Friday, August 25, 2006

Stand Wherever Your Feet Take You

Interestingly enough, looking back at comments on a previous post, I came upon criticism for charity organization Stand Up For Africa.

A person who chose to remain anonymous stated:
“The other day I was reading about a group -Stand up for Africa, largely based in the UK and found it incredibly interesting to see that the whole team behind this group are based in the West!! Practice what you preach, I would advise. Return to your homelands and begin the 'stand' from there, not from your comfortable existences in the West...”

Ironically enough (and having totally forgotten about anonymous’ comment), a few weeks later I began work as a volunteer with UK based Stand Up For Africa (SUFA) and it has been a very enlightening experience. There are a wide range of criticisms that I have come across. For one, the fact that the organization includes members and volunteers who are not black or even African raises a lot of eyebrows. However, many Africans cannot bother to participate in constructive activities in aid of their own continent! And generally, people tend to be very skeptical of charities and whether money raised actually goes where it is intended. I can tell you this from first hand observation: SUFA is an independent (read no bureaucratic nonsense and vested interests to please) charity with 2 (yes, that’s correct) employees! Everyone else (there is a very wide network of volunteers) gives up time for free. SUFA’s office is very modest and it is wildly apparent that money is not leaking out anywhere. Still relatively young (3 years), SUFA currently works with grassroots organizations in Benin and Uganda with partner, SAFY and intends to expand to cover all the countries of the continent. Read more about SUFA’s current fundraising project .

The question for anonymous is, what negative is there in Africans trying to affect change for Africa from places elsewhere? Would you rather they do nothing at all? Unfortunately, as much as it might not fit into our ideal mental images (because I do share your sentiments about the value of people going home and affecting change from there), it may be more possible (or easier) to effectively mobilize resources and action from abroad. That doesn’t mean that we should forget about trying to do so from home but that we should not shut out alternatives and options. At the end of the day, Girl next door’s response sums it up well: “due to resources, access to information and funds, it can make more sense for a group to be based abroad rather than at home. It's nearly impossible to work in a messed-up system that is corrupt and inefficient.”

It is counterproductive for us to argue about what, ultimately, amount to technicalities. This is akin to politics at home where there is much talk and debate but little if any action. Caught up in ego struggles and differences, we miss the point! I shall end with the once again wise words of Girl next door: “It does not benefit us to be so divisive (kenyans abroad vs kenyans at home, well educated vs laymen...) when we have a common cause.”

PS, Look at great historical figures who had significant impacts on their homelands from bases outside them…

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Medicine for Dying

We often take for granted that HIV and AIDS is the same thing: different versions or stages of the same disease. We take the words of scientists and researchers as bond because, after all, they are the experts! But lately, I have stumbled and been called to pay attention to some very interesting sources that have upturned a lot of things that I thought I knew.

The establishment is engaged “mass hypnosis” (see google link below) — crafting messages about HIV and AIDS that are not sanctioned by the same scientific rigours that are standard practice. HIV/AIDS education is often synonymous with terrorism in that, we are instilled with (what may indeed be mostly baseless) fear. As a result, a positive HIV diagnosis is often enough to send someone into such a state of panic that their health deteriorated swiftly from this stress alone. “It’s the HIV,” observers will say when, prior to the diagnosis, the person was obliviously living a full and healthy life. What we have working here is a billion dollar industry involving the highest echelons of Western governments. In light of such a lucrative business, a cure is surely not in the distant horizon. Indeed, how is one to find a cure when the cause itself is not so clear…

The testing and diagnostic practices involved are largely inaccurate; several are not approved by major medical authorities and; experiments to test their validity have been botched or abandoned. For example, it is very possible to get a false HIV+ result if you’re suffering from flu, parasitic diseases and even Malaria. This last one especially leads me to wonder if this has any correlation to the fact that so many Africans are being told they have HIV?

