Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First do no harm...


In this video, the doctors in Zaire in 1995, in desperation, transfused untreated blood to get the Ebola antibodies into a new case who was one of the nurses they worked with - patients generally last up to 10 days after first manifesting the symptoms. The Virus is more hardy that the HIV/AIDS virus and can be spread by skin contact and even indirectly by an object touched by an secretions from an infected person, making it doubly hard on the victim to not have any human contact when sick as those treating them have to be clothed in plastic clothes which are destroyed immediately after use and then they have to be doused down liberally in bleach/chlorine solution.

I was struck how in the 21st Century a country with poor resources had to resort to 18th Century means -- it reminded me of how Jenner 'discovered' vaccines and the initial reaction against compulsory smallpox vaccinations arose because other diseases were transmitted due to the initial untreated transfer of bodily fluids.
I mused that the foreign scientists there, mainly from the (American) CDC,  bent on researching the origin of the virus (they think transmitted by bats) disapproved but did not offer to provide a sterilizing unit although the initial response to the transfusions - 7 out of the 8 suspected cases - did not die. It was reported that 1 patient out of 20 survives, but because they have the virus in their system-- presumably have to live a quarantined existence -- maybe we ought to take lessons from Cuba- in building habitable isolation/quarantine units where people don't mind living an isolated existence, until a cure can be found? Totally taken from my History in Health assignment!

(McNeil Jr, D. G., 2012. Cuba’s Fortresses Against a Viral Foe. New York: New York Times.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Big Sea by Langston Hughes

An autobiography which starts at Sandy Hook, newly notorious for the shooting to death of 20 primary school students by a teenaged nutter in 2013.  The book is about a young man trying to find a place in racist America of the post WW1 era. After being unable to find work in NY, he is thrilled to get a job on a ship going to Africa but is disgusted by the racist exploitation of the Africans and dismayed to not be accepted by the native Africans as 'one of them' and is not allowed to see a African Ju-Ju ceremony.
It is amusing that he starts writing poetry as that was the post he was given in his High School paper on the assumption that Black people were naturally versed in rhythm and verse! (it certainly is in his case - his poem The Breath of a Rose:

Love is like dew                       Love is like star-light                    Love is like perfume                      
On lilacs at dawn:                  In the sky at morn:                   In the heart of a rose:                
Comes the swift sun               Star-light that dies                        The flower withers,
And dew is gone.                     when day is born                      and the perfume goes-

Love is no more
Than the breath of a rose  ----- is very rhythmical - he says set to song- interestingly I couldn't find the lyrics online but instead a Swedish proverb: Love is like dew that falls on both nettles and lilies - mmm wonder if he knew that?) He seems to be a light-skinned Black person who is well placed to give an outsider's perspective.
Part 2 deals with his sojourn in Paris, it was interesting to read from a Black perspective and I was glad he wrote it and was able to compare with Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast -

He visited parts of France, Italy and Spain on a shoestring and found people who both aided and hindered him - just like in real life I suppose.

Part 3 deals with his return and subsequent struggle to survive in NY. He mentioned the fame of Harlem in the 1920s which crashed in 1929 with the beginning of The Great Depression. As always, the lack of money and the dependence on the those who had-- the whites -- influenced the way the Blacks had to live. There is thinly veiled resentment at the middle-classed Blacks for not supporting Black artists and his efforts to start a quarterly newspaper - Fire -went up in flames - literally: the writers/starters being unable to pay their contributions to keep it going and the loan to print the first edition not relieved by sales -- sounds a bit like the other book I am reading - the UN: starting with good intentions, hampered by lack of funds and goals not fulfilled.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

UN Charters

Finding that it's taking me a longer time to read 'Multilateral Diplomacy for Small States' than I thought.  When the UN formally came into being it had two main goals - one for Development and the other for Peace, because they are intrinsically linked.
As Donne says, no-man is a island and we are all linked. Those countries perceived as 'successful' are having serious border breaches as refugees do whatever it takes to abandon their country of birth and migrate, frequently not fully conversant in the new language and culture - clearly those people represent the more aggressive and enterprising and have the potential to be assets to their new countries as the founder of English economics Adam Smith says - ‘By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.'  Ayaan Hirsi Ali would be a good example.  However a vast majority develop both mental and adaptive difficulties and really wouldn't the better solution be to ensure the the UN Charters get a chance to work so people do not feel such desperation that they send their children unaccompanied, as in the recent case of the Honduran children now being shipped back from the US?

