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Vulnerability of world civilisation

Published: 
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The message of Ebola is that all of us, the poor and hopeless in Monrovia, Liberia and the sophisticated and powerful in New York, are vulnerable in a world shrunk by technology.

This collective vulnerability of world civilisation should result in the need to work towards a world of greater humanity and to replace the materialist capitalist ethic with one that is based on the common humanity of man.

The galloping spread of Ebola (the World Health Organisation predicts 5,000–10,000 new infections every week by December) should also inform the West that the centuries-old cumulative effects of domination, race and class discrimination and the marginalisation of billions of people from full participation in modern economic and human development are closing in on the victors. 

Here is a virus that resulted in the death of an estimated 2,500 human beings in Africa between 1976 and 2008, yet it did not sufficiently attract the attention of the WHO and the multi-billion-dollar multinational pharmaceutical corporations to find vaccines and medication to prevent the spread of Ebola and to adequately treat the disease. 

At last Ebola has got the attention of the world with the death of 4,500 people and over 10,000 being infected in this outbreak in Africa. More precisely, the world has now become deeply interested after a couple people in Spain and the USA became infected.

One provocative online column has measured the length of time it will take to produce an effective vaccine in terms of the ethnicity of the number of deaths from the virus: 50 white people dead from Ebola is the projection of that column for an effective vaccine to be produced. 

“We have been working on our own Ebola vaccine, but we never could get any buy-in from the companies,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“We must (also) tackle the scandal of the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research (on) treatments and vaccines, something they refuse to do because the numbers involved are, in their terms, so small and don’t justify the investment,” wrote Prof John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health in a column in the UK Independent on August 3.

Prof Ashton concludes by linking the reluctance to invest to the controlling social and economic ethic of the times: “This is the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of a moral and social framework.”

And the UK leader of the Faculty of Health notes that the non-reaction to Ebola is not a one-off. He reflects on similarities with what happened for years when HIV- and Aids-infected Africans while the West looked the other way. 

“In the case of Aids, it took years for proper research funding to be put in place and it was only when so-called ‘innocent’ groups were involved (women and children, haemophiliac patients and straight men) that the media, politicians, scientific community and funding bodies stood up and took notice,” said Prof Ashton.

Those voices from positions of responsibility in the industrial world should indicate to readers that the call to transformation of the world we live in is not an attack on rich whiteness by a “Third World” journalist jealous of the development of western civilisation, but the reality of our existence.

But even now the question must be whether the vaccine that is being created in six to eight months will be sufficiently effective to counter Ebola. Under normal circumstances, the testing and trials of such a vaccine would normally take ten years, as stated by an official of GlaxoSmithKline, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies.

Will people who take the vaccine, believing they will be protected against contracting Ebola, become vulnerable because it may not be as effective because it did not go through regular testing and trials?

During the world economic meltdown, this column raised the issue of the effective non-participation of over one billion people in the world economy—those earning less than US$1 a day. 

So too was the concern raised that two billion people are under-employed and another billion merely service the tiny minority to be paid salaries 100 times above even middle-income earners and those who annually receive profits worth hundreds of billions.

Poverty, under-development, primitive, even nonexistent health and education systems, poor governance, and its handmaiden corruption, are in part a result of the ethic of domination, brutality and deprivation of billions of the world population by the relentless plunder of a small group of individuals and nations. 

I reiterate the view that economic theory, policies, practices and prescriptions, all developed in the West, have to be radically transformed if they are to have an answer to the structured under-development and political brutality that were originally imposed on the non-European world. 

“Africa’s development crisis reflected the interactions history, geography, domestic policies and geopolitics. These interactions had left Africa stuck in a poverty trap,” observed economist Jeffrey Sachs (2005), having encountered the travail of that continent, Latin America and elsewhere in the developing world.

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