My Blog List

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mr. Browne


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Good morning Antigua and Barbuda. I have to tell you I have not always called you Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua was all I used to say until I wittingly added Barbuda in order to rescue my journals from finding shore on some distant land. For over the past 2 years the new and promising UPP government has been trying to come to terms with the demands of a hotchpotch nation, a disparate brew of insipid, pepperpot people bent on forcing the government to satisfy all earthly and heavenly demands at once. Abracadabra!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to find the soul of Antigua and Barbuda. Some agents claim that it is within the governing, UPP party but others maintain it resides within the opposition, ALP organization. I have to tell you too that it is also alleged by experts, to be a figment of the imagination, a banana of some mindless fool.

As always, should you or any of your forces be caught or killed in this mission, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Since this newspaper will not self-destruct in 5 seconds or 5 minutes, hours, days, years or decades, you must destroy it in the usual manner. Good luck, in your mission, Antigua and Barbuda.

Normally, as in all Mission Impossible cases, I take my leave at this time. However, because of the complexity of this important mission, I must go on to advise you that you will need the help of an agent, Melanie Phillips, a journalist from Britain. She comes highly qualified because she has been investigating a similar dilemma in Britain. In particular, she is concerned about citizenship and immigrants. It might surprise you that you have a more serious problem than Britain and it is again made more complex by your scarce resources to identify and enunciate the problem, let alone to find the solution to it.

Melanie Phillips will tell you what the economist, Professor Robert Rowthorn observed recently in a lecture about the dangers of unlimited mass migration. He reminded, ‘A nation is a community of mutual obligation that is based on a shared history’. This fact will force her to tell you that unless there is a rigid grasp of the true history of Antigua and Barbuda, civic obligations will have no bedrock in which to root themselves, and hence nationhood in this twin island state will become an effete, banal nonsense.

As the clamour mounts from all and sundry in this babbling land of new, free radio, Melanie Phillips will help you to argue that few Antiguans and Barbudans and fewer residents realise that citizenship is not about what the country owes to an individual, but what an individual owes to the country. Very few people truly understand this imperative and glibly quote President John F. Kennedy. It means that the obligation to the nation and to fellow citizens and to law and order must come first. Then and only then can you twist and shout and limbo and babble all over new, free radio about your rights, your demands, your medical benefits, schooling for your children, and your passport.

This is why the soul of the nation must be identified and held up high for all to see and behold; for without it, there is no Antiguanness, no Barbudanness, no anything but a wild bunch of assorted local, Caribbean and international neaga.

So how do you deal with immigrants, since to varying extents, we are all immigrants at some point in time? It is “a simple thing” (as the Analyst would say). You are welcome in my house, you can practise your religion and espouse your culture but my national culture comes first and foremost. This means that when the immigrant culture collides with national culture, the traffic police will automatically give national culture the right of way. Anything else is a recipe for collision and disaster.

But what is this national culture? What is this Antiguanness and Barbudanness? It is not just the food and music and the dance and the “distinctive customs, achievements, product, outlook and way of life” as the dictionary states. It also requires an honest attention to, and constant review of our history, for culture is both static and dynamic.

How then, in this hotchpotch nation can one pitch a large tent over this assorted mass of babblers? It seems that one may be better off holding on to the indigenous people and pronouncing their history, their rules and regulations, their requirements and expectations so that all visitors and welcomed non-nationals will, in time and under their own, smaller tents, do likewise as they look and see Antiguans and Barbudans meeting and surpassing the fundamental tenets of national life. Only then should one pitch a wide tent.

It is the failure of us Antiguans and Barbudans to stand up and be counted and to identify ourselves on the side of what is right, and claim what belongs to us that affords, fuels and effects the disintegration of our society.

The irony of political life in Antigua and Barbuda is that what at first might seem like a good thing, a national umbrella under which the nation can shelter, might, in fact be the wrong medicine. We now know from medical science that the same medicine does not work the same way for the same sickness, in different patients.

