Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Crisis of Wisdom.

When it comes to health, the real paradox is that some 800 million people die of malnutrition in the developing world, while about a billion are dying of a surfeit of food, obesity, and all the related dis-eases. The rising rate of diabetes, for example, is like the canary in the mineshaft for measuring the toxicity of unleashed globalization. We know that people who are not in charge of their own food supplies are more vulnerable to diseases. It is not surprising that Aboriginal people are especially vulnerable, because many live in similar conditions found in poor countries.

The overshadowing crisis in the world is a crisis in wisdom and caring for the unfortunate and for the future. The old business model is not working. Ethics and morality that includes human and environmental rights have to be the drivers of a new sustainable greener economy. The business as usual proponents are rift with the same narrow and shortsighted perspective that slave traders used to defend slavery for its profitability and convenience. The frontier ethic and the age of “limitlessness” are over. We can either be proactive, or we can be forced to make our choices through more and more disturbing and destabilizing disasters including exotic, more resistant, and widespread infectious diseases.

We can start by calling things by their right names. The real name of climate change is greed, waste, and theft, just as the real name of the tobacco industry is drug dealer. And the real name of the world health crisis is the worst manifestation of failed capitalism imaginable for no other reason that it excludes some 800 million people from having enough to eat everyday. And the real name of the Tar Sands is the worst man made disaster in the world.

Unfortunately most of the rest of the world sees us they way we see them, - through projections of extremes and stereotypes. Television doesn’t help because everything is a passive click away, until advertisements, news, sports, and pictures of starving children all pick up the same tenor and look the same. The effect is analgesic, not motivational.

I work very hard at respecting my subjects, and avoiding producing photographs which tend to reinforce existing stereotypes rather than give insight into difficult situations. I do this by putting in time. More pictures of starving African children with flies on their faces tell us nothing new about their lives and their problems. People get activated when the issues get personal. We are a lot closer together than we think, and when we see ourselves in the images, we recognize that. That there is no us and them.

I think journalists not only have a responsibility to inform people about what they want to know about, but also to inform them about the things that they ot to know about…And if we walk by some injustice…then we are complicit. Journalists need to look more deeply into stories on the periphery of conflicts, the humanitarian stories, rather than the sexy one night stand war stories. We should be talking more about all the civilians that are killed and damaged, rather than twisting and powering public opinion and legitimizing inhuman wars. If there is any hope of stopping wars, then we have to start by showing them as they really are.

This photograph came from a story about Dr. Chris Giannou, a war surgeon with the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), who was in charge of establishing front line hospitals in Somalia in 1991/92, when the ICRC was the only foreign aid in the country. This boy’s friends, who brought him here to Kasani Hospital, say he was shot while trying to protect his family's food. It is more likely he is one of the young militiamen who roam the streets of Mogadishu looking for anything they can steal, and was caught in a firefight with opposing clans. The city of Mogadishu is split in two. The ICRC operates hospitals on both sides.

Triage, Kasani Hospital South Mogadishu, May 1992.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting work Robert.
    Congrats on it. You're fighting the good fight.
    Ben Peterson from jhr.