A Larger View

a commentary on how current events reflect— or not—our search for higher values

  • Volume XXII
  • No. 2
  • March/April
  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

The pieces are reposted from some of the entries in InnerLifeDirections.com

in this issue:

  • Fact Checking Sites
  • A Nursing Home for Sex Workers
  • Social Media Downside--A Possible Answer
  • About a Refugee Selling Sex
  • GMOs Technology and Indusgrial Food Production
  • Good News in Public Health
  • To Ponder On

Fact Checking Sites

 In these days where so many seem to be challenged by facts and where truth can be at a deficit, it is helpful to have a few fact checking sites at our disposal. Here are  5 that are, as far as I can tell, among the most reliable.

www.factcheck.org

www.politifact.org

www.snopes.com

www.opensecrets.org

www.mediabiasfactcheck.com

there is also the Washington Post blog Fact Check, the Sunlight Foundation, the Poynter Institute, among others that can be trusted.

A Nursing Home for Sex Workers

In many countries once sex workers are no longer desirable enough to work, they end up destitute and homeless. Carmen Munoz saw that, and a sex worker herself she was not only touched by their plight she wanted to prevent this from happening to her. Her own story can be typical of why women go to work in one of Mexico City’s several red light districts. At 22 with 7 children, her husband left her. She heard of a priest who helped people find jobs, but after 4 days of waiting when she finally met him, he sent her away. It was sex work or starving children. She got 1000 pesos the first time, a mere pittance even in the early nineties when she began, but she had never seen that much money at one time.  After seeing 3 former sex workers huddled together under a tarp to keep warm, she decided to petition the city for a place to house them and others in the same circumstances. It took her 11 years before she succeeded. Artists helped so did  ther sex workers. The house they succeeded in having is a small place, room for 25 people, and it comes with its own problems of trying to make ends meet. The residents take jewelry making classes and try to help, so do some non-profits.  But it’s there, it exists, and Carmen Munoz hopes to go there some day.

We are so focused on our concerns about the present or about politics it is easy to overlook stories like this, stories that speak to the goodness, perseverance, initiative, drive of some individuals, stories that keep us from being cynical or unduly pessimistic about the human condition.

Social Media Downside—A Possible Answer

A law professor at Pace University noticed that the students he observed in a colleague’s classroom all took notes when the professor was speaking, but the rest of the time, when students were commenting, for example, they used their laptops to shop or check on Facebook. He then decided to ban all laptops in his own classroom. What he discovered was that when students were without laptops they interacted with each other. The discussions were livelier and hopefully more interesting.  He explains in his NYT article that to him training good lawyers includes skills in human values and human interaction, so the banning of laptop was a teaching tool.  But for the rest of us the whole issue is more than being a good lawyer. It is being a good human being. That indeed involves knowing how to interact with people, how to read them, be sensitive to what they say and how they act. Laptops are an essential part of our lives and I for one do not wish to go back to the time when they did not exist. That however ought not to make us blind to how they reflect a negative aspect of much of the technology which makes our lives easier. We gain in efficiency, time, we expand less effort to do given tasks, but trite as it’s become, we lose the human touch. It’s particularly evident in texting and in tweets. Our thoughts and emotions are truncated, do away with nuances, acquire a directness which at times runs close to being rude or insensitive. The answer given to such downside of technology is usually to disconnect.  I am not at all sure that that is the answer. To my mind the answer is forethought, awareness, recognition of how these media affect us. In itself this kind of reflection would make us place using social media in perspective, hopefully not make it the chief way we communicate with people, but allow us to  at least try to complement and compensate by adding human contact. Our mindfulness in using texts, tweets et all might even make us more sensitive.

About a Refugee Selling Sex

There’s a rundown large park in Athens, the Pedion Aeros Park, there a section of the park is known as a place to get sex. Mostly older men walk by at night in search of it.  There too several refugees from Afghanistan and other countries, live in tents or however they can, and earn a living selling themselves. One 20-year old Afghan interviewed for the article I read said he was ashamed of what he did, but that was the only thing he could do. The alternatives were to steal, or deal in drugs and that seemed the least violent to him. He is in Greece illegally, cannot find any country that will have him and has no money to pay smugglers. In a place where sex can readily be had, the price goes down, so he gets 5 euros each time. That’s the going rate. Sometimes he can make up to 10. Once in a while men come by and want to have a party, so they can bargain and go up to 200 euros for the whole night.  But regardless, people like the young Afghan refugee make just enough to eat.

This article moved me on several levels.  The first thing that hit me was that rarely do I read about the sex trade involving boys and men. And it is just as disturbing to read about them as it is about girls.

Then there’s the fact that while this young man and his cohorts chose to do this and were not forced to as are those who are trafficked, their plight, their circumstances, their future is no better.

