Our Malady | Timothy Snyder

Summary of: Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary
By: Timothy Snyder


In ‘Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary’, author Timothy Snyder shares his near-death experience due to a flawed American health-care system. This eye-opening book explores the reasons behind America’s falling life expectancy, despite its wealth and resources. Examining the roots of political and commercial agendas in the health system, Snyder reflects on the importance of a universal health-care system that supports individual rights and promotes the well-being of all citizens. The book also sheds light on the vital role of valuing and respecting doctors and the consequences of dismissing the truth in times of crisis.

America’s Failing Health-Care System

Timothy Snyder’s harrowing experience in the emergency room exemplifies how America’s health-care system is failing its citizens. Despite being a wealthy nation, America is actually a sick nation, with its life expectancy dropping in recent years. Moody’s Analytics even predicts that US millennials will die younger than their parents or grandparents, despite spending more on health care. What’s wrong with this picture? The issue lies with America’s health-care system, which prioritizes profit over people’s lives. Countries with better health-care systems, such as Barbados, Costa Rica, and Chile, have longer life expectancies than America. The novel coronavirus pandemic magnified America’s systemic flaws in its health care, resulting in more deaths than other wealthy nations like Germany and Japan. When a government doesn’t prioritize health, people pay the ultimate price.

The Politics of Healthcare

In the past, health has been used as a tool by governments to dehumanize people. The lack of access to healthcare can result in suffering, as seen in the examples of Hitler’s treatment of Jewish people and Stalin’s Gulag. Despite America supporting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it still lacks a universal healthcare system, leading to unequal access to healthcare. Politicians who oppose public healthcare often view it as exploitative and weak. This mindset contributes to the opioid crisis in political counties supporting President Donald Trump. European systems prioritize patient care over rushing patients through a process. An equal society values healthcare for all, regardless of social or economic status.

Prioritizing Children’s Health

When it comes to prioritizing children’s health, countries like Austria have a lot to teach America. Austria’s government provides parents with two years of paid parental leave and an extensive range of free support services to ensure that parents are equipped to raise healthy and happy children. By investing in infant health, they build a healthy and balanced society with fewer medical needs and a lower crime rate. The importance of prioritizing children’s health cannot be understated, as it creates a more functional society and allows for greater freedom in decision-making later on in life. Emotional regulation is one crucial aspect of child-rearing that is often overlooked in America. However, European countries like Austria understand the significance of relationship-building between parent and child, and paid parental leave is standard practice. By guiding children in learning how to interact with others, delay gratification, and manage disappointment during the first five years of life, adults who learned to regulate their feelings during their childhood become expansive thinkers. They’re more open to positive feelings, even when they’re stressed, and can make decisions that yield better results. By investing in children, we also invest in our society’s future, creating an overall healthier, happier, and more productive population.

The Importance of Truth in Politics

The consequences of undermining truth to maintain power can be devastating, as demonstrated by Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic. Leaders must value truth over their own agendas to protect democracy.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings provides a fictional example of the danger of willful ignorance when faced with a crisis. Gandalf, the wizard who shares alarming news, is met with scorn and dismissal by many. Similarly, in the real world, politicians who spread misinformation ultimately do more harm than good. By prioritizing their own agendas over the truth, they undermine democracy and put lives at risk.

Donald Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic demonstrates the devastating consequences of undermining truth. From the beginning, he spread misinformation about the virus and silenced those who spoke up. His focus was on maintaining a positive public image rather than protecting his constituents. This approach not only failed to address the crisis but allowed it to worsen unchecked, resulting in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

In politics, valuing truth over power is crucial for protecting democracy and making informed decisions. Leaders who spread misinformation only prolong the problem and put lives at risk. It takes courage to face the truth, especially in a crisis, but the consequences of not doing so are too great to ignore. The lesson from Tolkien’s fictional world and Trump’s real-world example is clear: leaders must value truth over their own agendas to protect democracy and uphold the responsibility they have to their constituents.

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