Dr. Javed Jamil
The callousness of medical experts and the passive nature of the medical education have strengthened the resolve of the economic fundamentalists to market everything the demand for which already exists or can be made to exist through stage-managed propaganda. They are least bothered about the adverse effects of their actions on the individual, family and social health. The doctor has proved unequal to the dire challenges of the market. The market has continued to grow; Health has continued to suffer. First tea and coffee hit the shops, and such was the “quality” of the campaign to popularise them that they rapidly assumed the status of household beverages. The medical world was seized with the health problems related to these developments, and pointed out that some if not all of these drinks had undesirable effects on heart, nervous and gastrointestinal systems. It is now well established that coffee is one of the significant etiological factors in the rising incidence of heart attacks and peptic ulcers. Yet, their social glorification continues. Tobacco and cigarettes of various tastes then seized the market. They have become symbols of high standard with increasingly large numbers of people becoming addicted to smoking. To multiply their demands women who were previously disinclined to smoking were also encouraged. Equal as they are, if men can smoke why can’t women? Doctors have declared in unequivocal terms that smoking is not just harmful but is extremely hazardous to health. They have established that cigarettes can cause lung cancer, which still remains almost incurable, bronchitis that leads to asthma causing severe distress in breathing, and are a highly significant factor in the development of coronary heart diseases. Each one of these diseases is either fatal or severely crippling. Similarly, tobacco has been associated with mouth cancer and Buerger’s disease, a disease of the veins of legs that may lead to the gangrene of foot. But all these caveats have failed to discourage smoking to any remarkable degree; for doctors are not assertive enough to pressurise parliaments to pass bills proscribing the production and sales of cigarettes, cigars and tobacco. Instead, doctors themselves have succumbed to the propaganda by the manufacturers and their henchmen. It is unfortunate but true that a sizeable percentage of doctors do also smoke. Smoking women are rapidly on the rise despite the accumulating evidence that smoking badly damages the health of their foetuses. But for a “forward-looking” woman, health of foetus is not as important as the élan that she attaches to her smoking.
Similarly, such has been the glorification of alcohol that any person trying to prove his credentials in society has no choice but to serve drinks to his visitors, especially on the occasions of celebrations. The medical sciences inform us in categorical terms that alcohol is damaging to the health whatever the amount imbibed. Yet, with the support of some partisan investigators, the campaign that it is harmless in small doses has gathered momentum. Some have gone to the extent of declaring it beneficial for the heart, capable of increasing a specific kind of cholesterol that seems to have a soothing effect on the cardiovascular system. It need not be emphasised that this sort of flagrant advocacy has chiefly been goaded by financial motives and has little to do with the medical truth. At the most, they are truncated facts. What the medicine tells is that once a person starts taking alcohol, the level at which the desired euphoria is attained rapidly increases necessitating an increased intake. No person becomes an addict the day he or she smokes the first cigarette, or takes the first sip of bear, whisky, rum or wine. All the present addicts had small beginnings. Those who introduced it to them had argued that these were injurious only if taken in huge amounts and regularly. It is very well known that alcoholism may lead to fatal diseases like cirrhosis and Korsakoff’s psychosis, and has a damaging impact on almost all the organs of the body. It disturbs the power of reasoning leading to crimes, accidents and suicides. Ironically it can also lead to impotency; yet alcohol is presented as an essential adjunct to hot and wild sex. Alcohol directly or indirectly kills millions of people every year, destroys innumerable families and leads to countless rapes. It causes severe financial losses to the well-established individuals who often get ruined on account of their intemperate drinking habits. Divorces are common outcome; and the wives and children of habitual drinkers have to pass their lives in an environment of extreme fear, insecurity and tension. Children too often start drinking in their teens. The party culture coupled with women’s propinquity to try their hands at whatever men do as a manifestation of ‘equality’ and the encouragement by men for their own rejoicing have made alcohol popular among women too.
The campaign for freedom of sex is a direct product of economic fundamentalism. The medical sciences have been mute spectators to the rise of sexual perversity despite the incontrovertible fact that it causes no less mortality and morbidity than smoking and drinking. In many ways, its effects are much more dangerous. Time and again, epidemics or endemics caused by promiscuity or sexual perversions have devastated the mankind. Many of them have proved to be the decimating killers. Syphilis was the first sex-related disease that killed people in large numbers. The homosexuals and the promiscuous heterosexuals were the common victims. Syphilis is a bacterial infection that leads to severe cardiovascular and neurological complications. Before the discovery of penicillin, death was not an uncommon end. Up till 1940, it was a major disease in Europe and the US. The incidence in 1943 in the US was about 4 per 1000 population. Despite the availability of highly efficacious antibiotics and tremendous fall in the number of cases in 1975, there were still more than 25,000 cases of primary and secondary Syphilis; 26,000 cases of early latent Syphilis were reported. The number of unreported cases was presumed to be several times greater. The gynaecologists and obstetricians in Indian subcontinent still regard Syphilis as one of the major causes of repeated miscarriages, and get VDRL test routinely done in all females with a past history of abortion. Chancroid, Gonorrhoea, Lymphogranuloma venereum, Herpes and Reiter’s disease are other sexually transmitted diseases having varying severity and often producing crippling complications.
