IHP news #377

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Editorial

AIDS2016, SDGs and more

By on July 22, 2016   Dear Colleagues,

Yesterday, on the 21st of July, the Belgian national holiday was “celebrated” in Brussels. You probably have no trouble to understand the quotation marks after last week. When police snipers are following the celebrations from the roof as if JFK came back from the dead, plenty of army personnel are patrolling on the roads to “ensure order”, and 20 extra trucks are used as barricades, you got to take the police chief’s friendly invitation to come to Brussels, “or else you give in to IS” with a pinch of salt. It’s a crap argument, and we all know it.

Some will be tempted to say “the world” has gone mad, but I’m not all that pessimistic about this “period of temporal acceleration” as some have framed the first half of 2016 to be undergoing. The “acceleration”, which includes some very disruptive shocks, is unavoidable, in a way, as the paradigms and ‘best practices’ of the 20th century clearly don’t work anymore. True, even then, they only worked for some, mostly in the North. But at least in this (imagined) part of the world, now, the rise of Trump, the Brexit, may all be seen as “symptoms” of a sick system in which too much security has been taken away from too many, and too few have benefited. The cracks are now also visible in the North, and yes, it looks scary. Health professionals probably get this better than politicians. Although not entirely comparable, if you ever witnessed the frightening ‘loss of control’ of a person who’s on the one-way road to dementia, you know what I mean.

In the West, certainly, we have to re-learn what it means not to be able to control one’s life (in spite of what capitalist propaganda tells us 24 hours a day, one of the many blatant lies). That seems to include, especially recently, the most important aspect of all, of “controlling one’s life”– the people you most care about.  

The SDGs (and the challenges they are meant to address) are universal, it is often said. In 2016, we begin to understand some of the sorry consequences of this, also in the North. Sometimes they are truly horrific, like last week. If it’s your toddler, your child, your partner, your grandma, you can most probably cut all the neoliberal bullshit on “resilience” for the rest of your life. In short, we’ve become vulnerable again, in Europe and the US, including ordinary “middle class” people.

Still, the fact that “The West” now also faces hard security challenges in our own societies, which we preferred to outsource in the past, as you know, is –with that most Western notion of all – “progress”. At least if you believe, like Bill Gates and Ilona Kickbusch, that we should become global citizens in this century. Globalization is here to stay, and that’s a good thing as far as I am concerned. But ‘global citizenship” goes beyond the ‘cosmopolitan’ take on it. It also means that the ugly aspects of this economic system and the way human nature works are increasingly universal. Or perhaps more accurately, they’re again universal, as big parts of the West had shielded themselves from insecurity after WW-II.

So no, we shouldn’t give in to IS or any other totalitarian/apocalyptic ideology, but the best way to do this is to try to understand the world’s injustices better, as well as human nature. And then do something about it, accepting though that some really nasty stuff will happen anyhow. As a start, maybe we should teach our kids also to manage (or at least accept) the ‘dark’ inside themselves. But how do we do that, if we never learnt it ourselves? 

For the moment, amidst all the unease, Agnes Nanyonjo (EV2012) reflects on the semantics of the word ‘phobia’ in her feature article ‘Where hateful behaviour is justified by the word phobia.’ This week also saw some major health and development events take place around the world, including the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the International AIDS Conference 2016; Shakira Choonara (EV2014) followed AIDS2016 remotely and presents her reflections in the blog, ‘AIDS2016 and Melania Trump Stealing more than Just a Speech!’ Mike Rowson (Faculty of Population Health Sciences, UCL), blogs on ‘Civil Society and Global Goals – lessons for engagement in the era of the SDGs.’

Enjoy your reading.

The editorial team

 

(you find a pdf-version of the newsletter here: IHPn377 )

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