Every HSR symposium I’ve attended so far was different – the location certainly has something to do with that. Liverpool was in many ways – with exception of the visa issues for too many people, unfortunately (which were beyond the organizers’ control) – a great host.
Having said that, I also learned a lesson last week: that, increasingly, people seem unable to read between the lines. People with whom I am sure I actually share most (if not all) of the values, even world outlook and sense of social justice, were offended by a short intro I wrote for reasons I still find hard to comprehend.
I don’t believe this increasing political correctness on our side of the political spectre – let’s call a spade a spade – is a smart strategy, if on the other side people say whatever in whichever way they want to. If we are increasingly oversensitive in how we describe things, people, settings … for fear of ‘stigmatization’ or ‘lazy sterotypes’, we will lose the battle for the hearts and minds from right-wing forces. Perhaps not downright to the xenofobic radical-right, but because they, pushing boundaries with an ugly discourse, manage to push the so called “centre-right” into ever more inhumane territory. As we already see at the borders of the EU for example, or in Australia’s ‘immigration model’.
If we engage in this fight for a fairer (and ecologically sustainable) world, we cannot stick to an ever more sanitized discourse on ‘leaving no one behind’ and other ‘social determinants of health’ in the years to come, as Hillary Clinton, of all people, seems to have realized recently. I hope the HSG community will also come to that conclusion, hopefully well beyond Dubai, even if I know this is still first and foremost a researchers’ community.
If we don’t, we fight with one hand tied behind our back, against the ones who definitely do not share our hopes for a fairer world. Chances are the Alma Ata vision will become increasingly a distant dream, then.