Speaking of correlation, the HIV=AIDS hypothesis, i.e. the “truth” that HIV causes AIDS is backed up essentially by correlation. Many people with AIDS were observed to have HIV as well and thus the conclusion was jumped to. However, correlation does not prove causation. It reminds me of myths parents tell their children to prevent them for engaging in behaviour they don’t approve of. For example, your mother telling you that sweets will make you get a flu, hoping that it will discourage you from eating too many. Flu is a virus so it’s highly unlikely that sweets will cause it but, if you get the flu soon after you eat a heap of sweets… you might just believe it’s true.

According to some alternative theories, what we call HIV has existed for years and years on end. Many claim it is harmless and not infectious. The fact that HIV tests test for antibodies seems to support this claim. When infected by a disease, your body develops antibodies to fight it. So in effect, if you test positive for HIV antibodies, it should be an indication that your body has HIV under control and that the virus cells are now dormant! Many theorists go on to say that it is the drugs prescribed to HIV+ patients that then go on to destroy the immune system and thus progress to AIDS. They are several cases where the health of people taken off HIV ‘treatment’, goes on to improve whereas those on continued treatment suffer a tragic fate where their bodies literally slowly waste away. An MP Shah Hospital (Nairobi) doctor discusses losing his HIV patients not to the virus but to the side effects of their antiretroviral treatment (the article however only goes as far as attributing these losses to improper management of treatment).

2005 movie The Constant Gardner appears to have been more than merely good entertainment. AZT, the common prescription claimed to prolong the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS, kills cells indiscriminately. This poison, originally developed for cancer patients but never approved, was then resurrected under pressure for an ailment for a growing AIDS epidemic. Possible reasons why AIDS patients on AZT see improvement: once in your system, your body rapidly creates cells to fight off this offensive substance and as a result, tests on your immune system show rapid improvement. Apparently, several patients who show improvement over a few years after treatment then go on to suffer quite rapid deterioration and death.

The moral of the story seems to be that, HIV does not destroy immune systems and cause AIDS. Indeed HIV+ people live for years, healthy, unaffected, normal lives. AIDS is by definition dubious in that several, in many ways arbitrarily chosen, combinations of diseases are termed ‘AIDS’ and its known causes are subject to a lot of scrutiny. Many people are perhaps wrongly diagnosed with either and medical malpractice is going on unattended to overwhelming proportions.

I am not a professional medical expert, nor scientist but these are not just my random thoughts — many, including renowned, first-class medical experts and scientists, share them.

Below is a list of enlightening links for further investigation:

Be well and be wary.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Daily Gospel Plus!

In the spirit of the educational and self-realizing power of the arts…

“Far from music-making taking a peripheral role for individuals and society — a view propagated in the kind of theoretical stance that marginalizes ‘leisure’ or ‘culture’ as somehow less than ‘work or society’ — music can equally well be seen as playing a central part not just in urban networks but also in the social structure and processes of our life today”
(Finnegan, The Hidden Music Makers)

In the interest of inspiring one another to recognize the beauty that lives around us at any and every time, ubeautiqous was born. It’s me wanting to share my experiences and observations of grace in all categories of art and design (and some that are perhaps yet to be categorized!) and inviting participation from all.

Monday, August 14, 2006

On Beauty

In this day and age, there is no excuse for ugliness. Now before you go off thinking that I'm promoting all kinds of bodily um… augmentation and the like, I am refering exclusively to the environments we live in and the products we use. Commodities. Good design. I chanced on an interesting site, and they discuss our presence in the age of "innovation overload". Here, overdosing is a good thing. Interesting is their stress that innovation is not rocket science: it's about understanding what people want and delivering it to them. Sounds easy enough n'est-ce pas? Personally, I think that there is so much latent creativity within us that only needs to be triggered, perhaps most effectively by the belief that we possess it.

Beauty is not exclusive to the wealthy/fortunate/learned/cultured (delete misconception as appropriate)… few. It is a gift to us all. But you cannot receive with folded arms. Sometimes it would seem that to embrace innovation, one must be innovative, and perhaps getting there is simply a matter of conscientization!