 Looking further afield, the tragic loss of AIDS researchers among others, having their plane blown apart reportedly by a surface-to-air missile while flying over an area of unrest goes to show that the ostrich approach can't and wouldn't work....as in a Martin Carter poet: ' Like a jig shakes the loom. Like a web is spun the pattern all are involved! all are consumed!'   
Unrest within and between countries have the potential to impact all our lives... who knows what the contributions to society any of the 80 children in the airplane shot out of the sky could have made? If the UN was stronger then the issue in Ukraine might merit more attention and Israel would not be firing on unarmed civilians? It would do those people who feel that they can perform better themselves to remember that, there may come a time when they might need the support of a larger independent body-- the ending of the last blog about Ayn Rand can be used as a metaphor!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The 'Asshole Effect'

Thanks to technology, ideas generated in an opposite part of the world can reach here simply by a click of a button!
The British newspaper "The Guardian' online reviewed Anne Manne's new book, The Life of I: the new culture of narcissism, published by Melbourne University Press  and introduced the term coined by US psychologist Paul Piff who found that those who thought they were superior to others eg perceived wealth,  felt a sense of entitlement and superiority over everyone else - thus more deserving.

BINGO -- that explains the mess we're in entirely.
Piff conducted a series of revealing experiments - a traffic one where 'Researchers positioned themselves at crossroads. They watched out for aggressive, selfish behaviour among drivers, and recorded the make and model of the car. Piff found drivers of expensive, high-status vehicles behave worse than those sputtering along in battered Toyota Corollas.They were four times more likely to cut off drivers with lower status vehicles.'...... I totally put the unsuitable, oversized vehicles that families are buying their seemingly stupid young men to drive on the roads of Guyana in that category.  However, here the old battered Corollas driven by illiterates who seem oblivious to the rules of the road also exist....

'As Piff says, this goes way beyond the individual, to noxious social attitudes – like being punitive towards the poor while living the "because I’m worth it" lifestyle. As a society becomes wealthier, it can get more narcissistic, less empathetic and unwilling to look after the vulnerable.'  Guyana with its overnight, unaccountable wealth has indeed bred such individuals-- no sense of community whatsoever-- having risen from the hand-out-for-help mentality - they still harbour the 'I need to get what I can while I can' mentality not realising that they have reached the top bracket monetarily  where one 'gives back' to society so it can keep functioning --- sort of not kill off the goose laying the golden eggs.
The article ends with this wry observation: 'The whole idea of "leaners" and "lifters" is the central teaching of the right wing ideologue, Ayn Rand, who penned books like The Virtue of Selfishness. It’s a self-serving crock. Rand found out the hard way. After a lifetime proselytising on behalf of the "producers" and denouncing anyone needing government assistance as "parasites," when Rand became old and sick, she discovered that even a bestselling author could not afford health care in the neoliberal US. She availed herself of Medicare and ended her life on what she had despised – social security.'

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Portrayals of female working-class Afro-Guyanese experiences - spoiler alert

Jesus removed my grave clothes - Joy Wilson
Frangipani House - Beryl Gilroy

This year the book selections got jiggled around and I happen to have the two above to finish before the next meeting... made for an interesting comparison.

The first could do with a lot of editing - its raison d'etre being the message that God - the Christian one - used the writer's life to show that a worthwhile one could emerge from a dysfunctional coupling and sexual abuse and the latter - a more polished presentation used the device of flashbacks of women in a nursing home run by a Nurse Ratched type (One flew over the cuckoo's nest).

