Cuba – A Reflection in 2010

February 26th, 2010

We returned on February 12, 2010 from a 17 day holiday in Cuba staying with Cuban families in Habana, Trinidad, Bayamo, Santiago and Baracoa. It was self-planned and wonderful. It has taken me two weeks to mull over the experience before writing about it, other than to put the photos up on Facebook. Cuba makes you think.

Villa Santo Domingo, near Fidel Castro’s hideout in the Sierra Maestra

Travelling in Cuba you are bombarded with slogans, exhortations and heroes. In countries like ours we are accustomed to billboards telling us to “Just Do It,” or making us feel guilty that we have so little regard for our friends or our time that we don’t have the latest cell phone. Continue reading “Cuba – A Reflection in 2010”

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Why and How Things Got This Bad – A Primer

Sharing a moment of solidarity with health care protesters in Barcelona – April 2011

This post is really an eye-catching introduction to an excellent link on the Topsy-like growth of neoliberalism, now a bane of our, possibly short-term, existence.

A history lesson which everyone born after 1970 should read. It is well worth persevering through and reads very simply.

To Harper and Big Pharma: Hands Off My Inexpensive Vitamins!

In February 2o00 I had two heart attacks one week apart. The first one did about 10% damage and the second one was caught before it did any more, as I was in still in ICU when it happened. The problem was fixed with angioplasty, including stents, and drugs. I changed my eating habits and, after advice from holistic doctors and my own research, I began to take several vitamins, including several antioxidants now targeted by the Cochrane Collaboration and others, for doing nothing or, worse,  increasing mortality:

We found no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention. Beta-carotene and vitamin E seem to increase mortality, and so may higher doses of vitamin A. Antioxidant supplements need to be considered as medicinal products and should undergo sufficient evaluation before marketing.

These attacks on the vitamin industry have been criticized in a post by the Dr. Rath Health Foundation in an article entitled, a little “passionately,” perhaps:   Latest Attempt to Discredit Vitamin Therapies: Is it Criminal?.
Rath says that one of the study’s main authors, Christian Gluud, has conflict of interest due to his strong connections to Biologue, a network closely tied to the Danish Pharma Consortium. Dr. Rath also points out that Denmark has seriously restricted the allowable levels of vitamin supplements and that that country is particularly opposed to unregulated vitamins. He believes that this is a major reason why the metastudy was conducted there. Continue reading “To Harper and Big Pharma: Hands Off My Inexpensive Vitamins!”

Endangered Human Faculties

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The famous 12-cornered stone in Cuzco

Photo credit: David Stanley

The slide I personally took, in 1967, of this brilliant, iconic piece of masonry disappeared in 1972 when my wife, Anita, and I  moved from England to Canada, where I was born. Eighty choice slides from my two month South America trip somehow didn’t come with us or in our separately-shipped trunks. But that’s another story.

My topic is not about lost slides; it’s about lost ways of thinking, speaking, listening and doing. There is as much, likely more, human creativity, intelligence and “spirituality” in this one stone from the wall of Inca Roca than  in the bloated speeches of today’s politicians and works of some popular writers.

Manual dexterity is, today, disrespected. Those artisans who work with their hands in our first world are losing their jobs to robots, offshore workers and offshore workers running offshore robots.

Continue reading “Endangered Human Faculties”

Disappearing Ancient Wisdom

I read an excellent and sensitive wordpress blog today at knowthesphere  that praised the wisdom of ancient cultures over the knowledge-inundated, wisdom-starved modern world. The blog was titled Birds of Wisdom and the quote below is from the blog:

Ancient wisdom–in a way–is much more advanced than our own contemporary knowledge that we place so highly on a pedestal.

The blog reminded me of a fellow named Wade Davis, an ethno-botanist who studied with the legendary Harvard botanist and traveler, Richard Evans Schultes. Davis is now a resident explorer at National Geographic. He lived among the natives of Columbian and Equadorian Amazonas who retain the ability, long lost among modern humans, to communicate with the plants in the forest. Talk about ancient wisdom! The remarkable book his South American adventures produced is called One River. He later went to Haiti on behalf of Schultes to investigate the medical wizardry involved in the creation of a zombie. He describes his deep respect for the wisdom and ancient power of the Voudoun tradition in a book, The Serpent and the Rainbow one of several he has written. The zombie phenomenon turns out to be much more complex and sophisticated than mere biochemistry.

Wade Davis delivered the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (Canada’s public broadcaster) distinguished annual Massey Lectures in 2009. There are five lectures in each series delivered by the same author. The Massey Lectures are produced by the CBC’s wonderful nightly Ideas program. You can listen to a podcast of the first of Davis’ lectures from this CBC website link and the series is available in book form or on iTunes. All five podcasts are no longer on the CBC site. I was particularly moved and impressed by his second Massey Lecture, called The Wayfinders, about the amazing set of natural knowledge that the Polynesian navigators used to guide their boats from one remote, tiny island to another remote, tiny island. Polynesians had been brilliantly finding their way throughout the Pacific islands for a long, long time before the Spanish arrived, hugging the shoreline.

I could go on… The quickest way to whet your appetite is to listen to his rapid-fire TED talk. The downside of that is that it only scratches the surface of his deep love for the ancient and his peripatetic research.

Atheism 2.0

I’m wrestling with an idea promoted in a TED talk by Alain de Botton. I have been an athiest for several years. Formerly deeply involved in my local RC church, I became progressively skeptical due to the absence of signs of the workings of God’s grace among the parish.

The final straw was when conservative parishioners treated our pastor very shabbily – a man I had great liking and respect for.

Then I read The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur, who argued that Jesus of Nazareth of the Christian gospel never existed. I followed up his book with an energetic examination of his sources and came to the same opinion as Harpur. Continue reading “Atheism 2.0”