And that brings me to another reason I found the article troubling, it is the kind of conditions that lead to dead end lives. What is the future for people like this young man?  If he continues what he is doing, given the lack of alternatives, there is bound to  come a time when he will not be young and desirable and his sexual services not be either as  in demand or marketable?

Trafficking victims, sex trade workers, refugees, migrants, their numbers add up to millions if not more, all human beings struggling toward nothingness. Despite rare exceptions, what hope is there for them?  They have no education, no marketable skills, no opportunities to be able to pursue normal lives. Will they know more than survival, more than hardships and surely disease, grinding poverty and then death, hopefully not through violent means?  At what point will despair grip them?

What is our responsibility to people who are thus trapped? Aid agencies struggle to even be able to deliver food aid, and in some recent cases have had to reduce their rations to be able to feed more. Diseases and their victims languish for lack of funding to eradicate them. While some NGOs exist to rescue trafficked girls, given the number, it is but a very small fraction. And what of some of the many migrants and refugees like this young boy? There just aren’t enough resources or funding to begin to tackle the need.

The least we can do is to bring their plight out of the shadows, in hope that somehow in the not too distant future, the idea that all human beings deserve basic necessities can come to the fore; and too the idea that  the  world community, if not the human family, owes these human beings, owes them to live with a modicum of what it takes to have a decent life. Shining a light on the existence of these fellow humans is not enough, certainly not enough to help the millions currently suffering, but it’s all I know how to do for the time being.

Please join me in making those ideas more accepted.

GMOs Technology and Industrial Food Production

Genetically modified food is one of the controversial subjects in our society. 49% of people surveyed think they can harm either health or the environment. The majority of scientists do not agree. Since it is the majority and not all, the debate continues and is becoming shrill.  At the same time, there are other food related debates about food labeling or buying local, for example, so many debates the issues become clouded. McKay Jenkins, author of” Food Fight– GMOs and the future of the American Diet”, published last  January was interviewed by Caitlin Dewey for her  Washington Post Blog and said that to him the real issues lie beyond all the debates. Using technology to solve food deficiencies, drought or to find alternatives to fossil fuel dependencies  is OK with him, however, the issue that is forefront is using technology to advance the goal of sustainable agriculture. He says we do not realize how GMO foods have already infiltrated the food industry. He cites the examples of corn and soy which are some of the largest crops. Technology, including GMO, have increased crop yield and those products end up as part of industrial food production as corn syrup or feed for the meat that goes into fast foods. So without realizing it we already consume GMO foods and have for a while. The issues may have been accelerated by GMO technology but predate them making the whole thing very complex.

It seems, to me at least, that what Mr. Jenkins is  gently  dismissing those who oppose GMO food for health reasons including their causing cancer, not to denigrate them but because such concerns pale when seen as part of the whole problem. What’s important to him is what kind of changes can make dents in the present system.  Being able to create changes   to move towards sustainable agriculture is a much tougher issue than most of those we normally associate with food production. Even buying local which he supports cannot make a dent unless it would be on a large scale.

Reflecting upon all this is sobering, and realizing that large corporations control much of food production and that these companies are in a position to pressure governments to act in their favor even more so. Avoiding reality is never a way to solve a problem, and being able to have the facts to face this one can even end up making us grateful for being able to  go to the heart of  the causes and therefore have a better grasp of how effective our actions may or may not be

 Good News in Public Health

There was a lot to be concerned about in 2016, and it was no different for public health, the Zika virus, the bombing of hospitals in war zones, more diseases becoming resistant to antibiotics. Yet, there were public health good news too, and good news is good news, it’s important to underline it. There was the training of giant rats to detect tuberculosis. They had previously been trained to detect landmines, but were retrained to sniff out the mucus from people with tuberculosis and can be almost 100% accurate. The rats cannot however distinguish between normal strains of tuberculosis and drug resistant ones.  Another positive development is the creation of CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic preparedness Innovations).  The idea behind CEPI is to prevent new infectious diseases from becoming epidemic and to try to create new vaccines to that effect.  The coalition is quite broad and includes governments, industry, philanthropies, international organizations. With Ebola and Zika, we learned how easily the public health systems can become overloaded and have an inadequate capacity to develop the needed defenses quickly enough. Then there is the good news that combatting Malaria has made progress—with about half as many people dying from it as they did some 15 years ago. Progress has also been made with Dengue fever, guinea worm, river blindness, all diseases with horrible symptoms. Also among the good news are progress with a vaccine for Ebola and a herpes vaccine for shingles. While not all these developments touch our lives directly, given that the Zika virus reached the US, they illustrate that public health issues touch everyone—a good reason to highlight their victories

To Ponder On

“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible,; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”

                                                                                   Reinhold Niebuhr

 

 

 

 

 


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