I've just finished a night of two movies, both of which I have seen before, that have had an even deeper meaning for me outside of the United States and, particularly, being on the continent of Africa. The first being Sicko and the second being Constant Gardener. While I know everyone reading is approaches politics and questions of world order from an almost infinite number of perspectives, I am going to try to attempt to not frame it in politics but simply in its implications for humanity, ultimately for me, you, and those we may not ever know.
"There are no murders in Africa, simply unfortunate deaths." This is one of the ending lines of the Constant Gardner which is about pharmaceutical testing of drugs in Africa, Kenya in this particular case. Jobs are produced in Wales, the government owes the pharmaceutical business a favor for not sending the jobs to France, and soon the British government is allowing, if not sponsoring the deaths of dozens of Kenyans in the slums of Nairobi after buying off Kenyan government officials in order to allow for the testing of drugs on medical deprived people. This idea of Africa as a testing ground is all too prominent. On my trip around South Africa last week (which a happy blog will follow this!...I promise) I went to a hospital in rural Kwazulu-Natal were 80%-90% of the patients were HIV positive. EIGHTY TO NINETY. Even after being there, it is too much to comprehend. For me, and my incredibly privileged life, it is hard to understand why some people are afforded healthcare and others not. Why is it that I can go and get done what needs to be done anytime, anywhere and others cannot? I know why, but I guess I don't know how, or really why I allow it?
On the other hand, there are many within America who have no health insurance or inadequate coverage. Furthermore, you have those with coverage who are terminated or refused treatment by the insurance companies. And yet the insurance companies have recorded record profits? Companies controlling people's bodies? Business principles determining who is treated and who is not? I just don't understand. I didn't understand in the States, and now that I am out and see a bruised and battered, yet vibrant, South Africa struggling to provide health coverage for all her people, I understand even less. People here don't understand how the wealthiest nation also has some of the largest income and health disparities in the world. And it is really hard to keep trying to give an answer...
How is it, my friends, that I/we have so quickly, comfortably and casually cashed in democratic principals? Democracy seems to have been defaced and disemboweled of its true essence; liberty, equality, brother/sisterhood. Democracy is not just a government system, it is a way of life. It is reflected in our institutions, the well-being of our people, and the respect of human rights. Instead of setting our end goals on true human development (not just economical) both at home and abroad, we have blindly submitted ourselves and those who we influence to the "market force." We hope and believe that this almost god-like essence of capitalism will somehow solve everyone's needs, and all of our wants. Then, once we have mastered the ability and skills of capital accumulation as nations, we force it upon others and ask how it is they are so underdeveloped. Yet we have set the standard so unbelievably high! So high that if everyone lived like me/us, the world wouldn't be able to support itself.
Relaxation is looked down upon. Pacifism is treated with contempt. Voicing yourself against the establishment is seen as rebel-rousing. Fighting for true equality is labeled as socialism. Instead we put ours and others lives into the hands of for-profit businesses and multi-national corporations assuming the best. Organizations completely unaccountable to the general public and free from the burdens of ballots, elections, and the voice of the poor or marginalized. In that world, money speaks, not principals.
But this isn't just America or the West, it is an epidemic which strikes th morality and conscience of the privileged. You see it between whites and blacks in this country, South Africans and refugees, Latin Americans of European decent and indigenous people groups, the Chinese government and Tibet. It seems to be all around, knowing no boundaries.
I feel sometimes like there are no words for the sometimes physical tension or anguish I feel in my heart here. And I'm sure that this attempt to look into two movies which some of us may not have seen seems pointless. But to me it's not. I don't know how to deal anymore with such stark contrasts here. The contrast within this society and what they represent on a global scale as well. Seriously, it is too much at times. It makes me want to get on a plane and leave, even though I really don't want to, or maybe know I shouldn't. But you can only drive through so many townships, shanty towns, beach resorts, and upscale waterfronts before it starts to seem as though you are living in two parallel realities. And perhaps I am. Maybe that's the problem. It is too painful, and way too confusing. Because those same places of material poverty are usually the places of most ardent celebration and deepest understanding of one's neighbor, alongside the world's fastest and most fatal epidemic (HIV) and most difficult living conditions.
I don't understand this city, country, continent or world. I really don't. I wish I could write about all of the joyful things, and there are so many (you'll see when I write about my trip)! But I also can't ignore these things, these frustrations. I hate it sometimes. Sometimes I wish so badly I didn't have to chose to think about it, didn't have to explain to anyone here or anyone outside. But I suppose you can't see true beauty without true pain as well, right? You have to know one to understand the other. I just want to be honest about what I am truly experiencing here, even though it can be painful (sorry!). So thanks, even if this doesn't make any sense or you think it's complete bullocks. It just feels good to have it down and outside of my own mind and heart...