, but they used to be comfortably middle-class and various of their comforts have been expropriated. The leader of the delegation is a shoemaker and he asks the kids' father how his shoes, which he made, are holding up, The dad praises the shoes, says one of them is squeaking a little, and the revolutionary says to bring them by and he'll fix them. The dad says those shoes work a lot better than the revolution. The leader says "that's because we can't make the revolution to fit you personally."
As a kid I was really impressed by this, because it gave me a context to understand how something that was clearly supposed to be so very good for everybody could be bad for particular people. We were always hearing about how this or that person who had had a good life before 1917 or before 1956 in Cuba had lost everything due to revolution (a lot of the Cuban stories didn't add up to me, because they featured people who seemed to be doing just fine in Miami, so I kept wondering, if this is what "lost everything" looks like, what does "kept everything" look like?), but on the other hand, there were these statistics about pre- and post-revolutionary measures of quality of life.
I am most definitely not angling for a human rights argument here, I am just talking about one particular thing in a story.
Anyway, how the shoemaker becomes a cancer metaphor--well, it's obvious, isn't it? But actually the personal fit of my cancer treatment has been pretty finely tuned. No ativan for nausea because it works too much like vallium which makes me stop breathing. On the other hand I can have the "dense" treatment of Adriamycin because I have a strong heart. I can have this particular drug treatment on the other end of chemotherapy and radiation because of the estrogen sensitivity of the cells in the tumor. And so on. But...
In the news today is an article in the Lancet, the abstract of which you can read here
(if you have access to the Lancet,
or you pay thirty dollars, you can read the whole thing). The rather ponderous title is "Economic downturns, universal health coverage, and cancer mortality in high-income and middle-income countries, 1990–2010: a longitudinal analysis" and its pricipal author is Mahiben Marathappu. Spoiler alert: unemployment and cutbacks in health care and public health measures caused at least 40,000 extra cancer deaths in those twenty years.
Yes, AUSTERITY IS MURDER.
Capitalism is murder.
on another front: Thank you Aaron! I had the kippers with guacamole and radishes yesterday and it was really really good.