It isn't safe leaving the cocoon of Treehugger.com and Change.org RSS-feed summaries of the world around us to actually experience it. Not only do you risk getting caught up in a revolution. You risk seeing nasty stuff.
Touched by Africa
visited Youth on the Move in Nairobi - young epilepsy patients helping kids understand the condition, not seek witchcraft #touching – 31 January
I personally remember when my own younger brother got seizures. One of them while we were playing a two-player game on our Amstrad CPC6128 green monitor computer. It was scary and strange to experience as a kid but the doctors looked into it, concluded it was epilepsy and cured it.
Fast forward to Kenya year 2011. Even to this day there are still kids who get “treated” by witchdoctors who believe the kid has been possessed and whose “treatment” include rape and scarification. Since this “cure” obviously doesn't work most kids are kept locked away by their parents.
At Youth on the Move young epilepsy patients told how they help each other get by and reach out to even more. How prominent televangelists still preach the condition is a punishment from god. How, ironically, in the case of their needed treatment the price of medicine isn't a problem while stigma and superstition is. Watch my video from the visit and imagine your own family members in place of these real living Kenyans and you'll see.
Systematic silent injustice
visited a women's ward on Kenyan hospital w/ #think3 - two patients per bed, about 1 in 3 skeleton-like probably HIV-positive... #unnerving – 3 February
We have all seen the portraits of dying HIV-positive Africans that are occasionally published. Black and white, hot-shot photographer, nameless victim. Unsettling enough to make most people turn the page quickly but insufficient in stopping a certain fraction from living in ignorance or denial.
Reality is different. First of all, at least in our case, the doctors and nurses were happy to show off their – apparently – relatively nice ward. In contrast to the shock the place caused on us sensible Westerners. Secondly, reality is very brightly illuminated by the African sun, not black and white at all. It is also hot, humid, over-crowded.
Imagine 15 funerals taking place simultaneously in a greenhouse without air-conditioning. You are almost there. The doctor thought we were cute: “Hah! You should see it during a cholera epidemic!”, was his comment.
Random brutal justice
ok so dead, naked guy in the streets of Kisumu suburb, Kenya was just a thief the locals had stripped, beaten to death and put on display... - 4 February
The bus slowed down and put the left wheels to the dirt besides the road like the rest of the traffic. All passengers peeked out the windows at the spectacle outside: one body spread out, crucified to the asphalt and about a hundred locals staring at it. Lunatic, traffic accident or...?
Kenya is civilized enough for this type of incident to be both rare and reported about in a newspaper. Which is where we all read about it the day after. During our dinner at a four star restaurant, of course. Squeezed in between advertisements this guys death got about a quarter of a page, colour image of naked body included. He had been one of a pair of robbers who had stolen 85,000 Kenyan shillings (about 850 euros). His colleague got away.
Horrible? Yes. Touching? Not really. Understandable? Kind of, yes.
The three little stories above are the ones I have found myself retelling the most. And in the case of the latter two: Stories that I have no pictures or video from, given the circumstances.
Safely back on our optical fibre cable internet connections it's time to tell these stories with just a little more empathy than before exposure to Africa. It's as if it takes a little more effort paying attention to the idiocy on TV. At least some Danish politicians seem to think the trouble of Africa are non-existent or not worthy of debate, that the European Union is a dictatorship, that public TV should broadcast Christian messages but not Muslim... and I don't know what else these talking heads are all about.
Honestly: At least some of the suffering on African hospital wards is entirely avoidable if not for our multinational pharmaceutical corporations being allowed to pump up medicine prices. Superstition is a different question – and to me solving the problems it causes includes promoting atheism at home. Vigilantism and lack of law and order is probably endemic to the lower layers of a deeply stratified society such as our globalized world.
Right? Wrong? Tell me. But for a second, dear Western blogger, try and assume that you are the ignorant, that the solution to all of the world's problems isn't necessarily foretold in your political superstition of choice.