I got the message that God was the saving grace in the first woman's story (why did He drop her in the mess in the first place I wonder?) and was fascinated while reading it that other religions, making up the majority in Guyana, weren't mentioned -- perhaps not counting in the writer's consciousness. She carefully screened out seemingly, the rest of the other races in Guyana also; which I found odd as being a multi-ethnic and religious place, I felt, was one of the best things about Guyana - anyway it's the woman's story and her prerogative. She was careful to shield recognition of any person which sort of spoiled the fun for me - I like local films if only to recognize the locations. In spite of Hoyte's economic miracle, the writer toyed with the idea of 'hiding' in NY in the late 80s when she got her US visa but nixed the idea when she couldn't get the UN job she wanted and returned to Guyana.  From having such a dysfunctional upbringing I credited the close female network that supported her-- (which the other writer alludes to - in that story the nurse daughter who migrated to NY looks contemptuously at her mother's life and poverty and doesn't appreciate the warm kinship ties stronger than 'family') but wondered why she was hell-bent on producing so many children when her focus was on educating herself and moving up the career ladder... she had to stop at four for medical reasons. The children seemed to have turned out ok, one becoming a doctor and the other an economist and doing the classic Guyanese thing of migrating.  After putting up with her husband's philandering the couple in the first book settle down to becoming a solid couple with him supporting her rise in the church to the consternation of the brothers who feel that a woman's place should be one of submission to the man but seeing as she gets her masters degree from UWI there's not that much they can object to and I got the impression she was heading to becoming a Minister in the Church.  Not that I would want to be accused of being a cynic or anything, but that career path seems the most promising in Guyana in the absence of strong Government and social service policies.
In the second book, at the end we find out that the protagonist's best friend kills her abusive husband but the woman is hard-working and turns her hand to anything  to make money to support the children (and later the grandchildren when the daughters migrate and send then back to be raised by the grandmother) eventually by taking in laundry and making roadside snacks.
There is a strange similarity between the books as the girls grow up, get tied up in their lives while depending on the older women for support - like minding the children when young and then apparently forgetting about them in their hour of need - leaving them to battle the loneliness of old age and dementia by themselves and the kindness of strangers.

Shut up and stop making things worse!

So SN today reports Luncheon as unapologetically 'standing by his minion' saying a no less august body than Cabinet (!!) agreed that the most appropriate forum to express their dissatisfaction with the outgoing/gone US Ambassador was at his farewell.  Mmm, their memories must be poor indeed as I remember the fragile-thin, criticism-sensitive President before this current one who  took this Machavillian observation much to heart: 'Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.'  and got a Sikh Indian Ambassador removed for some innocuous remark which he construed as criticism about himself. How come they cabled New Delhi so fast, following all diplomatic protocols that only until the poor man had left we knew about it?

More hilarious yet, is one of the many ex-Vice Presidents of the Burnham era, allegedly in charge of the 'thug unit' responsible for breaking up opposition meetings of the past, in his current role as Mayor of Georgetown thanks to the current Government's laxity and the man's conviction that he was born to be a leader, writing that he was part of the heckling crowd at the US Embassy whom he describes as 'responsible' and 'high-profile' - right!  I sincerely hope the US is not stoking trouble that ignited the race riots of the 60s which Guyana is only slowly recovering from.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Biting the Hand that feed ya...

After a period of self-imposed isolation, the tragi-comedy that is Guyana burst into my consciousness with the Headlines of the the recently lauded (by a US University) Education Minister, standing in for the  Foreign Minister (the jobs are juggled between the favoured few who then whinge that they don't have people to do the 'wuk' and they have to wuk so hard!) and going to the US Ambassador's farewell do and dragging up the US sins of interfering with the country's affairs in the 50s to the present time of imposing their wishes on small States.  Not the most diplomatic thing to do, especially as the US had worked out ages ago that this particular Minister is amenable to being manipulated and recently awarded her an award for services to the Guyanese people which the thinking few think is ludicrous as back in the day when the supposed service occurred, nothing positive resulted - apart from bits of paper and outright support for people abusing those in her portfolio she was mandated to protect!   One assumes that she also got the Guyanese state to pay, no doubt, for her to have her two children in the US thence making them bone fide US citizens- hardly the most tactful thing to do then - buse down that country's representative - as this is your 'go-to' country?
I can't say I entirely disagree with her -- as the US is no shining example of democracy themselves but I wondered if the niggling sore-point was that the Guyana Government has to declare all the assets held by US citizens to the US government - yeah baby-- the US IRS is known to be particularly vigilant and immune (at our level!) to 'knowing someone' unlike their Guyanese counterparts.  Speaking as a small business owner - the situation in Guyana is such that the small pool gets a shake-down for increased revenues while the undocumented keep building higher and unfeasible buildings but 'are not on the books', this can only be a good thing.. right?
I had a good laugh that the Minister got slammed for crude behaviour but no-one thought to comment about the crowd at a 4th of July US Embassy celebration who would heckle her to the extent I was unable to hear the recording-- truly she represents what is now Guyana's society....but then SN published a picture of part of the crowd and there was the guy who had instigated disgruntled losers of an election to start fires on the main shopping street and storm the President's office--THAT's who gets invited to these things?? No wonder the goodly minister had a moan about them interfering in the country's affairs!  It's the equivalent of Putin donating money and supporting Farrakhan's unit ...mind you I agree with some of his rantings!.. maybe the white supremacists of the Kentucky hills perhaps?