The campaign for freedom of sex is a direct product of economic fundamentalism. The medical sciences have been mute spectators to the rise of sexual perversity despite the incontrovertible fact that it causes no less mortality and morbidity than smoking and drinking. In many ways, its effects are much more dangerous. Time and again, epidemics or endemics caused by promiscuity or sexual perversions have devastated the mankind. Many of them have proved to be the decimating killers.
The emergence of social and preventive medicine (also called community medicine or public health) as one of the important disciplines of medical sciences has as much to do with economic fundamentalism as with the health of society. Here it is the medicine that is used to propel social and economic policies, and not vice versa. Major policies are formulated separately, or in tandem by the secretaries of the government and the tycoons of the industry. The bureaucrats in fact act largely as connoisseurs of the big business. The population control, the AIDS control and the control of communicable diseases—all these programmes have been fine-tuned to suit or adjust to the market forces. If endeavours have been and are being made to eradicate small pox, chicken pox, polio, rabies and other such diseases for which vaccines are available, it is because no medical cures are available for them in the market. And vaccines can be sold on a much higher scale if the government and other agencies working in social fields are properly convinced of their importance. This has also been one of the ways to pull back the money, which the government might have exacted in the form of taxes or the agencies might have collected as donations from the rich. The ostensible human spirit behind these programmes would vanish in a few moments once alternative ways having bigger market potential are found.
Current Understanding of Health
A widely accepted definition of health is that of the World Health Organisation “WHO”. It states that “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This widely accepted definition was expanded in the 1970s and 1980s, as other components were included: intellectual, environmental, and spiritual health. The balance of all these components is based on the principle of self-responsibility. In more recent years, this statement has been modified to include the ability to lead a “socially and economically productive life.”
According to Winpledia,
“Health is the level of functional and/or metabolic efficiency of an organism at both the micro (cellular) and macro (social) level. In the medical field, health is commonly defined as an organism’s ability to efficiently respond to challenges (stressors) and effectively restore and sustain a “state of balance,” known as homeostasis.”
According to Winpledia, “the WHO definition is not without criticism, as some argue that health cannot be defined as a state at all, but must be seen as a process of continuous adjustment to the changing demands of living and of the changing meanings we give to life. The WHO definition is therefore considered by many as an idealistic goal rather than a realistic proposition.”
The definitions and criticisms like the above clearly demonstrate the impact of the economic fundamentalism, which have been stressing the inclusion of “socially and economically productive life” without insisting the adoption of a health protective socio-economic system. Economic fundamentalism relies on the promotion of individualism and the negation of family and society. In their view it is individuals that form society rather than that society comprises individuals. Market forces advocate the importance of absolute individual freedom, and strongly resent any suggestion that the demands of society in general and the demands of family in particular must guide individual choices. It is therefore necessary to restrict the definition of health to an individualistic notion. If “social well being” is talked of, it means how an individual acts within society and not how society protects the individual. This definition is therefore a passive proposition where the onus to maintain health falls on the shoulders of individuals themselves; family and society are not responsible to protect the health of its members except through providing healthcare when needed.
The definitions and criticisms like the above clearly demonstrate the impact of the economic fundamentalism, which have been stressing the inclusion of “socially and economically productive life” without insisting the adoption of a health protective socio-economic system. Economic fundamentalism relies on the promotion of individualism and the negation of family and society. In their view it is individuals that form society rather than that society comprises individuals. Market forces advocate the importance of absolute individual freedom, and strongly resent any suggestion that the demands of society in general and the demands of family in particular must guide individual choices. It is therefore necessary to restrict the definition of health to an individualistic notion. If “social well being” is talked of, it means how an individual acts within society and not how society protects the individual. This definition is therefore a passive proposition where the onus to maintain health falls on the shoulders of individuals themselves; family and society are not responsible to protect the health of its members except through providing healthcare when needed. If society comes into action, it is invariably when a particular programme has the blessings of the market forces. If some hue and cry is raised by certain quarters to correct the ecology and environment, these are diplomatically tackled. Some of these demands have in fact the blessings of the big industries in order to fail the small-scale industries. Moreover, whatever the force behind these demands, environment to them just means air and water free of pollution; it has nothing to do with social practices and systems that are dangerous for health, unless they have a scope for commercial use at a large scale. We will discuss later how and why only secondary preventive measures are advocated and primary preventive measures ignored. In short, the current international economic system first institutionalises and commercialises problems (rather than preventing problems from occurring through intervention at the very source of the problems), and then commercialises solutions.
To be contd………….
Previous chapters can be read at
Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”, “Qur’anic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (First Vol: Health), “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and Other works include “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”. Read more about him at http://www.worldmuslimpedia.com/dr-javed-jamil. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/djavedjamil/, alsohttp://javedjamil.blogspot.in/. He can be contacted at [email protected]