Meanwhile the opposing forces will have to come to terms with the simple fact that New Labour will require a more honest and critical examination of the past, with even a public reconciliation for the past misdeeds. Only one young man amongst them seems to understand this, especially in the glaring afterglow of his public tranche of election offerings from the man from the sun. How ironic it would be if that one young man becomes the Joshua of the national soul as the Moses folds up beneath the wide, frail, falling tent. So while the rose and the thorn adorns and pricks the jocular vein on babbling radio, the opposing forces will one day come to see and know that the ALP will only win again when all the leaves are brown.

Mission Impossible?

Monday, May 1, 2006

Physicians Heal Ourselves


Dr. Lester CN Simon

And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. (Revelation 6:2).

Medical professionalism in Antigua and Barbuda is under attack. The battle began many years ago but the freeing up of national radio is bringing the frontline of the battle to the streets of the city with embedded journalists and all.

When I am confronted by a medical problem I cannot solve, my profession teaches me to consult my elders and resort to the medical archives.

The November 18, 1999 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine carries an article entitled, Medical Professionalism in Society, by Matthew K. Wynia, et al. It reminds us that the word, “profession” means, from the Latin, “speaking forth”. The authors put out a model of medical professionalism that comprises three core elements: devotion to medical service, public profession of values, and negotiation regarding professional value and other social values.

Whenever a doctor reflects on the harrowing years in medical school, two overwhelming emotions underscore those challenging years. We all remember the strong desire of be invited in, to be inducted and welcomed into the fraternity of noble men and women dedicated to the noble art and science of healing. We also recall the satisfying feeling of arrival, of actually becoming a doctor and being charged with the responsibility of doing battle against the evil forces of sickness and untimely death.

I have always wondered what is so unique about belonging to a fraternity of doctors, especially since we do not fraternise as often as we should, and, quite frankly, some of us would oftentimes prefer to socially engage other members of society. Wynia et al answer by suggesting that professionalism is a structurally stabilizing, morally protective force in society. The authors posited the triumvirate of private-sector, public-sector and professionalism as the cornerstone of a stable society.

It must be noted that the professional side of this stable, social triumvirate is both constant and manifold. Professionalism is not exclusively medical; it includes other professions and it embraces civil society.

According to Wynia et al, the first core element of medical professionalism is devotion to medical service. They remind us that physicians should cultivate in themselves and in their peers a devotion to health care values by placing the goals of patients and public health ahead of other goals. In Antigua and Barbuda, as elsewhere, this cultivation must grow out of a functional association of doctors in which we criticize and police one another. This core element of medical professionalism is so important, the authors arrive at a telling admonition.

They charge that devotion to medical service is so important, physicians must avoid even the appearance that they are primarily devoted to their own interest rather than to the interest of others. Patients in vulnerable times of need of medical service may be easily confused, used and abused in this regard. It behoves the members of the medical profession to profess, to speak forth.

The second core element of medical professionalism, the speaking forth must be done from a moral, ethical and professional base otherwise individualistic ranting becomes a big boast and an ugly, cheap, self-defeating marketing tool.

The third core element involves balancing medical needs with other societal needs as it allows other arms of the multiplex, professional bodies and the rest of the triumvirate to jostle and sway and engage in battle. The non-negotiable tenet, the sine qua non of this romantic war must be that the triumvirate forces of professionalism (including civil society), private-sector and public-sector must always underpin and rigidly stake society to the ground. Those who deliberately seek to destroy the underpinning of Antigua and Barbuda society are seeking long-term residence at the east of the Antigua Recreation Grounds.

So if you know all these things and you see any young, medical warrior return home brimming with enthusiasm, confidence and self-righteousness to do battle against sickness and untimely death, it is the sacred duty of the you the elders to temper and guide the misguided youth, curb the enthusiasm and distil the natural effervescence of the neophyte. And when the youth throws a tantrum and rants and raves and misbehaves, it is the sacred duty of the elders to remind: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things (First Corinthians, 13:11).

Verily, it cannot be acceptable that the former elders of society wantonly, barefacedly and wittingly allowed a young medical warrior to marginalize and alienate himself and then shout at the new elders and remind them that they, the new elders, proclaimed before they became the new elders that “What is wrong will be made right”. This kind of thing will make Jesus bawl, as in the Gospel According to Saint John, 11:35.