From the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard
As he trod amongst them with his trolley of coffee, the orderly knew that this was one of their bad days. Sometimes they were cheerful—gratingly, hysterically so. Sometimes apathetic. Today, they were sombre, only wanting lo talk about their afflictions, to tell each other what it was that had laid them paralysed and incapable in the forecourt of the Holiday Home.
"Experiments with atom bombs, messing about with nature," , said Wilkie, ’'That’s what I reckon gave me my stroke.”
"What’s the good of war," gloomed the man alongside, “Cost me my arm and paralysed my thigh. Now I’m just a burden to my family. Might as well be dead."
I should break this up, thought the orderly, this is the worst mood of all. Then Old Harris chimed in, bringing what he always imagined was sunshine and relief into the invalids' depression.
“I’m as helpless as any of you," he said, he eyes gleaming. " But I don’t blame it onto war or bomb tests. Our troubles are sent by the good god, to test us. We must suffer gladly. I may be laid up, with only a small Army pension. but thank God I get by."
"Good god." screamed Ethel from her chair. "If he’s so good, why does he allow all this badness in the world he's supposed to have made, eh? Answer me that:'
The orderly broke in with quick words, clashing the cups as he spoke.
"Now, now," he said, ’’You know you mustn't get so het up. Anyway, you’re all going down to the front for some sunshine and fresh air, That’s what you’re here for, sunshine and fresh air."
That calmed them. In their secret selves, they were appalled at the thought of another parade along the sea front. They fell into silence and suffered themselves to the attention' of the orderlies, who came from inside the Home to wheel them off.
They were a tragic lot. Here was a mail who had lost his limb because of an apparently trivial scratch at work. Here another whose back broke when he fell from a ladder on a high job. And there were the war wounded. These human wrecks were some of the unfortunates who had felt the concentration of capitalism’s bitterest effects.
For although we know that capitalism cannot be blamed for every illness and accident, the fact is that it is responsible for many of them.
Some of the most common, and persistent ailments which people nowadays suffer are traceable to the stress of modern living—to the working, travelling, eating pace which modem industry and its profit incentive sets for us.
High time for accidents is the time when everybody is going to work — they call it the rush hour and it is in the rush that so many accidents happen.
Capitalism’s wars maim hundreds of thousands, and undermine the health of countless others.
But you know all this.
What you may not realise is that, as long as capitalism lasts, there is little chance of society ever really tackling the problem of ill-health and accidents, and of reducing them to the very minimum possible.
We know, for example, that cancer research comes a long way behind arms production in the priorities of modern society. Why is this? Simple answer: arms are more immediately important to the capitalist class than finding a cure for cancer. Arms can be used to defend their commercial interests. Curing cancer would only save a few million lives a year. Who, other than cancer sufferers, would care?
The majority of people get a very measly sort of medical treatment. Who knows — or cares — what future damage is being stored up by the "Get-you-back-to-work palliatives" which the working class are handed by their doctors when they are ill? And who has not noticed that society’s medical resources are concentrated only when a member of the ruling class — someone who can afford the best — requires them?
Yes, capitalism stands in the way of many aspects of human advance. Socialism will set free our scientific ingenuity, so that we can really get down to dealing with medical problems.
We hope the invalids enjoyed their outing. And let us look forward to the day when a crippled world can throw away its crutches.