Saturday, August 26, 2006


I have spent the week finalizing the protocol for our vaccination study, hence very little blogging, but in the evenings I have been watching DVDs.

When time is short I watch an episode of Sherlock Holmes. This week, “The Crouching Man”. I was pleased to have spotted that it was all about monkey glands well before the end, but perhaps my subconscious mind remembers reading the story. My son, who leaves for Seattle today, has left several of his books with me and among them is a collection of non-canonical Sherlock Holmes stories (ie not by Conan Doyle). I will read them next.

It looks as though our first visit to Seattle will be during the first two weeks in October.

I have also watched two movies this week. The first, recommended as a result of this blog, was “Something the Lord Made”, a biopic of Arthur Blalock, inventor of the Blalock shunt as a treatment for Fallot’s Tetralogy or ‘blue babies’. This was an HBO made for TV film that starred Alan Rickman.

Although an excellent movie, it was astonishing to see the way that doctors were treated like gods. Many years ago our laboratory was visited by a young American physician who had come to learn something about immunology. I was a young fellow at the time and was showing him round the hospital. We bumped into Roy Poulding, one of the leading cytogeneticists in the UK at the time. Roy had started as a laboratory technician, but had made himself into a leader of his field. As we were talking, the young American Fellow stomped off. When I caught up with him I asked him what the matter was. “Don’t you realize that I am a physician?” he said.

As I watched the humiliation of Vivien Thomas (ably played by Mos Def) I was reminded of that incident. Where do doctors get off for be so arrogant?

The other movie was “Shooting Dogs”. This was Hotel Rwanda revisited. John Hurt stars as a Catholic priest who runs a missionary school that is used as a refuge for Tutsis. The Belgian soldiers, who are part of a UNIFIL contingent there to ‘monitor the peace’, are unable to fire unless fired upon. Their anguish is ably demonstrated. How many times have we seen this? In Bosnia, in Rwanda and in Lebanon. If it is simply to observe, send in the media. Far better for any intervening force to behave as the British Army did in Sierra Leone.

I found the remarks of the BBC reporter particularly telling. “In Bosnia I saw these old women killed and I thought, ‘that could be my grandmother’ but here it’s just another dead African.” And the truth is that there are too many dead Africans, in Darfur, in Congo, in Somalia, in Northern Uganda, and previously in Angola, in Mozambique, in Biafra. Not to mention those dying of AIDS, TB, measles, malnutrition and the rest. They talk about compassion fatigue, and it is hard to see all these dead black bodies as individuals.

I have been reading the blogs recently. Much has been made of the fraudulent photography coming out of Lebanon. They make a convincing case that what we see on our TV screens is so much propaganda. But the blogs are fond of quoting the Jerusalem media. How unbiased is that?

When I used to be interviewed a lot by the newspapers and television, I was often shocked by what came out the other end. It seldom truly represented what I said. I usually found that the media got medical stories wrong. Even then I decided that if they could be so wrong about things I knew about, how could I trust them about things of which I was ignorant? I guess the answer is to read widely, looking at all sources and make a judgment.

The same blogs that call out Hezbollah as movie directors are usually passionately anti-Muslim. It is not a bunch of hotheads, they say, it is the religion itself. They quote from the Koran (I am not attempting any other way of transliterating it) demonstrating that Mohamed was a vicious pedophile who gloried in his blood lust. No wonder the young men turn out like this, they are just following their holy book.

The Muslims I know are not like that. In fact I would go further. I don’t think there is such a thing as a Muslim as a ‘category type’. I know Professor ***** who is a friendly, gentle, clever guy, I know Dr ******* who is hard working, polite and studious, I know Mrs ******** who dresses like everybody else here and is diligent single mother. I also remember Dr ******* who was arrogant and self important – he emigrated to America. Then there was Dr ******** who kept himself to himself. I could go on. Some of the individuals I have seen on my TV screen make my flesh creep. Some are so beset by prejudice and hate that they have made me hate them. When I saw a BBC film of a man in Gaza who said he had 4 women and 54 children and he was training them to be martyrs in the fight against Israel it made me weep for those little boys and girls.

The great advance of Christianity was to see people as individuals rather than as ‘category types’. We are saved as individuals. Jesus died for individuals. Or we are damned as individuals.

There is a very moving scene near the end of Shooting Dogs where the priest is confronted by a band of marauding Hutus. He recognizes one of them, presumably an old boy from the school. He talks to him by name. The Hutu has fear in his eyes. He cannot bear the shame of being an individual killing Tutsis. As part of a mob killing the ‘cockroaches’ he was fine. But being an individual frightens and shames him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tried to post below but was unable. If you get a chance catch the movie "Little Miss Sunshine". I think
both you and your wife would enjoy it most especially
because you all have raised children together. At moments it is a bit over the top but I just loved it.
It may be a tad chick flicky but not enough to skip it!
Carlin C.